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

The Origin of the Name of the Batanghari River

(Asal Mula Nama Sungai Batang Hari)

The below legend very much resembles a previous legend we translated, titled: Asal Usul Raja Negeri Jambi. The difference with the legend below is that when the candidate to become Jambi’s king entered the mouth of the Batanghari River, he was asked if he knew the name of it. At that time the name of the river wasn’t known by the other travelers, and the candidate’s quick and witty response named the river, and brought amazement to the Jambi people who were looking for a wise and capable candidate to become their king.


A long, long time ago, when the population of the Jambi was beginning to increase, it was evident that they were in need of king that could unite all of the villages and regions and enable them to become one united kingdom.  In their effort to find a fitting king, they conducted a competition that would weed out those who didn’t have the qualification to rule.  The testing process was extreme, because to become a candidate, you had to have the ability to:

  1. Endure a roaring fire.
  2. Endure immersion in the river for three days and three nights.
  3. Survive being shot out of a cannon like a cannon ball.
  4.  Withstand being ground in an iron mill.

The people living in Jambi didn’t have the ability to withstand the testing that was required, so the wise leaders from the villages of Tujuh Koto, Sembilan Koto, and Batin Duo Belas, agreed to look outside their region for potential candidates to become their king.

The people of Jambi assembled delegates to travel to distant countries in their search for a qualified individual. It was very hard for this delegation to travel, because they at times had to walk considerable distances on footpaths, then at times breakthrough very dense jungle vegetation. They also had to travel far on the rivers, all the while facing robbers and wild animals.

Finally the delegates arrived at a very distant country, namely the southern part of the country of India, a people who’s skin was very dark. After their arrival in India they began traversing that country in their search for a candidate to become their king.

Fortunately for them they didn’t lose hope, because they did finally meet a man who expressed his abilities to fulfill Jambi’s testing requirements, and then become their king (all of which were mentioned above). It was the delegation’s hope and expectation that this man would be able to rule their country with wisdom, and turn the Jambi Kingdom into a safe and prosperous place for them all to live.

Being overjoyed at finding a high quality candidate, they boarded their ship and commenced their travels back to Jambi. The journey was long, as they had a very wide ocean to cross, and it took a very long time. Sometimes there were great fears, as the travelers experience typhoons, high and very rough seas, heavy rains, mixed with lightening. Fortunately there were days when things were bright and clear, and the sailing was enjoyable, being brought along by favorable winds and a clear bright moon to give them light during the nights.

During the journey back to Jambi the delegates were unrelenting in asking their potential king many questions. As they discussed many things with him, his wisdom and knowledge of many aspects of life emerged. He had a tremendous amount of knowledge of the stars.

Due to this Indian’s knowledge, the delegates wanted to continue to test him with many questions, but they were a little hesitant, because they were concerned that they may ask him a question that would offend him, and then he might lose his interest in becoming their king.

As they continued their journey there was a continual change in the weather, from rough seas, blasting winds, striking heat from the sun, to beautiful and pleasant days. This was the way the journey progressed, with the weather successively changing.

Due to their need for fresh water and supplies, they stopped in the country of Aceh, rested, and took on much needed supplies. They also stopped and rested in the country of Malaysia. The journey was becoming increasingly long as they continued their journey back to Jambi.

One day as their ship was approaching Jambi, they entered the mouth of a huge river. The travelers had departed from that river on their journey to India. Although this particular river was very large and well known, and that they had already sailed it and had drank of its water, they had not yet learned the river’s name. Seeing this as an opportunity to test their would be king, they discussed among themselves if this man, who knew the answers to so many of their other questions, would know the name of this river. They hesitated asking him because they thought it would be impolite to do so, seeing that he had never been to this location before.

At the time they were entering the mouth of this river the darkness of night was beginning to fall (“petang” is this time of day). The Jambi delegates agreed together to ask this Indian man if he knew the name of this river.

“My lord, we have a question we would like to present to you,” said a delegate from Batin Duo Belas.

“Ask whatever question you would like,” replied the Indian.

“This huge river that we’ve just entered, what in the world could its name be,” asked the man from Batin Duo Belas.

“Haa… This river is named Kepetangan Hari,” said the Indian.

The candidate responded very fast, even though he never had any knowledge of that river.

All of the delegates were very happy when they heard his quick response, which was without hesitation. They all became strengthened and increasingly energetic as they continued rowing their ship up the river toward the village of Mukomuko.

When they arrived at Mukomuko they quickly spread the news about this Indian man that they had met. They also told everybody that the name of the huge river was Kepetangan Hari. After a number of years the name of the river gradually transformed and became Petang Hari River, and then finally, its name became Batanghari River.