The Legend of Pasopati

In the days of the Hindu era in Java, before the arrival of Islam, there lived on the island a king named Jamojoyo. This ruler was a combative warrior of whom it is said that he counted his battles by the hundreds. Armed with his keris, the king always fought in the frontline of the battle. It is said that the king had never been injured during the many wars he waged. People assumed this was because of the magical powers of his keris. This keris was once given to him by an old ascetic/hermit (‘petapa’). The king was told by the hermit to take good care of the precious keris, for he might lose his power when the weapon got lost.

The king of the rākṣasas (‘giants’), one of Jamojoyo’s greatest enemies, also was aware of this. Thus, one night when the king was asleep after he had fought a victorious battle, the rākṣasas creeped up on him and robbed his keris. Next, the rākṣasas kidnapped the king and brought him to their kingdom in the netherworld.

Since the king had become strongly attached to living a life of freedom as a king and warrior, he suffered a lot during his captivity by the rākṣasas. Because he was suffering from the feeling of being separated from his beloved wife, he lost his appetite and could hardly catch sleep at night. But, then, on a certain night, as the bright light of the moonshine reached through the cracks in the Earth’s surface and made the darkness disappear in the underworld, he fell into a deep sleep. At that moment, whilst the king was peacefully asleep, there appeared an apsarāḥ (‘celestial nymph’) who said to him: “Jamojoyo, the rākṣasas have stolen your keris which the old petapa gave you. But do not worry, you soon shall receive another weapon, and in a highly unusual manner.” Just as the king was about to ask, “In what manner?” the apsarāḥ disappeared. Jamojoyo thought long over this promising dream, until one night something yet even more odd occurred. This time it was not an apsarāḥ who appeared to him in his dream, but it was Bhaṭṭārī Durgā, the beautiful goddess (Sanskrit: ‘bhaṭṭārī’/‘devi’). Durgā then said to him: “Jamojoyo, someday you shall have a son who will bring you good fortune. Through him you shall acquire a new weapon that is vastly superior to the one which was stolen from you by the king of the rākṣasas.” Yet, when the king wanted to inquire further about this weapon the goddess had already disappeared again.

Jamojoyo was confused by his odd dreams. Night and day he pondered over what had been told to him by these celestial being. However, because of his restlessness and abstinence from food and drinks, Jamojoyo soon became weak and ill. Out of compassion for Jamojoyo’s suffering, the king of the rākṣasas promised that he would grant Jamoyo his freedom once the rākṣasas had won their next battle in war. Not too long after that, the king of the rākṣasas did as he had promised; Jamojoyo was released from captivity and allowed to return to his kingdom and reunity with his wife. There was, however, one condition though; as a bailout Jamojoyo had to hand in all his weapons and those of his servants. ”Because,” said the king of the rākṣasas, “you must never fight any wars again. From now on, peace needs to prevail under your rule.” Upon hearing this, Jamojoyo bowed his head before the king of the rākṣasas and promised that, as soon as he reached his kingdom, all weapons should be given to the king of the rākṣasas.

And so it happened that all of the weapons in Jamojoyo’s kingdom were handed over to the king of the rākṣasas. The last of person to hand in his weapon was an old man who had come from a foreign land over the sea.. His name was Pasopati, and he was the only Muslim in Java at the time. Pasopati respectfully laid his keris in front of the king’s feet and said: “My king, we have all had to bring our weapons to the king of the rākṣasas. But fear not, because soon thou shalt receive another weapon, one that is more beautiful and superior to any other weapon in the world”. The king and his courtiers were surprised upon hearing these words. One of the courtiers grew suspicious and said to the king: “Perhaps he has still another weapon hidden!” The king considered the words said by his courtier, who continued: “Perhaps you have kept back another weapon that you will want to sell us later. You’d better bring it here right now, or else…”. But Pasopati denied that he owned yet another weapon, and thus rejected the false accusations of the courtier. Unfortunately, nobody believed Pasopati, so they imprisoned him. Once he was taken prisoner, the old man was soon forgotten by the people.

Then, one day Jamojoyo’s wife gave birth to a prince. The birth of the prince was by no means an ordinary birth. The birth was highly unusual in the sense that the prince emerged from the queen’s womb whilst carrying a small keris of gold at his left side. Jamojoyo instantly recalled the messages conveyed to him by the apsarāḥ and Bhaṭṭārī Durgā in his dreams. Yet when the king realized that Pasopati had prophesied the extraordinary birth of the prince as well, he ordered his men to release the old man from prison immediately. Pasopati, however, had become so weak during his time in prison that, when he wanted to bow down before the king, he collapsed to the ground saying that Allah was calling him and that it was time for him to pass on from this earthly existence. Whilst laying there on the ground, Pasopati looked toward the prince and said: “The boy came into the world with the golden keris, the supreme weapon that Allah bestowed on him. But not for fighting shall this weapon serve.” He then turned his eyes toward the king and said: “My lord, thou and thy people shall make your weapons like this one, and ye shall carry them as a sign that someday ye shall submit to Allah’s Will. Because Allah is great, mighty and everlastingly good. Learn to know Him.” After Pasopati had spoken these final words, he shut his eyes and passed away.

Thus, in his sorrow that he had unrighteously punished the wise man, the king named the prince’s keris “Pasopati”. Hence, to this day the keris with the dapur (design/model) of ‘Pasopati’ refers to the keris which resembles the one with which the young prince Pasopati came into the world.


Reference:

- Meijboom-Italiaander, J., (1924): ‘Javaansche Sagen, Mythen en Legenden’. Zutphen: W.J. Thieme & Cie; pp. 1-5.

- Leeuw, A. van, (1961): ‘Indonesian Legends and Folktales’. New York: Thomas Nelson & Sons; pp. 9-14.