More than a millennium ago, the Hindu sages roamed the world and some came to settle peacefully in South East Asia. Then the conquerors followed suit, determined to rule over the prosperous lands in their frenzied search for gold, and more gold. The famous legacy of this exodus from the Indian Ocean to the Southern Seas were the Ramayama legends in the many different forms of storytelling in Siam, Kelantan, Campa and Jawa. Some re-tellings, as in this version, have changed somewhat in its interpretation and flow, but in essence, it is the story of good prevailing over the evil.
For this version of Maharaja Wana, I thank Pak Nasir, Adiguru Wayang Kulit ASWARA who put aside many many hours over the span of 2 years to impart this story. The Adiguru also went through the finished work to ensure its authenticity.
My debt is profound.
Hikayat Maharaja Wana
Greed knew no bounds. And on earth, Maharaja Dati Kuaca was envious of his neighbour, Raja Burma. He dispatched a challenge to him; “Surrender or your country will be no more.” The Raja laughed in the face of the messenger, and cut off his head. He then meticulously prepared a huge army for war.
After years of war, the Maharaja was killed and his victor’s son, Batara Baha wedded his widow, the most beautiful queen of the land and ruled the new kingdom in peace and order.
Up in the seventh skies, Dewa Serajuk was the ruler of the land of the sunset, Sinar Runduk. And Dewa Berembun the land of sunrise, Sinar Naik. The heavans existed in a semblance of harmonious existence between the two powerful dewa.
But Dewa Serajuk was capracious, greedy and lustful for that which belonged to others. And most of all, he coveted Siti Andang Dewi, the beloved wife of Dewa Berembun. Day by day, his amourous thoughts for the queen grew and became unbearable. He then promised himself that he would desert Sinar Runduk and all its untold pleasures in return for just one day with Siti Andang Dewi, to possess her but once.
Towards this end, he transformed himself into a perfect replica of Dewa Berembun, and through clever deception, the devious Dewa Serajuk succeeded to beguile and possess Siti Andang Dewi. With this conquest, Dewa Serajuk promptly descended to earth to enter the womb of Batara Baha’s queen and was reborn on earth as the evil Maharaja Wana.
Siti Andang Dewi could not live with herself once she realised that she had been deceived by the vile Dewa Serajuk. At first she wasted away feeling utter disgust and disgraced. The queen then vowed revenge and decided she will descend to earth to seek Dewa Serajuk and destroy him.
When his queen disappeared, the bereft and dejected Dewa Berembun had no will for his throne. He had two young followers. Dewa Sayang Kenung, the loyal and brilliant apprentice, and Dewa Bota Keme, just as loyal but slightly slow-witted disciple.
To help his apprentice, he entrusted his symbols of authority, Canggar Api to Bota Keme. The Canggar Api, which gives its owner to power to destroy by merely flicking his fingers was a tool of destruction, with its power unleashed:
Manusia hancur, bukit runtuh, dewa cair
Man destroyed, mountains fell, dewa melted
But Dewa Bota, using them carelessly, pointing them here and there, caused terrible chaos in heaven and then descended to earth for more mischief and demolition,
Jadi padang jarak padang terkukur
He aimed for utter chaos and destruction
Dewa Berembun called for Dewa Sayang Kenung, his worldly and clever disciple to catch Bota Keme and to teach him the right ways. Sang Kenung looked at the destruction around him, promised his master and mahaguru to get his Canggar Api back and do what is necessary.
Sang Kenung descended to earth and saw the destruction in a distance caused by Bota Keme, his old friend. He knew Bota Keme was angry that throughout all the years he was ridiculed by all the other Dewas. Sang Kenung then transformed himself into a beautiful woman and went straight up to Bota Keme with all a maiden wiles.
Bota Keme couldn’t take his eyes off the beautiful stranger in front of him and asked her where and why she was there. Sang Kenung answered in his disguised and maidenly voice that she was in search of a husband who could dance, and dance so well to entrance the bees from honey and fish from the sea. Bota Keme began to dance for her not realizing that the Canggar Api was in his hands still. He was so entranced – danced this way and that - and accidentally killed himself with a blast from the Canggar Api.
At that moment, Sang Kenung appeared back in the heavans in front of his mahaguru. Before he realised it, he felt Dewa Berembun’s hands all wrapped around him whispering sweet nothings. Then he remembered that he had taken the form of the most beautiful Dewi he knew, Siti Andang Dewi. He realised there and then that Dewa Berendam thought Siti Dewi had returned. Dewa Berembun, in his amorous state of pent-up desire and longing, came to a thunderous climax, his seed pouring into Sang Kenung’s cupped hands.
Sang Kenung stepped back and said, “Mahaguru, don’t you recognise me, this is your student, Sayang Kenung, having returned from earth with your Canggar Api. Bota Keme is dead.”
With a cry of utter disappointment, Dewa Berembun said, “You have caused me great dishonor, Sang Kenung. Behold in your hand, pure essence from the depths of me. It shall not fall onto anything impure, beware!“ With that, Dewa Berembun disappeared from sight to enter the womb of the Queen of Sirat Maharaja on earth to be reborn as the pure and worldly Seri Rama.
Sang Kenung then flung away the essence of Dewa Berembun, willing it to fall where it may and do good to the world.