Goddess of the Earth

Pertiwi: the personification of Indonesia

While visiting a cultural park in the City of Jambi (Taman Budaya Mayang Mengurai), we noticed an interesting monument with a picture of the Indonesian islands, and below it the word “Pertiwi.” We also noticed on another monument at this same park, the same word—“Pertiwi.” This led us to explore the origin and meaning of that word.

Pertiwi means “earth,” and in Indonesia it is used as a national personification or embodiment of Indonesia. In most instances, the word “Pertiwi” is used in conjunction with the word Ibu (mother). So it can be rightfully translated, “Mother Earth.” Indonesians understand it as meaning the “Motherland.” They use the same word “mother,” or “Ibu,” when they refer to capital cities. Jakarta being the “Ibu Kota” of Indonesia (the Mother City).

Goddess of the Earth (Dewi Pertiwi)

Pertiwi is actually “Dewi Pertiwi,” Goddess of the Earth. Since prehistoric times, the many ethnic groups from the islands of Indonesia honored and worshipped the spirit of nature, or power of the earth. They figuratively compared this spiritual power to a mother who gives life and referred to her as the goddess of nature. Ibu Pertiwi was identified with Prithvi, the Hindu mother goddess of Earth, who was thus given the name “Pertiwi.” With Hinduism forming a foundation to many Indonesian spiritual beliefs, this spiritual power took on the personality of “Dewi Pertiwi,” which statue can be seen at the Indonesian National Monument in Jakarta.

For many years Indonesian children have sung the patriotic song, “Ibu Pertiwi” in their classrooms at school. The song is sung to the tune of the 1855 Christian hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” written by Joseph M. Scriven. Today it is very rare to ever hear of or see the image of “Ibu Pertiwi” in the media, although she is very popular in Indonesian patriotic songs and poems.

The song “Ibu Pertiwi,” and our translation of it:

First Verse

Kulihat Ibu Pertiwi…………………..I see Mother Pertiwi

Sedang bersusah hati……………….Now in very much distress

Air matamu berlinang…………….Tears flowing from your eyes

Mas intanmu terkenang…………..Your gold and diamonds are remembered

Hutan gunung sawah lautan…..Forest, mountains, fields, and oceans

Simpanan kekayaan…………………The source of your wealth

Kini ibu sedang susah………………Now mother is sad

Merintih dan berdoa………………. Moaning and praying

Second Verse:

Kulihat Ibu Pertiwi………………….I see Mother Pertiwi

Kami datang berbakti……………..We come in devotion

Lihatlah putra-putrimu…………Look upon your sons and daughters

Menggembirakan Ibu…………….We want to make you happy

Ibu kami tetap cinta………………Mother, we firmly love you

Putramu yang setia………………Your sons are loyal

Menjaga harta pusaka………….We guard our inheritance

Untuk nusa dan bangsa………..For our islands and nation

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