Beware, attractive young men: an enchantress awaits you on the southern coastline of Java. She may appear as a mermaid, or She may appear as a beautiful Goddess, but regardless of her form, She harbors a grudge against men, and has been known to lure the unsuspecting to a watery grave.
Another way to provoke Her wrath: wearing green along the coast. Green is Her sacred color, and She does not take kindly to having mortals wearing it
On the other hand, She serves as a protector to those who appeal to Her; Her wrath knows limits, much like the raging sea that She holds dominion over.
She also has a hotel room reserved for Her at the Samudra Beach Hotel (room 308), should She ever decide to check in. More on that in a bit.
Her name is Nyai Roro Kidul, and this is but one of her many origin tales from the island of Java. Note that this telling comes out of several transcribed oral narratives.
Many years ago, there was a Javanese princess named Nyai Roro Kidul. She was renowned for her beauty, a trait that she shared with her mother, the Queen. Unfortunately, some of the King’s concubines were envious of the two of them; out of jealousy, they conspired with a black magician, who cast a hex on the pair.
The result was that both the Queen and Nyai Roro Kidul developed a deforming skin condition. Convinced that an evil contagion had befallen them, the King had both of them banished – something Nyai Roro Kidul couldn’t understand. Covered from head to toe in scabs, lessions and boils, the pair left the protection of the palace and went out in to the world.
The world was not kind; they were shunned for their seemingly grotesque appearance. They wandered from village to village, but no one would take them in. They headed south, towards the dangerous coastline, and stopped in the last town they could find. Sick, exhausted and heartbroken, the Queen lost the will to live. Nyai Roro Kidul was truly alone.
It was in this state that she wandered down to the ocean. There she took shelter in a cavernous nook, high above the raging sea. For the first time in countless days, she fell asleep, cradled in the rocky hollows of the cliffs.
She woke up and heard a voice. The voice had a simple instruction: jump into the ocean, and your malady will disappear.
Nyai Roro Kidul wasted no time. After all, what was the worst that could happen? Death would be a welcome relief to the life that fate – and her father – had bestowed on her.
And so she jumped, plunging like a stone into the watery depths below.
When she hit the waters, she was transformed. Nyai Roro Kidul was no longer a human, but was now the Queen of the Southern Sea.
Today, She is more beautiful than her mortal self; the creatures of the ocean are her subjects, and the waters bend to Her will. But She has never found forgiveness for her father, and that is why She has been known to take our her rage on attractive young men. Whether she comes to them in a human form, or as a mermaid, to dare the coastline is to tempt fate.
Now, back to Her hotel room…
(note: the following information is from A Gecko for Luck: 15 years in Indonesia by Horst H. Geerken)
In the early 1960s, Java’s first president, Sukarno, went to Pelabuhan Ratu, which literally means Queen’s Coast, that Queen of course being Nyai Roro Kidul. After several days of meditation, She appeared to Sukarno in a vision. He proceeded to build a hotel on the location, with one room permanently reserved for the Goddess; according to Sukarno, She let him know that by setting aside a room for Her, she would show kindness to the other guests.
Called the Samudra Beach Hotel, it is still in business. The room in question, number 308, overlooks the Ketapang tree where Sukarno saw the Goddess. While visitors can pay to enter the room, visits are limited to an hour. The room itself is decorated in green, and contains a large painting of Nyai Roro Kidul with offerings of food, flowers and incense.
Has the room appeased the Queen of the South Sea? Not really; Her waters still claim the lives of locals, many whom are experienced fishermen, as well as tourists.
So if you find yourself in Java, remember: don’t wear green by the ocean, be especially careful if you’re an attractive man, and if you feel like waiting on a Goddess, pop into room 308. If you’re lucky, She might finally check in; better to meet her there than down by the sea.