Tangkuban Perahu

Once upon a time, a beautiful girl named Dayang Sumbi lived in the ancient and mystical lands of West Java. As she grew, many noblemen and princes fell in love with her, but she spurned their advances and instead spent her days weaving beautiful textiles.

While she sat in the garden terrace with her weaving one day, a tool dropped to the ground below, outside of the palace grounds. As daughter of the king, she was prohibited from leaving the palace on foot.

However, she promised that she would marry any man who could return the weaving tool, and soon Tumang the dog god came along and restored her precious equipment to her. This deity had committed a sin, for which the highest mother goddess incarnated him on earth as an animal.

Though her rescuer was a dog, Dayang Sumbi felt obliged to marry him anyway, and this caused a scandal in the palace. The princess was banished and found herself living in a small house in the woods.

Forest path

It was while the couple was confined to their cottage that the princess discovered that Tumang transformed into a handsome god during the full moon. Eventually, Dayang Sumbi gave birth to a son, whom they name Sangkuriang.

Ten years later, Sangkuriang was old enough to be hunting for food to provide for his mother and his dog (who he did not realize was also his father). One day, his mother sent him out because she was craving deer liver. Sangkuriang took Tumang with him, and they chased a wild boar until Tumang–still in dog form–realized that the boar was the reincarnated deity who gave birth to Dayang Sumbi.

Tumang prevented Sangkuriang from killing his own grandmother, but the boy became frustrated and lashed out at the dog, accidentally killing him. Sangkuriang was devastated by Tumang’s death as well as the fact that he had not been able to obtain deer liver for his mother, so he cut out the dog’s liver and brought it home to his mother.

Dayang Sumbi unknowingly cooked the liver and only after eating her share did she tell her son to summon Tumang for his meal. Sangkuriang was overcome with shame and confessed to his mother, who became so outraged that she hit Tumang on the head and drove him out of the house.

As a result of the blow to his head, Sangkuriang slowly lost all memory of his mother and started a nomadic life in the woods. By the time Dayang Sumbi calmed down enough to search for the boy, he was long gone. She prayed to the gods that she would someday be reunited with her son, and she became vegetarian to atone for having eaten her lover.

Volcano Path

More than a decade later, Sangkuriang was walking through the forest one day when he saw a beautiful woman standing outside a cottage, and the two fell in love with each other. Not once did the man recognize this cottage as the place where he was raised.

The day before the wedding, Dayang Sumbi realized that the man she was about to marry was her son. When she revealed the truth to Sangkuriang, he did not believe her and insisted on their marriage.

To deter Sangkuriang, Dayang Sumbi set her son a set of impossible tasks, refusing to marry him unless he accomplished them.

  1. Sangkuriang must fill the entire valley with water.
  2. He must provide a boat so that they can sail across the newly-formed lake.
  3. These things must be completed in one night.

Volcanic Crater Lake

What Dayang Sumbi did not know was that Sangkuriang had acquired supernatural skills, and he called upon the spirits to help him create the lake. He cut down a large tree to make the boat, and he had almost finished building it as dawn approached.

Seeing that she had underestimated Sangkuriang, Dayang Sumbi remembered her old talent for weaving and quickly wove a magical scarf. The bright fabric filled the sky with golden light, and farmers and animals rose, mistaking the flashes of light for sunrise.

Sangkuriang thought that he had failed, and his anger caused him to violently kick his nearly-completed vessel. He transformed the overturned boat into Mount Tangkuban Perahu, a volcano that can still be seen today.

Tangkuban Perahu

As for the doomed lovers, Dayang Sumbi pleaded with the gods to help her so that she could escape Sangkuriang’s wrath.

Sangkuriang went insane from spending so much time in the jungle searching for his lost love. Unbeknownst to him, the gods had answered Dayang Sumbi’s plea and transformed her into a flower.

Can the flower still be seen today? I’ll let you decide.


Love, Elizabeth

*All photos were taken by Josh.
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What do you think? Is the legend true? Does the volcano look like an overturned boat to you?