Kakawin Sutasoma is an Old Javanese poem in poetic metres (kakawin or
kavya). It is the source of the motto of Indonesia, Bhinneka Tunggal
Ika, which is usually translated as Unity in Diversity, although
literally it means '(Although) in pieces, yet One'. It is not without
reason that the motto was taken from this kakawin as the kakawin
teaches religious tolerance, specifically between the Hindu and
Kakawin tells the epic story of Lord Sutasoma, and was written by
Mpu Tantular in the 14th Century.
2 Historical Context
Figure of gold from the Majapahit period representing Sutasoma being
borne by the man-eater Kalmasapada
Buddha-to-be (Bodhisattva) was reincarnated as Sutasoma, the son of
the King of Hastinapura. As an adult, he was very pious and devout,
and did not wish to be married and crowned king. So one night,
Sutasoma fled from Hastinapura.
When Sutasoma's absence was discovered, the palace was in tumult and
the King and Queen were very sad, and were consoled by many people.
When he arrived in the forest, the noble Lord Sutasoma prayed in a
Goddess Widyukarali appeared before him and told him that
his prayers had been heard and would be granted. Lord Sutasoma then
climbed into the
Himalaya mountains in the company of several holy
men. When they arrived at a certain hermitage, he was told a story of
a king who had been reincarnated as a demon who liked eating humans.
The story was that there was once a king called Purusada or
Kalmasapada. One day all the meat that had been set aside for the
consumption of the king was eaten by dogs and pigs. The chef was
concerned, and hurriedly sought out alternatives, but couldn't find
any. In desperation he went to a graveyard and cut off the leg of one
of the corpses and prepared it for his king. Because he had been
reincarnated as a demon, he had found the meal very tasty, and he
asked his chef what type of meat the chef had prepared. The chef
admitted that the meat had been from a human, and from that moment on,
the king loved eating humans.
Soon there were no people left in his kingdom, either he had eaten his
subjects, or they had fled. Soon the king suffered a wound in his leg
which wouldn't heal, and he became more demonic and began to live in
the jungle. By the time of Sutasoma's visit to the hermitage, the king
had sworn that he would make an offering of 100 kings to the God Kala
if he would cure him of his illness.
The holy men begged Sutasoma to kill this demonic king, but he
refused. Even the
Prithvi beseeched him to kill the king, but
he was adamant he would not do it, as he wished to live the life of an
So Sutasoma continued his journey. One day in the middle of the road
he met a
Ganesh demon with an elephants head who preyed upon humans.
Sutasoma nearly became his victim, but he fought the beast and struck
him down so that he fell to the earth. It felt like Satusoma had tried
to strike a mountain!
The demon surrendered and received a sermon from Sutasoma about the
Buddhist religion and that it is forbidden to kill any living
creature. Afterwards, the demon became Sutasomo's disciple.
And Sutasoma continued his journey. Next he met with a dragon. He
defeated the dragon, and it also became his disciple.
Finally, Sutasoma met a hungry tigress who preyed on her own children!
But Sutasoma stopped her and told her why she shouldn't. But the
tigress persisted. Finally Sutasoma offered his own body as food for
the tigress. She jumped on him and sucked out his blood, which was
fresh and tasty. But the tigress realised that what she had done was
wrong, and she began to cry and repented. Then the God
and made Sutasoma live again. The tiger also became his disciple, and
they all continued their journey.
By this time, there was a war between the demon king Kalmasapada and
king Dasabahu, a cousin of Sutasoma. King Dasabahu happened to meet
with Sutasoma and invited him home so that he could marry his
daughter. Satusoma was married and returned home to Hastinapura. He
had children and became King Sutasoma.
Finally, the story of Purusada must be finished. He had gathered
together the 100 kings to offer to the God Kala, but Kala didn't want
to accept them. Kala wanted to be offered King Sutasoma instead!
Purusada made war with Sutasoma, but because Sutasoma didn't resist,
he was captured and sacrificed to Kala. Sutasoma was prepared to be
eaten so that the 100 kings could go free. Purusada was so affected by
this sacrifice that he tried to atone for it. The 100 kings were
Kakawin Sutasoma was written by Tantular in the 'golden age' of the
Majapahit empire, during the reign of either Prince Rajasanagara or
King Hayam Wuruk. It is not known for certain when the
authored, but it is thought most probably between 1365 and 1389. 1365
is the year in which the
Nagarakretagama was completed, while
1389 is the year in which King
Hayam Wuruk died.
Kakawin Sutasoma was
As well as authoring the
Kakawin Sutasoma, Tantular is also known to
Kakawin Arjunawiwaha. Both Kakakawin use very similar
language and have a very similar style. Another well-known Kakawin,
for example, is
Kakawin Ramayana, Mahabarata, Bharatayudha,
Gatotkacasraya, Smaradahana, Arjunawijaya, Siwaratrikalpa, and
Kakawin Sutasoma is considered unique in Javanese literature because
it is the only
Kakawin which is Buddhist in nature.
Existing copies of
Kakawin Sutasoma have survived in the form of
handwritten manuscripts, written both on lontar and on paper. Nearly
all surviving copies originated in Bali. However, there is one
Javanese fragment surviving which forms part of the 'Merapi and
Merbabu Collection'. This is a collection of ancient manuscripts
originating from the region of the mountains of Merapi and Merbabu in
Central Java. The survival of this fragment confirms that the text of
Kakawin Sutasoma is indeed Javanese rather than Balinese in origin.
Kakawin Sutasoma is one of the most popular
Kakawin in Bali, and was
popularised by I Gusti Surgria, an expert in
Balinese literature who
included examples from the
Kakawin in his book on the study of
Between 1959 - 1961 I Gusti Bagus Sugriwa worked on an edition of the
text which included the Old Javanese version of the text accompanied
by a translation into Indonesian. It was also translated and published
in English by Soewito Santoso. Extracts of the text were published in
There have also been many extracts published in Bali, although they
have Balinese characteristics and are translated into Balinese.
(in Javanese) Dinas Pendidikan Bali, 1993,
Kakawin Sutasoma. Denpasar:
Dinas Pendidikan Bali.
Poerbatjaraka dan Tardjan Hadiwidjaja, 1952,
Kepustakaan Djawa'. Djakarta/Amsterdam: Djambatan.
(in English) Soewito Santoso, 1975, Sutasoma. New Delhi: Aditya
(in Indonesian) I Gusti Bagus Sugriwa, 1959 - 1961 Sutasoma / ditulis
Bali dan Latin, diberi arti dengan bahasa
Bali dan bahasa
Indonesia. Denpasar: Pustakamas
(in English) P.J. Zoetmulder, 1974, Kalangwan: a survey of old
Javanese literature. The Hague : Martinus Nijhoff
(in Indonesian) P.J. Zoetmulder, 1983, Kalangwan. Sastra Jawa Kuno
Selayang Pandang. pp. 415-437. Jakarta: Djambatan
Hindu deities and texts
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali