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  • NGALEUT BANDUNG: History of Urban Legends in Bandung

NGALEUT BANDUNG: History of Urban Legends in Bandung

Through mystical stories, people can learn the history of a city. In Bandung, urban legends were born alongside colonial modernization in the early 20th century.

The statue of Pastor H. C. Verbraak in Maluku Park, one of the famous urban legend spots in Bandung City, photographed on Tuesday, July 6, 2021, morning. (Photo: Acep Mulyana)

Penulis Alex Ari15 September 2023

BandungBergerak.id – As a non-profit learning community, Komunitas Aleut (Aleut Community) finances all of its activities through its own efforts (self-subsistent). Fundraising is done, among other things, by ‘selling’ the “Ngaleut” route or theme. Urban legend, mystical urban stories or urban ghosts are always in high demand.

Why do Indonesian audiences love scary things? The answer to this phenomenon, according to Mochtar Lubis in his lecture at Taman Ismail Marzuki (TIM) Jakarta on April 6, 1977, could be related to one of characteristics of Indonesian people, which is believing in superstition.

However, it is certainly not horror and superstition that Aleut Community is trying to offer through the “Legenda Urang Bandung (Urban)” stories. Through these stories, participants can obtain historical information and even learn about the development of Bandung.

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Kentring Manik

The beginning of the establishment of dayeuh Bandung as the capital of the new Bandung regency, which was confirmed by a decree from Governor-General Herman Willem Daendels on September 25, 1810, cannot be separated from the mythical. Prior to Governor General Daendels' order to Bandung Regent R. A. Wiranatakusumah II to move the capital of the regency, the location of dayeuh Bandung was just a small village in the middle of the forest.

Determining the location of the center of the new capital city in the form of a town square and its supporting facilities cannot be done carelessly. One of the main requirements based on traditional calculations is the availability of springs or what is symbolized as a “white rhino puddle” (paguyangan white rhino).

The choice of Bandung town square cannot be separated from the existence of two springs in the form of a pair of wells (ngabandung) which are currently located at the Cikapundung PLN building and the vacant land of the former Miramar shops.

As well as a sacred place, Sumur Bandung also has a mystical story about the existence of a supernatural being described as a beautiful woman named Kentring Manik. It is said that Kentring Manik or Ken Buniwangi is the daughter of the ruler of the supernatural realm of the Bandung region who reigns at Sumur Bandung with her attendant, Eyang Dipayasa.

The name Kentring Manik, or a mystical figure with a similar name, is known not only in Sumur Bandung. There is the supernatural figure of Nyi Kantri Manik who is believed to be the guardian of Situ Cisanti, the upper reaches of the Citarum River. According to W. H. Hoogland in an article published in “Mooi Bandoeng” Magazine (1937), this creature is the goddess of the spring (Bron-godin) of the Citarum River named Kentring Manik.

Kentring Manik is even believed by some Bandung citizens to have been buried in a sacred grave complex in the Buniwangi area.

The story of the supernatural figure Kentring Manik as the ruler of Sumur Bandung is one example of a mystical story that developed before Bandung developed as a modern city.

St Albanus Church is the location of another urban legend that is very famous in the city of Bandung. (Photo: Komunitas Aleut documentation)
St Albanus Church is the location of another urban legend that is very famous in the city of Bandung. (Photo: Komunitas Aleut documentation)

Emergence of Urban Legends

Until the first decade of the 20th century, Bandung was like a village in the mountains of Priangan (Kleine berg dessa), despite the fact that the area had experienced a variety of factors driving the city’s development. The establishment of Bandung as the capital of the Priangan district (1864), the emergence of plantation entrepreneurs as a result of the enactment of the Agrarian Law (1870), and the opening of a railway transportation line to Bandung (1894) were some of the triggers for the city to become more crowded.

Bandung’s development took off after the 20th century, especially after it was established as a Kotapraja (Gemeente) on April 1, 1906 and then assumed the status of a city with full autonomy since 1926. The peak of development occurred after the plan to move the capital of the Dutch East Indies from Batavia to Bandung in 1918.

The physical development of the city to welcome the move of the Dutch East Indies capital to Bandung resulted in the “new city” of Bandung located in the North Bandung area and centered along Riau Street. The planned development created various urban infrastructures such as office complexes, settlements, roads, and parks as the center of European activities (Europeesche Zakenwijk).

It was in this part of Bandung that urban legends emerged, taking the form of apparitions of mystical figures from various races and nations. Many of the stories take place in infrastructure and buildings created during that time, such as schools, parks, places of worship, and gathering places.

The haunting figure of Nancy at the Hoogere Burgerschool (HBS) Bandung (now SMA Negeri 3 and SMA Negeri 5 Bandung), the statue of Father Verbraak in Maluku Park, the haunted Gereja Katolik Bebas, and the former Freemason Loji Hermes (Rumah Kentang) are all buildings and facilities located in the “new city” of Bandung. In accordance with the area’s function as a European settlement (Westerse Enclaves), all these urban legends appear with the mystical figure of the Dutch. There are no more supernatural beings in the form of gods and goddesses as in traditional mystical stories.

The Displacement of Traditional Mythical Stories

Besides emerging the mystical figure of Europeans, the development of Bandung also displaced the traditional mythical stories that had already emerged and spread in the community.

At the end of the 19th century, for example, there was a story of Mbah Malim who succeeded in driving away the spirits waiting for Muras Geger Hanjuang so that the swamp areas in eastern Bandung became inhabitable. With the inhabitation of an area that was previously known to be haunted, gradually the folk tales disappeared.

There is also the story of kelong or wewe, which is believed to be a creature that kidnapped and hid a child in Telukbuyung Village. These traditional mystical stories gradually disappeared after the 1920s when the Telukbuyung Village area, which is now around Pajajaran Street, was demolished to make way for a luxurious residential area called Fokker Huis.

Thus, through mystical-themed historical stories such as “Legenda Urang Bandung (Urban)”, one can also learn about the development of Bandung over time.

* Translated from this article by Altaf Hasna Banafsaj.

Editor: Ahmad Fikri