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

The Legend of Jambi’s First King

(Asal Usul Raja Negeri Jambi)

This legend illustrates the “stranger-king” theme that was common throughout Austronesian cultures. It’s as if these cultures believed that outsiders were always more competent to lead than they themselves, thus legends illustrate these peoples looking to other nations from which they would find their kings.

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Long, long ago there were five villages located in the area now known as Jambi. The villages didn’t have a king, and the names of the villages were: Tujuh Koto, Sembilan Koto, Petajin, Muaro Sebo, dan Batin Duo Belas. Out of these five cities the most famous and influential was the village of Batin Duo Belas.

The five villages were thriving and bustling with activity and their daily needs were continually multiplying because the population was rapidly increasing. Seeing the villages growth, the leaders began to realize that for a well managed and orderly society, they must have a king that would have the ability to unite them all.

One elder from the village of Batin Duo Belas mentioned that before they would choose a person from among their villages to become a king, they first needed to write down some prerequisites for potential candidates. All the elders from the villages agreed to that suggestion.

An elder from the village of Tujuh Koto suggested that a candidate must possess excellencies that would make him stand out.

An elder from the village of Petajin agreed and said that candidates must be stronger, both in physical power, as well as spiritual.

To the above proposals for qualifications, the elder from the village of Muaro Sebo agreed, and added that the king must also be humble and honorable.

The elder from the village of Batin Duo Belas then asked them if they all agreed to the prerequisites mentioned, and the response was unanimous, they all agreed.

Finally, after they agreed about the conditions or qualities of the king they wanted, they determined that the candidates must be far more than what they themselves were.

The elder of Sembilan Koto asked how they would be able to determine if a person really met the qualifications, if they really were a spectacular individual, and worthy of becoming their king.

To this situation the elder from the village of Batin Duo Belas indicated that each candidate must be tested to determine his abilities.

The elder from the village Petajin agreed, but he asked how they would test the candidates, and by what method they would they determine their abilities.

The elder from the village of Batin Duo Belas presented four tests which he believed should be used to test candidates prior to becoming king; they are: 1) they must be burned; 2) they must be submerged in boiling water for seven hours; 3) they must be loaded into a canon and shot out; and, 4) they must be ground in an iron mill. Whoever can pass through these four tests, then he has the authority to become king. He then asked them if they all agreed.

All the attendees agreed to the testing methods, as well as their need to begin looking for a king. They then agreed to conduct the testing within three days at in the village of Batin Duo Belas.

Being full of enthusiasm all of the elders returned to their respective villages to find one person from their community to represent their village in the testings that would take place. They were certain that each village had a person who could represent them in the upcoming test. All the villages hoped their representative would win. Following this method for choosing a king would certainly enable them to choose a king that was the most powerful.

The time of testing arrived and all the citizens from the five villages gathered at the village of Batin Duo Belas to witness the thrilling competition. Every village had already prepared their representative. Lots were cast to determine in what order the challengers would be tested.

With lots being cast, the first to be tested was the candidate from the village of Sembilan Koto. Their representative entered the competition area to be tested and he was burned with fire, but his body wasn’t charred nor did it become hot. Next he was submerged in boiling water and his body didn’t blister. After that he was placed into a canon and was shot out of it. After landing on the ground he immediately got up as if nothing had happened to him. All of the spectators were amazed at seeing village Sembilan Koto’s representative pass those tests.

When the final test was about to begin, the atmosphere became silent. All the spectators became tense, because the final test was the one that was the hardest. If the powers of the representative of village Sembilan Koto was insufficient, all his bones would be crushed. As it happened, once the grinding of his body began it was quickly evident that he had insufficient powers to protect himself, and the grinder was immediately stopped. The representative of the village of Sembilan Koto failed in the test to become the king of Jamb.

The next village representative to be tested was the one from the village of Tuju Koto.

A committee member invited the representative of the village of Tujuh Koto to step forward for his first test.

After several moments of waiting, the representative from the village of Tujun Koto still had not stepped forward.

The call of the committee member rang about again for the representative of the village Tujuh Koto to step forward.

The committee member called out again that if they were to cowardly it would be best that they step back out of the competition.

Feeling embarrassed and humiliated by the committee member the candidate from the village of Tujuh Koto immediately stepped forward.

The representative very courageously and boldly declared that he wasn’t afraid, and that nobody from the village of Tujuh Koto ever steps back from a challenge, and never surrenders.

The candidate for king from the Village of Tujuh Koto was then tested. He passed through the first three tests, but he failed the fourth. He was not fit to become Jambi’s king.

Following this was the testing from the representative of the Village of Batin Duo Belas, Village of Petajin, and Muaro Sebo. All of them passed the first three tests, but they also all failed the fourth, which was being put through an iron grinder. Because all the representatives from the five villages failed the tests, the elders of the village again conducted a meeting to determine what they should do.

When the meeting began the elder from the village of Batin Duo Belas asked if it would be possible to look for candidates from outside their five villages, namely from other countries.

The proposal from the elder of the village of Batin Duo Belas was warmly agreed to by all the elders. They then assembled a delegation of two people from each village to go and look for candidates to become their king. On the following day that delegation departed on their search from Jambi to the various countries surrounding them. In every country they stopped at they asked who in it was prepared to become Jambi’s king, and that if they wanted to be considered, they would have to pass the same four tests that were previously outlined above.

After dozens of countries were visited they still had not met one person that was prepared to become Jambi’s king, mainly because nobody had the ability to pass the four tests. The delegation returned to Jambi and at a meeting they reported to the elders what they had experienced.

The delegates said it is impossible to find a person who can fulfill the requirements to become the king of Jambi. It was the representative of the village of Petijan that said this.

Standing up, the representative from the village of Muaro Sebo told all of them to be patient, and that they must not quickly lose hope. He said that they had not found any candidates in countries that were close by, but they had not yet looked for candidates from countries that were far away.

The representative from the village of Petinjam asked that man what he meant.

The representative from Village Muaro Sebo indicated that they must pass over the oceans in their search.

With that they all agreed, and they determined to travel far, even beyond the island of Sumatra in their search. After preparing things for the journey the new delegation departed by boats. After many days of travel, and being thrashed about by waves, they arrived at the country of India. They traveled around the country of India looking for candidates to become their king. Still, all the people they met did not have the ability to pass the four tests that would be required to become the king of Jambi.

One day they heard the news that in a certain village in India there was a famous person who possessed a tremendous amount of spiritual power. Finally, after searching, they were able to find and talk with that person.

The delegation explained to that man that they were from the country of Jambi and that they were looking for candidates to become their king and to lead their country. They also explained that to become king they must first have to pass four tests. They asked that powerful man if he would be prepared to be tested and what the tests involved.

The man understood the requirements and he indicated that he indeed was ready to enter into the testings that were described to him.

The delegation immediately departed to bring the candidate back to Jambi. After traveling many weeks they arrived in Jambi. The powerful person from India was welcomed with great joy and gladness from the Jambi people. They were hoping that this candidate, from across the sea, would truly have the powers to pass the test and become their king.

The Indian candidate going through qualification tests to determine if he would be worthy to become Jambi’s King.

On the following day the candidate from India was to be tested. Just like the previous candidates, the man from India was first burned in flames, but his body was not charred nor was the hair on his body singed. He then passed the tests of being submerged in boiling water, as well as being shot out of a cannon. Again, no harm came to him. Finally he had to face the hardest test of all, that of bring ground in an iron mill. When this test began the atmosphere became silent. The population witnessing it held their breath. In their hearts they suspected that his entire body would be crushed, just like the previous candidates.

The moment was extremely tense with excitement. The final test was to begin. First of all, the two feet of the Indian candidate were lowered into the grinding mill, with his toes beginning to enter first. As the grinding mill rotated the body of the Indian man was little by little being drawn into the iron mill. The people from the five villages were witnessing this tremendous event with their eyes shut. They didn’t want to see the body of that man get crushed. Amazingly the crowd observing the test didn’t hear a single sound come from that man’s voice. But what they did hear was an amazing explosion. They were extremely startled when they opened their eyes and the huge iron grinding mill was broken into tiny pieces, whereas the Indian man had no harm come to him. He even smiled while standing up clapping his hands. The community was overwhelmed with happiness because they finally found the man that was able to become their king.

The entire population of Tujuh Koto, Sembilan Koto, Muaro Sebo, Petajin, dan Batin Duo Belas immediately prepared all that was needed to build a beautiful palace. Other than that, they also prepared food to conduct a huge festival to officially install their new king over the Jambi Kingdom. Several months later, after very hard work from the village people, a beautiful palace was standing and the Indian man had become their king.

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This has been “The Story of the First Jambi King.” The story is a legend that contains moral lessons which the Melayu / Malay people have drawn several lessons that they transmit into their daily lives.

The first is that when facing any problem the community leaders should enjoy the opportunity to convene a meeting to discuss and work on that problem in a joint effort. The five villages in the above story did this. Every time there is a problem they always convened a meeting to address the problem in a joint effort. Cooperation and agreement is very important.

The second moral gleaned from the story is the important need for quality leadership over a community and nation. This will lead a nation and community to seek leadership that has the ability to lead, protect, and guard the people, so that the community and nation will be safe and prosperous.

There is a Melayu expression that has the meaning of:

Question: What is the sign that the Melayu people are blessed and prosperous?

Answer: There is always to be found community discussions when problems are experienced.

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