DEWI SRI NYAI POHACI SANGHIYANG ASRI THE GODDESS OF RICE

Tatang M. Amirin; 25 Januari 2011

From Wikipedia (pictures from other sources)

Dewi Sri Bronze Statue; Tropenmuseum Collection

Once upon a time in heaven, Batara Guru (in ancient Hindu Javanese is associated with Shiva), the highest god commanded all the gods and goddesses to contribute their power in order to build a new palace. Anybody who disobeyed this commandment are considered lazy and would lose their arms and legs. Upon hearing the Batara Guru’s commandment, one of the gods, Anta (Ananta Boga), a Nāga god, was very anxious. He didn’t have arms or legs and he wasn’t sure how he could possibly do the job. Anta was shaped as a serpent and he could not work. He sought advice from one of his friends, but unfortunately his friend was also confused by Anta’s bad luck. Anta became very upset and cried.

Dewi Sri from Central Java (Tropenmuseum Collection)

As he was crying three teardrops fell on the ground. Miraculously, after touching the ground those teardrops became three beautiful shining eggs that looked like jewels or pearls. His friend advised him to offer those “jewels” to the Batara Guru hoping that the gift would appease him and he would give a fair judgement for Anta’s disability.

With the three eggs in his mouth Anta went to the Batara Guru’s palace. On the way there he was approached by a crow whom asked him a question. Anta keep silent and could not answer the question because he is holding the eggs is in his mouth. However the black bird thought that Anta was being arrogant and it became furious thus began to attack Anta. As the result one egg was shattered. Anta quickly tried to hide in the bushes but the bird was waiting for him. The second attack left Anta with only one egg to offer to the Batara Guru.

Finally he arrived at the palace and offered his teardrop in the shape of a shiny egg to the Batara Guru. The offer was graciously accepted and the Batara Guru asked him to nest the egg until it hatched. Miraculously the egg hatched into a very beautiful baby girl. He gave the baby girl to the Batara Guru and his wife.

Balinese Dewi Sri (Tropenmuseum Collection)

Nyai Pohaci (sometimes spelled “Pwah Aci”) Sanghyang Asri was her name and she grew up into a beautiful princess. Every gods who saw her became attracted to her, even her foster father, Batara Guru started to feel attracted to her. Seeing the Batara Guru’s desire toward his foster daughter, all the gods became so worried. Feared that this scandal could destroy the harmony in the heaven, finally they conspired to separate Nyi Pohaci and the Batara Guru.

To keep the peace in the heavens and to protect Nyi Pohaci chastity, all the gods planned for her death. She was poisoned to death and her body buried somewhere on earth in a far and hidden place. However because of Sri Pohaci’s innocence and divinity, her grave showed a miraculous sign; for at the time of her burial, up grew some useful plants that would forever benefit human kinds. From her head grew coconut; from her nose, lips, and ears grew various spices and vegetables, from her hair grew grass and various flowering plants, from her breasts grew various fruit plants, from her arms and hands grew teak and various wood trees, from her genital grew Kawung (Aren or Enau: sugar palm) , from her thighs grew various types of bamboo, from her legs grew various tuber plants, and finally from her belly button grew a very useful plant that is called “padi” (rice). In some version white rice was grew from her right eye, while red rice grew from her left eye. All of the useful plants, essential for human needs and well beings, is considered came from the remnant of Dewi Sri’s body. From that time the people of Java island venerated and revered her as the benevolent “Goddess of Rice” and fertility. In ancient Sunda Kingdom she is considered as the highest goddess and the most important deity for agricultural society.

Most Dewi Sri myths involve Dewi Sri (also known as Dewi Asri, Nyi Pohaci, among others) and her brother Sedana (also known as Sedhana, Sadhana, Sadono, and others), set either in the kingdom of Medang Kamulan or in Heaven (involving gods such as Batara Guru) or both. In all versions where Sedana appears with Dewi Sri, they end up separated from one another: through either death, wandering, or a refusal to be married. Some versions make a correlation between Sri and the large Rice Paddy Snake (ular sawah) and Sadhana with the paddy swallow (sriti). The nāga or snake, particularly the king cobra is a common fertility symbol throughout Asia, in contrast to being considered representative of temptation, sin or wickedness as in Christian belief.

A small shrine for Dewi Sri in the rice field, Karangtengah (Tropenmuseum Collection)

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