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

Putri Reno Pinang Masak

In the village of Pasir Mayang, located in the Bungo-Tebo regency of the Jambi Province, there is a famous grave named “Makam Upih Jatuh” (literal translation of the 3 words: grave; pinang tree bark; fall). The name is used in reference to the main character in this story, who was said to have died, and when she did, “she floated to and fro as she fell to the earth, just like the thin pinang tree bark falls.”

This grave is considered to be sacred, and many people go there to pray for spiritual and physical blessings. There are even yearly observances that are held there to commemorate the person who is buried there. Below is a legend that describes the story behind the grave called “Makam Upih Jatuh.”

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A long time ago there was a small kingdom that was called the Limbungan Kingdom. Its Queen was a woman named Putri Reno Pinang Masak. This young woman was beautiful, intelligent, and had a very pleasant nature. She was the desire of all young eligible bachelors, both those of royalty, as well as those of the general populace.

It was a sad situation, however, because although she was approaching 30 years of age, it wasn’t possible to count the number of proposals she turned down. It was evident that there wasn’t a single young man that could gain favor in her eyes. She always gave a reason for every proposal that she refused. She was very careful though, since she didn’t want to offend people, she always presented her refusals to marry in a manner that was very polite and inoffensive.

“What are you waiting for my Queen?” said the foremost of her three advisers. “Our Kingdom is increasingly prosperous. The economics of our Kingdom has put almost everybody on the same economical footing, so that the chasm between the wealthy and the poor is not very great. We are very secure, stable, and safe. It’s time for the Queen to seriously think about settling down and building a family.”

The Queen replied, “We have already spoken about that topic at length, Datuk Dengar Kitab. There will be time for that later on. Don’t spend time searching for candidates for marriage, and especially don’t try to force me! It’s best that we prioritize our efforts and give all our thoughts and attention to the prosperity and safety of our Kingdom.”

The citizens of the Limbungan Kingdom were very much aware of the Queen’s rejection of many marriage proposals. Actually, she was prioritizing, and placing the Kingdom’s well-being over that of her own. This was the very reason why the Kingdom was as prosperous as it was. Any of the citizens of the Kingdom that were considered in poverty were well taken care of. They had the guarantee of food, drink, as well as a home. They were also all employed, and there weren’t any beggars, or homeless wanderers.

The Queen’s three advisers were all very wise and discerning. All three of them were devoutly loyal and could be trusted. The citizens had full confidence in the leadership of the Queen and her advisers.

The beauty and wise leadership of Queen Putri Reno Pinang Masak was known by all the Kings living on the thousands of islands surrounding the Kingdom of Limbungan. One of those Kings, from the Island of Java, was struck with desire when he heard of the story about the Limbungan Kingdom and it’s Queen.

The Javanese King then ordered a small delegation from his Kingdom to go and propose to Queen Putri Reno Pinang Masak. With that delegation was sent many nice gifts that were to be offered as a gesture of peace to the Limbungan Kingdom. But, as with all the proposals for marriage from many other Kings, this proposal was also refused. The consequence of this refusal was that the Javanese King felt offended.

When his delegation returned and reported to him the news of what had transpired, he said, “I swear by heaven and earth that I will marry Queen Putri Reno Pinang Masak. If I can’t have here by means of peace, I will marry her by war.”

One of the delegates replied to the Javanese King, “Actually, if you force the Queen of the Limbungan Kingdom so that she fulfills all your wishes, we don’t need to go to war to make it happen. A war will create much suffering for our people, as well as for theirs. The feelings of hatred will last for many generations and will not be easy to remove. These feelings of hatred and bitterness may lie dormant, and they could emerge at any time, creating much havoc in the future.”

“What is your suggestion?” replied the Javanese King with an explosive voice. “If not through war, how will this be accomplished?”

“We’ll kidnap her!” replied the delegate.

“Kidnap? That’s a disgusting and insulting thought. No, let’s attack the Limbungan Kingdom now!” said the King.

Because it was still the age when Kings ruled with an iron fist, and every command they gave had to be obeyed, without question or argument, the planning for the attack on the Limbungan Kingdom commenced immediately.

All the military commanders from the Javanese Kingdom conducted so they could develop a war strategy that could quickly be launched. War ships were prepared to transport the troops. Weapons and every type of supply were prepared. Finally, after all was prepared the ships left and headed for the Strait of Berhala, and upstream on the Batanghari River.

The military forces proceeded as quietly as possible, not wanting to alert the Limbungan Kingdom’s military forces. The Javanese King told his military commander, try to kill as few people as possible, and bring the Queen to me totally unharmed.

The Javanese military commander had previously sent an intelligence gathering squad ahead of them to collect information about the Limbungan Kingdom. This was done so that he would have clear information about the strengths and weaknesses of that kingdoms’ military force, as well as what defenses they may have. He wanted to know: 1) what type of weapons they had; 2) how many people were in their military; 3) what type of defensive fortification they had, etc. All of these questions he had to know if he was to overcome and defeat the Limbungan Kingdom.

It was highly unfortunately for the Javanese intelligence squad, because they were captured by the Limbungan military. That squad was interrogated by Datuk Rajo Penghulu, Datuk Dengar Kitab, and Datuk Mangun, the Limbungan Queen’s three advisors. The advisers were interrogating them so they could determine the plans of the Javanese military. After the interrogation was complete, the information was passed along to Queen Putri Reno Pinang Masak.

After the Queen heard the news she responded, “We didn’t look for an enemy, and we also don’t want to destroy other kingdoms and take their independence away from them. But, if our Kingdom is being threatened, and all it’s great blessings for our people are at risk, we must take steps to protect ourselves. I want you, my trusted advisers, to convene a meeting and invite all that are necessary so that a strategy can be developed which will repel any attack from our enemy,” said the Queen.

“My Queen, it would be best if we would relocate you to a much safer location, “said one of her advisers.

“Isn’t our Kingdom safe for me?” She responded. The Queen’s face displayed full assurance and not the slightest trace of fear from the threat posed by the Javanese King.

The following week the Limbungan citizens commenced building defensive fortifications. Some of them were digging ditches that were circling the capital city of the Limbungan Kingdom. Some of them were gathering bamboo poles, and others were gathering branches that were layered with thorns, while others were transporting these gathered supplies and placing them along the trenches that were being dug. All of this would enhance their defensive position.

In one month the defensive fort was completed. It had a wall of bamboo and a thick fence of thorns on the inside. There was also the ditch that was dug in front of the bamboo wall, which would make any attack extremely difficult. The Queen then, along with her three advisers, inspected the fortifications surrounding the city.

“You did an outstanding job!” exclaimed the Queen. “There’s only one gate with which to enter or go out of the city, correct?”

“Yes!” replied Datuk Rajo Penghulu. “The gate will be guarded by Datuk Mangun and his children. He has taught his sons to inspect every person who wants to either come in or go out of the city. If people don’t have permission, and they are not well-known, no matter who they are, they are not allowed to go out or come in.

The queen being directed to go into the tower.

The ensuring war was impossible to be prevented. The troops from Java had arrived and immediately commenced their fierce attack. From the river, as well as from land, the attack was launched. The war lasted three days and nights. The two sides fought fiercely to gain the victory over the other.

Because the fortification was of a simple construction, although well built, it was obvious that the Javanese troops at one location of the wall were gaining the upper hand. Though the bamboo wall was built very well, the Javanese forces broke through and entered the city. As they entered, their bodies and clothing were immediately stabbed and stuck on all the thorns that were lining the fence on the inside of that wall. The thorns made it impossible for them to proceed, so they quickly retreated. In their retreat, that squad of Javanese troops were attacked from behind by the Limbungan forces totally defeated.

The Javanese squad of soldiers that tried to break through the gate also failed. Datuk Mangun, together with his sons, obstinately held off the attackers. Finally, the Javanese forces retreated, leaving behind a large number of their fallen soldiers.

After the retreat, the Javanese King gathered his commanding officers and said, “That Queen, who will become my wife, is very clever! Their fortifications, which includes the ditch, bamboo wall, and the thorn fence on the inside is not a problem. We will overcome them with a cleverly devised scheme.”

“My King, what do you mean?” asked one of the commanding officers.

“Ha ha ha….,” exploded the Javanese King with laughter. After wiping the spit that had drooled down on his chin, he leaned over to the right ear of that commanding officer and said, “Money! Metal coins can be ground small like a stone, and we’ll make a canon that can shoot those metal coins. We will use silver and gold coins with which to make our canon shot.”

“And then?” asked the officer.

“Then we will shoot the gun at the entire length of one of those bamboo walls!” said the King.

“Wouldn’t it be useless to do something like that?” replied the officer.

The King responded, “You will see what I mean later, just do what I said and make the canon. Gather together those who have the skill in manufacturing weapons. I hope that in six months our forces will launch an offensive and destroy the Limbungan Kingdom’s fort.”

The officer didn’t argue with the Javanese King, but immediately gathered the workers to build the canon. Exactly six months later the Javanese forces returned with the newly forged canon. They were going to use it to destroy the Limbungan Kingdom’s fort.

After getting the gun set up outside the Limbungan Kingdom’s fort, they immediately commenced firing. After several shots all the silver and gold coins were used up, and they retreated from the attack and moved outside the area of the Limbungan Kingdom. There were only 2-3 chosen soldiers that were ordered to stay in that area, being disguised as citizens of the Limbungan Kingdom.

During that short attack of canon fire there wasn’t a single soldier from either side that was killed. Two days after the attack one of the Limbungan soldiers, who was outside the walls inspecting he fortification, returned and reported to the Queen’s adviser, Datuk Dengar Kitab, “Sir, I discovered something amazing that we need to report to the Queen. Their canon was loaded with silver and gold coins when they shot at us!”

Limbungan Kingdom soldiers collecting the gold and silver coins that were shot from the Javanese canon.

The other two advisers also heard the report and they said, “Let’s all go inspect it ourselves to confirm that this report is true!” said Datuk Rajo Penghulu and Datuk Mangun. If it is true, those silver and gold coins that were shot at our walls will be a great blessing for our Kingdom!”

The report turned out to be just as it was described. Fragments of silver and gold coins were scattered all around the ground by the walls, as well as embedded in the bamboo itself.

After returning and reporting to the Queen, she was asked, “What do you want us to do?”

“Collect it all! We will all be greatly benefited by this wealth!” said the Queen.

Because it was very difficult to get the coins out of the bamboo, the walls were torn apart so that every piece of silver and gold could be collected. The coin fragments were then brought inside the palace.

Seeing that the fort walls were all taken apart, and the defenses were no longer in place, the Javanese spies that stayed behind immediately reported the news to the Javanese military leaders.

The next day an attack was made on the Limbungan capital, and it quickly fell into the hands of the Javanese victors. The Queen realized her tragic error, and in her heart she whispered, “That Javanese King is truly amazing! Too bad for us that I rejected his wedding proposal. What more can I do, ‘The rice has already become porridge’” (nasi telah menjadi bubur—That is a parable which means: I waited too long, there’s no need to talk about it any longer.).

Putri Reno Pinang Masak, as she observes the Dutch soldiers break through the Limbungan Kingdom defenses.

Pandemonium struck the citizens of the Limbungan Kingdom. The Queen’s three advisers, as well as all the loyal citizens were searching for the Queen, but they couldn’t find her in the palace. The Javanese troops were also searching for her, but they all came up empty handed.

“There’s no need for us to return to a palace that’s been defeated by its enemy!” Let’s look for our Queen, Putri Reno Pinang Masak, whether she’s dead or alive,” said Datuk Rajo Penghulu.

“We agree!” replied the Queen’s other two advisers, Datuk Mangun and Datuk Dengar Kitab.

At the time those events were unfolding, the citizens in the distant village of Tenaku were gathered at a little stream not far from their village. They were shocked when they heard the news from a farmer in that area who said, “There’s a corpse of a young beautiful girl laying in my field. She fell to the earth as if she were a piece of pinang bark that floats to and fro as it floats to the ground. She’s now laying in front of my little home. Let’s go there together so it can be witnessed by all and then we can bury her.

There wasn’t a single person in the Village of Tenaku that knew who that dead girl was. They were all confused as to who she was. To discover the identity of that girl, the famous dukun (village witchdoctor) was called. In just a short period of time after he conducted his ritual, he revealed that the girl was actually the Queen of the Limbungan Kingdom, Putri Reno Pinang Masak.

They all immediately decided to bury here in the Village of Tenaku. One month later, when the three advisors of the Queen passed by that area, still in search of her, they were told by the farmer of the young lady they found as well as what the dukun revealed about her identity. The farmer then showed the three advisors the grave of their Queen, Putri Reno Pinang Masak.

“This is her grave!” said the farmer as he explained what happened to her. “We named this grave Makam Upih Jatuh, because as she fell to the earth she floated down as if she were a piece of pinang bark.

When the three advisers heard that news they immediately fainted and then died. They are also buried there in the very same place.

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