Wali veneration exists, in the first place, because there are people who render veneration. People are not satisfied to show respect by mere recollection of these figures at home, or by ritual such as hadiwan and manaqib. To show profound reverence, people seek, whenever possible, opportunities to visit the tombs and relics of important personages. This is further accentuated by the belief that the ‘fragrance’ of their honour still remains posthumously and thus such places contain berkah (divine blessing).[7] Thus visits to these places may also bring berkah. It is therefore  critical to identify those personages who have attained local, even supra local reverence, by examining various biographical narrative accounts. As the number of the revered figures is very large, I shall confine my account to looking at those whom, I think, are the most widely known.

Certainly, there is a different degree of esteem among these figures. Each may be considered of higher or lower importance relative to the other but by and large their level of virtue is relative to a single figure, the most venerated wali, Syarif Hidayatullah (Sunan Gunung Jati). He is the centre of veneration because he is considered as the key figure responsible for the overall process of Islamisation throughout West Java, the Land of Sunda (Tanah Sunda). Other figures are peripheral and have their importance as either the patrons, disciples, descendants or assistants. The difficulty in recounting their biographies is that most of them are known locally through popular accounts either written or oral. Except possibly Sunan Gunung Jati, these other figures are more mythical than historical. Even concerning Sunan Gunung Jati himself, the historians disagree.[8] Because of the lack of historical evidence my account of the venerated figures is, thus, based on local sources especially the Babad (Cirebon Chronicles). But even to follow these sources a difficulty still arises because there are so many versions of the Babad. These Babad, however, can be broadly divided into those which have been collected, and those which are still in the hands of private owners. Among the former are those which are in the collection of either the Manuscripts Division of the National Library, National Archives in Jakarta, or the University of Leiden. There are at least  16 volumes in the National Library in Jakarta alone, one of which is a recent addition donated by Tjokrosubroto, an army Lieutenant from Cirebon. Some versions of the Babad are available in the market in Cirebon, some others are not. Examples of these Babad are as follows:

  1. Babad Tjerbon, edited by J.L.A. Brandes and D.A. Rinkes (1911), collection No. 36, Deel LIX, Batavia: Albrecht.

  2. A comment from linguistic and historical perspectives of this Brandes' edition is given by Ekajati (1978), Babad Cirebon Edisi Brandes: Tinjauan Sastra dan Sejarah, Bandung: Fakultas Sastra, Universitas Pajajaran.

  3. Tjarita Purwaka Tjaruban Nagari by Pangeran Arya Tjarbon supposedly written in 1720, which has been partly translated by Atja (1972).[9] Atja has also made an overall revised edition with an introductory comment which appeared in 1986 as Carita Purwaka Caruban Nagari: Karya Sastra Sebagai Sumber Pengetahuan Sejarah, Bandung: Proyek Pengembangan Permuseuman Jawa Barat.[10]

  4. Perjuangan Wali Sanga, Babad Cirebon (Pasundan), by H. Mahmud Rais and Sayidil Anam (1957), reprinted more than once and available in the market. My own copy is a 1986 reprint.

  5. Babad Tanah Sunda, Babad Cirebon, by P.S. Sulendraningrat (not clearly dated), also available in the market, my copy is a 1984 reprint.

  6. Babad Cirebon Asli, by P.B Ardiningrat, a mimeographed version dated 1913. I suspect my copy is a recent reprint although its reprinting date is not indicated.

  7. Babad Cirebon (of ‘Klayan manuscript,’) a newly found version owned by Taryadi Tjokrodipuro from Klayan, Cirebon. This version has been transcribed into Roman script with an introduction and summary by S.Z. Hadisutjipto (1979), entitled Babad Cirebon, Jakarta: Proyek Penerbitan Bacaan dan Sastra Indonesia dan Daerah, Departemen Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan.

For convenience, my recount of Cirebonese holy men is mainly based on Babad Tjerbon of the Brandes' collection (No.1 above). This is an older edition among other Babad and already known to Western scholarship. I will refer further to this Babad as ‘Babad Tjerbon.’ In addition to this I shall also take into account oral explanations from Juru Kunci (key bearers or custodians) of the kramat site(s) in regard to figures on whom the Babad tells only very little.[11] The figures I wish to include in this discussion are: Walangsungsang, Rarasantang, Syarif Hidayatullah (Sunan Gunung Jati), Pangeran Bagus Pasei, Syeikh Kahfi, Pangeran Panjunan, Nyi Mas Gandasari and Syeikh Magelung. These personages are among the most important focus of wali veneration in Cirebon. The first four are buried at Gunung Sembung; Syeikh Kahfi is at Gunung Jati, Pangeran Panjunan at Plangon, Nyi Mas Gandasari at Panguragan and Syeikh Magelung at Karang Kendal.

Walangsungsang (Cakrabuana) and Rarasantang

Babad Tjerbon recounts that Walangsungsang (Cakrabuana) and his sister Rarasantang, mother of Sunan Gunung Jati, were the children of the king of Pajajaran from his marriage to a woman from Singapura (4 km north of Cirebon).[12]   Cakrabuana took Rarasantang with him on pilgrimage (to Mecca). When they were in Arabia they made a visit to Baitulmaqdis (Beta ’lmoeqdas) at the time when the ruler of Bani Israil in Egypt (Mesir), Maulana Mashuda or Huda, was in mourning because his wife had just passed away.[13] Maulana Huda instructed his minister (qadi or penghulu), Qadi Djamaluddin and his family, to find for him a woman whose appearance was like his former wife. It happened that the qadi met with Cakrabuana and Rarasantang who were on their way to Baitulmaqdis. The minister found that Rarasantang and Maulana Huda's former wife were alike and reported the matter to Maulana. Upon learning this Maulana Huda asked the minister to summon Cakrabuana and Rarasantang to his palace and thence, after Rarasantang stated her requirements and the maulana granted them, the marriage occurred. Among the requirements was that Rarasantang wished to have a son to become a wali who would preach Islam on Java. After his pilgrimage Cakrabuana took a new name, Haji Abdullah Iman (haji Ngabdoellah Dzoe'liman); Rarasantang, upon marriage, took the new name, Syarifah Mudaim (syarifah Moeda'im). After marriage, Maulana Huda and Mudaim went to Mecca on another pilgrimage. They reached Medina in the month of Rabi'ulawwal, visited the Prophet's tomb and stayed in Medina until the month of Shawwal. They continued their journey to Mecca and did an umrah.[14] They stayed in Mecca for a period of time where, on the month of Safar, Mudaim bore a child, Syarif Hidayatullah (Hidajat sjarif). When Syarif was 40 days old, they returned to Egypt.[15]

After acting as the wali at Rarasantang's marriage to Maulana Huda, Abdullah Iman returned to Java but not to Pajajaran (Pedjadjaran) but instead, to Cirebon. He married Riris, the daughter of a local Kuwu and upon the kuwu's death he took his father-in-law's office and position as Kuwu, with the new name Pangeran Carbon (pangeran Tjerebon). From this marriage Pangeran Carbon had a daughter, Pakungwati, who later stayed at the Great House of Jalagrahan (dalem agung Padjalagrahan). Pangeran Carbon himself stayed at Cirebon Girang although his office was at Lemah Wungkuk.[16]

Syarif Hidayatullah (Sunan Gunung Jati) and Fatahillah

Babad Tjerbon goes on to recount that Maulana Huda passed away when his sons Syarif and Nurullah, were still infants, and thus the sultanate was taken care of by Maulana's brother, Raja Ongkah (radja ‘Oenqah). When Syarif passed adolescence Ongkah took him to a special room where a box, the heirloom from the maulana was stored. Upon opening the box Syarif found a book about the Essence of Muhammadiyah (haqeqat Muhammadiah) written in golden ink.[17] This book inspired Syarif to asked his mother's permission to leave the palace to seek the knowledge about the essence of Muhammadiyah. He told his mother and Ongkah to give his rights to the sultanate to his brother, Nurullah. He then set off on an adventure.[18]

After his spiritual adventure, Syarif returned to Egypt for a reunion with his mother, uncle and other family members. He did not stay with the family for long as he soon asked permission from her mother to leave the palace to study religion from distinguished teachers. First he went to Medina to visit the Prophet's tomb, then to Mecca and studied with Syeikh Tadjmu'ddin al-Kubri. After studying with this Syeikh he moved to another Syeikh, named Ata'ullahi Syadzili, then to another teacher, Maulana Datuk Siddiq at Surandil and took an initiation in the Khalwatiyah order (‘sjoeghoel chalwati wirid’). From Surandil he continued his journey to Java via Banten where he found a Muslim community there due to the work of Sunan Ampel. From there he went to Kundul to see Syeikh Madzkur and to Kudus to see Datuk Bahrul who taught him the whole corpus of Islamic religion comprising the syare't, tarekat, haqeqat and ma'rifat (ma'rifatoe'llahi Ta ‘ala). Datuk Bahrul authorised and suggested him to start preaching the Islamic faith, but Syarif said that he needed to contemplate first at Banyu Putih, (‘banjoe Poetih,’ literally meaning white water) where Maulana Dhofi did the same thing.[19]

When Syarif (Sayid Kamil) visited Sunan Ampel, the sunan advised him to go to Cirebon and to stay first at ‘Gunung Jati Sembung.’ Syarif took the advice and went to Cirebon. On his voyage to Cirebon he met Patih Keling and his men who numbered 100. Syarif asked them to embrace Islam saying that he would be responsible if the conversion angered Patih Keling's master. Patih Keling and his men were convinced and embraced Islam, then escorted Syarif to Cirebon and stayed  at Gunung Sembung.[20] In Cirebon Syarif met, and was welcomed with warmth and cheer by, his uncle and all of his family, including Nyi Dalem Pakungwati, daughter of Kuwu Carbon, who later became his wife. Pangeran Cirebon Girang and Kuwu Carbon held a meeting and decided to cease paying the tribute of shrimp paste’ (terasi) to Pajajaran. This angered of the king of Pajajaran who sent a group of inspectors and soldiers to investigate the matter. When the group reached Gunung Kromong by night they saw a light shining at the peak of Gunung Sembung. This light guided them. Before they reached Gunung Sembung however, at the mount Patahunan, they were mysteriously rendered lame, trapped by the marvel of ‘kalimah syahadat’ and were finally converted to Islam.[21]

Haji Abdullah Iman told Maulana Jati to take power and to claim authority as the heir of Pajajaran, to an area from western end of Java (Ujung Kulon) eastward to Cipamali in Brebes (Central Java). Beyond that border eastward, he said, Maulana Jati was not heir (‘dede waris kita’), but the land belonged to Majapahit. Maulana Jati, however, did not take power immediately but left it instead to his uncle, Haji Abdullah Iman, because he wanted to go to Egypt first and bring his mother to stay with him in Java. Moreover, he said, he also wished to visit the Prophet's tomb in Medina for his blessing and Baitulmaqdis for other prophets' permission.[22] Before  going to Egypt he went with Pangeran Maqdum and met Ki Gede Babadan whose daughter, Nji Mas Babadan, he married.

On his way to Egypt Maulana Jati stopped in Johor where he obtained a disciple, ‘Abdulrahim. From Johor he went to China to fulfil an invitation from the Chinese emperor who wished to test Maulana Jati's saintship. The emperor summoned his daughter, Nio Ong Tin, and asked Maulana Jati to say whether or not “the unmarried girl's confession that she was pregnant” was true. Maulana Jati answered that it was true that the girl was pregnant. The emperor laughed and said that Maulana Jati was not a true saint, because he was unable to recognise the truth that the girl was not really pregnant. He even denounced Maulana as a liar and asked him to leave China immediately. The Babad recounts that after Maulana Jati had gone the emperor found that his daughter, who had been referred to as “the unmarried girl” was really pregnant. Feeling deeply embarrassed by this affair, he sent a ship with his daughter on board (to Cirebon) at night to avoid detection. He told his daughter to surrender herself to the Maulana.[23]

In Egypt Maulana Jati settled all his family business including the passing on of his rights to the throne to his brother Nurullah, then asked his mother to return with him to Java. Returning from Egypt with his mother, Maulana Jati stopped at Surandil to fetch his friend, raja Lahoet; he landed at Muara Jati. He stayed there to preach Islam and found the Chinese emperor's daughter was already there. He converted her to Islam along with others such as Babu Dempul, Adipati Cangkuang and Patih Gering. Maulana Jati travelled with Adipati Cangkuang through Pajajaran. He reached Banten where Maulana Jati met Putri Kawunganten, married her, and took her to Cirebon to stay at Muara Jati village. From this marriage he had a son Sabakingking, and a daughter Ratu Winaon.

Afterward came hostile white men, who caused serious disturbances. Patih Keling thought that they were from Keling sent to support Pajajaran. Pangeran Carbon, Patih Keling and Adipati Cangkuang made up the necessary preparations and went to battle until all enemies were driven away.[24]

Along with the appointment of the other wali in other places, Maulana Jati was appointed ruler of Cirebon (‘Tjerebon’) by the Wali Council. From this time on Maulana Jati became Sunan Gunung Jati. The Wali Council was mainly concerned with theological issues and was attended by Sunan Bonang, Syeikh Majagung, Sunan Gunung Jati, Sunan Kali Jaga, Syeikh Bentong, Maulana Maghribi, Syeikh Lemah Abang, Sunan Giri and Pangeran Kudus.[25] Soon after his appointment, Sunan Gunung Jati erected the great mosque, (Sang) ‘tjipta rasa,’ located at ‘tegal pangalang-alang’ (the field of wild grass). At that time, another mosque had been erected in Demak, the region where Raden Fatah was the ruler.[26] Babad Tjerbon also says that Sunan Gunung Jati was involved in the defeat of Majapahit by Demak in which he (Sunan Gunung Jati) was responsible for mounting the siege on the west  front. The war between Demak and Majapahit is described by the Babad as a total war involving not only physical force but also mystical power, where the superiority of karamat (honour from God) over istidraj (magic) was attested.[27]

Babad Tjerbon recounts Sunan Gunung Jati's marriage to a woman from Tepasan Adi from whom he had a son, Pangeran Pasarean, and a  daughter, Ratu Ayu, while from his royal wife (garwa jati) he had Pangeran Kelana Adi and Pangeran Gung Anom (Sedang Lautan). Sunan Gunung Jati entrusted his position to his son, Pangeran Pasarean, while Sunan Gunung Jati himself went about to preach Islam. He converted the people of Bandung, Cianjur, Sumedang, Bogor and Jakarta (‘Djaketra’) but the ruler of Galuh, Kuningan and Ciamis showed animosity toward him. Some of the converts became religious hypocrites (munafik) so that he was forced to send representatives. He appointed Raja Lahut his representative in ‘Djaketra,’ Sabakingking (Seba-kingkin) in Banten, Haji Abdullah Iman in Pajajaran and Raja Sengara in Tegal Luar.[28]

Sunan Gunung jati strengthened his relationship with Demak by establishing a marriage alliance.[29] Sunan Gunung Jati's son, Gung Anom, married Raden Fatah's daughter, Ratu Nyawa. Not long after the marriage, Gung Anom died at sea, becoming known as Pangeran Seda(i)ng Lautan: the prince who died at sea; he was buried at Mundu. Pangeran Pasarean, another Sunan Gunung Jati's son, replaced Gung Anom to become Ratu Nyawa's husband and stayed in Demak.[30]

Figure 6.1: Marriage alliance between Sunan Gunung Jati and Raden Fatah
Figure 6.1: Marriage alliance between Sunan Gunung Jati and Raden Fatah

This alliance was still further strengthened when Sunan Gunung Jati's daughter, Ratu Ayu, married Sultan Demak, the successor of Raden Fatah, from whom Ratu Ayu inherited a set of musical instruments (‘gamelan sekati’). After the Sultan of Demak died, Ratu Ayu remarried a ‘noble from overseas’ (wong agoeng sabrang), named Ratu Bagus Pasei (‘ratoe bagoes Faseh’), and had a daughter, Ratu Nawati Rarasa. Nawati Rarasa married son of Pangeran Pasarean, Dipati Pakungja or Dipati Ingkang Seda(i)ng Kemuning. They begot a son, Pangeran Agung Pakung Radja  who, upon Sunan Gunung Jati's death, succeeded to rule Cirebon.[31] The noble man from overseas, named as Ratu Bagus Pasei, is identified by some writers, especially Babad commentators, as Fatahillah, Faletehan or Fadhilah Khan.[32] There is disagreement among some writers, especially historians, on whether or not Syarif Hidayatullah (Sunan Gunung Jati) and Fatahillah alias Faletehan alias Tubagus Pasei alias Tagaril alias Fadhilah Khan are the same person.[33]

Syeikh Datu Kahfi and Pangeran Panjunan

According to local commentators, Syeikh Datu Kahfi is locally equated with Syeikh Idhofi, whose tomb is at Gunung Jati (the former Amparan Jati hill). He is believed to have been a religious teacher predating Sunan Gunung Jati. Babad Tjerbon, however, says very little about him. He is referred to firstly as ‘Molana Dhofi,’ the one who had a place of spiritual seclusion (petapan) at ‘banjoe poetih’ (?) Sayid Kamil (Maulana and later Sunan Jati) used this site for meditation before he started preaching Islam.[34] Secondly, the Babad mentions Syeikh Datu Kahfi (‘shekh datoe Kahfi’) in relation to Pangeran Panjunan. Pangeran Panjunan followed Syeikh Datu Kahfi from Baghdad to Java.[35] Babad Tjerbon does not clearly state  who Molana Dhofi and Syeikh Kahfi were, nor whether both names refer to the same or to different persons.

According to the Babad Tjerbon the original name of Pangeran Panjunan was Maulana Abdul Rahman. He led a group of Arab immigrants from Baghdad including his own sister, Siti Baghdad, and brother, Syeikh Abdul Rahim.[36] They came to Java in three ships and settled separately in Sembung, Muara Jati, Junti (17 km north of Cirebon) and Japura (13 km east of Cirebon). They followed Datu Kahfi who came to Java much earlier and who settled at Muara Jati. Ratu Hud, Pangeran Panjunan and Sunan Gunung Jati were said to have a kinship relation where Sunan Gunung Jati was Panjunan's cousin (‘sederek misanan’). Pangeran Panjunan initially adopted the Jabariyah school of theology but after having been involved in a theological debate with Sunan Gunung Jati, he took an oath (be'at) to follow Sunan Gunung Jati's way.[37] He and his families, who were engaged in making pottery (awangoen gegetak), were given homage at Panjunan, a site in the city of Cirebon. The Panjunan mosque, one of the antiquities in Cirebon, is attributed to him. Until now, his descendants (local Arabs) who live around this mosque still retain their pottery making traditions. It is said that they do this to preserve their hereditary occupation which lays stress on spiritual rather than economic values. Upon his death Pangeran Panjunan was buried at Plangon (12 km south-west of Cirebon) and  thus came to bear the name of Pangeran Plangon (‘pangeran ing Pelalangoen’). His tomb attracts visitors, especially on 27 of Rajab (Rejep) when a festival is held annually.[38]

Nyi Mas Panguragan and Pangeran Karang Kendal

The locally well-known Nyi Mas Panguragan or Nyi Mas Gandasari and Pangeran Karang Kendal or Syeikh Magelung are important because their tombs have become popular foci of wali veneration in Cirebon outside the Astana grave complex where Sunan Gunung Jati and others are buried. Babad Tjerbon, however, tells very little about these figures. It only recounts that not long after Maulana Jati married Nyi Mas Babadan, he met a young saint (pandita), whose name was Pangeran (ing) Karang Kendal. This pangeran willingly became Maulana Jati's disciple and agreed to travel together to preach Islam.[39] Later, they met a woman, an Egyptian princess (‘poetri Mesir’), younger sister of Tubagus Pasei. The princess requested Sunan Gunung Jati to help her make a decision.[40] Sunan Gunung Jati agreed to help her by saying that if she would rather wait (to marry?) in the hereafter, whereas in this world, she would become Maulana Jati's disciple.[41]

As the Babad Tjerbon does not indicate clearly who the Egyptian princess was (except that she was Tubagus Pasei's sister) a rather intricate explanation about these figures was given by juru kunci (custodians) at Panguragan where Nyi Mas Gandasari was buried. It was said that Gandasari was an Achenes who had been taken by Cakrabuana upon his return from his pilgrimage to Mecca when she was still a child.[42] At fifteen she learned Islam from Sunan Gunung Jati and began to follow the Sufi way under the guidance of Sunan Gunung Jati. Although she was a woman, she was very much interested in and paid special attention to acquiring the art of self defence and had an instrumental role in the defeat of Rajagaluh a vassal-state of Hindu Galuh-Pajajaran. Due to her beauty and with high competence in the art of self defence she could fool Prabu Cakraningrat, the then ruler of Rajagaluh who, in the hope of attracting and then marrying her, took her and showed her everything about the marvels and excellence of Rajagaluh, including the detailed security of the kingdom. This paved the way for Cakrabuana, the army commander of Cirebon, to make the necessary plans to bring about the fall of Rajagaluh. Gandasari was buried at Panguragan and from this the name Nyi Mas Panguragan is derived.[43]

In 1991, her tomb and musoleum were thoroughly renovated with the construction of permanent stone buildings with modern ceramic tiles which cost about Rp 200,000,000.00 (more than A$ 120,000.00). The funds came from a donor named Hellina Ratu Handia, a rich Central Javanese business woman staying in Jakarta who felt obliged to do this for her success in business.[44] According to Pak Yamsir, the key bearer, Ratu Handia was once a visitor at this kramat. She is a business woman initially engaged in jewellery making, who opened a construction firm and won a tender valued at a billion rupiah. Feeling that her success had some relationship with barakah from her visit to this kramat, she offered to fund the renovation.[45]

The legend of Gandasari would be incomplete without incorporating Syarif Syam alias Pangeran Soka alias Syeikh Magelung alias Pangeran Karangkendal. Pak Chaeruman, the juru kunci at Karang Kendal, did not reveal who Syeikh Magelung really was, only that he came from Syam (Syria), hence his name Syarif Syam. He had already adopted the Sufi way when he was young and his presence in Cirebon was as a Sufi wanderer. He is said as to have had very long hair which, when it was loosened, would reach the ground and so he always knotted (gelung) his hair. As a result he was called Syeikh Magelung (the Syeikh with knotted hair). The reason for having the long hair was because no one could cut it. The hair was invulnerable to all cutting devices. He wandered from place to place in search of someone who would  be able to cut his hair. Should he find someone, he would be willing to surrender to him and become his disciple. He finally arrived in Java (Cirebon) where, at a site in the city of Cirebon, he found an old man who was able to cut his hair quite easily. The old man was Sunan Gunung Jati; thence Syarif Syam happily became Sunan Gunung Jati's disciple and his name was changed to Pangeran Soka (from suka, meaning ‘like’ or ‘happy’). The place in the city of Cirebon where his hair was cut is called Karang-getas (‘the land easily cut’).[46] He lived in Karangkendal, 19 km North of Cirebon, and after he died he was buried there and from then on, he was known as Pangeran Karangkendal.

His relation with Nyi Mas Gandasari started when he wandered westward from Cirebon and he found a crowd for whom Nyi Mas Gandasari was the centre of attention. Upon completing her learning of tasawuf from Sunan Gunung Jati, Nyi Mas Gandasari was advised to think about taking a husband. There were many offers of marriage, making it hard for her to make a choice. To make the decision easier she announced a competition by which she declared that any man who could beat her in a fight, would be the one she would take as her husband. The watching crowd was made up of both spectators and competitors attempting to win her. There were many princes and knights who attempted but no one succeeded. Pangeran Soka introduced himself and challenged Gandasari to a fight. Although their powers were really equal and balanced, Gandasari, who was exhausted, jumped behind Sunan Gunung Jati to hide from Magelung's attack. Disregarding the fact that there was someone sitting between them, Magelung tried to grab Gandasari and almost hit Sunan Gunung Jati's head; but before his hand reached the head he fell down powerless. Sunan Gunung Jati helped him and mediated by declaring that neither one was winner or loser.

Plate 22: A gate at Kramat Nyi Mas Gandasari.
Plate 22: A gate at Kramat Nyi Mas Gandasari.

Plate 23: The tomb of Nyi Mas Gandasari.
Plate 23: The tomb of Nyi Mas Gandasari.

Nevertheless, since the contest was intended to find a partner, while in fact both contestants were Sufi and were not really willing to marry, it was agreed that they would marry not in this world but in the hereafter.[47]

As the association of these figures with Sunan Gunung Jati is limited, it is difficult to judge how important these personages were to him. What these legends reveal is that both Gandasari and Magelung represent Sunan Gunung Jati's sincere disciples. Both are considered as wali but are peripheral figures. They somehow had kinship relations with Sunan Gunung Jati and their share in the process of Islamisation was considered instrumental, especially in the defeat of Rajagaluh and Talaga, vassal states of Hindu Galuh-Pajajaran.[48]