Notes on Nusa Penide (Gertis, 1925)

The essay below by A.Gertis (published in 1925, written probably a year earlier) makes interesting historical reading as the text gives a detailed (human) geographical account of the island in the early twenties. Hence, the spelling of Indonesian names is the same as in the original article. Translation into English, headings, additional comments in square brackets and the use of bald text in the article by Godi Dijkman.

gertis1925 00 mapImage right: Map of Noesa Penide (Gertis, 1925)

Noteworthy details: Nusa 'Penide' at the time was still a part of the district of Gianyar, instead of Klungkung (Semarapura) as it is today. Gertis also gives a detailed description of water scarcity and the way people dealt wit this problem, using natural wells at the bottom of steep cliffs, man-made and very unhygienic wells along the north coast in Ped, which led to epidemics and even a near standstill in the numbers of births, the construction of "djoembangs" (bottle-shaped reservoirs for water storage for human consumption), and "goemblengs" (pond-like water reservoirs used for cattle) in highland villages.

Notes on Noesa Penida

by A. Gertis (1924/25) with a map, 10 photographs and two drawings

Southeast of Bali, virtually in the middle between Bali and Lombok, we find the limestone island of Noesa Penida. With favourable winds and calm sea, the island can be reached within a few hours from the beach settlements of Sanoer or Koesamba (Bali) by taking a djoekoeng (outriggers) or a djangolan (small proa).


Geographically, the island is situated between 8° 437' - 8° 49' [Longitude] West of Batavia and 8° 40' - 8° 49' South; it measures 20,670 HA., more than 200 square kilometres, including the islands Tjeningan and Lembongan to the west, belonging to Noesa Penide.

In contrast to the islands of Bali and Lombok, which for the most part are of volcanic origin - except for the southern coast, which consists mainly of limestone -, Noesa Penide is entirely made of limestone. Apparently, the island has risen from the sea in three phases, with intermittent periods of some duration. The part of the island which first emerged from the sea, currently is the highest plateau of innumerable, beautiful, round hilltops, which arise above sea level at about 450 to 500 meter altitude. The plateau is approximately 8km long and 2,5km wide (image 1): the edges fall down to the sea quite steeply on all sides. This sloping surface is gradually less pronounced, to the point where its downhill slopes finally reach long, almost horizontal mountain ranges, forming the second plateau, at an average altitude of 220 meters above sea level. To the north and east of the island a similar mountain range is found, forming a third plateau just above present sea level.

gertis1925 01 landscape529mImage left (1): Landscape, seen from a vantage point at 529 meters (Gertis, 1924)

The south and west coast are entirely different. There, the waters of the Indian Ocean for centuries have raged a battle against their archenemy: the land. Unremittingly, the waves of the Southern Seas have rolled on, speeding up their stately pace. As soon as they were hindered by shallow depths just before nearby land, they battered against the limestone cliffs along the coast, which are but mere obstacles to their natural course. Surely, the waves were smashed up, broken until nothing of them remained. But, one single stone, one single pebble, and perhaps even one single sand grain was loosened from the cliffs.

The upshot of this battle becomes apparent when looking at the form of the terrain. Along the south coast, a third plateau is not found. There, the cliff edges of the second plateau fall straight into the sea (image 3 & 4). Perhaps for centuries the waves have raged their battle and succeeded admirably in doing their destructive job, given the fact that the third plateau was formed. On many places this plateau was heavily undermined to such an extent, that the coast does not merely fall down in a straight line, but currently many a rock towering above the sea currently is hanging over at an altitude of about 200-300 meters.

Above all description, however, is the panorama of the sea from such a vantage point. It only takes a short instant for the insignificant human being - calling himself 'human' and presuming to be able to take control of the entire world - to realise how overwhelming this battle of the giants between water and earth is. The inhabitants of the coastal regions, people who are far closer to nature than we are, and regularly undergo nature's mighty forces, will not endeavour trying to overpower even one single sea creature by fishing with hook and line, even when this would seem feasible in many places. Neither would they try to remove the many edible swift nests - so much in demand by the Chinese - from one of the many caves, half of them inundated by waves, as Batara Baroena, the god of the sea, would surely punish this crime with the death sentence.

gertis1925 04 sekartaji coast stairsImage right (4): Steps to the well at Sekartadji (Gertis, 1924)

Ocean fauna

There is hardly any flora: cliffs are barren and of the few aquatic fauna species that manage to survive in the surge, very little is seen from above. When, however, suddenly from the depths of the sea emerges a round shell, remaining at the surface for about half a minute, with the help of binoculars, we are able to recognise one representative of sea fauna: a gigantic turtle. The shell must be a few metres across with a bright yellow neck with a snub nose, yes, even the eyes of the animal are clearly visible. Soon enough, however, we catch sight of various shells, surfacing more or less clearly at the surface. At one particular moment, I counted no less than 14 individuals of this sea creature. In between, black animals moved, resembling kalongs (flying dogs) judging by their form and colour. After close inspection, however, it appeared they were manta rays measuring a formidable 3m in length.

It is fair to say that these rays flew rather than swam through the water. If close to the surface, one could detect the tip of their wing-formed fins emerging above the water surface, slapping it at instances, so the silver-white underside of the animal reflected the sunlight. Meanwhile, we did not see any ordinary fish, which - with their graceful and lean bodies - would not have befitted these surroundings of almost prewordly creatures, thundering surf and wild, gigantic limestone cliffs, rising from the ocean in whimsical forms.

The view to the north and a part of the eastern part of the coast (image 2) is much friendlier. Although there are fierce currents around Penida and between Penida and Tjeningan, the ocean in the vicinity of this coast is quite calm. A stretch of about 50 to 300 meters has been pushed upwards by reef animals and is so high that some stick out at low tide; the population can now hunt for fish and other sea dwellers in the crevices between coral rocks. Striking are the many sea urchins, that cling to the hollow cave-like spaces between the rocks.


Noesa Penide, including mentioned smaller islands, counts some 20,475 people, according to a 1923 census. Folk religion is Hinduism, embraced by 10,300 men and 10,080 women, whereas only 42 men and 53 women embrace the Mohammedan faith.

Under administrative regulations, this region is a district, residing under the subdistrict of Gianjer (Bali). The Poenggawa (district head) resides at Sampalan, a beach village on the north coast, the place where most easily Koesamba (Bali) can be reached. Formerly, Tojapakeh (salty water) was the place where the district head resided; nowadays the customs officer (douanemantri) resides there.

Noesa Penide, for centuries, has been a place of exile; nowadays verdicts are pronounced by the Raad Kerta in Bali regarding banishments to this island. I witnessed the case of a woman, related to the district head, who, due to a debt, was banished for several months. As was the case for many other people, she was free to go where she pleased, but she was not allowed to leave the island.

In former times, exile was much more severe. In the bay in front of Kampoeng Penida there is a rock with vegetation, surrounded by fierce waves of the South Sea that find their path obstructed for the first time by land. During the rajahdom administration of Bali, the people sentenced to death, who were victim to extra painful punishment, were tied to the trees on this island. After that, the executioners left by boat in order to convey the message of conviction to the kampung head to urge him to stand guard; should the convict manage to free himself and swim to the shore, he was to be killed instantly by the keris. The head vowed for this execution with his life.

gertis1925 05 tangladImage left (5): Kampong Tanglad, the walls have been constructed of chucked-up pieces of limestone (Gertis, 1924)

The current population is actually not much different from that of Bali. The language of the north coast of the island is pure Balinese, but in the interior, however, there are some local dialects; along the south coast a Balinese has considerable trouble making himself understood. From conversations, only a series of monosyllabic cries resembling Chinese can be understood. The difference in language is most probably just a difference in dialects: in the south there are only inhabitants from the sudra cast, and no persons from higher castes. Remarkable was the discovery of a few men of forceful stature (± 1.88m).

There is little difference with regards to customs in comparison to Bali. Festivities at full and new moon (poernama and tilam), however, are celebrated regularly here, where this is not the case in Bali. For the New Year's festivities, the cave at Kajoepoetih (Séwana) serves as a place of pilgrimage for the inhabitants of the eastern half of the island; the rest gather at Poera Moendi for this purpose. Another frequently visited place of pilgrimage is the poera of the mother village (stamdesa) Pèd at some 2km east of present-day village of this name).


As on the island there is hardly any wood (timber) or clay, houses have to be built with alternative materials. The inhabitants find this building material in the softer rock layers. Similar to the Balinese, who cut out beautiful pieces from padas (sandstone) in a wide range of forms and measurements, the inhabitants of Noesa Penide cut out rectangular slabs from the rather compact sediments of limestone cliffs in order to build walls. Bamboo, growing all over the island, is used to construct the roofs, and the ubiquitous alang-alang is used for roof covering (image 5).

gertis1925 07 lembongan templegategertis1925 08 sampalan

Image left (7 & 8): Temple gate at Kampoeng Lembongan & Throne for the gods in a temple at Sampalan (Gertis, 1924)

The houses of one and the same family - this word should be interpreted in its widest sense - are placed close together, with in between the sheds (storage rooms) and other buildings: and all of these constructions are protected by a stone wall. The sanggah (house temple) at the back of each house and a decrepit old shed serving as kitchen in front of the living quarters are also part of it. In contrast to the houses, looking rather unsightly, the poera desa (village temple) with its baleh bandjars (meeting place) are spacious and are properly looked after (images 7 and 8).

Formerly, at Djoengoetbatoe on the island of Lembongan there was a desa school; this school in 1924 was moved to Sampalan, where the Poenggawa resides. There are no other places that offer education.

At two rather shabby-looking pasars, at Tojapakeh and Sampalan, the population is able to purchase goods brought in from mainland Bali. The bulk of these imported products are cotton (katoentjes), as the population of more than 20.000 souls is in need of this material, although the clothing of most people can hardly be described as luxurious.


Along the north coast, where both markets (pasars) are located and from which point connections with mainland Bali are maintained, many people wear "cap" kains. Towards the interior of the island, however, up to the third plateau at 500m altitude, and further to the south all the way down to the villages along the south coast, the click-clack of the looms can be heard and one discovers people wearing indigenous fabrics, which are very strong. Amongst these fabrics, the "sindjang-djepoh" kain shows a particularly beautiful motif. Noesa Penide is, by the way, very capable of solving the clothing issue independently and without outside help. Kapas [Gossypium obtusifolium, Cotton tree] is planted everywhere, not to satisfy export demands, but to supply the necessary raw materials to the home weaving industry. Ginning the kapas balls and the making of the strong and sturdy thread, a raw kind of yarn, is done by elderly and infirm women, who can no longer do the strenuous work around the limestone rocks. Everywhere in the kampung, these old dears are seen to work on this, using primitive tools made by the population itself.

Once sufficient yarn has been spun, the strings are then dyed in various colours. Hues of red are generally most frequent. The population is self-supporting too where it concerns the production of dyes. The sap stamped from the roots of the Kunyir [Curcuma domestica, Tumeric] plant yields all hues of yellow, depending on the added amount of water. If Candlenuts are roasted, stamped and mixed with a little water, they will provide dark to black dye. Not only the ripe fruits of the Kepundung [Baccaurea ssp., Menteng] and Tiba trees [Morinda citrifolia/tinctoria, Indian Mulberry] are eaten, but also the bark is useful for producing a red dye. The colour green is obtained by mixing yellow with brown-black. A single immersion in Kunyir sap generally suffices to produce a yellow colour; the other colours are only permanent after the yarn has been immersed a few times during two to three days in the dye.

Older and unsightly, for the most part reddish-brown coloured fabrics, are sometimes offered in Bali for dire money as these ancient Noesa Penide kains are said to have been dyed with human blood. On Nusa Penide, however, there is no evidence at all for this and not a soul has ever heard of the fact that formerly human blood was used to produce dyes. The story seems to be fabricated by sly saleswomen, who sell goods to tourists, and whose sole aim seemed to be to make a maximum profit from this kind of tales.

Once the yarn has reached the desired colour, it is put on the looms and the weaving can begin. In the Baleh tanah, a house without walls, or underneath a rice barn the weavers of the surrounding houses dedicate themselves to this task in unison. Altogether it seems to be a privilege of the young women and girls. As soon as we approached, they would put aside the yoke with which the threads were tightened into the loom, and they would flee inside.


As the population of more than 20.000 souls is importing only small quantities of foodstuffs, it will come as no surprise that virtually the entire land is used for cultivation. Of the forests, which surely much have been here in former times, only small patches remain, amongst which there are the poeras, mostly surrounded by huge waringin or kapok trees. Around some extraordinarily steep ravines, there still is some undergrowth and forest, but generally the island has been deforested completely.


The soil, consisting of a brown, coloured mixture of weathered limestone cliff material and humus, is very fertile. Everywhere, even on the highest plateau there are coconut plantations. Especially the gardens along the coast are in good shape. The badjing, a grey squirrel, which elsewhere causes great damage by gnawing on the young fruits, putting in danger the profitability of the vast plantation, is not seen very often along the coast. In areas at higher altitudes badjings are never seen.

By far the largest part of cultivated land is planted with padi gaga (dry rice) and djagoeng (corn), and in between there is kapas (cotton wool), katjang [beans] and biaoeng (sweet potatoes). Wet rice paddies, sawahs, do not exist here. Incidentally, the land produces the same fruits as in Bali, i.e. pisang [bananas], babaja [pepaya], doerian, sawoh [sapodilla], and so forth. In 1923, food stuffs import amounted to more than f50,000, of which f47,487 was spent on rice and f 1,602 on djagoeng [corn]; 4/5 of this import came from Bali and only 1/5 from Lombok.

Preparing the soil for planting is a laborious and time-consuming activity because the fields have to be constructed from zero. In the lower parts of the soil in between the limestone rocks, there are small pieces of fertile soil everywhere, but at any given place there are rocks sticking out of the soil. The cultivator has to make sure that the precious humus layer is not washed away and for this purpose constructs galangangs (dams), in much the same fashion as the sawah cultivators elsewhere. This way, along the slopes of the mountains a row of terraces are made, on which in time the soil becomes flat and horizontal because of the alluvial soil. The annoying rocks are worked out with a crowbar and pickaxe, and in turn serve as material to construct and fortify the dams.

The way these fields are created is indeed curious. If one finds oneself on the foot of a sloping terrain and one looks upwards, all one can see are the stone galangs, some meters high. The entire construction seems a fortress, defensive works, with innumerable stonewalls. But if one casts a glance from a domineering point of view on the land below, one could easily image a sawah of the Préanger area [West Java]. Hundreds of terraces along the slopes have been constructed carefully and their gracious curves follow the hillslopes, while the fresh green of young djagoeng creates the impression of mountain sawahs.

Flora & fauna

On the tops and ridges, where there is no alluvial sediment, it is impossible to gather the necessary soil, so as a result these pieces of land have remained largely uncultivated and have been covered with alang-alang and grass. On the slopes south of kampoengs Tanglad and Tjaroeban there grows a grass species, which at first sight appears to be alang-alang. It has a penetrating smell of lemon (sereh) grass [probably: Lantana camara]. At midday, cattle of the surrounding kampoengs are herded towards these hilltops covered with this grass.

Livestock & wild animals

Cattle on Noesa Penide is of the same race as in Bali and originates from a communal ancestor, the banteng. It shares the white dorsal stripe with (roe) deer etc. as well as the well-known white patch called escutcheon (melkspiegel). The numbers of livestock are considerable: in 1923 there were 8,091 cows and 10,752 registered pigs. There are no horses on the island, but the number of howling and barking dogs very much reminds us of Bali. Chickens are found everywhere, and in some places also ducks.

treron vernans02treron vernans01

Images above: Pink-necked Green-pigeons, Treron vernans (FNPF, 2011)

Of the wild animals and birds, the most striking representative is the yellow-crested cockatoo. This bird is not found in Bali, but here - at a few hours distance by boat - its piercing and unpleasant screeching disturbs the stillness of the beautiful places where large trees provide shadow for the water wells. Pigeons, amongst which many white and grey-green "bergoém" or "soegem" [probably: Treron vernans, Pink-necked Green-Pigeon], during the early morning hours and in the afternoon flock in great numbers to fruiting waringin and boenoet trees. No large predators live here, and neither do deer or kidjangs. From time to time, however, large snakes are found and hunted, which are discovered only when they have caught a chicken or a dog, and the victim cries out making a hellish racket during its death struggle.


Means of communication on the island are decisively poor. Only along the north coast, there is a coastal pathway from Tojapakeh via Pèd, Koetampi, Batoemoenggoel in the direction of Séwana. The roads towards the interior and the south coast, as well as the roads between the 119 kampoengs (altogether 12 desas) are but footpaths, and of very poor quality as well. Although there is no underbrush creeping across these footpaths, pedestrians are forced to jump from one rock to the next and climb and crawl against slippery rock surfaces, which seem almost polished by weathering. Pathways sometimes become veritable 'drainage channels' for rainwater, until the water disappears somewhere between the rocks.

The importance of water supplies is best illustrated by the fact that the water carriers on the south coast have organised a guild (sekehe toja), whose members are expected to adhere to strict rules, with the aim of reducing the dangers facing them during descent. Water is the word, which casts a spell on the entire island of Noesa Penide. The limestone cliffs immediately absorb the rainwater into its crevices. It follows its path underground and only at the beach, where groundwater is a hindrance against further sinking, it emerges at the surface in various places in the form of wells. Most of the time, these wells are located at only a few meters above groundwater level. This is the cause the population along the south coast is forced to climb down along vertical and overhanging cliffs in order to reach the costly water (image 4).

Natural cliff wells

In order to reach the wells, one has to descend about 200m by crawling down on hands and feet. In the rocks, semicircular ditches have been carved, which serve as a resting place for fingers to gain a steady hold on the rocks. Meanwhile, the feet rest on durable timber branches, which also have been attached to holes drilled into the rock. All of these branches are interconnected, forming a rather wobbly ladder or staircase. Branches for the feet and a ditch for the hands, the people climb downwards very cautiously. Should the water carrier feel tired on his way down, a mere glance at the perpendicular rocks and the roaring surf 100 or 200m below suffices to make him fasten his grip on the rocks.

gertis1925 09 waterholeImage left (9): A waterhole, around which there is a not very hygienic mud ditch (Gertis, 1924)

Man-made, unhygienic wells along the north coast

Along the flat beach of the north coast, wells are found in larger kampoengs, which were dug in unison by the inhabitants of the surroundings settlements. Given the need to drench hundreds of cattle there, the water is infected all the time. Around the well, a circular ditch has been dug (image 9). This ditch is only deep enough to make sure cattle, standing in the ditch, can reach the rim of the well with their heads, around which there are stone reservoirs filled with water. Spilt water, mixed with animal dung and urine, forms a green mush in the ditch, smelling very badly, in which cattle stand up to their knees. The liquid part of this filthy mud sinks down in between the stones and the soil and resurfaces in the well, at a distance of only 2m from the muddy mash.

The condition of these wells is, according to me, the main and single source of infection and disease, which from time to time gives rise to epidemics and which - within a few weeks - carries to the grave many inhabitants of the surrounding kampoengs. For instance, in January and February 1924, in kampoeng Lembongan more than 30 persons died, all of whom had used water from the same well. The once large kampoeng Pèd, currently utterly deserted, once suffered a terrible epidemic, and during those times not a single woman was able to give birth. Only when the rest of the population had fled in a total panic and found refuge elsewhere, the disease disappeared and women were once more able to give birth. Pèd only has one single, very unhygienically constructed, large well.

Djoembang: water reservoirs in the central highlands

The inhabitants of the settlements higher up in the interior of the island are underprivileged when it comes to water supplies: not a well or waterhole in sight, and rainwater disappears immediately in between the rocks. If these people want to have access to water from a well or waterhole, they are forced to get it from the coast, and for this purpose they have to walk some 11km on foot, including tough climbing or difficult descents of ± 500m. It is only logical that they try to solve this issue in other ways. This is the way they go about this: in a rather inaccessible place, the men of certain families start to dig out a hole in the rocks, preferably on a place where nature has already provided a crevice or a ditch. The opening of this hole is kept quite narrow, just large enough to enable the men to descend into it one by one. Downwards, the hole is widened and sometimes after years of hacking and digging they make enough progress to produce a hollow recess of ± 5m deep and ± 5m across. This recess takes the form of a gigantic subterranean bottle, whilst only the part that sticks out (the cork on an ordinary bottle), surfaces above ground (image 10). The walls of these giant bottles are carefully made, crevices and holes are closed by cement, and the walls are smoothened and even polished. The entrance then is closed off by a wooden lid with an iron lock, to make sure unwanted individuals cannot gain access to the precious water. These 'bottles' are called "djoembang".

gertis1925 10 djoembangImage right (10): A djoembang (Gertis, 1924)

Now it is time to fill the djoembang, protected from the fierce sunlight by a roof. To this aim, small houses are built in the direct vicinity. The roofs of these houses is made of alang-alang and are finished off very carefully, as during the rainy season rainwater landing on these roofs is drained into the djoembang. This way, during the dry season, there is enough drinking water. A split bamboo stick serves as a roof-gutter, and bamboo also serves as piping material along which water is transported to the djoembang. The water in these djoembangs, even after many months, is of surprisingly good quality. However, after some time has passed, the water turns light brown, as a roof made of alang-alang gives off a brown dye to the water.

Goembleng: water reservoir for cattle

Of course, the considerable need for water to drench cattle cannot be solved this way. As the kampoengs generally are built in a subsidence between hills, for protections against frequent strong winds, by digging and damming the subsidence, a basin of 20 to 30m across is comstructed. When the water coming down from the hills during the rainy season is gathered in this basin, a pond is created called "goembleng" (image 6), able to retain a considerable quantity of water. Large shady trees around it turn these spots into idyllic places, appreciated by both man and animal, especially after a march of several hours or during the time spent amidst bare and scorching hot limestone rocks.

Once of twice a day, generally at eleven o'clock in the morning and at dusk, cattle are herded towards the goembleng. The animals stand in the water and drink, but at the same time they defecate, so as a result these places are heavily polluted. At places where there is sufficient water, the dirt is able to sink to the bottom, but the greenish colour of the water indicates that it is unsuitable for human consumption. Cattle are seen to be drinking from these water sources only reluctantly.

If during the entire east monsoon the animals are drenched in the goembleng, and the islander notices his cattle is not doing too well, he chooses to lead its entire herd every three or four days to the beach, where cattle is able to fully enjoy the water from the cliff wells. The quantities of water these animals drink at such occasions are amazing. At one of these wells, I saw a cow drinking as much as 20 litres of water. Satisfied after such an opportunity, the men and their animals return to their homes and face the difficult way back home, only to find that four days later, they again have to set off towards this well as they are thirsty and have itchy eyes due to the dry conditions.


Although cattle export from Bali, and also from Noesa Penide in 1923 was considerably less than other years, this year 1,091 cattle were still shipped, representing a value of f35,049. In the same year, 1,927 pigs were exported amounting to a total value of f38,740. Last but not least, there were eleven goats, form the island's Mohammedan population, exported from Noesa Penide.

A second important export article is the edible birds' nests. Only one single cave is exploited and it is located on the small island of Tjeningan. The right to collect these nests is leased for the duration of three years. Formerly, only a few hundreds guilders were paid for the lease. During the [First] World War, however, this skyrocketed to some thousands of guilders and currently a Chinese - being assigned the lease rights at the last tender - pays more than 9,000 guilders for lease rights yearly to the government. And still, this business is profitable, as in 1923 450 kilograms of birds' nests were collected from this cave at a value of f22,900.

Copra export is not going so well. Only 78,816 kilos, at a value of f11,825, were exported in 1923. Kerosene (petroleum) is a valuable import commodity for the island and in 1923, f3,511 worth of kerosene was imported. The total value of imported products in 1923 was f61,299, and total value of export amounted to f134,690.

Cultivated area: 17,800 ha, 1000% more than prior to 1924 land surveys

The large size of the fields on Noesa Penide would indicate that the island's yield in terms of land interest (landrente) is considerable. This, however, is by no means the case. The usual surface unity is the "djoetah" of 4,500 square metres. In 1923, land interest was paid for: 1,547 djoetah 2nd class fields at f1.10 [per field, amounting to] f 1,702,17; 1,462 djoetah 3rd class fields at f0,55 [per field, amounting to] f 804.10; 28,837 coconut trees at 12 cents [per coconut, amounting to] f3,460.44; total... f5,966.71 [?]. Assuming that coconut trees are planted at a distance of at least 8m - in reality they stand at closer proximity -, then the total surface of coconut plantations is 360 djoetah. In total, land interest is paid over 3,369 djoetah = 1,516 hectares.

As land in former times was never precisely measured and the land surface was only estimated, understandably enough the land owners would never have overestimated their land, and it should come as no surprise that with the technical measurements the plantation surface proved to be much more. After concluding land measurements in March 1924, it appeared that the size of the fields - in possession of the people - amounted to 17,800 hectares (H.A.), a finding that was a thousand percent more than originally known.

The introduction of a new land interest assessment will very likely be a disappointment for the population. Many a cool card, having paid interest only over a tenth of his possessions over the last few years, will now be forced to dip a little deeper into his purse.

Legend: the genesis of Ceningan, links with China

Eastern folk in general, and the islanders in particular, experiencing nature's forces on a daily basis, dispose of a sensitive and lively fantasy. Many stories and legends regarding great battles between gods and demons are known to these inhabitants. The old kampoeng head at Koetampi even possesses a library with lontars containing many stories on this subject. All of these legends, with ample space for worshipping of deities, aim at the realisation that good deeds deliver rewards, and bad deeds will be met with punishment. In a similar fashion, there is the following story of the island of Tjeningan near Noesa Penide:

In a state of exalted pondering, the high being Sanghyang Mahadewa resided on Goenoeng Agoeng, the highest mountain in Bali. By means of concentrating his thoughts, from there he ruled the country and its inhabitants for the well-being of all. As the great god of the Chinese in far-away China felt the mighty powers emanated by Sanghyang Mahadewa - wanting to maintain the most powerful ruler over the gods, demons and people -, he decided to confuse the thoughts of the Mahadewa to such an extent that as a consequence he was to lose his divine power and would be forced to become inferior to the Chinese god. To achieve this, an attack had to be masterminded at the Mahadewa's throne on Goenoeng Agoeng, by which the very mountain would shiver and in due course collapse. For this purpose, he built a sturdy ship of gigantic measurements, which after completion would be put under the command of the Dewa Dempoe Awang, commanding him to set sail and attack the mountain with great force. The stern of the vessel managed to reach far into the land and Goenoeng Agoeng shivered.

This made Sanghyang Mahadewa change his mind, and when he witnessed the damage done to the mountain, he concentrated all his thoughts to achieve just the opposite, and managed to put a halt to the ship, at which he drove it back very far away. As a result, the ship was carried away in the strong currents between Bali and Noesa Penide and drifted farther away from Bali and was smashed against Noesa Penide's coast, until in the end it toppled and shipwrecked some hundred metres to the west of the island. Sanghyang Mahadewa turned it onto stone and since then it is called Noesa Tjeningan.

The inhabitants of Noesa Penide (images 11 and 12) still marvel at the enormous size of this petrified ship of the gods, and they were overawed by the powers of the highest god Sanghyang Mahadewa. The currents there, however, have not calmed down. Angrily, they scour at a speed of 6 to 10 miles through the narrow strait and try to take along the petrified and much hated ship with them to let it disappear into the depths of the Indian Ocean.

Captains of ships entering the Laboean Amoek Bay near Bali, witnessing the work of the Chinese vessel of the gods, i.e. the large cove with the mountains pushed upwards at both sides, cannot help but cast a grateful and respectful glance towards to the top of Goenoeng Agoeng, the residing place - he supposes - of the highest being Sanghyang Mahadewa, thinking deep thoughts on the well-being of Bali and its people.


  • Gertis, A. – Enkele aantekeningen omtrent Noesa Penida, in: 'Jaarverslag van de Topografische Dienst in Nederlandsch-Indië over 1924', twintigste jaargang, "Weltevreden" Topografische Inrichting, 1925

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