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The History of Mount Merapi

Yogyakarta - Indonesia
The History of Mount Merapi
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As retold by Samsuni

Mount Merapi sits largely in Sleman Regency, Yogyakarta, with some parts cover the areas of some regencies in Central Java Province, i.e. Magelang, Boyolali, and Klaten. According to the local people, the land on which the mountain is situated was once plain. Following an urgent situation, the gods in heaven decided to move Mount Jamurdipa there from the South Sea. Since then, a crater was formed and belching out superheated materials. Why so? Find out in this story.


Java is one of the biggest islands in Indonesian Archipelago. People say, the island was once crooked that the gods in heaven had to fix it. The gods called a meeting that produced a decision: they had to put a mountain in the middle of the island to keep the balance. Jamurdipa, a mountain off the southern coast of Java, was selected.

Meanwhile, at the place where Mount Jamurdipa was going to be moved, there were two smiths in the middle of making a powerful kris. Empu Rama and Empu Pamadi were known to possess enormous strength. The gods understood the situation. They knew they had to talk to the smiths first. Batara Guru, the King of Gods, sent Batara Narada and God Penyarikan accompanied by a throng of soldiers to tell Empu Rama and Pamadi to move.

The smiths were working when the heaven entourage arrived. The gods were balled over to see them forging metals, not with hammers or any tools, but with their thighs and bare hands. Fire sparked every time they pounded the metals with their fists. Clearly, the smiths were not ordinary men. The gods and the soldiers could not help themselves shaking. 

“Excuse us, Empu! We’re sent by His Highness Batara Guru to talk to you,” opened God Penyarikan.

The smiths stopped working and let the guests in and sit.

“What is it, Pukulun? What can we do for you?” asked Empu Rama.

“We have come to deliver a message,” Batara Narada answered the question plainly.

“I hope it is good news,” said Empu Pamadi.

Batara Narada explained the situation and the intention of the gods to move Jamurdipa. For that and for their own safety, the smiths were required to go. Unfortunately, they were in the middle of making a kris so that was something they could not do.

“I’m sorry, Pukulun! That we couldn’t do. We’re making a kris at the moment,” answered Empu Rama.

“I know. Making kris is such a sacred process. But if we don’t move the mountain as soon as possible, this island will slant more. That will cause disasters for the people. Pray, smiths, go. If you stay, you will risk your life. It’s a mountain that we’re moving here,” explained God Penyarikan.

“We have prepared for you a better place than here for making a kris,” added Batara Narada.

“We can’t. We’re not going anywhere until the kris is done. Moving about during the process will result in a bad work. Why not you make the mountain somewhere else?” asked Empu Pamadi.

Batara Narada and God Penyaringan started to get irritated by the smiths’ stubbornness. They had to make them move whatever it took since Batara Guru had issued a command.

“O humans! Don’t make us force you out of here,” threatened Batara Narada.

Nevertheless, the two smiths had a harsh stance. They were not afraid of the threats for they believed they did something right by doing their best to finish the kris. Seeing no solution, they inevitably came to blows. The smiths bravely fought the heaven’s army. Both sides clashed fiercely: two against hundreds. Despite losing in number, the smiths were too powerful to the gods and soldiers. After a long fight, they finally won the battle.

Losing the fight, Batara Narada and God Penyarikan flew back to heaven and reported to Batara Guru.

“Have mercy, Your Highness, for we have failed to make them move. They were too powerful,” reported Batara Narada.

The situation grew from bad to worse. Batara Guru was infuriated.

“How obstinate!! We have to teach them a lesson!” roared Batara Guru. “Bayu, the God of Wind! Blow Jamurdipa at once!”

God Bayu blew the mountain, flinging it up high. It fell down right on the hearth of the smiths. Empu Rama and Empu Pamadi were struck dead by the mountain. Their spirits remained there, acting as guardians. Their hearth turned into a crater and since then it became a volcano. By the gods, the mountain was called Merapi.


Until today, Merapi is still an active volcano. Of note, the volcano has erupted more or less 68 times since 1548 up to this day (27 October 2010). The latest eruption took place in late 2010, forcing thousands people to run away, devastating countless homes and killing hundreds of people, including its infamous spiritual guardian, Mbah Maridjan.

The story tells us that sometimes, we should do something good for others and not be selfish like Empu Rama and Empu Pamadi. They care only of their job, not thinking that the gods need to move the mountain for the goodness of the world. Moreover, they try to fight the gods and end up dead pinned under the mountain. (Samsuni/sas/209/10-10)

Translation by Reza Daffi

[1] Pukulun means lord, usually used as a term of address for a god.

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Comments for "The History of Mount Merapi"

Brian Reza Daffu March 19th, 2011

"Good story, Dude. :)"

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