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

 Depati Sebelas

This legend describes the courage and bravery of a single man, which takes on the forces of the Dutch colonists single-highhandedly.


In the Tebo region of the Jambi Province there is a village named Semabu. At the beginning of the 20th century this village was led by a man named Depati Sebelas. The community honored this man by calling him Datuk Depati Sebelas.

During this time the village of Semabu was calm and peaceful. Depati Sebelas was very comfortable and enjoyed working among the people when there were community projects that they all worked together on. Besides being known as a very friendly man, Depati Sebelas was also known as possessing great supernatural powers—and those powers protected his body from being pierced by any weapon, including bullets or sharp objects, like spears or knives.

Though Semabu was calm and peaceful at this time period, things began to gradually change as the Dutch colonialists made plans to take over the area of Tebo. One day it was heard that the Dutch soldiers were only a two hour march away from Semabu. Although the village had the Batanghari River as a natural barrier, it wasn’t anything insurmountable that would prevent the Dutch from entering the village if they wanted to.

It was obvious that the Dutch didn’t want to fight with anybody, they wanted to employ tactics to dominate the people through fear first. Hopefully the villages they would encounter would willingly surrender without putting up a fight. To subdue the areas and villages of Jambi, the Dutch would frequently shoot their guns, which accomplished their purpose in making the citizens fearful and they would then surrender peacefully. After many other villages and areas surrendered to them, the Dutch would then enter and commence exploiting the areas, depriving the people of the land’s resources.

When Depati Sebelas understood what was taking place, and the plans the Dutch had to take over the village of Semabu. He began to contemplate how to stop this situation. Depati Sebelas thought that if the Dutch were allowed to overthrow the village, the community would then suffer a shortage of food and they would ultimately become coolies for the Dutch, which would be the same as slaves.

Understanding that action was needed, Depati Sebelas convened a conference of all the village leaders to discuss how they might be able to oppose the Dutch.

“If we remain calm and quiet, the people of Semabu will be reduced to severe poverty. The children will not get the attention they need, and we’ll all become thin due to insufficient food. The women will be taken and forced to serve as servants and cooks. To prevent this from happening, I advise all of us to consider what we need to do so we can prevent this tragedy from happening,” said Depati Sebelas.

The other leaders of the village didn’t give Depati Sebelas’ presentation a single response. The faces of all the men showed great signs of fear. Seeing the terror on the men’s faces, Depati Sebelas demonstrated the wisdom he had by only smiling, as he contemplated what actions he would take next. It was obvious that the Dutch had succeeded in not only instilling fear in the women and children, but also in the men of the village.

“It’s okay, I know you all don’t want the Dutch to come here, and that you are only afraid of them. Our war with the Dutch will not succeed if we are fearful. Because of that, I’ll go and face the Dutch alone, until the last drop of my blood is spilled out on the ground. What I request from all of you is, that you would pray for me to receive blessings in the battle, and that if I die, you will bury me in the village of Semabu,” said Depati Sebelas.

All of those present at the community leader’s conference were startled to hear Depati Sebelas say that he would fight the Dutch alone. They were very worried, but they prayed for Depati Sebelas to be safe and obtain the victory over the Dutch. After all the other leaders left the home of Depati Sebelas, where the meeting was conducted, the son of Depati Sebelas said, “Father, how will you oppose the Dutch alone? All of the other leaders and citizens are afraid. You certainly will face your doom if you continue with your plans.”

Depati Sebelas replied, “My son, if I die, praise be to God anyways, because I am not willing to be dominated and colonized by the Dutch. “I’m very proud that there won’t be any others joining with me in the battle. And by that I mean that if I die, that means there’s only one of us that will die. My battle won’t make many casualties. If I die, it means that I died defending our people from Dutch colonization. But, if I’m saved, it will have been by the grace of God.

The son of Depati Sebelas remained silent. He understood the true intentions of his father. He knew that his father never did anything without thinking it through diligently before he acted on anything. So, whatever Depati Sebelas said, it was well known that he had already given it a lot of thought before the words came out of his mouth.

Hearing that one of the people of Semabu informed the Dutch that Depati Sebelas was their leader, Depati Sebelas knew full well that that the Dutch soldiers would come to arrest him. On the next day Depati Sebelas left early in the morning, travelling upstream on the Rambutan River, which is a small stream that feeds into the Semabu River. The Rambutan River was the only way for the Dutch to travel and enter into the village of Semabu. At that time the only weapon Depati Sebelas had was a sword.

At the edge of the Rambutan River Depati Sebelas made a small hut in which to rest, while he waited for the arrival of the Dutch. Next to a very large fig tree, located along the edge of the Rambutan River, Depati Sebelas launched his attack when the Dutch came close to the shore. Since Depati Sebelas attacked with great speed, the Dutch didn’t have time to prepare their guns. Depati Sebelas was already swinging his sword with speed and great force, and in just a short period of time the attacking Dutch soldiers were destroyed, with the exception of a few who escaped on foot and went to the other side of the river, in the direction of Muara Tebo.

Depati Sebelas was certain that the Dutch soldiers that escaped would report to the commander at the fort located in Muara Tebo. It wasn’t more than one day later when four boats of Dutch troops arrived to face Depati Sebelas. Upon their arrival, Depati Sebelas again, with his great supernatural powers, overcame the Dutch forces. The same thing took place on the third and fourth day as well, Depati Sebelas would completely destroy the Dutch forces. These continual losses of his soldiers was making the Dutch commander at the Muara Tebo fort furious, because every time he would send out a detachment, they would all be killed.

As the evening of the fourth day was approaching, Depati Sebelas remained in the small hut he had built along the river. Though his heart was very alert and awake and he wanted to continue to be on guard, his body demanded rest, so he was overtaken by sleep.

During the middle of the night Depati Sebelas was awakened out of his sleep upon hearing gun shots. Wiping his eyes, Depati Sebelas realized that he had just awakened and that he was in the hut alone and that the Dutch had completely surrounded him. Depati Sebelas grabbed his sword in his right hand and jumped out of the hut as he began swinging his sword in all directions as he commenced cutting down the Dutch soldiers. The body of Depati Sebelas was continually being hit with bullets, but having great supernatural powers, the bullets weren’t able to penetrate his body or cause him any harm. His energy seemed to continually increase the more he attacked his opponents.

The battle continued through the night and on till the break of day. Depati Sebelas wasn’t aware of the number of Dutch soldiers that were present. When daybreak arrived, suddenly Depati Sebelas accidentally stabbed his sword into the fig tree that was next to the river, and he wasn’t able to pull it out again. It was then that many of the Dutch soldiers began to club him with the butts of their rifles, and they continued hitting him all over his entire body until he fell down dead.

The people from the village of Semabu buried Datuk Depati Sebelas in the exact same place where he fell in battle.