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The Origin of Lake Malawen

Central Kalimantan - Indonesia
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Lake Malawen is a beautifully magnificent lake that is located in the district of North Barito, Central Kalimantan Province, Indonesia. Amongst the local inhabitants, an orchid park in the lakeside was a river wherein numerous fishes lived within in the past. Once there was a terribly natural phenomenon that changed the river to a lake, which is now known as Lake Malawen.

So, what kind of phenomenon that made such a significant change? Just read thoroughly the story about the origin of Lake Malawen below.


As the story goes by, there were a couple living in a forest in Central Kalimantan. Though they lived in destitute, they loved each other. It`s been about ten years they lived together, but they have not bestowed any kid at all. They were eager to have a kid, thus they would do everything until they were bestowed kid by God. Everyday they used to kneel in prayer so that God would be please to give them a child.

In a relenting night they were practicing a prayer. They sent up a prayer to God and went to sleep after that. Then, the wife dreamed about an old man coming to her.

“If you wanna have a kid, you have to accomplish asceticism for several months in the forest,” the old man said.

When she would ask him a question, all of sudden the old man was gone. She woke up from her sleep, and told her husband about her dream.

“Honey, last night I dreamed about an old man who came to me. He suggested us to live in an ascetic life for several months in the forest. From that he was sure God would bestow us with a kid. What do you think, honey?” the wife told her husband.

“I don`t know. But it doesn`t matter to try,” the husband replied.

“So, what to do now, honey? Should we go accomplishing the asceticism now?”

“Yeah, let`s prepare all the things we need during asceticism,”

In the following day, they were ready to start asceticism. They went to the far-flung of the forest, miles away from their home. For a half day they walked through the thick forest. Soon after finding the right place to do it, they started erecting a hut for asceticism.

The day went dark and they began to accomplish the asceticism afterwards. They sat with the legs crossed, while closing their eyes and focusing their mind only on God.

For about several weeks they lived in an ascetic life, but none of divine guidance they got. Though they abstained from foods and drinks, they just kept accomplishing that asceticism so that God would be please to give them a child. On the day nine and ten, they were not given divine guidance yet. Indeed, God was examining them at the time.

On the day 100, they suffered from horrible thirsty and starvation. They were so sleepy and tired. At that time, the old man came to them.

“Now you might stop from asceticism. You`ve just got outstanding mark for your patience during asceticism. And now, you would have a child soon,” the old man said.

Then, they stopped accomplishing asceticism. On the spur of the moment, when both opened their eyes, the old man was gone away. They looked at the surrounding but nothing was there. They went home with hope their dream would be coming true.

They arrived home and started running daily activities as another day before they accomplished the asceticism. They patiently waited for the coming of a new family member amongst them. Until one day, the wife showed a sign that she was at the early stadium of pregnancy.

“Honey, I am feeling back pain and queasy now. What`s wrong with me today?” the wife asked.

“Really? That`s a good sign my wife! It`s a sign that you are pregnant,” the husband replied cheerfully.

“Is it?”

“Yes, I`m 100 % sure that you are pregnant now!”

Since then, the wife loved eating sour fruits and hot meals so much. The husband looked so happy to know that his wife was getting pregnant.

“Dear God, thank you very much. I am very happy `coz my wife is pregnant now,” the husband expressed his gratitude to God.

Time goes by, it`s been about nine months the wife got pregnant. On a night, she gave birth to a son who later on was named Kumbang Banaung. Both were very happy as the son they missed for more than 10 years was really there amongst them. They promised to take care attentively the son so that he could be an obedient son.

Kumbang Banaung got elder. He could recognize and differentiate between good and bad. Then, his father advised him to be an obedient boy, and likewise to act wisely all of the times. His father told him a pantun saying below:

wahai anak dengarlah petuah,

kini dirimu lah besar panjang

umpama burung lah dapat terbang

umpama kayu sudah berbatang

umpama ulat lah mengenal daun

umpama serai sudah berumpun


banyak amat belum kau dapat

banyak penganyar belum kau dengar

banyak petunjuk belum kau sauk

banyak kaji belum terisi


maka sebelum engkau melangkah

terimalah petuah dengan amanah

supaya tidak tersalah langkah

supaya tidak terlanjur lidah


pakai olehmu adat merantau

di mana bumi dipijak,

di sana langit dijunjung

di mana air disauk

di sana ranting dipatah

di mana badan berlabuh,

di sana adat dipatuh

apalah adat orang menumpang:

berkata jangan sebarang-barang

berbuat jangan main belakang

adat istiadat lembaga dituang

dalam bergaul tenggang menenggang

Through reciting the above pantun, Banaung`s father wanted his son to learn and practice so many good deeds, to wisely act at all times, and to speak in a good manner. More than that, Banaung`s father also taught him how to hunt in the forest. Everyday Banaung was invited to accompany his father hunting in the forest. For this family, hunting was another activity for earning a living.

Banaung by and by grew up to a handsome bachelor. Unfortunately, he was not an obedient son like what his parents have wished. His attitude often made annoy other people as well as his behaviour that deteriorated day by day. All his father`s advices were never practiced out.

Until one day Banaung`s father fell in sick. He refused Banaung`s demand to accompany hunting. However, Banaung kept forcing his father to go for hunting.

“I`m sorry, my son! I can`t go for hunting with you today. As you know by hand that I`m falling in sick right now. You might ask your mother to prepare all the things you need for hunting,” the father said.

“Son, here is a family heirloom of ours. I think now is the time to inherit this to you. This is the Piring Malawan (literally means the fighting plate). You may use this in all condition, but more importantly when you are facing critical situation,” the father added.

Banaung took the heirloom and slipped it on his waist. When all equipments had been available, he went to the forest alone. He started hunting, and kept walking to the innermost part of the forest.

Due to the midst of the day, he couldn`t get any animal at all. He kept walking through the thick forest until he didn`t know the way back home. Further he walked through the deep forest, further he was from home. Out of his ken, he was really lost amidst the thick forest when the day was turning dark.

Before long, Banaung reached a village called Sanggu Village. It was seen from afar there was a whoop-de-doo; thus he was curious what was going on at the time. From all appearances, he had just known that there was an adat ceremony headed by the Village Leader.

The ceremony was aimed at celebrating the maturity of his daughter named Intan. Amongst the village inhabitants, if one was going mature; it meant that parents had to hold Pingitan Ceremony, to avoid from any calamity that may stick upon him/her.

There was a dance performance, and abundant offerings. When Banaung was cheerfully watching the dancers, his sight then was focused at Intan. He was speechless and amazed to look at Intan`s beauty.

“How amazing she is! Banaung mumbled.

Out of his ken, the day was totally dark at the time. He had no choice; he had to go home. He tried to remember the way back home, while tracing back his path on the ground. With all hard works, he could finally reach his home, and was welcomed by his parents.

“Where are you so far, my son? We are here missing you so much. We are worrying about something bad is going to you. Now tell me where you are so far?” the mother asked.

Then, Banaung told his parents that he was lost at the time. However, he did not tell them about his experience in Sanggu Village, where he saw Intan.

On that night, Banaung could not sleep. Intan`s face kept haunting him every time.

In the following day, Banaung went for hunting anew. He went to the forest with hope he would get some animals and meet Intan more closely. In a little while he met the girl and introduced himself to her.

From this short moment, Banaung knew that Intan was a wise and polite girl. Her speech was fairly prudent; hence he fell in love with her at the first sight. Fortune then was really coming to Banaung. Deep inside her heart, Intan also took distinguishing feeling upon Banaung. Both Banaung and Intan loved each other.

Since that time, Banaung often went to Sanggu Village to meet his dearly beloved Intan. Unfortunately, many people settling down in the village took bad prejudice upon him. They gossiped about Banaung for his closeness with Intan. For them, such a relationship was an evil deed remembering the social status of Intan`s father as the village leader.

Soon after the gossip went to the village leader`s ear, Intan`s father started to act. He did not want to know his daughter to have relationship with such a guy; hence he married off Intan to another guy, who was the son of a rattan merchant.

One day, Banaung expressed his love to Intan.

“Intan, would you be my girl?” Banaung said.

Hearing that question, Intan was fairly shocked. She was quiet as she was really confused. She loved Banaung very much, but on the other hand his father had chosen a guy to be her life partner. She had no choice, so…

“So…so…sorry Banaung, I would not!” Intan answered.

“What`s wrong?” Tell me the truth!” Banaung said.

By several times was forced, Intan started to speak. She told Banaung that Intan`s father would marry off her to a son of a rattan merchant. She could not escape from her father`s control, even though she really loved Banaung.

Then, Banaung went home with a mount of disappointment. He told his parents to let him propose for marriage to Intan immediately. But his father said, “We are poor family, my son. We are not appropriate for them.”

“That`s true what you father has just said. There are only few chances for us to be accepted by them,” the mother added.

“No, Mom! We love each other. She must be my wife,” Banaung declined his parents` suggestion.

“No, my son! Don`t let anger control over you! If you go ahead, you`ll get catastrophe soon. Start now, I won`t let you meet her anymore!” the father swore.

All the advices from Banaung`s parents were useless. He ignored them, due to one night; he decided to go to Sanggu Village. Out of his parents` control, he walked by the night.

After arriving at the village, he tiptoed over Intan`s home and met her. He wanted to elope with Intan.

“Intan, how about eloping? If you`re OK, let`s go now!” Banaung said.

“Alright! I`m in! I really don`t want to marry that guy as he had already had a son! Now let`s escape away from this place!” Intan replied.

The situation was safe at the time. They began to run away from Intan`s house. Unfortunately, few meters from the house, there were several settlers who were patrolling. Their effort to escape away from the village was known by those people.

“Hi, look! They are Banaung and Intan, aren`t they?” one of the people shouted up telling the others.

“Yes, they are! Where are they going?” another one added.

Then, Banaung and Intan run to a river nearby the village. They run faster to get outside of people`s sight. When they had reached the river, they realized that nothing could be used to sail across the river.

“Banaung, what should we do now?” Intan asked panting heavily.

Both were panic, but then Banaung remembered about an heirloom Piring Malawen. He took and threw the plate to the riverside. Then a miracle happened, the plate automatically turned bigger so they could sail across the river by taking the plate.

They were safe now, at least for a moment. They took a ride the plate passing by the river. But, the whether turned significantly when they were far enough from the people. The cloud turned to black as well as the thunderbolt that stroke frequently. The rain fell heavily while the wind was blowing fiercely.

They were not safe anymore. The plate on which they were sailing upon was broken. Since then, both Banaung and Intan sank like two stones in the river.

All of sudden, the river turned to a lake that is now known as Lake Malawen, while Banaung and Intan transformed to a couple white crocodiles. Amongst the people living around the lake, they do believe in the crocodile`s existence up to these days.


Here is the story about the origin of Lake Malawen that is originally from Central Kalimantan Province. The above story is a legend bearing several moral messages that can be applied in the daily life.

One of the messages is that obedience will certainly lead to calamity. It can be seen on the figure Kumbang Banaung who disobeyed his parents. As a consequence, he sank on the river and was cursed with a white crocodile.

Amongst the Malay people, such a habit is a strictly forbidden. Hearing and practicing parents` good advice is a must. It is said in Tunjuk Ajar Melayu that:

kalau sifat keras kepala,

di situlah tempat beroleh bala


kalau bapa ibu engkau sanggah,

Tuhan murka, orang pun menyunggah

(Samsuni /sas/115/12-08)

Translated by Irfan Nugroho (ter/89/12-08)


  • Adapted from Nani Setiawati. 2003. Cerita Rakyat dari Kalimantan Tengah 2. Jakarta: Grasindo.
  • Anonim. “Kalimantan Tengah”, available online at http://id.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalimantan_Tengah, Retrieved on December 9th, 2008.
  • Tenas Effendy. 1994/1995. “Ejekan” Terhadap Orang Melayu Riau dan Pantangan Orang Melayu Riau. Pekanbaru: Bapedda Tingkat I Riau.
  • --------. 2006. Tunjuk Ajar Melayu. Yogyakarta: Balai Kajian dan Pengembangan Budaya Melayu in cooperation with AdiCita Karya Nusa Publisher.
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