Great Sunda

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Sunda Kingdom (5): Culture

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Seren Taun, Sundanese Annual Rice Harvest Ceremony (Photo: http://baujamban.blogspot.com.au/2012/04/seren-taun-annual-traditional-sundanese.html)

The culture of the people in Sunda kingdom blends Sunda Wiwitan; a native shamanism belief, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Several intact prehistoric megalithic sites, such as Cipari site in Kuningan and the Pangguyangan menhir and stepped pyramid in Cisolok, Sukabumi, suggest that native shamanic animism and dynamism beliefs coexisted with Hinduism and Buddhism. The native belief, Sunda Wiwitan, persists today as a way of life for the Baduy or Kanekes people who resist Islam and other foreign influences.

Hindu was one of the earliest influences in Tarumanagara. The Cangkuang Hindu temple in Leles, Garut, dated from the eighth century, was dedicated to Shiva and built during the Galuh kingdom. Buddhist influence came to West Java through the Srivijaya conquest, as the empire dominated West Java until the eleventh century. The brick stupas in Batujaya indicate Buddhist influence in West Java, while nearby Cibuaya sites show Hinduim influence.

The culture of Sunda kingdom centered on agricultural activity, especially rice cultivation. Nyi Pohaci Sanghyang Asri or Sanghyang Asri, the goddess of rice, is revered as the main deity or the highest goddess within Sundanese pantheon. The priest was concerning about the religious ceremonies and the king and his subjects participated in annual ceremonies and festivals such as the blessing of the rice seeds ceremonies and harvest festival. The annual Seren Taun rice harvest festival is still practised today in traditional Sundanese communities.

According to the Bujangga Manik manuscript, the courtly culture of Sunda kraton and its nobles’ etiquette in Pakuan Pajajaran was sophisticated. However no traces of the palace or buildings survived in the former capital, probably because their wood construction decayed over the centuries.

The Portuguese source provide a glimpse of the culture and customs of the Sunda kingdom. In his report “Summa Oriental (1513–1515)” Tomé Pires wrote:

Sunda kingdom is very rich. The land of Sunda has as much as four thousands horses which come there from Priaman (Sumatera) and other islands to be sold. It has up to forty elephants; these are for the king’s array. An inferior gold, of six carats, is found. There is abundance tamarinds which serve the native for vinegar. The city where the king is most of the year is the great city of Dayo. The city has well-built houses of the palm leaf and wood. They say that the king’s house has three hundred and thirty wooden pillars as thick as a wine cask, and five fathoms (8 m) high, and beautiful timber work on the top of the pillars, and a very well-built house. The city is two days journey from the chief port, which is called Kalapa. The people of Sunda are said to be truthful. They, with great city of Dayo, the town and lands and port of Bantam, the port of Pontang, the port of Cheguide, the port of Tangaram, the Port of Tangaram, the port of Calapa, the port of chi Manuk. are justly governed. The king is a great sportsman and hunter. The kingdom descends from father to son. The women are handsome, and those of the nobles chaste, which is not the case with those of the lower classes. There are monasteries of convents for the women, into which the nobles put their daughters, when they cannot match them in marriage according to their wishes. The married women, when their husband die, must, as point of honour, die with them, and if they should be afraid of death they put into the convents. The inhabitants are not very warlike, much addicted to their idolatries. They are fond of rich arms, ornamented with gold and inlaid work. Their krises are gilt, and also the point of their lances. The people of the sea coast get along well with the merchants in the land. They are accustomed to trade. These people of Sunda very often come to Malacca to trade. They bring cargo lancharas, ships of a hundred and fifty tons. Sunda has up to six junks and many lancharas of the sunda kind, with masts like a crane, and steps between each so that they are easy to navigate.

Economy

The economy of Sunda kingdom relied on agriculture, especially rice cultivation; this is reflected in Sundanese culture and the annual ceremonies of crop seeding and Seren Taun rice harvest festival. The harvest ceremony also allowed the king’s official to collect tax in the form of rice that can be stored in the state’s Leuit (rice barn). However, the kingdom was also well known as the world’s main producer of high quality pepper. The kingdom participated in spice trade network in the archipelago.

Anther Portuguese explorer, Diogo do Couto, wrote that the Sunda kingdom is thriving and abundant; it lies between Java and Sumatra, separated from the latter by the Sunda Strait. Many islands lie along the coast of this kingdom within the strait, for nearly the space of forty leagues; the strait’s widest point is about twenty-five and narrowest point only twelve leagues broad. Bantam is about the midpoint. All the islands are well timbered, but have little water. A small one called Macar, at the entrance of Sunda Strait, is said to have much gold.

He also noted that the principal ports of the Sunda kingdom were Banten, Ache, Chacatara (Jakarta), which annually receive twenty sommas, ships from Chienheo, China, to ship the eight thousand bahars, which are equal to 3,000,000 kg of pepper the kingdom produced.

Bantam is situated at 6° south latitude, in the middle of a bay, three leagues from point to point. The town is eight hundreed and fifty fathoms in length, and the seaport extends about 400. A river capable of admitting junks and galleys flows through the middle of the town: a small branch of this river admits boats and small craft.

There is a brick fort, the walls of which are seven palms thick, with wooden bulwarks, armed with two tiers of artillery. The anchorage is good, with a muddy or sandy bottom and a depth from two to six fathoms.

(From: “http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Sunda_Kingdom&oldid=516888244)

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