Tigerhomes.org adalah tempat perlindungan hewan eksotis yang dikelola swasta yang berusaha untuk merangsang minat global dalam konservasi satwa liar, pendidikan dan perlindungan habitat melalui Internet. Mereka bilang Harimau Jawa berstatus Extinct since the 1970's.
The Javan tiger, Panthera tigris sondaica, formerly ranged on the Indonesian island of Java and was last seen in 1972 and has become extinct in the last 30 years. Three tiger subspecies have been declared to be extinct in the past 70 years, the Bali, Caspian and Javan tigers.
Scientific Name: Panthera tigris sondaica
Range: Indonesian Island of Java
Female: 75-115kg (165 - 253 pounds)
Male: 100-141kg (220 - 310 pounds)
Male: 2480mm (8'-3")
Diet: All tigers are carnivorous. Tiger prey consists mostly of pigs, deer, antelope, buffalo and other large mammals, although tigers have been known to hunt smaller mammals and birds.
Gestation Period: 100-100 Days (Averaging 103 Days)
Cub Maturity: 18 months - 2 Years
Cubs Per Litter: (Usually 2-3 cubs) Cubs are born blind and weigh 2-3 pounds.
Lifespan: Tigers live for 10-15 Years
Predators: Unknown, Man
Social Structure: Solitary (except during Mating Season)
Territory Size: Unknown. Today tigers occur in parts of India, Manchuria, China, Indonesia and Russia (Siberia).
Conservation Status: Extinct since the 1970's.
Orang Belanda pun bilang : yang terakhir telah ditembak di Jawa Timur. Coba simak makalah dari, ROBERT WESSING, TheHague,Netherlands The Last Tiger in East Java: Symbolic Continuity
in Ecological Change :
THE Javan tiger (Panthera tigris sondaicus) is for all practical purposes
extinct, the last one having been shot, it is said, by either
President Suharto of Indonesia, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands,
or the late Shah of Iran. In East Java, however, this fact is not
generally acknowledged, and many people remain cbnvinced that, rare
though it may be, the tiger still roams the forests.
The present paper examines beliefs about tigers among the Javanese,
Osing, and Madurese peoples of East Java, detailing how the animal
continues to function as a symbolic construct in the midst of the changing
social and ecological reality that has brought about its biological demise.
One central question raised here is what happens to a symbol when
its antecedent object disappears; although, as I have discussed elsewhere,
the significance of a symbol consists of the intersection of meanings read
into it by its users, these meanings are usually interconnected with the
symbolic object itself (see WESSING1 978b).
TIGERASND PEOPLEIN NATURE
In the past the tiger was a rather common animal in Java (VAN BALEN
1914, 384-61). In 1822 the area between Panarukan and Banyuwangi in
East Java abounded with them, making some areas unsafe for livestock
(KERN1 941, 295; BAERVELD1T9 50, 20). The ecological niches of tigers
and humans overlapped considerably: both evolved on the forest edge,
where they hunted essentially the same game, humans possibly scavenging
on the tiger's leavings (SUNDQUIS1T98 3, 50; SAUER19 52, 23; LEWIN
The tiger's preference for hoofed animals brought it into close contact
with humans, since hoofed creatures not only form part of the village
livestock but are among the wildlife attracted to feed on the village fields
(SEIDENSTICKaEnRd SUYONO19 76, 66-67). Originally tigers protected
the fields by preying on this wildlife, rarely molesting humans and their
cattle (BAERVELD1T95 0, 80; PERRY1 965, 170-71; SCHALLE1R9 73, 6).
Tigers, humans, gardens, wildlife, and livestock, then, constituted "an
integral and fragile web. . . molded and bound by the nature of their
resource base and the forces of their environment" (SEIDENSTICKaEnRd
SUYONO19 76, 60). Both tigers and humans adapted to an environment
that included each other's presence, the tiger's adaptation being biologic
while man's was symbolic and cultural.
The opening of the forests for plantations in the mid-nineteenth
century resulted in the in-migration of thousands of laborers from Central
Java and Madura. The ecological impact of this population shift was
"of a greater magnitude than all the past influences of man on Java combined"
(SEIDENSTICKaEnRd SUYONO19 76, 73). Forest products and the
local game were quickly exhausted (BRYANT19 73, 87; WHITMOR1E9 84,
266), and the use of guns allowed hunters to kill both the tiger and his
prey more efficiently than ever before (compare RAMBO1 978, 213-14).
As a result the number of tigers declined drastically. The dynamic balance
described above came to an end, its place taken by a predatory
relationship in which tigers, deprived of their prey, began to raid villages
(BAERVELD1T95 0,82). With this shift the tiger's image changed to that of
a ruthless killer and "rapacious tyrant," who devoured cattle and killed an
average of 2,500 people a year (ROBINSO1N9 66; KERKHOVE1N87 9, 503,
510; KARTOM1I9 76, 12; MCNEELEYan d WACHTEL19 88, 189).
In 1822 the government started employing tiger hunters (KERN
1941, 295). By the early 1940s, with only about two to three hundred
Javan tigers left (PRIYOS M and TOTOKHA RTOYO19 91, 3; PRIYO
SOEMANDOY19O8 8, 58), there was talk of creating nature reserves for
them (BAERVELD19T5 0, 35). SMITw, ho was incarcerated near Sukamade
during the early Japanese occupation, mentions seeing only one tiger
during this time (1982, 129). After WWII the tiger's numbers declined
even further. One informant, who used to catch a tiger a year in his steel
trap, claimed to have caught his last one in 1962. As late as the end of the
1960s tigers could still be shot in the Banyuwangi Residency of East Java,
but after that they rapidly disappeared. The Javan tiger now appears to
be gone forever, though its extinction has been difficult to confirm owing
to the animal's retiring nature.
Efforts to protect any specimens that might possibly remain in the
Meru Betiri nature reserve have been hampered by an ever-growing human
population and by competition for funds from important national
development schemes (MCNEELEaYn d WACHTE1L9 88,195; GREENBERG
et al. 1991, 45). Complicating the situation is the fact that protecting the
tiger involves preserving its entire habitat and ecosystem; this includes
dealing with the often neglected human factor, making it a social as well
as an ecological problem (MCNEELEaYn d Wachtel 1988, 328).
Media reports have raised the general awareness of ecological problems,
and popular playwrights such as RENDRA(1 980) and IKRANAGARA
(n.d.) have argued against overexploitation of Indonesia's natural resources
(activities that have not, incidentally, always been kindly viewed
by the government [compare FOLEY 19871). Nevertheless, the tiger's
plight remains poorly understood by the Indonesian public. City people,
including those involved in conservation and the search for tigers in
Meru Betiri, are sometimes surprised that the animal is not seen more
often - people expect them to just jump out of the woods (ANONYMOUS
1991a; 1991b). The belief that tigers remain in the wild is common even
among villagers (DINAHS USIT . 1991, 15).
The confusion about the tiger's status is partially linguistic in origin.
The two types of big cats on Java, the panther (Panthera pardus) and the
tiger (Panthera tigris), are commonly referred to by the same Javanese
word, macan (compare TIMP ENYUSUKNA MUS1 990,298-99). The spotted
panther is called macan tutul and the black panther macan kumbang,
while the tiger is known, among other things, as macan loreng. The name
macan loreng also applies to one of the three folk categories into which the
tiger is classified: macan loreng (the ordinary striped tiger), macan sruni (a
tiger whose stripes are said to run mainly on its rump), and macan
gembong (a grayish, lighter-colored animal) (HADI EKO Y.Y. 1991, 11). In
the Indonesian language the tiger is known as harimau, and in East Java
it is also called singa (lion), showing up as simo in place-names (AYIEK
SYARIFUDD1I9N9 2a, 26; KAYAM19 92, 33).
The word macan is also applied to other felines. Macan dahan refers
to the cat Neofelis nebulosa, while macan reng-reng (or rem-rem) denotes a
type of tiger cat and macan tapes a striped wildcat. Macan garambis is the lion.
In common usage, then, there is no distinction between tigers and
panthers: if one asks whether a certain cat was a panther (macan) or a
tiger (harimau), one might be told that it was a harimau tutul (spotted
tiger), i.e., a panther (compare KAYAM1 992, 3). Thus, though in the
popular mind there are many tigers (macan) in East Java, newspaper
reports of possible tiger sightings are very difficult to evaluate.
THET IGEIRN POPULABRE LIEF
Traditional beliefs about the tiger may be divided into two major categories:
beliefs held mainly by the villagers, and beliefs relating to the
Javanese courts. A third category, beliefs held by modern urbanites, is in
a sense a combination of the two, with an admixture of European ideas;
this will be dealt with later.
In brief, villagers saw the tiger as an incarnation of the ancestral
spirits who protect and monitor the behavior of those who live in the
village, while the Javanese courts saw the tiger as the wild, uncontrolled
aspect of the ruler, an aspect necessary for the defense of the realm but
inimical to the civilized life of the court (WESSING19 92). These differing
views paralleled the differences between the court and the village, or
between the court and the forest (DOVE 1985, 12-14). Basically, though,
the differences were mostly a matter of emphasis - beliefs about the
tiger are fundamentally those of the village, and are rooted in the abovementioned relationship between people, tigers, gardens, and wildlife.
The Origin of the Tiger
In Southeast Asia it is often said that man and the tiger (along with the
latter's putative forebear the cat) descend from a conimon ancestor
(WESSING19 86, 10-12). The Naga of mainland Southeast Asia say that
tiger, man, and spirit were brothers living together in a village together
with their mother (HUTTON 1921, 529), an idea that also occurs in
IKRANAGARpAla'yS The Great Anger of the Forest (n.d.). A Javanese tale
relates that long ago vegetarian tigers lived together with equally vegetarian
people. Their diet consisted of daun kentut leaves (Paederia foetida),
and ripe durian (Durio zibethinus). One day, when preparing the tigers'
food, a person cut his finger, thereby adding a morsel of flesh to the
tigers' lunch. The tigers liked the taste, and thus became wild animals
According to an informant on the north coast of East Java, tigers and
crocodiles descended from the Prophet Muhammad's son-in-law Syeh
Sayyidina Ali, who symbolizes Islam's strength. It is from him that the
tiger derives its power.'
Thus the tiger is thought to be at least symbolically related to humans
(WESSING19 86, 21-22; ANONYMOUl9S8 8,47). As the above informant
said, "The tiger has a human soul" (WESSING19 86; MCNEELEaYn d
WACHTE1L9 88, 133-34). This relationship is reflected in the words used
for the tiger. In the forest, for example, where the word macan is avoided
for fear that it will cause the tiger to appear, one of the terms applied to
the animal is nenek, "grandparent" (from nenek petua, "apical ancestor";
compare NEILL 1973, 84).2 Yet another name for the tiger is kiai or kiaine,
a term often used for persons or things with magical or religious
powers. This comes from the belief that tigers too possess such supernatural
sakti (supernaturally empowered) kiai gembong who talked and walked on
The Forest and the Tiger
In Southeast Asia the forest is seen as a dangerous, mysterious place
filled with supernatural forces, a place that should be avoided but that
possesses rules similar, though not identical, to those of human society
(BAERVELD1T9 50, 80; SCHEFOLD19 89). The tiger is believed to have
special powers relating to this forbidding place, where it is said to hold all
in its control; one informant depicted the tiger as the steward of the
forest, where it gains kesaktian (special powers) by fasting and meditating
for forty-day periods in caves.3 One aspect of the tiger's kesaktian is the
ability to disappear in the forest. In fact, it is believed that for a tiger it is
taboo to be seen by a per~ont;i~ge rs that are observed are punished by
having to fast for another forty days, possibly to regain their special
CRAWFURreDla tes a Javanese tale in which "a tiger and a forest had
united in close friendship, and they afforded each other mutual protection.
When men wanted to take wood or leaves from the forest, they were
dissuaded by their fear of the tiger, and when they would take the tiger he
was concealed by the forest." Although the tale ends sadly in an ecological
catastrophe that destroys both, it nevertheless illustrates the essential
unity of the two (1820, vol. 2, 32-33).
With the increasing exploitation of the natural environment, the silent,
forbidding (angker) woodlands near the villages have disappeared.
People now conceive of "real forests," filled with tigers and dhanyang
(guardian spirits),' as existing some vague distance away (WESSING
1978a, 71). One of these is the Alas Purwo forest in Blambangan, regarded
by many as a forbidding place whose dhanyang confuses people,
preventing some who enter from returning home. The forest at Baluran
is said to be guarded by a huge, wild-looking black figure that leaves tiger
tracks. AYIEKS YARIFUDDwINrit es of a shaman meditating in a cave in
Central Java who was tested by the local dhanyang in the form of a tiger
(1989, 13). There is also talk of tigers roaming the Baluran National
Forest and Mt. Malang near Mt. Argopuro, though residents in the
vicinity of Argopuro say that tigers live in the distance toward the east;
locally only a few panthers are found.
To insure one's safety in the forest one should show proper respect
for the tiger, asking its dispensation by saying, "Embah [a term of respect],
please do not hurt me. I am Adam's descendant - please step
aside and do not bother me." This is followed by a short prayer (salawat).
The reason for invoking Adam's name is the supposed common ancestry
between tiger and man, the hope being that the tiger will not attack
someone it realizes to be a descendant of the same progenitor. For similar
reasons some people claim that it helps to take a cat along into the forest
- the tiger, it is thought, is reluctant to attack those accompanying
his putative kinsman (ANONYMOU19S8 8, 47).
One elaboration of the idea that people and tigers have similar
souls - or, as one informant put it, that all nature has essentially one
soul - is the notion that people may somehow turn into tigers and vice
versa. This notion finds expression in a cluster of beliefs concerning the
relationship of tigers with dhanyang spirits, shamans, kings, and weretigers.
Ancestors, Shamans, and Other Guardians The dhanyang, as mentioned above, are spirits who guard or own the forest, and who also embody the fertility of a particular area. These
tutelary spirits are often localized in large trees or stone^,^ and frequently
manifest themselves in the form of tigers. Every village, according to
informants in Sumberwaru (Jember Regency) has a dhanyang that
guards its welfare. The dhanyang tends to merge with the spirits of the
village ancestors, especially the one who opened the area to human settlement
(but compare TRIYOG19A91 , 55-56).' The area controlled by a
dhanyang is usually coextensive with the village established by the founding
ancestor, although it may vary in extent from a single house site to an
entire region depending upon the spirit's power.
Founding ancestors are thought to have had extraordinary capabilities,
and, though dead, to retain something of those powers. Among these
powers is the capacity to deal with tigers, believed to be incarnations of
the natural forces of the locality. The ancestor of the Singa patrilineage in
Lumajang, for example, is said to have transformed a tiger into a person
in order to help him clear the forest (this tiger-person later married, and
his descendants are were-tigers). In East Java and Madura it is believed
that the soul of an ancestor who has mastered the magical arts may
incarnate as a perhaps quite dangerous tiger unless his ilmu (spiritual
power or knowledge) is transmitted to his descendants at the time of
death (WESSING19 86, 49, 106-107); this notion has a firm foundation in
the Islamic belief that people's deeds live on and may take physical form
(SMITH 1979, 34, 36, 49, 60). It is said of Singa's male descendants that
they became tigers at death unless their fingers were cut off - this no
longer happens, a female descendant informed me, since the male line
has died out.
The dhanyang-spirit of the founding ancestor, guarding the village
in his tiger-form, may give aid to those who request it. Thus the
dhanyang of Sumberwaru is said to accompany home those detained in
the evening at the home of the village head, a descendant of the village
founder (compare AYIEKS YARIFUDD1I9N9 2a, 87; 1992c; 1992d, 23). Tigers
also guard the founding ancestor's grave. Such is the legend concerning
the tomb of Embah Surgi, who came from Yogya (Mataram) and
opened the area around Puger - this grave once had so much power, it is
said, that birds flying over it would fall from the sky and passing thieves
would stumble. The guardian tiger disappeared some years ago.
Founding ancestors are often religious leaders as well, since the person
who pioneered a certain area is quite often the same person who
introduced Islam there. Thus it is perhaps natural that tigers - or, more
properly, macan in general - are often associated with the spirits and
deeds of religious figures. There is, for example, a spotted panther said to
protect the late kiai As'ad's pesantren (Islamic school) at Asem Bagus;
when the founder of the school, kiai Samsul Arifin, cleared the forest in
1900 there were many macan in the area, but since these wanted an
Islamic school to be built they willingly moved, one staying to guard the
place. A tiger said to watch over Tanjung Keraksaan, an Islamic boarding
school near Probolinggo, is identified in local legend as the incarnation
of the ilmu of the school's founder (this particular tiger, unlike the
ilmu incarnations mentioned above, is benign in nature since it is a manifestation of the founder's holy powers). Tigers may also guard the graves
of religious leaders (AYIEKS YARIFUDD1I9N9 2e, 27); one example is the
pasarean (shrine) of Syeh Maulana Isak, whose spiritual essence is said to
live on today (compare EKAN URCAHY1O99 2).
Some claim that the supernatural tigers guarding Islamic schools
may be created by a kiai, who does so using a doa isim (an incantation
employing the name of God) found in the Qur'iin book of Samsul Muarif
(SS, EIR and SJS 1992, 39). The kiai must fast a certain number of days
and follow other rules before pronouncing the formula. Strictly speaking
the tigers so created are not supernatural animals but manifestations of
the guardian angels associated with the Qur'-m and the Hadith (the traditions
of the pr~phet).
Many of these beliefs come together in stories centering on a white
tiger named Kopok, who watches over the area of Mt. Gunung Agung
(or Gunung Ringgit) near Situb~ndoS.o~m e say that this tiger is associated
with Kanjeng Raden Candrakusumah, whose grave he guards on
Gunung Agung; the Kanjeng's descendants need not fear tigers, it is
claimed, because Kopok chases them all off. Others explain that Kopok
protects the grave of Syeh Abdurrachman Rama Agung, who pioneered
the area.'' Kopok is the Syeh's gift; because of him, thieves are afraid to
operate in the area. Every year during the month of Ruwah offerings are
made to the guardian tiger;" meat may not be included, however, since
this would make the tiger wild.
The name Kopok, or Kopek, is linked to other tigers as well, such as
one near Puger associated with Mt. Gunung Ringgit or Mt. Gunung
Kapur (said to once have been a boat filled with coins). It is claimed that
the mountain is guarded by a large snake and three tigers, of which
Kopek, a white or gray animal, is the familiar of Embah Jirin, one of the
area's pantheon of guardian spirits. AMAR(I1 990, 30) writes of a certain
Sultan Agung of Mataram (r. 1614--46), who had a snake (naga) familiar
named Kyai Kasur and two tiger familiars, Kyai and Nyai Kopek. These
he rode when going to investigate the Muslim saint Ki Ageng Gribig,
from whose body a mysterious glow was said to emanate. He then gave
his familiars to the saint. Others say that the Situbondo Kopok was an
actual white tiger, a familiar of the local female shaman Embah Yo. The
tiger died of old age around the mid-1970s and may have been slightly
deaf (kopok: Mad., hard of hearing; Jav., a runny ear); he would cross
roads in front of cars, paying them no heed.
As Kopok's relation with Embah Yo shows, it is not solely with the
spirits of ancestors or religious leaders that tigers are associated - they
may also be linked with living shamans. There is a connection, of course,
between shamans and the spirit world; indeed, it is a common belief in
Southeast Asia that the prosperity of society depends on shamans who
can contact the dhanyang and the souls of the dead. Shamans, in addition,
are said to be in spiritual harmony with or have power over forests.12
Throughout East Java shamanistic powers are believed to descend
either from parent to child or from grandparent to grandchild (WESSIKG
1986, 59-60, 83). A person with tiger-ilmu is said to have a menacing
face, although his nature may be gentle. One shaman told me that it is
unnecessary to change into a tiger physically - the ilmu is sufficient to
make one's enemies perceive one as a tiger (although other people reported
that this particular shaman could suddenly appear near one in the
forest, an acknowledged tigrine quality).
The shaman is often helped by a tiger familiar (macan g~dungan),'~
the physical manifestation of the shaman's ilmu and often the incarnation
of the shaman's spirit or of the magic of his ancestors (WESSING1 986,
63-74). According to most informants the role of familiar can only be
filled by a striped tiger (macan loreng), although now - perhaps because
of the scarcity of tigers - it is occasionally taken by a panther. Some say
that such tigers can walk on two legs. People often speak of shamans
sending their tiger familiars on errands or using them to ride on (FURY
AFRIANTO1 990, 39); the above-mentioned Embah Yo, among others,
was said to travel in this way, A final type of spirit-tiger is that which reincarnates from the soul of a person who has died of unnatural causes, or of a person being punished
for some transgression (A. SAEROZ1I9 81, 81). In May 1991 there was a
commotion in the Bondowoso Regency when reports circulated that a
recently deceased woman - who was thought to have become rich on
"sinful money" (uang haram) - had risen from her grave with the face of
a tigress. She was eating chickens, it was said, and making a nuisance of
herself around the neighborhood. Tigers of this type are generally seen as
benign, however, and are often said to help their descendants; this
woman may have become a tiger in expiation for the sins she had committed
(compare MCNEELEYan d WACHTEL1 988, 136). According to
informants, such transformations occur forty days after death: between
the first and seventh days the soul becomes a ghost, after which it turns
into a tiger (though, if the person was evil, it may also become a pig or
wild dog). In Situbondo such tigers are called forth by burning incense,
making an offering, then throwing a pebble (the pebble is said to turn
into the tigrine incarnation of the person's soul). Shaman familiars, similarly,
may be conjured up by simply burning incense. Either being may
serve as a guardian.
Such incarnations are known as macan onjangan (tigers who can be
called) and are only visible to those who have evil intentions or have
transgressed the village rules of conduct. Throughout East Java people
claim to use both tiger familiars and ancestral tigers in order to protect
their houses and crops.14 Thieves who defy these guardians find themselves
in all-night fights, and can only leave with the householder's permission.
This introduces another important role of the supernatural tigers,
particularly those associated with ancestors and shamans: that of guardians
of the moral order. This role derives from the fact that both ancestors
and shamans are themselves responsible for the moral welfare of the
community (compounded by the fact that the two figures are often the
same - as an informant in West Java pointed out to me, most people in
these small communities are related and thus share a common shaman
ancestor not too many generations back). The ancestral spirit-tiger is
eminently suitable as a guardian of virtue, since it is the ancestors who
laid down the adat, a set of near-sacred principles that regulates the
conduct of the village. Among the tigers said to watch over the moral
well-being of the village (especially the purity of its women) are Kopok in
Pacaron and Kasur in Wonorejo (Baluran). They know who is guilty and
will not look at ordinary people; a favorite prey is illegitimate children,
who can be seen by tigers through a special lens (KARTOM1I9 76, 13).
Behavior in the forest is regulated as well, the tiger being the guardian
of the forest and the manifestation of the forest's owners, the
dhanyang. Several informants mentioned how a tiger picked a "naughty
woman" out of the middle of a group of men with whom she was spending
the night in .the jungle. One is not supposed to show pride in the
forest, eat directly from a pan, or wash one's dishes at a water source -
one is expected, in other words, to be polite, considerate about sharing
food and clean water, and orderly in one's behavior.
Tigers are also deeply angered by direct injuries. They are said to
search for mates that have been captured (ANONYMOU19S9 1a), and to
otherwise defend themselves as a community. A story is told of four men
who were in the Blambangan forest when a tiger cub appeared at their
campsite. Three of the men caught the cub and ate it despite the protests
of the fourth, who remonstrated that "he owns the forest." That night
two dozen tigers appeared and killed the three men. The fourth man,
when showing the remains to the authorities, said that he had been
guarded by a pair of tigers who had licked him.
The tiger's powers serve not only for purposes of protection, however.
As an informant from Gunung Agung explained, the tiger's human
soul gives it curative powers as well. These powers can be evoked by
calling the tiger in Sayyidina Ali's name, although to do so one must have
ilmu acquired through fasting and meditation. The literature contains
many references to medicinal uses of the tiger involving either its image
or parts of its body (AYIEKS YARIFUDD1IN99 0, 21; MCNEELEYan d
WACHTEL19 88, 219; WESSING1 986). Tiger teeth are said to possess a
power that can protect one from ilmu sihir (black magic, a constant worry
in East Java), and the whiskers to comprise a potent poison; the latter,
when carried, are supposed to make one appear ferocious and not to be
Another part of the tiger's body, little reported in the literature but
known throughout East Java, is the tiger's star-shaped sengkel bone,
which only the striped tiger is said to have. This rare bone, containing
the tiger's strength, is allegedly located in the animal's left shoulder and
disappears within an hour of its death. The bone is used as an amulet that
is supposed to make the owner very strong, invincible in fights, and able
to lift great weights with ease. It also lends a person authority
Finally, the tiger's very essence is felt to have power. In a poorly
interpreted episode described by JUNGHUH(N19 75, 119-20), a group of
villagers literally tear the body of a dead tiger apart and bathe themselves
and their weapons in the tiger's blood (which they may even drink).16
Similar things happened after the rampok macans (WESSING1 992), the
ceremonial tiger killings described by Ruz~us(1 905), who claimed that
the mutilation of the tiger's body and the taking of amulets from it were
evidence of the degree to which people feared this animal (compare
NIEUWENHU1Y9S8 4). One may also see it, however, as an imbuing of
oneself and one's weapons with the essence of the tiger's power. Like
bullets that have tasted tiger's blood (VAN OSSENBRUGG1E9N1 6, 240),
such weapons or amulets are thought to have very special qualities.
The tiger, as king of the jungle, is closely associated with the royalty,
although in East Java kings are not reported to have become tigers after
death, as was the case with the last King Prabu Siliwangi of West Java
(r. ?-1579) (WESSING19 93). In contrast with the abundant data concerning
village beliefs on tigers, however, specific information on the link
between tigers and the royalty is quite scarce. Below I present a few of
the legends I have found.
Kings rule over relatively large areas, and thus their associated
dhanyang are relatively powerful too. Panembahan Senopati (r. 1575-
1601) and his descendants, the rulers of Mataram, are said to have such
a spirit counterpart in the person of Nyai Roro Kidul, the Queen of the
Southern Ocean. Legend claims that Senopati married this spirit, who
guarded the welfare of his realm and will continue to do so as long as each
of Senopati's successors marries her in turn. It is said that Nyai Roro
Kidul may appear in the form of a white tiger or send a striped tiger to do
her bidding (AYIEKS YARIFUDD1I9N9 1b, 29; SEMARSU WITO1 992, 42).
Another legend concerns King Tawang Alun of Macan Putih (circa
17th c.), who, after meditating in the forest, heard a voice directing him
to go southeast. Doing so, he met a white tiger whom the voice instructed
him to mount and ride to the location of his new capital (SRI ADI
OETOMOn. d., 3941). The voice (which may be seen as that of a nature
spirit, the tiger, an ancestor, or all three) called him "grandchild," indicating
a relation of kinship between them. A present-day descendant of
Tawang Alun, a respected gentleman living in Rogojampi, told me that
Tawang Alun's descendants are still guarded by this tiger spirit, which is
the embodiment of the shamanistic powers of his line. The spirit follows
them on their travels and can be called upon in need. If challenged on the
street, their voices sound like tigers' growls. The white tiger also is said to
appear at certain places sacred to the dynasty.
FURYA FRIANTO(1 989, 15) writes that the Candi Lor shrine of the
ancient East Javanese Sanjaya dynasty is guarded by a dhanyang who
incarnates as a white tiger. Similarly, in Puger on the south coast a white
tiger appears at the grave of the hero (or prince) Sutaji, while in Nganjuk
several white tigers guard the grave of the princess Dewi Ragil Kuning of
Kediri (AYIEKS YARIFUDD1I9N9 1a).
In contrast to these close links between tigers and the crown are the
annual rampok macans (ceremonial tiger killings) that used to take place
in the courts of Central and East Java until the beginning of the twentieth
century. In these ceremonies, which I have elsewhere interpreted as a
ceremonial cleansing of the realm (WESSING19 92), the tiger personifies
the disturbances that inevitably arise and upset the cosmic alignment of
the realm. By killing the tiger - here seen also as the wild aspect of the
ruler's nature - these disturbances are cast out and social order restored.
The ambiguity of the tiger's position, representing both an aspect of the
ruler's essential nature and the chaos that threatens the realm, reflects the
ambiguity of the relation between the ruler and his village subjects (DOVE
The opposition between the court and the powers of the forest can
also be seen in the story behind the reog performances of Ponorogo,
which commemorate the defeat of the singabarong in the Roban Forest.
The story goes that the patih (chief minister) of Bandarangin had to
arrange a marriage between his king and the princess of Kediri
(HARTONO19 80, 44-45), to do which he was required to capture 150
tigers in the Roban Forest. This he did, including among them spirittigers
and were-tigers. After delivering these to the palace at Bandarangin
he and the king headed for Kediri to fetch the princess, accompanied by
their entourage and an army. The singabarong, the protective tiger-spirit
of the forest, was understandably upset at the abduction of 150 of his
charges. Accompanied by many fierce tigers, he attacked the courtly procession.
A battle royal ensued, the singabarong shifting his shape between
that of a man and a tiger. In the end the singabarong and his troops were
defeated and the king went on to marry his princess. The singabarong was
not killed, however, but remained to serve the king, symbolizing the
ruler's wild aspect as discussed above.
Another tigrine being that looms large in the East Javanese tradition is
the were-tiger. Were-tigers are people said to physically transform them
selves into tigers through the use of magic. This magic is quite different
from the power by which a shaman incarnates a spirit-tiger - the results
may look similar, and in popular lore were-tigers and shaman-tigers are
often confused, but the social contexts of the two are entirely different.
The tigers described thus far, the incarnations of ancestral souls and
shamanic power, are honored guardians regarded by the people with fear
and reverence; the transformations are beneficial, and take place in an
approved and regulated context. Were-tigers, on the other hand, use
their magic outside of this approved context and are generally regarded
as antisocial individuals who are dangerous to the community. In
strongly Islamic East Java both shamanism and magic tend to be regarded
as evil; the confusion between benign spirit-tigers and magic
were-tigers is, perhaps, the result of this."
The idea of shape-shifting is a common one in Southeast Asia, as it
is throughout the world (WESSING19 86; MCNEELEaYn d WACHTEL19 88,
138). Books and films about were-tigers are very popular, and when
something unusual occurs involving a macan there is almost invariably
speculation about were-tigers. Some years ago, for instance, a black panther
got into the Situbondo Regency offices at night. Talk of were-tigers
was rampant, as it was thought that only a spirit-tiger could have entered
the locked building. The beast was shot, and the regent had it stuffed and
displayed in order, he said, to quell such talk.
I have on several occasions tried to follow up on reports of weretigers,
but, as MCNEELEYan d WACHTELco mment, looking for one of
these beings is "like trying to find the end of the rainbow - it's always
just over the next hill" (1988, 141). Many appointments to watch weretiger
transformations came to nought, but I was nevertheless assured that
were-tigers are all around, in Lumajang, Puger, Jember, Banyuwangi,
and Situbondo. The reluctance to show too concrete a knowledge about
were-tiger magic may be due in part to the negative image associated
with its adepts. To be known as a magician is to run the risk of getting
killed (ANONYMO1U9S9 2a; 1992b; 1992c).
Were-tigers, it is said, may be recognized by the lack of a philtrum,
the groove in the upper lip. They are also believed to be "backwards" in
many respects: their heels are reversed, and in the process of transformation
the person's head becomes the tiger's tail. People say that practitioners
of were-tiger magic seldom eat and never become rich, but
because of their ilmu they live for more than one hundred years.
The actual shift to tiger form is accomplished by burning incense
and making an offering of kembang gaddhing (cempaka mera; PENNINGA
and HENDRIK19S1 3, 131),19f ollowed by the recitation of a magic forT'EIE
mula. The man then throws off his clothes and becomes a tiger. The
throwing off of the clothes, which contain the essence of the practitioner
and symbolize his civilized nature, is reminiscent of the above-mentioned
throwing of a pebble, the essence of the earth (Mus 1975, 7-19).
Another method is for a man, his wife, and sometimes a shaman to
go into a room with a lighted oil lamp. The man or the shaman then
performs magic, and the man becomes a were-tiger. His body remains in
the room, shrouded in a white sheet, while his spirit wanders about in
tigrine form. The flame of the oil lamp must be closely watched, since if
it wavers as if blown by the wind it indicates that the were-tiger is in
trouble. Extinguishing the lamp causes the tiger to disappear and returns
its spirit to the body. If this is not done the man could die. Should a
were-tiger die and its bones be found, it can be brought back to life by
the shaman; if no bones can be found, it is gone for good.
Returning to human form often depends on the help of someone
who knows the counter-magic. If that person should die or be unable to
apply the counter-magic the were-tiger is stuck. This appears to have
happened in the Jember Regency during the 1970s to an old man named
Grida who was reportedly able to change into a tiger. One day he remained
in tiger form and stayed that way until he disappeared in the
1980s (compare WESSINC1 986, 77).
Just as real tigers are said to have communities with dwellings, a
social organization, and a leader who makes rules and dispenses justice
(WI.:SSING1 986, 9+100), were-tigers are rumored to inhabit settlements
of their own. There are persistent whispers that a certain village on
Madura is a were-tiger community, though no one will state its precise
location. Its inhabitants are said to jump about and use magic to effect
the change. Local people guard the bodies of their deceased for three
days, as the were-tigers are said to eat corpses.
It is said that people with a natural ability to change into tigers
inhabited the East Javanese villages of Prata and IJodoyo (or Gadungan;
compare macan gadungan) near Blitar. The ability was heritable, but the
people have now died out. Some say that nowadays people are just not
strong enough to.acquire the necessary ilmu, though if the ability was
natural this does not make sense. All were-tigers in East Java are said to
descend from these villagers (WESSINC1;9 86, 100-103). Such "were-tigers,"
however, should probably be regarded as shaman- or spirit-tigers
instead - the shape-shifters of IJodoyo, being natural, were different
from the reputed were-tiger villagers of Mad~ra.
The Madurese villagers are indeed the inverse of the inhabitants of
IJodoyo, representing a reversal of the natural order in which humans
become beasts (this reversal is also reflected in the above-mentioned
"backward" physical features of the were-tigers). Were-tigers are socially
dead, as symbolized by the shroud in the magic ceremony and the reported
eating of corpses. In this unregulated reversal lies the main difference
between were-tigers and protective tigers, whether shaman, ancestral,
or dhanyang: as mentioned above, the latter are socially sanctioned
and spiritually controlled, while were-tigers operate for their own selfish
purposes outside of society's ken.
The man-tiger and spirit-tiger communities remind one of KRUIJT'S
descriptions of villages inhabited by the souls of suicides, those who have
suffered sudden death, and the victims of certain illnesses (1916, 245).
This idea is grounded in the Islamic belief that the souls of those who
died in similar ways are grouped together, awaiting judgment day
(SMITH1 979, 42). It is only a short step from that notion to the concept
of communities of souls with similar affinities, such as were-tiger spirits.
In these East Javanese beliefs about tigers, then, the tiger is a materialization
of the powers of the forest and the earth. It has an ambiguous
relationship with humans, living near the village and protecting the fields
yet sometimes devouring livestock. This ambiguity is echoed in its dual
role as guardian of morality and the adat and the personification of the
darker, antisocial aspects of man. In the former role the tiger is respected,
while in the latter it is stigmatized.
The Tiger as Symbol in the City
In the cities today the tiger has a high profile. Stories featuring the big cat
regularly appear in the news, and advertisements favor it as a symbol of
speed and strength. Tiger emblems and amulets are seen on vehicles and
above the doors of shops. Many city folk are concerned about whether
the tiger still exists in Java; two-thirds of the letters to the newspaper
Surabaya Post reprinted in PRIYOS M (1991) expressed the belief that it
does. In the mid-1980s a prize of US$500 was offered for a substantiated
recent photograph of a Javan tiger; several expeditions were mounted,
but none succeeded in seeing a tiger.
As mentioned earlier, the reputation as a vicious killer that the tiger
acquired in the wake of the opening of the forests seems to have been
largely due to ecological pressures. The butchery of livestock reported by
KERKHOVE(1N8 79, 503) took place in a densely populated district where
the forest was almost completely cleared, while a man-eating tiger reported
by ROBINSOoNpe rated in sugarcane fields with high human population
densities and dispersed prey (1 966). Tigers, furthermore, appear to
be feared out of proportion to the number of people they actually kill.
More lives are taken by elephants every year, and there were nearly as
many murders as killings by tigers in Riau, Sumatra during 1979
(MCNEELEYan d WACHTEL1 988, 190). Yet neither elephants nor the
people of Riau are known as vicious killers; in fact, elephants are regarded
as the most likable of Southeast Asian animals (SAVAGE19 84,
The reason for the inordinate fear of tigers is the tiger's new position
as a symbolic other vis-a-vis human society. Where once it was a stern
protector and ally, in the new situation it has been redefined as a force
antithetical to ordered civilized life: a wild, chaotic counterpart to man
that dwells in the forest (compare SCHEFOLD19 89). In many cases this
forest is actually a jungle of the imagination (SAVAG1E9 84, 50, 54, 272).
European hunters in particular contributed to the tiger's bad reputation,
writing of spotted robbers and infamous man-eaters whose death was
sometimes rewarded with a prize (PRIYOS OEMANDOY1O98 8, 58). Yet
man-eaters are rare when the tiger is left undisturbed - the animal's bad
reputation is largely undeserved (CORBETT1 978; SCHALLE1R9 67, 277).
The postcolonial era has also seen a social differentiation between
the Western-educated elite in the urban areas and the estate workers and
farmers who inhabit the villages and lack access to Western education
(KAYAM19 92). There are corresponding differences in the belief systems
of these two groups. Whereas most modern urban Southeast Asians
would claim that "people are people and animals are animals," rural
dwellers tend not to draw such sharp distinctions, maintaining that humans
and animals have similar souls (MCNEELEYan d WACHTEL1 988,
133-34). We must keep in mind, however, that the expression of such
views, especially today, is influenced by the context of the interaction and
the audience addressed.
In 1990 sixty students at the Universitas Jember were given a classroom
assignment to write a short essay on the topic "Tiger" (harirn~u).~~
These essays were then analyzed for the concepts expressed in them.
Words like "conservation" (pelestarian), "rare" (langktz), and "extinct"
(punah) were used regularly, although it was not always clear whether the
authors really understood their meaning: 51.7% mentioned that the tiger
was rare, but only 13.33% mentioned extinction. While 38.3% of the
Javanese respondents indicated that the tiger was to be feared, only
21.3% mentioned specific dangers such as attacks or man-eating (4.26%).
This survey also yielded a few responses relating to the mystical
aspect of the tiger. Although most village beliefs about tigers are present
in the students' responses (see table I), the percentages are rather small,
a reflection, perhaps, of the perceived inappropriateness of this knowledge
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