Translator : Venny Tania

Writer: Rena Asyari


When we talk about Sunda culture, we can never separate it with Ajip Rosidi’s works. If Mochtar Lubis has written about The Indonesian Human Beings, then Ajip Rosidi writes about The Sundanese Human Beings. What are the characteristics of Sundanese Human Beings? What are their unique natures? Who can represent nowadays Sundanese people?

Ajip takes an example of a Sundanese human imaginary characters from old literature or folklore like Sangkuriang, Kabayan, Mundinglaya Di Kusumah, and Purba Sari Ayu Wangi. Ajip also mentions newer literature like Raden Yogaswara, Dewi Pramanik-Ratna Suminar, and Karnadi.

In addition to imaginary ones, Ajip deduces from real figures of Sundanese history like Dipati Ukur, Ki Tapa, Prince Kornel, Haji Hasan Mustapa, and Dewi Sartika.

Ajip admits he found many obstacles in the process of making the criteria of Sundanese human beings. That Sundanese language has many similarities with Javanese language, number of Sundanese people that participated in compiling Indonesian language dictionary is still minimal; all those are the reasons why Sundanese people can not claim linguistic part like for some of the words in dictionary, are given marked as originated from Javanese language, but not Sundanese language. Also, Kebaya that has become the national costume, is claimed to be originated from West Java, while according to Mohammad Roem (an Indonesian diplomat during the independence war), Kebaya is originally a  traditional cloth of Sunda.

This book also reveals that there is historical proof of Tarumanagara with its King, Purnawarman, as the first king in Java island and Sunda land in the 5th century. Islam is a religion that has a special place in Sunda, until a Sundanese figure, Kartosuwirjo founded DI/TII.

Characters from Old literature works

Ajip Rosidi tells his reader that it rarely happens for Sundanese people to marry a person outside their clan, so romance stories like in Minangkabau society are unavailable. For example, one of the most famous Sundanese literature Sangkuriang story sends a message about refusing incest, which Dayang Sumbi aversed to marriage proposal from her son, Sangkuriang.

Sangkuriang, on the other side, pictures a basic character of human that has some superpower, as long as he/she can use it for the right things. The story of Dayang Sumbi and Sangkuriang mirrors the friction between two different people who hold strong their standpoint.

Si Tumang is also one of the main character in Sangkuriang’s story, as the father of Sangkuriang. He is originally a dog and had a boy with Dayang Sumbi; where Sumbi herself was a daughter of a wild boar named Wayungyang. This proves old Sundanese people had animal worshipping as tradition. Nevertheless, we know that these two animals; Sundanese people avoid dog and wild boar/pig because of their high religious character.

Another famous literature character, Kabayan, mirrors some lazy person who didn’t have high ambition, silly but obedient; and pictures relation between in-laws in Sundanese society. The story of Kabayan shows some typical side of Sundanese, which after marriage a man will live with his father-in-law before he has his own house. Moreover, for Sundanese people, sex is not a taboo, as is it become a theme for some of Kabayan’s stories.

The other two characters from Kabayan; Lengser and Cepot, show a cheerful and humorous side of Sundanese people.

Mundinglaya di Kusuma portrays a dutiful Mantri Jero (a war commander) who reached happiness in life; a handsome knight with pure heart, honest, loyal, devoted to the king, and loved paupers. Another character, Purbasari, represents a woman who has a beautiful mind and face. Purbasari was a shifting cultivation farmer, hints that Sundanese also did shifting cultivation farming, and believed the origin of rice as told in old poetic myth, Nyi Pohaci Sanghyang. According to that myth, rice, cane, and sugar palm trees all came from Sanghyang Sri, who was an adopted daughter of Batara Siwa.

Folklore like Mundinglaya or Lutung Kasarung stores some basic belief of Sundanese that truth and justice will win over greed.

New literature figures

Ajip also mentions some newer fictional characters that can guide to who is  Sundanese actually.

Raden Yogaswara, a figure as Mantri jero created by R. Memed Sastrahadiprawira in 1928, is an ideal figure of Sundanese in the early twentieth century. He has some similar characteristics with Mundinglaya Di Kusumah.

Dewi Pramanik and Ratna Suminar, characters from Wawacan Purnama Alam created by R. Suriadireja in 1922. Dewi Pramanik and Purbasari are alike. Dewi Pramanik and Yogaswara believed that human achievement is determined by their bloodline and uga (destiny).

Karnadi is the main character in Rasiah nu Goreng Patut’s story, written by Sukria Yohana in 1927. Karnadi is described as rebellious beast desires to marry Eulis Awang, a beautiful widower yet materialistic woman, hence he had to lie many times. Karnadi lied to Eulis by telling her that he had been a rich man, while he was very poor. Karnadi also was an antithesis of the typical commoner, to use fine language which usually done by menak people (Sundanese nobleman). Although Karnadi had never received a formal education, he was able to speak using fine language.

Ajip does not explicitly define who Sundanese people are, he only takes the notable in some folklore or stories as role models. As those names had been created carefully and not easily. Ajip is certain, the icons in Sundanese literature and history are the representation of a complete Sundanese. Despite in reality nowadays figures like them are rarely found. The present version of Sundanese people has changed along with time and advance technology. Perhaps only little left from personalities like Mundinglaya, Sangkuriang, Yogaswara, Dipatiukur, Prince Kornel, and Dewi Sartika in modern Sunda age.


Source: “Manusia Sunda – Ajip Rosidi”

Reference : Manusia Sunda, Ajip Rosidi, Kiblat 2009