a note about visiting kampung naga; is this a local version of ‘The last of the Mohicans’?

Amidst lush greenery Bumi Pasundan countryside, there’s lies the legendary Kampung Naga. In between my dream and dream comes true to visit, here I am. Soaking myself among the fresh air and compact-beautiful-yet unspoiled traditional houses. Enjoy a cup of tea, whilst companied by rengginang, traditional salty rice crackers.

Pak Cahyan –one of the local guide to Kampung Naga, I prefer to address him as someone who look after the visitors— sat in front of me and talking about do and don’t in his beloved village. First came out from my lips, “Why this beautiful village called ‘Naga’?” Is that refer to a water serpent in [most] Asian countries named ‘naga’ or dragon? He smiles and I should interpret it by my own, that means no. Nothing to do with a water serpent legend!

Then a friend of mine, asking about the probability the terms of ‘naga’ might be derived from ‘dina-gawir’, taken from Sundanese, means ’nestled in the foothills’. He said so, based on a reference on the net. But Pak Cahyan is smiling again. “Maybe you might ask to the Chieftain,” finally he gives a ‘clue’.

But what I had as an answer about this water serpent? None. Once again the Chieftain explain me, this name is not about the dragon. And speaking about the legend and ancestors, it’s a tracking back into 1950s, whenever the rebellion of DI/TII burning down the whole of the village. Almost all of their valuable historical sources turn into ashes. Including their history and family trees that written in the lontar leaves.

Alas, the histories still linger through generations at Kampung Naga. The Chieftain and people from the elder generation or addressed as Tua Kampung and Lebe look after and taking care about its community until nowadays. They have their own beliefs and taboo which are derived into ‘hukum adat’. This communal law is given directly from the ancestors addressed as karuhun. If they do activities without refer to these terms, they believe will face a bad luck.

(c) ukirsari

So, refer to Pak Cahyan’s descriptions, everything in Kampung Naga stay the same under hukum adat from generation to generation. There’s no electricity nor modernity as we know today.

In building their houses, they also have a specific formula. A house must be facing to the same direction; heading to the north or to the south and the body of its house must be to direction West-East.

All material of the walls made from slices of bamboo [known as anyaman sasag by locals] and leave it without any paint except made from chalk. It means, whenever a ‘modern’ Kampung Naga person want to have a [modern] house made from bricks, they have to build it outside of the village.

A house in Kampung Naga must be unfurnished. Without any chairs, table nor bed. This is symbolizing their humbleness and kind-hearted. And the positions of the main door and kitchen door are positioned side by side. It’s prohibited or said as taboo to put these doors in the opposite directions or both sides in the same line.

About religion, people of Kampung Naga are muslim. But they have a quite different system in giving appreciation to the universe. They still believe a place is bordered by an unseen power. For example, jurig cai. This is the way Kampung Naga’s community to call a spiritual power who live by the river and the deepest part of a river [or known as ‘leuwi’]. The people also believe to the unseen creatures who live in a place so called sanget or angker sites. As an appreciation towards these creatures, they give offerings called sasajen. Meanwhile, Bumi Ageung is a sacred place and prohibited to take pictures. Here’s laying their ancestor and founding father Sembah Eyang Singaparna.

Today’s Kampung Naga stands from 111 buildings, stands from houses, mosque, communal house so called Bale Patemon and highly appreciated building addressed as Bumi Ageung in 1.5 hectare land with population 325 people inhabitants. And surprise me, since this village located nearby the main road of Garut and Tasikmalaya in West Java.

I do enjoy my trip to Kampung Naga from the start ‘till the end. Walking down the cement staircase next to river Ciwulan and passing through the lush greenery paddy field with tropical rain forest as the background, bring me to a fairy-tale atmosphere look-alike. But of course I have a question on the way back. This beautiful village and its people as mirrored by Pak Cahyan who walk in front of me to give guidance, for how long they will stay the same –untouched by modernity? Is the newer generation after Pak Cahyan will learn about their histories and beliefs as much as the elder generations do?

(c) ukirsari

A question marks. I figured out a scene from one of my favourite movies: The Last of the Mohicans. Is it true that Hawkeye [Daniel Day-Lewis] is the last Mohicans? No, Uncas [his adopted brother] is … since Hawkeye was born from British parents and Uncas is the real Mohican. With all of these modernity surrounded Kampung Naga, including the main road nearby its village … is Pak Cahyan will be Uncas? The last generation who keep ancestors’ threads as it should be. Seems a fragile thing beneath the beauty of Kampung Naga. Glad I was there just in time.


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