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

The Village of Koto Rayo

and the 20 Scouts

The dense section of jungle which is said to be the former location of the village Koto Rayo

The dense section of jungle which is said to be the original Village of Koto Rayo


Though not in a well-developed story form, this legend gives information about the formation of the area around Rantau Panjang. This legend is also linked with the Batin 5 (sometimes spelled “Bathin”) people who live in the following five villages along the Tabir River: 1) Desa Tanjung Muara Semayu; 2) Desa Seling 3) Desa Kapuk; 4) Desa Pulau Aro; and 5) Desa Muara Jernih.

We talked with the current village leader (Kepala Desa) of the Village of Koto Rayo, and he said the name of his village had a name change several years ago. Previously the Village of Koto Rayo was located 13 kilometers to the east, at this link’s location. The current Village of Koto Rayo can be found with with this link, just north of Rantau Panjang. There are reports that there are an abundance of ancient bricks in the former Koto Rayo, which are common to the many Hindu temple ruins scattered around the province. It’s also said that there is a sacred grave there (makam keramat), which many people go to and pray for great spiritual blessings.

Bridge Over the Tabir River This is in the area where the 20 scouts were said to finally settle.

Bridge Over the Tabir River
This is in the area where the 20 scouts were said to finally settle.

For this story to make sense, Koto Rayo’s location must be considered to be in its previous location, which was downstream (to the notheast) from the Village of Rantau Panjang on the Tabir River.

Inconsistent Spelling

Koto Rayo, is spelled “Kotaraja” on an old map and “Kotarajo” on a new one. The maps often run words together. It should be spelled “Kota Raja” on the old map, and “Kota Rajo” on the new one, with the new map using the Jambi dialect. The Jambi dialect changes all words that end with the letter “a,” to the letter “o.”  So “Koto” would be “Kota,” which means city. The word “Rajo” would be “Raja,” which means king. The Indonesian language previously used the letter “Y” to make the “J” sound.

In many official and unofficial documents there is a lack of consistency when it comes to spelling. Sometimes the local dialect is used and sometimes the national language spelling is used. The spellings on the maps reflects these inconsistencies. Sometimes there are spaces between the names of the various cities and villages and sometimes there aren’t.

You can read several other legends associated with the Batin V’s origin by clicking the below three links:

The Legend of Koto Rayo’s

20 Scouts

Many hundreds of years ago the area now known as Jambi was in a continual state of military conflict as various powers vied for control. The City of Koto Rayo at that time was considered a small kingdom. Due to the conflicts taking place all about them, the leaders of Koto Rayo decided to send 20 of their best people to scout the region around the mouth of the Tabir River, where it empties into the Batanghari River. In addition to scouting out the area, they were also sent to act as guards, in the event their enemy would travel up the Tabir River to attack them.

The suspicions of the leaders of Koto Rayo were well founded, because the 20 scouts became involved in a skirmish and one of the 20 was killed. To ensure none of the remaining 19 suffered the same fate, the scouts decided to return to Koto Rayo as fast as possible. At the same time, back at Koto Rayo, the citizens assumed the 20 scouts had already been killed by the enemy, because they hadn’t received news concerning them in a long time. The leaders of Koto Rayo decided to secretly leave their city, homes, farms, etc., so their enemy couldn’t follow them. At that time they didn’t know where they would go or how they would travel. They just knew they needed to get out of their city before their enemy came and destroyed them all.

There are some that say that the citizens of Koto Rayo all mysteriously disappeared. Others say that that they fled and went deep into the jungles and took up residence there.

When the 19 scouts finally arrived back in Koto Rayo, they found that the entire region had been vacated. They then made the decision to continue their travels farther upriver to look for a new location in which to settle, and today that settlement is known as Rantau Panjang, the center of the Tabir Region (Kecamatan) of the Jambi Province.

Mr. Iskandar, of Kampung Baruh (Rantau Panjang), indicated to us that this story is true, and that when they 19 scouts arrived at Rantau Panjang they found the village already inhabited. They then joined the local community and resided among them.

The 19 scouts intentionally sought out a place to live that would be similar to their surroundings in Koto Rayo. The naming of “Rantau Panjang” was done with the intention of misleading their enemies if they would attempt to track down the 19 scouts. As time progressed, the community of people living in Rantau Panjang multiplied and spread out into the region, and even reached the area where they originally came from, Koto Rayo.

From the Dutch and Japanese colonial period there are many mysterious stories that are told about Koto Rayo. One of these stories involves several young girls. These girls were said to be with a man paddling their boats from the far upper reaches of the river, but when they arrived in Koto Rayo, they instantly disappeared.

Other stories from the past involve some questionable people from the area who sought wealth and other benefits for themselves by using occult practices. These practices are particularly carried out at graves that are considered supernaturally empowered (they are considered keramat—sacred).

There are also reports of people who have been reported missing in the region, and it’s suspected that the reason was because they had evil intentions planned for others, but it backfired on them.

All of the aforementioned legends never give a date for when the events occurred. Some speculate that there may be some truth in the stories, and that based on what little is known of Jambi’s history, it’s assumed that the events surrounding the 20 scouts sent out from Koto Rayo may have taken place during the Ancient Melayu Kingdom or the Srivijaya Kingdom (7-13th centuries).

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You can read 57 or more of the Jambi legends we’ve translated by clicking this link.

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