Indonesian Mystery Poem honoring Nyi Roro Kidul

Indonesian Mystery Poem
Honoring Nyi Roro Kidul
Queen of the Southern Seas

He hides within the rock
of three dimensions
and cannot be found
in this world

When night comes
she rises like a moon
to shine her light
upon the mountain

The sea dances
rising and falling
like a lover
in her arms

What pull does she have
on his life
as she looks for a partner
to dance with

The moon bows
before the rising sun
and he is left
breathless

© Ken Chawkin
June 2000
Jakarta, Indonesia

As a Canadian Purusha at the time, I was invited to join a team on a project in Jakarta, Indonesia. I was excited to go, for many reasons. I also had the feeling there were some mysteries waiting to be discovered in this ancient land. It was a long trip—three days with two sleepovers, one at the New Jersey airport, the other in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

When I arrived, my friends recommended I just sleep and meditate for the next couple of days to get over the jet lag, a 17-hour time difference. I was exhausted and did just that. Didn’t eat anything except a few pieces of fruit.

Outside the hotel where we were staying, several times throughout the early morning and evening, the mullahs would chant their call to prayer over old crackling loudspeakers.  One of them sounded like it was blaring right outside my window. What a way to be woken up!

Very early, one of those mornings, while I was dreaming, and before the call to prayer started blasting, I distinctly heard a voice say something in my mind. It was so unusual I thought I should write it down. But another part of me wanted to keep sleeping, and suggested I write it down later, after I woke up. The debate continued saying I would forget and regret not having written it down.

I must have been in a hypnagogic state as I started transitioning from dreaming to waking. I pulled myself up, still half asleep, to turn on the lamp by the bed. I knew the lamplight would be very bright in the still, dark room, so I closed my eyes, covered them with one hand, switched on the light with the other, and slowly opened my eyes to adjust to the glaring light. I reached for my notebook and pen I kept by the night table and started to write down what I had heard in the dream, not as a sentence, but as a short four-line stanza. It was so mysterious I wondered what would come next. I was still thinking visually, as in a dream, and imagined the next idea/image, which came out naturally. I wrote it down, also as a four-line stanza. Each notion seemed to sequentially unfold into another short stanza. The strange story completed itself, and I realized, it was a poem, but not one that I would normally write. After it was done, I thought, Where did this come from? It was beautiful and mysterious, but not the kind of voice I was used to writing in. The only thing I had to guess at was the gender of the pronouns. I had no way of figuring out what the poem was about and titled it Indonesian Mystery Poem.

When I shared the poem with some people familiar with Javanese culture, they immediately told me who it was—Nyi Roro Kidul, the mythic queen of the Southern Seas. I later read that the “Great Mountain” was one of the nicknames for the Sultan of Yogyakarta, the King of Java, in ancient times, with whom this queen was to visit and consummate their relationship once a year.

Around the same time, one of the people on the team, a Dutchman, later told me he had just returned from a trip with some friends to the seashore of West Java. In the hotel where they were staying was a room set aside as a shrine to Nyi Roro Kidul. Apparently this was the time of the year when such festivals occurred and many people were in the area. Some even meditated in caves hoping to have a glimpse of her. He was taken with the painting of the Queen and suggested they meditate. As soon as he said that, the lights went out. When the meditation was over, they came on again.

He later went out swimming in the ocean with a friend and had a very scary experience in the waves as they tried turning back towards the shore. Each time they put their feet down on the sand below, the undertow pulled them further out. He soon realized they were going to drown and tried desperately to save his friend. They were waving their hands and screaming for help as they saw their friend coming towards them with a camera. But she thought they were waving her away and turned back. He made one last attempt to save her. This time his feet stayed on the sand as he reached out to pull her towards himself. They dragged themselves out of the churning water and collapsed, exhausted, onto the beach. Their friend came over wondering what had happened to them. Apparently they had been swimming in an area that had a dangerous undertow and didn’t see the sign. He may have also been wearing a green swimsuit—another dangerous thing to do according to legend as it was the Queen’s color. They went back to the hotel to change. As they were leaving, he went back to the room and looked at the painting of the Queen. He sensed she had shown him her lila (cosmic play) and had allowed him to live. He then intuited a message that it would all become clear to him by midnight upon returning to the hotel where we were staying. It did, but he never felt to share that revelation with me. I read him the poem, and that’s when he shared the story of what had happened to him. Makes you wonder….

Here are a few links that might shed more light on this story: a wiki description of Nyai Roro Kidul, a YouTube Informative Speech on Nyi Roro Kidul, A Room For The Javanese Goddess of the South-Sea, some beautiful visuals with music of Ratu Kidul, kanjeng ratu kidul, and this haunting poem, Nyai Loro Kidul, by Robin Wildt Hansen. If you’ve managed to get this far, now go back and read my poem again. It will make a lot more sense. You think?

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4 Responses to “Indonesian Mystery Poem honoring Nyi Roro Kidul”

  1. RoyJava James Says:

    Beautiful, thanks for share, greets RoyJava

    • Ken Chawkin Says:

      Greetings! I also added a link to your site: A Room For The Javanese Goddess of the South-Sea, which contain your photos. Googled your name and also found your paintings of Nyi Roro Kidul. Nice! Since I’m not on Facebook, I can’t access your page. But thanks for your comment.

  2. Monika Says:

    Beautiful poem, Ken! It was nice meeting you. And thank you for sharing your story.

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