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Citarum River and Contribution to Civilization

Various artifacts found at the Batujaya Site complex in the future will provide new interpretations regarding the history of Citarum River civilization. If the Citarum River civilization is interpreted to have emerged along with the period of the emergence of the Tarumangeara Kingdom in the 4th century, it could actually have started long before that.

There is a romance of love that doesn’t reach the Citarum River. A child falls in love with his own mother. Sangkuriang, the name of the child. His mother’s name is Dayang Sumbi.

Once upon a time, it was told that Sangkuriang had killed the Tumang, the family’s pet dog. That said, this dog is actually the incarnation of a god and at the same time his own father. His mother was furious. So Dayang Sumbi hit the centhong on Sangkuriang’s head. His head was injured and the scar did not go away. Sangkuriang was disappointed, angry, and then left his mother. Wandering far away, nowhere.

After being separated and wandering for years, one day Sangkuriang wanted to visit his hometown. When he entered his village, he saw a beautiful woman. The pinnacle of being loved by ulam arrived, Sangkuriang felt he had found his soulmate.

Sangkuriang did not know that the beautiful woman was actually his mother. Even so, the mother did not know that the handsome young man was her son. Sangkuriang proposed, Dayang Sumbi accepted. Laksana received the blessings of the gods of love, Kamajaya-Kamaratih, they also vowed to marry, to live together.

Until one day, Dayang Sumbi straightened Sangkuriang’s headband. When he brushed his lover’s hair, he was surprised when he saw the scar on Sangkuriang’s head. The scar was very similar to the scar on his son’s head. Dayang Sumbi also asked about the cause of the scar on her lover. Dayang Sumbi was even more surprised because it turned out that her guess was right. That her future husband is Sangkuriang, her own son.

Dayang Sumbi was very confused. Obviously it was impossible to marry his own child. Dayang Sumbi told Sangkuriang to cancel their wedding plans. However, Sangkuriang insisted on not caring and tended not to believe that Dayang Sumbi was his biological mother.

Intellect was sought in order to cancel the wedding plans. Dayang Sumbi also put forward two conditions. The first condition, Sangkuriang must stem the Citarum River. The second condition, Sangkuriang must make a very large boat to cross the Citarum River. Both requests had to be completed in just one night, before dawn.

If Sangkuriang could fulfill these two conditions, Dayang Sumbi would be his wife. But on the other hand, if it fails, the marriage must be annulled.

Sangkuriang mustered his magic to complete the challenge. Secretly, Dayang Sumbi peeked at her child’s hard work. How surprised he was, it turned out that Sangkuriang almost finished his request long before dawn.

Then make a strategy. Dayang Sumbi held a white silk cloth that was woven from it. The cloth emitted a white light in the east. The sky then turned red, as if it was a sign of the rising of dawn. Seeing that, Sangkuriang thought it was already morning. Sangkuriang stopped his work. He realized he had failed.

Sangkuriang was disappointed. With a sense of anger he broke the dam he made. When the dam breaks, there is a flood. The former dam is believed by the community around the upstream of the river to be in a location called “Sanghyang Tikoro” . Near the Saguling power plant. Meanwhile, he threw the former blockage of the river to the east into a mountain, named Mount Manglayang.

The old wood (stump) made the Sangkuriang ship turn into a mountain to the east. Named Mount Bukit Tunggul. While the branches turned into Mount Burangrang in the west. Not only that, Sangkuriang also kicked the big boat he had finished making. Floating and falling face down. Also turned into a mountain. Now known as Mount Tangkuban Perahu.

Such is the story of the incest taboo romance between Sangkuriang and Dayang Sumbi. This story is often interpreted as a legend of the origin of Mount Tangkuban Perahu. T Bachtiar in his writings “Lake Bandung Purba – The Power of Sang Kuriang’s Love and the Eruption of Mount Sunda” (2011) concluded: The legend, which has been popular as a Sundanese folklore in the 15-16th century, is a chronological record of the geological history of the Pasundan Tatar.

That the Sangkuriang legend is correlated with geological history proves to be quite strong. For example, the findings of basalt lava rock on the banks of the Ci Kapundung flow in the Ir H Djuanda Forest Park, Dago Pakar, for example. Named “Batu Karembong”, this type of igneous rock is shaped like a twisted rope or ribbon. This rock is lava from the eruption of Mount Tangkuban Perahu 50 thousand years ago. This basalt lava rock is legendarily believed to be the former shawl of Dayang Sumbi.

Batu Karembong: Believed to be the Dayang Sumbi Shawl. Source: Geomagz.geologi Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources

Yes, the legend of Sangkuriang and Dayang Sumbi is a record of the eruption of Ancient Sunda Mountain, the formation of the Ancient Bandung Lake, and the birth of Mount Tangkuban Perahu. And on its way later it also formed the Citarum River, an ancient river.

Chronicle of the Historical Record

Citarum River is one of the ancient rivers. It originates at Mount Wayang 1,700 m above sea level, in Bandung Regency. Passing the bottom of the Bandung basin, this ancient river flows meandering for 297 kilometers. There are at least 19 other rivers that merge into the Citarum River. It flows through 13 regencies and cities in West Java Province towards its estuary on the north coast of Java Island or to be precise at Muara Gembong, Bekasi Regency. Based on Presidential Decree 12 of 2012 concerning River Basin, the Citarum River area consists of 19 watersheds.

The legend of Sangkuriang and Dayang Sumbi which places the Citarum River as the backdrop clearly shows the importance of this river for the Sundanese people in the past. Looking back at this folklore , there are two important keywords “dam” and “flood.” Both in a metaphorical sense and in a lexicon sense. Yes, these two topics are the dragons that determine the story of the history of the Citarum River civilization. Before, now and in the future.

Yes, history does record, flooding along the Citarum River watershed (watershed) often occurs. Even though this flood does not always occur every rainy season in every year. Not only happened in the Dutch Colonial era and the era of independent Indonesia, the flood phenomenon seems to have even occurred far in the range of the 4th century.

Not only that. Given the importance of the river as a mode of transportation in the past, history also records that the Citarum River is an inseparable part of the history of the Tarumanegara Kingdom, Sunda Kingdom, Galuh Kingdom, Padjajaran Kingdom, to the Sumedang Larang Kingdom and the Cirebon Kingdom as well as the Banten Kingdom. Therefore, this river can be said to have witnessed the history of human civilization in West Java.

Etymologically, the word Citarum, comes from Sundanese. Consists of two words, Ci and Tarum . Ci means water, Tarum is the name of a plant that is used as a traditional dye, producing a purple or indigo color, usually growing around rivers. There is an opinion that the name Citarum comes from the name of the oldest Hindu kingdom in West Java. Tarumanegara Kingdom.

According to historical records, around the 4th century Jayashingawarman cleared the forest and built a small hamlet on the outskirts of the Citarum River. Gradually the village grew and developed into a large empire. It is the oldest and largest Hindu kingdom in West Java. People know it as the Kingdom of Tarumanegara. Recorded ruling on the island of Java from the 4th to the 7th century.

According to the Wangsakerta Manuscript, during the reign of Sri Maharaja Purnawarman, this kingdom recorded its greatness. Furthermore, the third king of the Tarumanegara dynasty was recorded from the 3rd of the month of Jesta (May/June) to the 12th of Asada (June/July) in 419 while working on a mega project on the Citarum River. The largest and longest river in the Pasundan area was deliberately dredged and deepened. In addition to irrigation, this river dredging project is carried out as an effort to minimize the potential for flooding.

The history of the development of the city of Bandung as a new epicenter in West Java. One of them is also based on efforts to avoid the flood of the Citarum River. In 1810, RA Wiranatakusuma II moved his old center from the Krapyak area (Dayeuhkolot) to the central Bandung area, and this position has remained to this day. Now it is the capital city of West Java Province. Meanwhile, the Dayeuhkolot area and its surroundings, which are watershed areas, are still commonly flooded when entering the rainy season.

Unfortunately, there are actually not many portraits of recorded historical events of civilization along the Citarum River area. It is estimated that the capital city of the Tarumanegara Kingdom is in the lower reaches of the river, which is around Kerawang-Bekasi. True, quite a lot of inscriptions were found, and historically prove the existence of Tarumanegara. However, from the remnants of the Tarumanegara civilization, it is relatively rare to find artifacts in the form of buildings or temples and other artifacts.

It was only after 1957, in line with the discovery of several statues of Lord Vishnu and Linga in the ruins of ancient buildings that were originally thought to be remnants of a Dutch fort in Kerawang, that a few portraits of civilizations around the river downstream began to be revealed. Cibuaya Temple is thus named after the site of the Hindu temple.

Interestingly, about 15 km to the northeast of Cibuana Temple, in 1984 a complex of temple sites was discovered. Batujaya Temple is so famously called. The site of Batujaya Temple is a Buddhist temple. It was built using red bricks in the 4th century or even older than that.

In the Batujaya Temple complex, 24 temple locations have been found. However, only 10 temple locations have been excavated and researched intensively. But the findings at the temple complex are not the only ones. Many other artifacts were also found as evidence of the high achievements of the Citarum civilization in the past.

Votive Tablet. Source: Ministry of Tourism

Call it when it was known what the name votive tablet . That is, objects that contain certain symbols or icons are small in size, made of clay that is molded by pressing and burning techniques. Also found many artifacts of pottery fragments with various motifs; beaded jewelry; a variety of terracotta products; inscription fragments; and many human skeletons. Interestingly, the age of this human skeleton is thought to be from the 1-2 century BC.

These findings in the future will more or less give a new color to the interpretation of history around life in the Citarum River area in general. It also gives a new color to the interpretation of history during the Tarumanegara Kingdom in particular.

The beads, found at the Batujaya Temple Site. Source: Ministry of Tourism

For example, it could be that the civilizational age of the people in the area along the Citarum River is much older than currently suspected. If so far its age has been interpreted in line with the history of the emergence of the Tarumangeara Kingdom in the 4th century, it is not impossible that the age of Citarum civilization has actually existed since the BC era.

Or other interpretations can also be made. If it has been concluded that the Batujaya Temple as a Buddhist temple complex was built in the 4th century, then the Tarumanegara Kingdom as a Hindu kingdom is far from discriminating against other religions. It can also be interpreted, considering that the distance between the Hindu Cibuaya Temple and the Buddhist Batujaya Temple is relatively close, it is suspected that during the Tarumanegara Kingdom the values ​​of religious tolerance were well practiced.

Other historical fragments are also noteworthy. Once upon a time, the Citarum River was also the dividing line between the two kingdoms. Galuh Kingdom and Sunda Kingdom. This happened around the 7th century, after the Tarumanegara Kingdom receded and changed its name to the Sunda Kingdom. This function as an administrative boundary was repeated around the 15th century. The Citarum River became the barrier between the Cirebon Sultanate and the Banten Sultanate.

Whereas in the Dutch era, the Citarum River served as a means of transportation liaison. This river serves to connect the interior and the coastal areas on the north coast of Java, to carry agricultural and trade products.

The Citarum River, the ancient river, still plays an important role in human life. The potential for water resources from the river is estimated to reach a discharge of 13 billion cubic meters per year. Meanwhile, speaking of its utilization, it is only around 7.5 billion cubic meters per year or half of it.

Given this huge potential, under President Soekarno, the largest dam in Indonesia was built. This dam mega project seems to remind the legend of Sangkuriang damming the Citarum River. Built in 1957, named Reservoir Ir H Juanda. Initially, Jatiluhur was the only dam on the Citarum River.

From the source “Citarum River Basin Center, West Java Provincial PSDA 2008”, this dam has a panoramic view of the lake covering an area of ​​8,300 ha. In addition, it is known that this artificial lake functions as agricultural irrigation for rice fields covering an area of ​​242,000 ha, raw water supply for DKI Jakarta, 187.5 MW power plant, inland fisheries, tourism development and water sports.

Then two other dams were built during President Suharto’s reign. Saguling Dam in 1985 and Cirata Dam in 1988.

Saguling Reservoir. Source:

Referring to the same source, the Saguling Reservoir functions as agricultural irrigation and a power plant with a capacity of 700 MW. Larger than the previous lake, the Cirata Reservoir also functions as agricultural irrigation, raw water use, and a power plant with a capacity of 1,008 MW.

Realizing the importance of the Citarum River for human civilization, President Joko Widodo did not remain silent. On March 14, 2018, President Joko Widodo issued Presidential Regulation 15 of 2018 concerning the Acceleration of Pollution Control and Damage to the Citarum River Basin. Unmitigated, the big work on the Citarum River revitalization agenda, upstream to downstream, is targeted to be completed in a matter of seven years.

Starting this step, President Joko Widodo initiated infrastructure development on the Citarum River. This project includes the construction of a retention pond and the construction of a tunnel . Its purpose is to control floods, overcome and accommodate and distribute billions of cubic meters of water debit. There are nine projects. The entire project will be completed in 2019.

Let’s wait together for the next seven years. Is President Joko Widodo able to realize the efforts to revitalize the Citarum River, from upstream to downstream? Will this gigantic work agenda reap success like Sri Maharaja Purnawarman’s steps in the past and not follow the storyline of Sangkuriang’s failure?  Wait and see.

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