Legend of Rara Mendut and Pranacitra : Javanese Romeo and Juliet

Roro Mendut was a very beautiful lady who had strong will. Her beauty could make men’s hearts melt, from just common men to noble men or battle commander. One day Roro Mendut was kidnapped by Adipati Pragolo II, who reigned Pati and wanted to make her as one of his concubines. But before he could make her one, Roro Mendut was taken by commander of Mataram, Tumenggung Wiraguna who wanted to make her as his concubine as well. Here is the story of the legendary Roro Mendut,.

Long time ago, on the northern coast of Java, notably on the coast of pati, Central Java, there was a fishermen village, Teluk Cikal. The village was part of Pati Regency reigned by Adipati Pragolo II. Pati was one of regions conquered by Mataram Sultanate reigned by Sultan Agung.

IN Teluk Cikal village lived a girl, Roro Mendut. She was very beautiful. And she could straight forward-ly rejected men proposing her, as she had young man whom she loved, Pranacitra, the son of Nyai Singabarong, a rich trader.

Oneday, her beauty was heard by Adipati Pragolo II. And he wanted to make her as his concubine. He had asked her over and over again, but Rara Mendut kept rejecting him. He was disappointed and he sent few guards to kidnap her when she was drying fish nearby beach. She tried hard to escaped from the guards but she failed. They brought Roro Mendut to horse carriage and took her to palace. As future concubine, she should stay inside the palace (pingit = old Javanese tradition for girl over 12 years until her wedding day), and she was accompanied by Ni Semangka and her assistance Genduk Duku). When she was in pingit period, Pati Regency was having an upheaval. Sultan Agung accused Adipati Pragolo II as rebellion as he did not want to send tribute to Mataram. Sultan Agung attacked Pati, and led the assault himself. According to folktale, Sultan Agung could not hurt him as Adipati Pragolo wore armour of kere waja. Seeing this the umbrella holder of Sultan Agung , Ki Nayadarma, asked Sultan Agung to fight with Adipati Pragolo II. Sultan Agung allowed him and gave him Baru Klinting spear.

Ki Nayadarma fought with Adipati Pragolo II, but Adipati Pragolo II could avoid every attack from Nayadarma. When Adipati Pragolo was careless, KI Nayadarma stabbed Adipati Pragolo II with Baru Klinting spear, to part of body uncovered by armor. Adipati Pragolo II died.  All soldiers led by Tumenggung Witaguna seized Pati belonging, including Roro Mendut. Tumenggung Wiraguna was mesmerized by Rara Mendut beauty and he brought Rara Mendut to Mataram to be his concubine. Tumenggung Wiraguna persuaded her to be his concubine, but she rejected, even she said frankly that she had a lover already, Pranacitra. Her frankness made Tumenggung Wiraguna angry. He finally threatened that if she did not want to be his wife, she should pay tax to Mataram. Rara Mendut was not afraid of that threat. She preferred to pay tax than being Wiraguna’s concubine. Monitored by Mataram soldiers, Rara Mendut was allowed to sell cigarettes at market. Tumenggung Wiraguna agreed, and Rara Mendut could sell her cigarettes well, even people (men) crowded buying cigarettes that she had smoked. She was popular in the market for her cigarettes and for her beauty. Oneday, when she was selling cigarretes, she met Pranacitra who came for her. Pranacitra tried to find a way to get Rara Mendut out of Mataram. Rara Mendut told her meeting with Pranacitra to Princess Arumardi, one of Wiraguna’s concubine, hoping that she could help her to escape. Rara Mendut knew that Princess Arumardi did not agree Wiraguna would make another concubine. Princess Arumardi and Nyai Ageng (another Wiraguna’s concubine), planned a way to get Rara Mendut out of the palace. Rara Mendut and Pranacitra tried to return to their home village, Pati.

Unfortunately, Rara Mendut and Pranacitra escape was smelled by Wiraguna, and they were found by Wiraguna. Rara Mendut was taken to Mataram and quietly he ordered his men to kill Pranacitra. Pranacitra died and  wasburied in a small forest in Ceporan, Gandhu, 9 km east of Yogyakarta.

Wiraguna then asked Rara Mendut to be his concubine. But Rara Mendut rejected him again, finally he told her about the death of Pranacitra. Mendut did not believe that and said that she saw him yesterday. . Tumenggung Wiraguna then took her to Pranacitra’s grave. She cried at the grave of Pranacitra. Not far from the grave of Pranacitra, Rara Mendut threated Tumenggung Wiraguna that she would tell Sultan Agung about this. Tumenggung Wiraguna was angry and he drew Rara Mendut home. She struggled to get loose of Wiraguna, when she could released herself she drew Wiraguna’s keris, and ran to her lover’s grave. Wiraguna ran after her. Rara Mendut killed herself, and Wiraguna failed to stop her . She stabbed herself with keris and she fell to Pranacitra’s grave. Wiraguna was very sorry for his mistake. But his sorry was useless everything had happened. To amend his mistake, Wiraguna buried Rara Mendut at the same grave as Pranacitra. That was the story of Rara Mendut struggling for her dignity and loyalty.

Rara Mendut Tale from Pati, Central Java is still told as symbol of true love by Javanese. By YM Mangunwijaya, this story was written in trilogy, Rara Mendut, Gendukku, and Lusi Lindri. A Movie adapted from the novel was also made, directed by Ami Prijono with title Rara Mendut. In 2008, a trilogy novel was published in a compilation : Rara Mendut: Sebuah Trilogi.

The message of this tale is that wealth, position, could not guarantee to get true love. True love present from understanding and accepting each other as Pranacitra and Rara Mandut.