English Story: Ken Dedes, Ken Arok

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Narrated by R. Pitono in his book entitled Pararaton (1965), Ken Arok is the son of a regional official during the reign of the Kingdom of Kediri. However, Ken Arok actually grew up as a thug who likes to gamble and often commits robberies.

Until finally, Ken Arok met a brahmin who supposedly came from India named Lohgawe. This Brahmin is looking for the person he believes to be the incarnation of Lord Vishnu in Java.

Lohgawe believes that Ken Arok is the person he is looking for. To Ken Arok, Lohgawe said that one day he would become the ruler of the universe or Chakravartin.

Lohgawe then invited Ken Arok to Tumapel to work for the ruler there, namely Tunggul Ametung. At Lohgawe’s request, Tunggul Ametung was willing to accept Ken Arok as his bodyguard.

Lohgawe’s direct request as a brahmin was certainly difficult for Tunggul Ametung to refuse. Moreover, to Tunggul Ametung, Lohgawe said that Ken Arok was his adopted son.

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Tunggul Ametung has a very beautiful wife, Ken Dedes. Ken Dedes is the only daughter of a Buddhist priest named Empu Purwa who lives on the slopes of Mount Kawi, on the border of present day Malang and Blitar regencies.

As a personal bodyguard, Ken Arok always accompanies Tunggul Ametung and his wife, Ken Dedes. Until one day, Ken Arok accidentally saw Ken Dedes’ cloth being revealed when he got off the horse-drawn carriage in the park. From inside the outcrop, a beam of light could be seen that made Ken Arok mesmerized.

Ken Arok then told Lohgawe about the incident. The brahmana said that the light that Ken Arok saw indicated that Ken Dedes was a glorified woman, a chosen woman, a future mother who would bring down the ruling kings in Java.

“The woman who shines in her secret part is the woman nariswari (the great queen). That’s the woman of choice. No matter how sad it is, a man who marries such a woman will become a great king,” said Lohgawe as interpreted from Pararaton by Slamet Muljana in Towards the Peak of Splendor (2005).

Hearing Lohgawe’s words, Ken Arok was silent for a moment. Ken Arok thought, it felt like he fell in love with Ken Dedes even though it was forbidden. The only way is to kill his own boss, namely Tunggul Ametung.

In addition, if Lohgawe’s words are true, then by eliminating Tunggul Ametung he will get the opportunity to become the leader of Tumapel with Ken Dedes as his queen. Moreover, Lohgawe also predicted that Ken Arok was the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the future ruler of the universe.

As a brahmin, Lohgawe of course did not approve of Ken Arok’s intention to kill Tunggul Ametung. However, Ken Arok’s will is unanimous, his idol and the throne of power will soon be obtained.

After getting a powerful kris made by Mpu Gandring, Ken Arok carried out his intention. Mpu Gandring is a famous keris maker from Lulumbang Village (now around Blitar). However, for some reason, Ken Arok actually killed Mpu Gandring to get the keris.

Ken Arok immediately returned to Tumapel to carry out his mission in 1222 AD. According to Pararaton, Ken Arok was finally able to kill Tunggul Ametung by stabbing him while the ruler of Tumapel was sleeping.

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In fact, Ken Arok avoided the suspicion that he was the perpetrator of the murder. Cleverly or cunningly, Ken Arok directs the blame to his own best friend who is also a loyal servant of Tunggul Ametung named Kebo Hijo (Kebo Ijo).

Kebo Hijo became the main suspect in the murder of Tunggul Ametung because he had displayed the Mpu Gandring kris before the incident. This was actually a tactic of Ken Arok, who had previously shown the powerful kris to Kebo Hijo.

Ken Arok then married Ken Dedes who at that time was pregnant with the child of Tunggul Ametung. Ken Dedes did not love Tunggul Ametung and his marriage to the late ruler of Tumapel was done out of compulsion.

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