Dari Pusat Tasek 27

Taib Osman
Diagram by Niranjan Rajah combining the ontologies of Taib Osman and Anker Rentse.

According to Taib Osman, in the Malay cosmology, 1. Dunia is inhabited by Man, animals, plants, objects, spirits; 2. Pusat Tasik Pauh Janggi is inhabited by Nagas, Jins, Garudas; 3. Kayangan is inhabited by Dewa, Perman; 4. Dasar Laut is inhabited by Raja Lebis. Further, according to Anker Rentse, Syurga sits above the Pokok Pauh Janggi, while Neraka lies below it. It is from below the Dasar Laut, from hell’s boiling-pot or the kawah nufaka, that rises the swirl of the Pusat Tasek. A gigantic hole between the roots causes the ocean water to disappear into the boiling-pot. A dragon guards this hole that serves as the pintu Neraka. Its body also blocks the hole, preventing the ocean from running dry. In the Pusat Tasek an account is kept of the good and the bad deeds of every human being in the world.


Dari Pusat Tasek 26

Could that be Haji Batu (on the right) climbing up the Pokok Pauh Janggi on this Wayang Kulit puppet?

In the Selangor Malay tale of Haji Batu, a man, journeying to perform the Haj, had to cross the fearsome Pusat Tasek (Navel of the Seas), a dangerous and fiendish place (Siapa terjatuh atau tergelincir, tersuruplah ia ke dalam pusar. Tempat menanti segala mara bahaya. Tempat duduk menantinya Nenek Sepit Pentala Naga di Laut Buih Gelombang Tujuh. Kalau si lemah yang sampai, maka hilang ghaiblah ia di mulut Raja Naga yang maha bisa). 

As Haji Batu’s ship went down, he clung to the Pokok Pauh Janggi in the middle of the swirl of the Pusat Tasek, and following instructions he had received in a dream, drew himself up on 7 nails that he drove into the tree. When he reached the top, he found the nest of the mythical gigantic Burong Roc (Garuda) that lived there.  He waited therein and when the Roc returned, he attached himself to the bird and flew Westward on his Journey to Mecca. (see Walter William Skeat’s Malay Magic).


Dari Pusat Tasek 13

“Itu pasal lah air pasang surut. Bodoh!”

The Dari Pusat Tasek exhibition will run at Percha Artspace, Lumut Waterfront till 19 Jan 2020. The performance for this event arises from the myth of the ‘navel of the seas’ or the Pusat Tasik Pauh Janggi. It is held in Malay folklore that somewhere in the proximity of the island of Borneo, or alternatively, somewhere off the mouth of the Perak river, there is a massive whirlpool that swirls down to the depths, draining the waters into the earth. At this nexus, rooted on the ocean floor, is the fabulous Pokok Pauh Janggi that reaches up to the heavens. At the base of this tree, at the bottom of the swirl of the ‘pusat tasek’, there is said to sit a giant crab, blocking the opening of the drain of the waters. It is the daily movements of this crab, that cause the oceans to rise and fall cyclically, giving us both the currents and the tides.