Lutung Kasarung is a Sundanese folklore, which is originally performed by a bard in the form of Pantun Sunda.
Originally Pantun Sunda is told verbally. There is not any original written version in the Sundanese literature. Hence, every story usually has several versions, depending on who told it.
Lutung Kasarung is a story of a god called Sang Guru Minda who dreamt of a beautiful lady. This beautiful lady looked like Sunan Ambu, the Mother Goddes. When Sunan Ambu heard about it, she sent Sang Guru Minda to earth, disguised as a Lutung [langur in English, its scientific name is Trachypithecus]. You see a lutung is not really cute like a chimpanzee, it is a part of Old World Monkey, has a long tail and loud calls.
Once on earth, Sang Guru Minda stayed in a forest, waiting for the lady of his dream. Hence, many people translated kasarung as lost. Others translated it as disguised. I believe the meaning is closer to disguised.
The story then moved to Pasir Batang kingdom, a prosper kingdom under its wise king: Prabu Tapa Ageung and his beautiful queen: Niti Suari. They had seven daughters: Purba Rarang, Purba Endah, Purba Dewata, Purba Kancana, Purba Manik, Purba Leuwih and Purba Sari.
One day the aging king decided to retired and became a hermit. Considering each of his daughters’ traits, he decided to give his throne to his youngest daughter, Purba Sari. Then, the king and queen left the kingdom.
Purba Rarang, the eldest princess, was raged with envy. She tricked Purba Sari with soot that ruined her skin. Due to her condition, Purba Sari was exiled to Mount Cupu, to live in a ramshackle hut. Then, Purba Rarang appointed herself as the queen.
Being her selfish self, Purba Rarang only wanted the title of the queen. She became a ruthless queen who partied all day long and didn’t care about her people.
One day, she wanted to eat a lutung. She ordered Ki Lengser, the kingdom’s official, who in turn ordered a hunter called Aki Panyumpit to bring a lutung to the palace.
Afraid of the queen’s wrath, the hunter hurried to the forest. Alas, there was not any prey that day. At the end of the day, he was so tired and afraid. Suddenly, there was a lutung perched on a tree branch. Being Lutung Kasarung, it spoke like a human and asked to be brought to the palace.
The queen was so excited to have a speaking lutung. Lutung Kasarung was put inside the palace, as companion for the princesses. He used this opportunity to look for his dream lady all over the palace. When he couldn’t find her, he became angry and thrashed the palace.
To put an end to Lutung Kasarung naughtiness, Queen Purba Rarang ordered Ki Lengser to take it to Purba Sari.
At first sight, Lutung Kasarung felt pity for Purba Sari. He became her companion and helped her a lot. One night, when she was asleep, he changed his form into Guru Minda and sought Sunan Ambu in heaven. His request to help Purba Sari was granted. The ramshackle hut was transformed into a grand palace.
When Purba Sari woke up, she asked Lutung Kasarung what happened during her sleep, but he only asked her to take a bath in the new shower. Magically, her disease was gone and she regained her beauty. Lutung Kasarung was very happy to find out she was the lady in his dream.
Sunan Ambu’s help didn’t end there. Every night she taught Purba Sari through dreams. She learnt a lot about agricultures.
Soon, the news of the new palace and the beautiful princess who lived there reached Queen Purba Rarang. Again, she was raged with envy. She was also afraid Purba Sari would return and take her throne. Hence, Purba Rarang issued several challenges to Purba Sari, whoever won them would become the queen, while the loser would be killed.
First challenge was to create a dam at Leuwi Baranangsiang in one night. Purba Sari didn’t know what to do, she could only cry in anguish. So, Lutung Kasarung put spell on her to sleep, then he finished the challenge. In the morning, people came to the dam and caught many fish.
Getting angrier, Purba Rarang issued the second challenge: Purba Sari must catch a bull. She went to the forest and found the bull, but she didn’t know what to do with it. At that time Lutung Kasarung changed form into an old man called Ki Kuwu Heubeul Isuk. He asked her to take a strand of her hair and put it on the bull’s neck. The bull was instantly tamed and followed her to the palace.
When the words reached Queen Purba Rarang that her sister succeeded in bringing a wild bull to the city square, she hurriedly went to see it. But, as soon as the bull saw the queen, it run amok. After it ruined the city square, it returned to the forest.
The third challenge was to compete on farming. However, Purba Rarang cheated by taking the fertile land for her farm and ordered her people to process the land on her behalf. On the other hand, she gave an infertile land to Purba Sari. Again, Lutung Kasarung requested Sunan Ambu to help them. In the end, Purba Sari’s harvest was much greater quality than the Queen’s.
As you can predicted, Queen Purba Rarang issued the next challenge. This time it was a cooking challenge. Many helped Purba Rarang, while Purba Sari was only assisted by Pohaci Wiru Mananggay [pohaci is a Sundanese word for a deity]. Everybody agreed that Purba Sari’s dishes were much more delicious than Purba Rarang’s.
The fifth challenge was to compare their woven fabrics. At that era, every woman must be able to weave. Although Purba Rarang had more fabrics to show, the jury stated that Purba Sari’s fabric were longer and denser, resulted in a better quality fabric.
Next, Purba Rarang ordered the jury to compare their figures. The jury said although their figures were similar, Purba Rarang was a bit stoop. Thus, Purba Sari won again.
Tired of keep loosing, finally Purba Rarang issued the last challenge: whoever had the most handsome fiance would win the competition. She was convinced she would win, since everybody knew her fiance, Indra Jaya, was a very handsome man. On the other hand, Purba Sari was only accompanied by Lutung Kasarung.
The two couples walked hand in hand in front of all the people, then suddenly Lutung Kasarung removed his disguise. Everybody was surprised to see the most handsome man they had ever seen, which meant Purba Sari won all the competition!
Although Purba Sari spared her sisters’ life, each sister was punished accordingly. Indra Jaya, Purba Rarang’s fiance, issued a duel to Guru Minda, but he lost the duel. His life was spared but he must work as a horse keeper.
In the end Purba Sari weded Guru Minda and ascended the throne. And they lived happily ever after :)
Lutung Kasarung is a very famous Sundanese folklore. It had been used as dissertation materials, translated into theater performances and films.
However, since the original story was verbally told, many people wonder whether this story, at least some parts of it, was actually occured. People also wonder where was Pasir Batang kingdom?
Some historians reckon Pasir Batang kingdom was located in Banyumas, Central Java. Others mention that Lutung Kasarung was one of the king in Galuh kingdom called Sang Manisri [784-800AD]. He received the throne from his father in law, Sang Manarah a.k.a. Ciung Wanara [740-748AD]. The capital of Galuh Kingdom was near the town of Ciamis.
Presently, Ciamis is a town in West Java province. It is near the most popular beach in Sunda: Pangandaran beach!