This is our translation of a legend from the Jambi Province.

The Story of the Jambi Kingdom

Many years ago there was a kingdom located on the eastern shore of the island of Sumatra. The kingdom was very wealthy because there were many oil wells. The king that ruled the kingdom was not yet married because there was not a single young lady whom he loved. (From other legends, this king is assumed to be the legendary Tan Talanai.)

One day the king received news that there was a very beautiful girl from the western side of the island. The area was known as Minangkabau, and the girls name was Putri Selera Pinang Masak.

Grave of Putri Selara Pinang Masak

Putri Selera Pinang Masak’s beauty was well-known. But the beauty of her heart was lacking. She was known to be very greedy for earthly wealth, and her efforts to gain wealth were not always honorable.

When the king from the eastern side of the Sumatran island heard about her beauty he sent a delegation to propose to her, but she didn’t want to marry him. Putri Selera Pinang Masak responded to the king’s delegation by saying that she would marry him, with one stipulation; he would first have to build a very beautiful palace for her, but… the palace would have to be finished in one night.

Because the king had fallen deeply in love with Putri Selera Pinang Masak, he willingly took on the challenge to build the palace.  The king immediately began to gather together the citizens of his kingdom, especially all the skilled laborers. The king ordered the citizens to work extremely fast because the palace had to be finished in one night.

The construction of the immediately palace began when the sun went down. Thousands of highly skilled workers were mobilized and the work began. To help them see, there were thousands of lamps that completely illuminated the area.

In the middle of the night the king made an inspection of the progress. The construction of the palace was half done, right on schedule, and the work was being carried out with perfection. The progress was impressive and the beauty of the palace was beginning to emerge. Putri Selera Pinang Masak began to fear that the king would actually complete the task which she thought would be impossible. Because she didn’t want to marry him, she thought she had given a stipulation that would prevent marriage from ever taking place. It was evidently clear that the king from the eastern side of the island of Sumatra was a person who possessed supernatural powers. When the morning was approaching and the palace was almost completed, the only thing remaining  was a few finishing touches.

The king was extremely happy with the work. A new city immediately began to emerge in that location. On the other hand, Putri Selera Pinang Masak was totally distressed because she didn’t want to marry the king. She had spent the night tossing and turning, unable to sleep. She thought her plan would defeat the king’s intentions for marriage.

Putri Selera Pinang Masak, holding up a lamp to get the rooster to crow.Suddenly Putri Selera Pinang Masak had a clever idea. She went to the chicken coop with a lamp that was very bright. The rosters in the chicken coop assumed that the morning had arrived and they immediately began to crow and make a lot of noise. The king and workers who were putting the finishing touches on the palace were startled.

With a heavy heart the king told all the workers to stop their work. The workers were confused and asked him why, because their work was almost completed. The king responded by telling them that they had failed in their effort to build the palace before the morning had arrived, before the roosters began to crow.

The thousands of workers unwillingly stopped their work and returned to the eastern kingdom, while the king just stood there, deeply distraught because his heart was broken. His hope of marrying Putri Selera Pinang Masak was completely destroyed, and he was so very close to seeing it happen. Because of his love for Putri Selera Pinang Masak, the palace was freely given to her by the king. In addition to the palace, the many valuable items in the palace, like gold, silver were also given to her. After all was released into the possession of Putri Selera Pinang Masak, the king sadly  returned to his kingdom in the east.

Because of Putri Selera Pinang Masak’s love for wealth, even though she had a new palace filled with priceless treasures, she still wasn’t satisfied. Heartlessly, Putri Selera Pinang Masak sold all of the treasures that were within the palace, and with the money gained from the sales, she assembled many weapons, and an army, with which she would attack the king of the east.

The king of the east never had the slightest assumption that he would be attacked by Putri Selera Pinang Masak, so no preparation was made for war. When the army sent by Putri Selera Pinang Masak entered the eastern kingdom, they were quickly defeated and the kingdom fell into the hands of Putri Selera Pinang Masak, and she became the ruler of that kingdom.

After Putri Selera Pinang Masak became the ruler of the eastern kingdom, people of other nations began to call that kingdom: “Pinang Masak.” Sometimes the kingdom was called the Nation of Pinang. Kings from the island of Java called that kingdom “The Kingdom of Jambe,” because the word jambe in the Javanese language means pinang. After a period of time, the word Jambe evolved into the word Jambi.

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The grave of Putri Selera Pinang Masak can be seen and read about by clicking this link.

The last paragraph of the above legend reflects the commonly explained belief for where the word “Jambi” originated. Below is another view of where the word “Jambi” originated.

Additional Information About the

Origin of the Word “Jambi.”

There are several opinions as to the origin of the word Jambi, and they are:

  1. Seeing that the word “jambe” is the Javanese word for the pinang tree, it is believed that the Jambi Kingdom was named after the woman Putri Selera Pinang Masak.  The pinang tree is commonly used as a symbol of Jambi, as seen in the Jambi City Crest, as well as in many other formats around the city.
    • The word’s former spelling was “Djambi,” with the letter “d” being silent. After modifications were made to the language, the letter “d” was dropped. You will still encounter the original spelling from time to time.
  2. Almost every reference to the origin of the word “Jambi” makes reference to the pinang tree, that is, with the exception of the book Mencari Jejak Sangkala, written by the Jambi historian and cultural expert, H. Junaidi T. Noor. He wrote in his book Mencari Jejak Sangkala, that the word “jambi” did not originate with Putri Selera Pinang Masak, and that the term “Jambi” had been in use, describing a settlement in the area, hundreds of years before she came on the scene.  On page 21 of his book he writes: “We have become too familiar with the word ‘Jambi,’ as having originated from the Javanese word ‘jambe,’ meaning pinang, as having a direct connection with the person in Jambi’s history, named Putri Selaras Pinang Masak.”
  3. Geneologies of Jambi’s Kings, written by Ngebi Suto Dilago Priyayi Rajo Sari, indicates that when Tun Talanai (a legendary Jambi king) died, Jambi no longer had a king. It was then that this Putri Selera Pinang Masak, a female descendant of the king in Pagarruyung came to Jambi. Since Jambi was already being referred to with it’s current name, it indicates that there isn’t a connection between the word “Jambi,” and the Javanese word “jambe,” which means “pinang.” Purti Selaras Pinang Masak lived in the latter part of the 1400s.
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