Batu Kuwung is a hot spring situated 32 km south of Serang, Banten province, Indonesia. Batu Kuwung means hollow stone. According to the local belief, the hot spring was formed by a magical event. What is it? Find out in the following story.
In the reign of Sultan Haji hundreds of years ago, there lived a merchant in a village in Banten. He was very close to the sultan and for that he was given the right of monopoly on rice and pepper trades with Lampung. No wonder his business ran extremely well. In a very short time, he turned into a respected man of abundant wealth. He owned nearly every farmland in the village. He took possession of those lands not by buying, but by lending money to the farmers with high interests. There was no way for them to pay up their debts other than giving up their lands.
People lived in a deeper anguish as the merchant came to hold the position of village head. By a high taxation policy, he aimed to exploit the authority for his individual benefits. He turned into an evil despot with such wealth and power.
The merchant was so stingy. Even he would not want to help anyone if it did mean any profits. And he never thought of getting married to for marriage to him was a waste of money. He preferred living alone to do whatever he wanted. Since people understandably hated him, the merchant hired bodyguards to provide protection for himself. No one dared to stand up against him, except one man.
He was an old man who possessed a supernatural power. He had heard about the merchant's arrogance and how he treated other people. The old man intended to teach the merchant a lesson. So one day, he stopped by the rich man’s house as a crippled beggar.
“Excuse me, Sir. Do you have any change? I haven’t eaten anything for two days,” said the beggar while bowing in front of the merchant.
Instead of receiving money or food from the merchant, the beggar got scolded.
“You filthy beggar! How dare you ask for my money, huh?” thundered the wealthy merchant. “Guards! Take him out of my sight!”
He pushed the old man to the ground. He had not even stood on his feet again when two robust men dragged her away and told him to get off. The poor man did not look angry though. But before leaving, he told the merchant, “You’d better get prepared to pay for your arrogance and stinginess, Rich Man. You will experience how it is to be poor."
Finishing his words, the beggar disappeared, leaving everyone astonished by such a wizard event. Though feeling a bit worried to hear what the beggar said, the merchant did not take it seriously.
“Harebrained beggar. I won't be poor again, not with all I have now," said the merchant boastfully.
Next morning, the merchant was in his room. He was just awake when he found that he could not move his legs. He tried it with all his might, but he was paralyzed. In panic, he called his servants.
“Anybody, come here! Help me!”
So there came two guards into his room.
“What happened, Sir?” asked one of them.
“I can’t… I can’t move my legs,” moaned the merchant.
He commanded them to find him a medicine man. And on that very day, all the best healers from various places in the kingdom came to treat his legs. Yet, as feared, none of them succeeded. The merchant could not rest his mind. Not knowing what to do, he decided to hold a contest.
“Tell everyone that anyone can heal me from this bloody paralysis, I will give him a half of my wealth!” said the merchant.
His loyal guards spread all over the town to put the announcement on the walls. In a very short time, everyone knew of the contest, not to mention the beggar. Silently, he planned to take part in the contest.
On the given day, the participants crowded in the merchant’s yard. One by one they were called inside to have a go curing the rich man. Time was fleeting without any good news. By afternoon, everyone had gone except the beggar. Calmly he walked in the mansion and into the main room, where the helpless man laid.
“Please, Beggar! Help me! You’re my only hope! Please! Forgive me for what I did to you the other day. I’ll give you food, clothes, or lands if you want it. But please, make me walk again,” cried the merchant.
The beggar gave him a little smile.
“Let me tell you something, Sir. I know what caused this: your stinginess and arrogance,” said the beggar.
The merchant could not believe what he just heard. But he realized that the beggar might be right.
“So what should I do to my legs?” asked him.
“There are three things to do, Sir,” answered the beggar.
The beggar went on explaining that first, the merchant should change his bad traits; second, he had to go to Mount Karang and meditate upon a hollow stone for seven days and seven nights straight without eating or drinking; third, he had to give a half of his wealth for alms once he gained back his wellbeing.
The merchant was willing to do all of those. He soon called his guards to take him to Mount Karang as quickly as possible. The beggar, again, disappeared after telling the merchant to remain firm in his intention.
Sitting in a stretcher carried by four men, he was heading to the mountain. They strode through narrow passages and bushes and tall trees. After two days, they finally arrived at the foot of Mount Karang where there was a big concave stone.
“Take me up there!” said the merchant.
Alas! His guards all passed out soon as they got there so he had to struggle to get upon the stone.
He started meditating when the night fell. For seven days and seven nights he stayed at the horror place, trying so hard not to give up. He had to stand his hunger and thirst as well as his fear of wild animals and ghosts. Then, a miracle occurred. A hot spring came out from the stone where he sat, drowning the place with water and forming a small pond. The merchant ended his meditation at once. He rushed into the pond. It was then that he felt blood was running down to his leg. Not long after, he could move them again.
“Oh, thank you, God! Thank you!” cried the beggar.
The merchant ran back home happily. And he did not forget his promises. He gave a half of his wealth to the have-nots. He bestowed some of his lands to the farmers. He also took a beautiful lady from a poor family as wife. After that, he was back exercising his authority as a village hear, and with responsibility this time. Ever since, he was known to be a generous man and a wise leader.
To everyone visiting his house, the merchant would tell his miraculous story at the foot of Mount Karang that had given back his health. Slowly, the story spread throughout the kingdom that people started to come to the pond. Many people were cured from various illnesses after soaking their bodies in it.
Thus ends the story of Batu Kuwung. Today, the hot spring is a tourism destination in Banten. By the local government, the 7.8 hectare area has been picked as the icon of Banten tourism. People say, because containing sufficient amounts of iodine and calcium, other than paralysis, the pond can also cure rheumatics, polio, stiff muscles, etc.
The story tells us that he who is not grateful to God over his life will find himself ruined. As he accumulates wealth and is wasteful with it, and abuses his power to squelch common people, the merchant has to face the wrath of God. His body gets paralyzed although recovers from it in the end. There is a Malay verse that says:
Rezki jangan mematikan (Wealth should not kill)
Harta jangan membutakan (Money should not blind)
Nikmat jangan menyesatkan (Pleasure should not lead astray)
Translation by Reza Daffi
Story is an adaptation of http://sodezzo3g.blogspot.com/ retrieved on October 16th, 2009.
http://anantanews.blogspot.com/ retrieved on October 16th, 2009.
http://www.koranbekasi.com/ retrieved on October 16th, 2009.
http://franny0412.multiply.com/ retrieved on October 16th, 2009.
Tenas Effendy. 2006. Tunjuk Ajar Melayu. Yogyakarta: Center for Research and Development of Malay Culture in cooperation with AdiCita Karya Nusa Publisher.
Source of Photo: http://indonesia-corner.com/jp/?p=1673