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If there's one legend you need to know in Indonesia, it's that of the Dewi Sri, goddess of rice and fertility.        
Dewi Sri is, for the Javanese and Balinese, the goddess of rice and fertility. Her legend predates the pre-Islamic and pre-Hindu periods. Dewi Sri reigns over the underworld and the moon. She possesses all the attributes of the mother goddess and has power over fertile crops such as rice, the staple diet of the Indonesian people. She is also associated with prosperity and family harmony.
According to the Wawacan SulanjanaSundanese manuscript retracing the history of the mythology of the gods, the history of Dewi Sri is associated with the origin of rice, the region's staple food.
Like all legends, the story begins with :
Once upon a time, the kingdom of the gods was ruled by Batara Guru, the greatest of them all. He ordered the construction of a palace and asked each god and goddess to use their powers to help him with this pharaonic project. Anyone who disobeyed would be punished. But one of them, the god Naga, whose body was shaped like a snake and therefore had no arms or legs, was very worried that he wouldn't be able to help with the palace construction. As he wept, three of his tears, touching the ground, turned into beautiful, shiny eggs, like splendid pearls. His friends advised him to take them to Batara GuruWe were certain that the god of gods would appreciate the gift and be sympathetic to his handicap.
Naga took the three pearls in his mouth and made his way to Batara Buru, but on the way he had a nasty encounter. A raven approached him and asked him a question, but Naga couldn't answer for fear of dropping his precious pearls. The bird found Naga very arrogant, attacked him and one of the pearls broke. Naga had to take refuge in a bush to avoid another attack, but a second pearl also broke. Naga arrived at the palace with the last pearl, which he offered to Batara Guru and his wife. The gift was greatly appreciated and Naga was asked to incubate the pearl egg until it hatched. From this egg was born a beautiful little girl called Nyi Pohaci, a Sudanese name. Little Nyi grew up to be a very beautiful girl, with everyone looking at her. Her adopted father also seemed very attracted to her. The gods decided they couldn't leave things as they were, for fear of upsetting the order of the heavens, and decided to poison and kill her. Her body was sent to earth, where a peasant found it. He buried the beautiful young girl and gave her a burial worthy of her beauty. Her name became Dewi Sri.
Some time later, plants of great importance to mankind grew where Dewi Sri was buried. It is said that from her nose grew a coconut palm, from her lips and ears various vegetables and spices, from her arms and hands teak, from her sex palm sugar, from her legs various varieties of bamboo and from her navel grew rice, the plant that became the staple diet of the island's inhabitants.
All plants necessary or useful to man come from the body of Dewi Sri. Since then, all the inhabitants of Java and Bali have worshipped the goddess of rice and fertility. 
Dewi Sri is always depicted as a beautiful young girl. Javanese culture, like the wayang, depicts her with a pale complexion, almond-shaped eyes and a downcast gaze.
Dewi Sri is also pictured with her companion Sedana, the couple known as Loro Blonyo which means "always together", symbolizing domestic happiness and family harmony.
Dewi Sri is worshipped in Java and Bali, with different versions of the rituals and legend depending on the region. Despite the fact that today's Javanese are predominantly Muslim and the Balinese Hindu, they share in the celebration of earlier indigenous beliefs that originated in the animist period.
These celebrations are also popular tourist attractions, as in the Bogor region during the rice festival in September. These festivals are called Sekaten or Grebeg Mulud and also correspond to the birth of the prophet. We're in the midst of syncretism, one of Indonesia's hallmarks.
In Javanese families, especially those who practice the KejawenA small temple dedicated to Dewi Sri can be found in their home. She may be depicted alone or accompanied by her companion Sedana. A small knife called ani-ani, shaped like a sickle for cutting rice, can be found here. Offerings and prayers are made to Dewi Sri to bring health and prosperity to the family.
In Bali, small temples dedicated to Dewi Sri can be found in many rice fields, where offerings are regularly made to ensure abundant harvests.
Many versions of the Dewi Sri and many celebrations. We can't tell you them all in one article, but keep your eyes open; Dewi Sri is everywhere in Indonesia.
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Elena Thu 19/09/2019 - 23:04
Hello I have a wooden statue from Bali (50 years) a character with a crown, bearded, carrying objects in each hand a long necklace making 2 turns, but I can not know the name of the character, If it speaks to whatau It's nicer to be able to name and seek information on the legend relating Thank you
Paul Fri 19/07/2019 - 08:53
Thank you for this valuable information. I'm French, married to a Javanese woman, and we'll be moving back to Java soon. I am a sculptor among other things and I plan to make objects and jewelry based on Indonesian history and iconography. If you have any advice or references in terms of art and history, I'd be very grateful. Thank you very much. Paul Mallet.
jakarta@lepetitjournal.com Fri 19/07/2019 - 14:04
Hello Paul, thank you for reading. You will find several articles on the history of Indonesia on our site. I recommend that you visit the Jakarta National Museum and the IHS Senayan 1 library, where you'll find many books on Indonesia, its history and culture... Enjoy your stay in Jakarta.
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