Variations in Indonesian Mahabharata -2

Continued from Previous Page


Nakula's name as a child was Pinten. Nakula-Sahadeva has never seen their father as when they were born Pandu had died. Soon their mother died too, at young age. Only with their help, King Salya - the chief-warrior of Hastinapura could be quickly eliminated. After the Baratayuda, honouring King Salya's wish, they become rulers of Mandaraka (Madra).

Nakula's court domain is Sawojajar. He is an expert in agriculture. He has three wives other than Draupadi. Padmasari (the daughter of Widura), Dewi Suyati and Srengganawati.

Sahadeva's childhood name was Tangsen. He is an expert in animal husbandry. Sadewa has a padepokan/spiritual retreat-Bumi Retawu . As a result of his solemn spiritual deeds he becomes a Satrio Pinandito (Kshatriya Pandit). With his powerful spiritual strength, he is able to release Betari Durga from her punishment. Sadewa helps her to gain back her true consciousness; she becomes again Dewi Uma, the wife of Betara Guru.

He too has three wives other than Draupadi - Padmawati (Widura's daughter), Endang Sadarmi (daughter of Resi Tembang Petra from the hermit of Parangalas) and Srengginiwati. He has at least two sons - Raden Sabekti, a son from Endang Sadarmi and Dewi Tanjung a daughter from Srengginiwati


One Javanese Wayang sub-variation of Draupadi's swamvara is however different. Here there is no archery competition. The winner of the contest is to be the one, who can defeat, Patih Gandamana, uncle of Draupadi, in a duel battle. It is as per the wish of king Drupada. Meanwhile Kunti and Pandavas decide to join the contest, with the purpose to get a wife for Yudhishthira. As Bima is already a married man, he represents Yudhidhthira, defeats Gandamana and wins her for his elder brother. Gandamana knows of his imminent death and gives his strength to Bhima before his death. That it is Bhima and not Arjuna who wins Draupadi has a parallel in Nepal's Dangaura Tharu folk version of Mahabharata. Bhima shoots and hits the rau bird.in swamvara, which is the target in this case.

When Dursasana tries to undress Draupadi in front of the public, she is saved by Batara Darma, the god of justice. She vows that she would never wear a breast-cloth if not made from Dursasana skin. Her seeking help from Yama/Dharma and not Krishna has a parallel in the Keralian Bharatmala. In the Keralian Cherusseri Bharatham too Draupadi is like Kali in her revenge. Hearing that Dussasana has fallen, Draupadi goes to the battlefield and puts her foot on his chest. Bhima tears Dussasana's body into pieces and Drinks his blood. Draupadi wears the liver as a garland, collects the teeth of Dussasana and laughs.

Kencaka (Kichaka) has uncontrollable desire towards women. Kencaka is at first lustful to her and tries to possess her by temptation, but gradually his lust turns to love. He proposes her to be his official wife by the consent of the queen. With only two weeks time left for the end of the incognito exile, the situation poses a threat to the Pandavas. One night, Bima kills Kichaka. The Indonesian version gives Kichaka a human face as his lust turns to love. After the news of the death of Kencaka, reaches the intelligent force of Korawa, they analyse, the killer has to be Bima and decides to attack Virata. In Bharatamala too, when Kicaka's death is reported in the court of Hastinapura, elders conclude that Bhima has done it; Draupadi might be the cause.


Dewi Wara Sembadra is the twin sister of Narajana/Kresna. She is a charming, 'black-sweet' lady Dewi Roro Ireng. She is also very wise as an incarnation of Wisnu. Here, Basudewa and Pandu decide her marriage. Arjuna marries Subhadra with all pomp in a rather 'social' way. There is no Subhadra-harana by Arjuna. Even Pandu is alive at the time of the marriage. There is however Subhadra-harana by Bhurishrava (or by a giant according to another sub-variation) and Arjuna is the rescuer (Ghatothkacha in another variation).


The Indonesian version gives important place to the Pandava servants (the Ponokawans). Everywhere Arjuna goes, he is always escorted by his loyal servant, Semar, accompanied by his sons Gareng, Petruk, Bagong. They are inseparable. Semar is actually God Ismaya and it is his duty to always protect Arjuna. Semar is never tired to give wise advice to Arjuna. It is a unique master-servant relation!


As a youngster his name was Bambang Kumbayana. Durna's father is a Brahmana (Hindu priest). Here there is no mention of his father or birth from his father's ejaculated semen.

Gandamana from Cempala or Panchala kingdom is his ex-rival. Gandamana is Patih of Hastinapura. This is a remarkable departure from the Indian narrative that a man from Panchala is chief minister of Hastinapur. In the Indian version Kuru-Panchala are arch rivals with the rivalry spanning over generations. Durna has to involve in a face to face battle with Gandamana. Durna is totally defeated and one of his hands is fractured badly for life. His nose is broken, so he has a twisted nose forever.

Duryodhana and Dushhashana

Duryudana is not the legitimate heir of Hastinapura. The Indonesian Mahabharata takes a clear stand on the question of legitimacy. The wayang puppeteers call him Prabu Kurupati.

Gendari strongly influences Destarata and Sengkuni to coronate Duryodhana as king of Hastinapura. Despite their hatred for the Pandavas, Duryudana and his sister and brothers always ask help from the Pandavas in difficult time. Duryudana's misbehaviour against the Pandavas is encouraged by Sengkuni, Karna and Burisrawa and other ruling elite of Hastinapura. He has a special hatred for Arjuna because he knows that his wife, Banowati (Bhanumati, the daughter of Shalya) secretly loves Arjuna.

There is no unfair warfare on Bima's part in his climactic battle with Duryodhana. Bhima challenges him in duel with bludgeon. The fight is terrific but within a short time Duryudana is in trouble. Without shame, he runs away and tries to hide somewhere to save his life. At last, he is assassinated by Bima. That Duryodhana flees from battle has a parallel in Nepal's Dangaura Tharu folk version of Mahabharata.

Dursasana too seeks help from Arjuna to marry princess Sartini from Srawantipura.


Resi Stunakarna helps Srikandi become a man. Her name changes to Bambang Kandihawa . As a man, he marries princess Durniti, the daughter of a giant king, Prabu Dike from the kingdom of Manimantaka. From this marriage, a son is born, by the name of Nirbita , who later-on, succeeds his grand-father as a king of Manimantaka. Nirbita's grandfather is none other than Prabu Niwatakawaca.

She as a woman falls madly in love with Arjuna. Draupadi does not approve this. Shikhandi makes strategies which work. Once the Garden of Maerakaca , the palace garden in Pancala is badly damaged. Arjuna restores the garden, and is entitled to marry Srikandi.

In Yogyakarta there is another lakon, an addition to the Pregiwa -Pregiwati story, called lakon Suprabawati Tinanding (Suprabawati fighting Srikandi). When king Kresna holds the contest for his daughter, a king from Simbarmanyura called Dasalengkara, also wants to marry Dewi Siti Sundari. The wedding-gift is his twin sisters Dewi Suprabawati and Dewi Suradewati. Unfortunately, when the messenger arrives at Dwarawati the marriage between Abimanyu and Dewi Siti Sundari is already in preparation. Bima becomes violently angry and kicks the messenger out of the palace. A battle ensues. The all women troops from the Simbarmanyura kingdom are led by Dewi Suprabawati herself and her younger sister Dewi Suradewati. From the Pandawa family, the wives of Arjuna go to battle under the command of Srikandi. A heavy battle then takes place between the two women's armies where even Garudas are used as vehicles for air-fights. Abirnanyu also joins the fighting as he feels responsible for the cause of it and Gatotkaca helps him. The Pandawas win the battle and the marriage between Abimanyu and Dewi Siti Sundari takes place without any hindrance.

Shikhandi's 'amazonian' qualities have a parallel in the Tamil myth of Queen Alli. She is a rather masculine lady, until Arjuna tames her and makes a woman and faithful wife of her!


Gatotkaca's other names are Jabang Tetuko, Purbaya and Satria Pringgadani.

When Gatotkaca is born, his navel can not be cut with any knife. Upon advice from a wise man, the navel is cut by the casing of Kunto arrow, the heirloom Arjuna gets from Batara Guru. But the Kunto's casing goes inside the baby's navel permanently. The fate predicts that when the arrow Kunto returns to its casing then Gatotkaca should die.

Gatotkaca becomes the new king of Pringgadani with full support of all his giant-uncles. Brajadenta and Brajamusti are his chief-warriors. Brajamusti is very loyal and caring to Gatotkaca. The youngest Uncle Kala Bendana is very kind-hearted and truthful. By a stroke of fate, Kala Bendara dies at Gatotkaca's hand, when he tells Siti Sundari(Krishna's daughter) the whereabouts of Abhimanyu, who is at that time marrying Dewi Utari(Uttara). Siti Sundari becomes very upset. Gatotkaca blames Bendana. He hits Kala Bendana too strong. The old good giant dies. But he loves his nephew very much and tells that he won't go to heaven without Gatotkaca.

Gatotkaca admits his mistake and is ready to pay for it. In Bharatyuddha when Karna shoots the arrow Kunto, it can not reach Gatotkaca, because he flies too high. In a very quick move, Kalabendana's spirit guides the arrow Kunto to return to its casing, which is inside Ghatothkacha. So, with the help of Kalabendana's spirit, Kunto hits Gatotkaca. Gatotkaca's spirit together with Kalabendana's goes happily to eternity.
Once, Gatotkaca becomes a king in Kahyangan (heaven). Kahyangan is attacked by the forces of a giant king Pracona of Guwakrenda because Pracona's proposal to marry the most beautiful goddess Dewi Supraba has been turned down. The gods have difficulties to defeat Guwakrenda's troop. Gatotkaca is assigned to lead the battle. King Pracona and his powerful Patih (first-minister), Sekipu are killed by Gatotkaca. As a reward, he is given kingship of Kahyangan. Ghatothkacha is a great man. He, however, relinquishes the rule of heaven for the duties of his own country.
His wives are

1) Pergiwa, Arjuna's daughter. At the time Abhimanyu is going to marry Siti Sundari, Ghatothkacha sees Pregiwa and Pregiwath for the first time and falls madly in love with Pregiwa, He intends to ask his uncle Arjuna for her hand after they reach Madukara. Pregiwa silently responds to his love. Abhimanyu and Ghatothkacha arrive at Madukara, after defeating the Kauravas, and Arjuna is delighted to see that his son has managed to find twin girls, and is further exalted that they are his own daughters. Gatotkaca then asks Arjuna's permission to marry Pregiwa, and his request is granted. Their son is Sasi Kirana who becomes one of Hastinapura's chief-warrior under Parikesit.

2) Suryawati

3) Dewi Sumpani, a lady having strong supernatural power. In order to be more powerful, Gatotkaca has been given an Aji-aji/mantra called: Narantaka. To perfectly master the aji-aji, Gatotkaca has to meditate alone in a cave for 40 consecutive days with full abstinence from sex. Several days before the deadline, he feels that he is watched by a young lady. After finishing 40 days meditation, he goes out from the cave, and is greeted by an attractive village lady. The lady, Sumpani proposes him. Sumpani is not an ordinary village girl; she is a daughter of a powerful Resi. She has powerful mantras. Ultimately they marry.

One day, when Gatotkaca and his cousins are making a war exercise in Kurusetra, the Kauravas, led by Dursasana and his son Dursala attack them. Gatotkaca is captured but saved by his brother Antareja.


In Draupadi's swamvara, one by one archers including king Shalya and Duryodhana fails. When Karna's term comes, many people believe that he should be the winner, after seeing him raise the bow. But he misses the target and fails. This episode of Karna's failure has a parallel in a Malayalam folk version -- Cherusseri Bharatham (Bharatagatha). Karna fails in his attempt because of Krishna's act, though there is no elaboration of what this act is. Again, the Tamil Vyasa Bharatam has similar things to say. Karna fails because when he tries to tie the string in the bow, it recoils and hurts him. In the Keralian Bharatmala too Karna fails in the contest along with Jarasandha, Salya, and Sisupala.

Karna wants to learn Brahmasirah mantra from Drona, but Drona refuses out of affection for Arjuna and also realising Karna's foul intentions saying, 'only holy, renounced yogis may know this mantra'. Many years later, Karna hearing a rumour about the death of the Pandavas, throws a big party and promises the people to give anything they want. Then leaving his wife Sutikanti and their seven sons under the care of her father (Shalya), he travels to Mt. Mnidyuti, to Bagawan Pongkatiksna's holy dwelling. Once there, he meets his father, 'sang hyang Surya', who bestows him with Bajra Wijayacopa, a powerful energy weapon. He then travels to Mt. Mahendra to study with Begawan Ramaparasu, who because of Karna's obedience and skill teaches him all he knows, including Brahmasirah mantra. Parashurama's subsequent curse is similar to the Indian version.

The most poignant moment in the Indonesian version is the Karna-Arjuna meeting in the eve of Karna's first day as the Kaurava army's commander in chief. Arjuna secretly visits him. He has the most difficult moment in his life. Arjuna suddenly stands in front of him, kneels and greets him respectfully and says clearly, 'Please accept my sincere respects and Pandava's respect to you.' Karna is deeply moved. His eyes are filled with tears. Arjuna proposes to make him the emperor of Hastinapura and hopes that he will join them. They speak emotionally with each other and express love for each other. Finally they decide to adhere by their Kshatriya duties and fight in next day's battle. Then they embrace each other again without a word and Arjuna leaves with Karna's permission.

Next day after Karna kills Ghatothkacha with his Kunto-arrow; Karna's carriage is torn to pieces, hit by Ghatothkacha's body falling from the sky. He is thrown away. With no carriage he meets Arjuna directly. He is aware that Arjuna has several heirlooms, which should kill him. But he would be happy to be killed by a mighty, powerful brother. He is happy that his brothers would be glorious rulers in Hastinapur. Finally Arjuna releases his Pasupati arrow piercing Karna through the neck. In the Indian version Karna is beheaded. Karna's death is mourned deeply by both sides. The Pandava family performs Karna's funeral rites with full honour. In the Indian version this happens at the end of the war after Kunti reveals Karnas' identity to the Pandavas.


His name as a boy is Raden Narayana. He is the son of Basudewa with Dewi Badraini. He is the twin brother of Sembadra (Subhadra). Both of them have smooth black/dark colour of skin. He is tall with slender body and a good-looking face, brilliant and wise.

After defeating King Yudakala Kresna of Dwarawati, Narayana becomes the king of the kingdom of Dwarawati and takes his official name - Prabu Kresna. He is the king of Dwarawati, the wisest man in the world. He is the incarnation of Wisnu. Krishna's kingship has a parallel in the Indian Buddhist Jataka tales, where Krishna is the eldest among ten brothers collectively called the Andakavenhudasaputta. After killing Kangsha, they assume the sovereignty of Asitañjana. From there they set out to conquer the whole of Jambudipa, starting with Ayojjha (whose king, Kalasena, they take prisoner) and Dvaravati, which they capture with the help of Kanhadipayana. They make Dvaravati their capital and divide their kingdom into ten shares. Balaram's kingship is also supported in the Pali version.

According to Javanese Pedalangan (shadow-puppet story), Kresna has four wives.

1) Dewi Jembawati, the daughter of Kapi Resi Jembawan, a respectable monkey guru, and Trijata, the daughter of Wibisana (Bibhishana?). Their two sons are Raden Samba and Raden Gunadewa. Samba lives with his father in Dwarawati palace, Gunadewa lives in Gadamana hermit. Samba is shown as a notorious character, making love to his sister-in-law. He gets killed by his half-brother Narakasura.

2) Dewi Pratiwi, the daughter of Hyang Antoboga(Ananta Nag!), a very powerful god living in the 7th layer inside the earth( Sapta Pratala) Kresna's son with her is Narakasura! In the Indian puranas, Narakasura is the son of Goddess earth, (referred to as Bhumi), by Lord Vishnu himself during his Varaha (boar) avatar. Here, Narakasura's wife is Dewi Hagnyawati . She has illicit love-affair with Samba. So Narakasura kills Samba. Anantanag's other daughter Nagagini is married to Bhima.

The spirit of Rahwana (Ravana), Prabu Godayitma of Tawang Gantungan misleads the power of Suteja or Narakasura. Godayitma and Narakasura become good friends; both of them have the same powerful mantra Pancasona, so they cannot be killed when their bodies touch the earth. Narakasura dies in Krishna's hand. Krishna kills him, when amidst a Naraka-Ghatothkacha duel, Narakasura insults Krishna. Krishna learns the secret to kill him from Pratiwi, and cuts him with his Chakra. Ghatothkacha holds his dead body in the air, so that Naraka cannot revive. This story is unique because here we find the Ramayana character of Ravana.

3) Dewi Rukmini, the daughter of Prabu Bismaka. Once, she dreams of making love with Kresna in his Triwikrama (a giant) state. A giant son is born – Saronodewo. He is not allowed to live in the palace. The Indian Pradumnya is absent here.

4) Dewi Setyaboma(Satyabhama), the daughter of Prabu Setyajid, the elder sister of Setyaki. Satyaki is the army chief of Krishna's kingdom.

5) According to one sub-variation of Wayang, Krishna has another wife - Alarmelu Mankai. Siti Sundari is their daughter. Titisari is another daughter.


Baladewa is the king of Madura. He is assisted by two loyal persons:

Patih Pragota. His father is also a Patih (first minister of king Basudewa). He is big, tall, talks rudely, but is nice and loyal.

Prabawa. He is Pragota's younger brother. He is assigned to handle the safety and security of the country.      

Baladewa has two powerful heirlooms - Nenggala, received during his meditation as a young hermit and Alugara, received from Batara Guru as a wedding present.
His wife is Erawati, daughter of Shalya. Arjuna helps Balaram to get Erawati. The name obviously is akin to Revati of the Indian version. It is one of the reasons why he loves Arjuna very much. He is a kind-hearted man, but is too temperamental. When he gets angry, only Arjuna can easily cool him down. From Erawati, he has two adopted sons – Wisata (Nishadha) and Wimuka(Ulmuka). When he gets married, many gods escort him friendly (Bala). That is the origin of the name Baladewa. His name as a boy was Raden Kakrasana. He is tall with athletically body, his skin was light yellow.

As a youth he lived with strong self-denial in the village of Widarakandang, so he is called Wasi Jaladara. He is called Basukiyana for being incarnation of god Basuki; Kusumawalikita (named by gods), Balarama (named by gods), and Alayuda, a name given by Narada.

Baladewa does not involve in Baratayuda. Kresna asks him to meditate in the cave of Grojogan Sewu (one thousand waterfalls) before the war starts. Kresna presumes that Baladewa is too strong for Pendawa. When Baladawa completes his meditation, Baratayuda is already over. Krishna’s trick with Balarama has a parallel in Keralian Cherusseri Bharatham, where Krishna keeps Balarama out of the war by making him believe that he has killed a Brahmana. Balarama goes out to pilgrimage for expiation.

Until the end of his long life on earth, he becomes a protector of Parikesit, the new king of Hastinapura. Unlike Indian version Balarama does not die in Yadava civil war. This story of Balarama’s survival has a parallel in the Indian Pali version.

That Balaram and Duryodhana are brothers-in-law having married each a daughter of Shalya may be one explanation of Balaram’s special favouring for Duryodhana. In the Telugu folk ‘Shashirekha Parinayam’, he contemplates his daughter’s marriage to Duryodhana’s son, even at the cost of breaking his own promise. And from Indian Mahabharata we know he contemplates Subhadra’s marriage to Duryodhana,


Raden Harya Ugrasena/Prabu Setyajid i.e. Satyaki is the youngest son of Prabu Kuntiboja. His mother is a goddess, Dewi Wresni. Later-on Setyaki becomes the chief warrior of Dwarawati kingdom under Prabu Kresna. Here Satyaki and Satyabhama are brother and sister of same parents. The Indonesian version thus explains Krishna-Satyaki’s special liking for each other.


Shakuni is known as Sengkuni or Harya Sakuni. His name as a youth is Harya Suman. As a youth he attempts a Kunti-harana from the hands of Pandu. A fight breaks, but Shakuni loses to Pandu. As a punishment, Pandu buries his body, only his head appears above the land. Shakuni is frightened to die, and cries for forgiveness. He says that if he is freed from the punishment, he would give his sister to Pandu and he would serve him. Pandu agrees but he gives Gendari to his elder blind brother Destarata. Gendari feels insulted but cannot do anything. She feels jilted.

Sengkuni follows his sister and lives in Hastinapura. Since the first day in Hastinapura, he eyes the position of Patih/Prime Minister. He is very jealous of Gandamana, the Patih to Hastinapura. He tries to find a way to oust Gandamana. Cunningly, he traps Gandamana to be ambushed by many giants. Gandamana falls down into a deep hole. Instead of helping Gandamana, Sengkuni buries him alive in the hole, Then Sengkuni reports hastily to king Pandu that Gandamana is killed by an army of giants.

Gandamana, using his supernatural power, Bandung Bondowoso, comes out safely. He knows who has done it to him. Gandamana beats Shakuni severely until he loses his charm permanently. As a gentleman, Gandamana reports the case to king Pandu and admits his mistake for the merciless beating of Shakuni. King Pandu releases Gandamana from his position as Patih and he goes back to his country. Thus Shakuni succeeds in ousting him. After Pandu makes him Patih, he serves him, until Pandu’s death.

By chance, Sengkuni has also invulnerability to sharp weapons. One day Sang Hyang Tunggal, the father of Betara Guru sends Lenga Tawa, oil with supernatural power to King Pandu. By rubbing the oil the body, the parts of the body should be invulnerable to sharp weapons. Pandu’s death occurs at this time.

After King Pandu passes away Begawan Abiyasa (Vyasa), decides to the use the oil for his grand-children, witnessed by Hastinapura dignitaries, such as Kunti, Destarata and wife, Bisma, Sengkuni etc. Korawa, the elder grand children, gets their first turn. They make a queue starting from Duryudana and so on. But they can not put in order. They push one another. Some of the oil of Tawa, held by Abiyasa, spills out to the floor. Sengkuni quickly rolls his body on the floor. Kunti who is standing nearby Vyasa, falls down to the floor. Shakuni does not miss the chance to touch Kunti. Immediately, pretending to help Kunti, he grabs her breast. Kunti is shocked and ashamed. She vows that she would never wear breast-cloth, if not made from Shakuni’ skin. That Shakuni molests Kunti is unique in Indonesian Mahabharata. Kunti’s vow to avenge is akin to Draupadi’s.

In Baratayuda, Sengkuni is executed by Bima. Bima knows very well, the weakest parts of Sengkuni’s body are his mouth and his anus. Bima stabs deeply those parts with his kuku Pancanaka (long finger nails in his thumbs of both hands). He tears Sengkuni’s mouth to pieces and then peels his skin fulfilling Kunti’s wish. Sengkuni dies in agony.


Indonesian version breathes more life to the character of Shalya. Shalya is portrayed as a great lover. He marries Bagaspati’s (Brihaspati) daughter Devi Pujawati against his father’s wishes. Wonder of wonder this man is monogamous. Salya makes a vow to Setyawati never to take another wife. This does not prevent him, however, to go to Draupadi’s swamvara. He kills his own father-in-law. Since Brihaspati is the symbol of Vedic wisdom, Shalya’s killing Brihaspati may actually mean his deviation from the brand of Vedic Brahmanism as prevalent in Kuru-Panchala. In this light we may understand the significance of Karna-Shalya dialogue in the Indian version in which Karna makes harsh derogatory remarks against the Madrakas.

Shalya has 5 children:

1. Dewi Erawati. She marries Baladewa, the king of Mandura.
2. Dewi Surtikanti, marries with Karna. They have two children: Warsakusuma and Warsasena. Surtikanti’s love to Arjuna is turned down. She marries Karna, the half brother of Arjuna, because Karna looks like Arjuna.
3. Dewi Banowati, marries king Duryudana. They have two children: Leksmana Mandrakumara and Leksmanawati. The attractive princess Banowati is in fact deeply in love with Arjuna. Duryudana is mad in love with Banowati. Banowati always chases Arjuna to make a backstreet love. Arjuna asks Banowati if she really loves him, she has to marry Duryudana. The two re-unite after Duryodhana’s death.
4. Raden Rukmarata. He is killed by Seta in Bharatayuddha.
5. Raden Burisrawa. He is an impolite and arrogant giant. Since Salya hated his own father-in-law, Burisrawa is born to him as punishment. In Bharatayuddha, he is killed by his arch-rival Setyaki. In the Indian version Bhurishrava is Somdatta’s son and Bahlika’s grandson, and consequently a Puru-vamshi. Burisrawa is madly in love with Subadra, the wife of Arjuna. Once, he abducts Subhadra from Madukara, Arjuna’s palace. Luckily Antareja and Gatotkaca, the sons of Bima save her.

The Indonesian version in fact, abounds in knotty relations which give us insight into the motives of different characters. They are often unthought-of love-desire affairs like – Amba loves Bhisma, Bhisma loves Amba, Gandhari loves Pandu, Shakuni loves Kunti, Bhanumati loves Arjuna, Surtikanti loves Arjuna, Bhurishrava loves Subhadra, Arjuna loves Anggraini, and Kichaka loves Draupadi. All these love-desires remain unfulfilled.

The kings of Mandura Kingdom (Where Balaram becomes king) are descendants of the king of Ayoddha. Prabu Basuketi was the son of Prabu Rama Batlawa, a king of Ayoddha, the son of Rama and Sinta. This Ikshvaku-Yadav connection has its parallel in the Indian Harivamsha. Besides, the name ‘Basuketi’ strongly resembles Vasuki, which opens up yet another possibility that Balaram himself might have been a Naga. In the Indian version of Harivamsha, Balaram is born under mysterious circumstances. He is born when his father is actually locked in Kamsha’s prison. That hints at the possibility that he might have been an adopted son of Vasudeva. In Indian Harivamsha there is a story that following the misunderstanding over the Samantaka jewel, sulky Balaram leaves Dwarka and Krishna and goes straight to Ayoddha. It is here that Duryodhana learns mace-fight from him during his 12 years stay at Ayoddha. Thus the Indian Harivamsha also attests Ikhsvaku-Balaram connection. The Yadav-Ayoddha connection is also attested by the Buddhist Pali stories, where it is said that the Andakavenhudasaputta(Krishna and his brothers) set out to conquer the whole of Jambudipa, starting with Ayojjha (whose king, Kalasena, they took prisoner) and Dvaravati, which they captured with the help of Kanhadipayana.

In the Indonesian version of the Rajasuya Yajna there is a pre-requisite that 'it must be attended at least by one hundred kings'. When Yudhishthira decides to perform one, Jarasandha too contemplates the same. He decides to celebrate it by force. He captures around seventy kings from these neighboring countries, and imprisons them. Now comes the twist! The Pandava army attack Magadha, kill Jarasandha and liberate the seventy kings. Thus the Indonesian version totally rules out a Bhima-Arjuna-Krishna adventure and Bhima-Jarasandha duel. On that victorious day, Amarta kingdom celebrates Rajasuya. Sisupala starts to insult Krishna. Krishna has promised Sishupala’s mother that he would not hurt Sishupala till he insults Krishna in front of one hundred persons. Now that Sishupala does so, Krishna slays him in a duel. In the Indian version, Krishna simply beheads Sishupala with his Chakra, though there is one reference of an actual battle in Dhritarshtra’s speech. However, there is description of an actual battle in the Kerala version.

Some other interesting variations are that though the dice game is there, and also revocation of Yudhishthira’s losses by Dhritarashtra, there is no second dice game. The Pandavas have to go to exile as an alternative. Aswatama and Kartamarma are killed shortly after Baratayuda.

The beauty of the Indonesian version lies in the fact that it explores possibilities that any reader of the Indian version always cherishes to explore. One such episode is the Karna-Arjuna meeting, in which the two brothers embrace each other with tearful eyes. The Indian version has always left us with the question that if so many people know Karna’s true parentage, why not the Pandavas? The Indonesian poets believe that superiority in war always goes with superiority in love. Both Karna and Duryodhana are losers to Arjuna in both love and war. Both their wives love Arjuna. The superior might of the Pandavas in war also matches their ‘might’ in love spanning over three generations. In the Kuru-Pandava war of love, Dhritarashtra loses to Pandu, Duryodhana to Arjuna and Lakshmana to Abhimanyu!

Many questions remain unanswered like in the Indian version. One wonders the secret of the glue that keeps Bhima attached to Krishna despite the fact that Krishna hates Bhima’s progenies so ardently, and is responsible for their death. One cannot forget Krishna’s inhuman dance following Ghatothkacha’s death in the Indian version. Madhabacharya’s ‘Mahabharata Tatparyanirnaya’ attempts an answer to that by showing that Bhima is an ardent believer of the Bhagavata dharma. So whatever Krishna does is accepted by him. One, however, is bound to feel dissatisfied with this explanation.

The Indonesian version snatches away Draupadi’s singular share to molestation, attempted rape (or even rape by Kichaka), kidnapping and humiliation. Kunti and Subhadra share the same fate. Draupadi’s vengeance and Shakti-aspect is paralleled by her mother-in-law Kunti. Just as Draupadi decides not to do her hair until Duhshashana’s chest is split, Kunti too has taken a vow never to wear a kanchuli unless Shakuni lies dead. Bhima becomes instrumental to fulfil the vow of both mother and wife. Shalya as Karna’s father-in-law is bound to throw new light on the Karna-Shalya dialogue in the Indian Mahabharata, and is also a possible explanation why Shalya could swallow his ego and become Karna’s charioteer! Going by Indonesian version, the bitter Karna-Shalya dialogue in the Indian version is after all a father-in-law vs. son-in-law pleasantry bout!!

Another important aspect of the Indonesian version is its focus on the ‘neglected’ characters of the Indian version. The Pandava sons gain prominence, they are given individuality. They are not just shadows as in the Indian version, but are full-blooded. Some of them like Bhima’s sons are regarded as more valiant than all others. Life has been breathed into shadowy characters of the Indian version like Shakuni and Shalya.

The Indonesian variations have much in common to the South Indian variations. Geographical location and trade have naturally a role to play in this. But what compels our wonder is the resemblance in variations with variations of other parts of India as well. More research will certainly reveal facts of great historical and anthropological interests.

Let us now come back to the present. The Hinduism practiced in Indonesia today is also known by its formal Indonesian name Agama Hindu Dharma. At present the most dominant Hindu culture is to be found in Bali. About 93% of the population of Bali are official Hindus. (
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinduism_in_Indonesia) Although only about 3% of Indonesian population is officially Hindu, Indonesian beliefs are too complex to classify as belonging to a single world religion. In Java in particular, a substantial number of Muslims follow a non-orthodox, Hindu-influenced form of Islam known as 'Islam Abangan' or 'Islam Kejawèn', while across the archipelago the Hindu legacy, along with the older mystic traditions, influences popular beliefs.

In present Indonesia, temples dedicated to the Pandavas can be found in Dieng. The Sanjaya dynasty, which established the first kingdom of Mataram, and which was founded around 730 A.D. by Sri Maharaja Sanjaya built the first Hindi-Javan temple site of Dieng ("Dieng" comes from ‘Di Hyang’ which means Abode of the Gods") on the 2 000 meter (6 560 feet) high plateau, which is the basin of the surrounding volcanic region.’ (http://artasia.www2.50megs.com/Indonesia/temple.htm). The Arjuna, a group of Shiva temples, is the oldest Hindu temples in Java, built in 8th and 9th centuries. The plateau was once the site of over 400 temples. (For images visit http://www.mytravelguide.com/guides-and-advice/showthread.php?postid=13376). The eight temples are of Arjuna, Semar, Gatutkaca, Puntadewa, Srikandi, Sembadra, Bima and Dwarawati. At present the Arjuna temple is waiting restoration, as it has been found collapsing (http://www.kayuaya.com/bali-news/14/The_Arjuna_Temple_in_Dieng_was_threatened_with_collapsing.html).

Indonesia’s fascination with the Mahabharata and particularly with Bhima-Ghatothkacha is unflagging. Apart from the fact that Indonesian airlines is called ‘Garuda Airlines’, as recent as 1993, a Gatotkaca Statue has been built at the centre of road intersection at the northeast of Bali International airport. Even in modern Islamised Indonesia, he is identified as a flying knight who is responsible for air defence and security protection as his role for the Pandawa Kingdom was. It is believed the statue could contribute spiritual protection and safety for all incoming and outgoing flight. (http://bali.sawadee.com/badung.htm). An Indonesian-made fly-by-wire airplane has been named CN-250 Gatotkaca. It was launched on November 10, 1994, by then President Suharto. Indonesia has decided to use the names of characters from Javanese mythology to name cyclones when it begins a new weather warning service. Some names include ‘Arimbi’ (Hirimba) and ‘Bhima’.
It is great to realise that despite geographical and political boundaries, our neighbouring country across the sea shares a common culture with us. We are they, they are us!

References 1) http://oak.cats.ohiou.edu/%7Emcginn/STATEMENT.html 
2) http://www.joglosemar.co.id/index.html 
3) http://epic-mahabrata.tripod.com/
4) http://www.palikanon.com/english/pali_names/ay/andhakavenhu_puttaa.htm
5) THE THARU BARKA NAACH: Nepal's Dangaura Tharu folk version of Mahabharata. Ed Kurt Meyer & Pamela Deuel, translation by Dinesh Chamling Rai, Himal Books, Lalitpur Nepal 1998
6) http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mahabharata_study/message/562
7) Summary of Cherusseri Bharatam (Bharatagatha). A retelling Mahabharata in Malayalam. Authored by Ponathil Sankaran Nambiti during the reign of Udyavarman Kolathiri - M.E 621 to 640 (A.D 1446 to 1465). Summary by A. Purushothaman. http://mahabharata-resources.org/variations.html
8) Summary of Bharatamala , a Mahabharata retelling in Malayalam from the fifteenth century. Study and commentary by Ponnara Saraswathy, Kannassa Smaraka Trust, Niranam. Thiruvalla, Kerala (2003).


More by :  Indrajit Bandyopadhyay

Top | Hinduism

Views: 3628      Comments: 4

Comment The Indonesians added 4 servant comic characters to the M. Tale.
Could you tell me who they are and their characteristics?
Thanks very much.

Donna Davidson
04-Jul-2021 09:25 AM

Comment It is a precious article. The Indonesian version of the Mahabharata drifts away from the original epic curiously. From the above writing, it seems that the differences in the Indonesian version do not affect the main plot in any significant manner, but provides interesting explanations for many apparently baffling events of the epic. These deviations seem to lend entirely different interpretations to acts, behaviours or even comments of some characters. Very interesting. I will love to know from Mr. Bandyopadhyay whether the philosophical and literary height of the original version is maintained in the Indonesian counterpart or the latter is only a saucier rendition of the original. Thank you very much, Indrajit babu for enlightening about the Indonesian Mahabharata. I will love to have more from you in this subject.

Mallar Chatterjee,

New Delhi

Mallar Chatterjee
13-Aug-2016 15:32 PM

Comment The Indonesian version of Shalya seems to be very strange. Shalya as the father in law of Duryodhana and Karna! and Balarama! This seems to explain, among many other reasons, why Shalya sided with the Kauravas, in spite of being the uncle of Nakula & Sahadeva (assuming they were the son's of Shalya's sister Madri in Indonesian version as well).

However the statement that Bhurisravas was son of Shalya gives away the error / corruption that has crept into the Indonesian version. This version is equating every Bahlika king to Shalya. Being the king of Madra Kingdom, Shalya is a Bahlika, so is Somadatta, the father of Bhurisravas (as per the Indian version). Duryodhana and Karna probably married from some other Bahlika king who could be related to Shalya, Somadatta and Bhurisravas. Iravati (Ravi) river falls in Madra or Bahlika territory and hence a Naga wife of Balarama by the name Erawati can also be considered as a Bahlika princess.

Indonesian Shalya seems to be a typical case of fusion of individuals into one single individual which is quite common in the epics / puranic narrations.

23-Feb-2011 04:24 AM

Comment Appreciate your effort in bringing this version of Mahabharata to limelight. This will be a great help for comparative studies of Mahabharata. I have the following points to discuss with.

-"Arjuna helps Balaram to get Erawati. The name obviously is akin to Revati of the Indian version." Balarama-Naga connection is very strong if one read Mahabharata and Bhagavata. In this case, the name Erawati match well with Iravati / Airavati. Mahabharata attests that Airavatas as one among the prominent Naga tribe. Can it be that the Naga Balarama married a Naga princess for his wife? In this case I tent to think that the name Revati (as wife of Balarama) to be a later interpolation, while the name Iravati / Airavati looks like more probable.

"The Indonesian version gives important place to the Pandava servants (the Ponokawans)." - Can it be that the version of Mahabharata spread in Indonesia (via Kerala and Tamilnadu, obviously) be the version spread by the servants of Pandavas? This explain why they clearly reject Duryodhana and why they gave more importance to these servant characters. Also note that Ghatotkacha though a Pandava-putra, was giving servant like support to the Pandavas especially during their forest life.

22-Feb-2011 07:54 AM

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