The Tradition of Female Soldiers In Indonesia
Oleh: Dra. Sri Kusumo Habsari, M. Hum.
When we ask about Indonesian national female hero, the first response is Raden Ajeng Kartini. Every 21 April, indeed, we, the Indonesians still celebrate the birth of Kartini as the emancipation day. We rarely talk about Laksamana Keumalahayati, the Acehnese queen or Cut Nyak Din and Raden Ajeng Serang as Indonesian national female hero, although the have records of colourful battles, victories and defeats.
Female soldiers have been part of Indonesian tradition. In the early eighteen-century a visitor to the Mataram court, Francois Valentijn, observed that all the guardians of the rule’s private apartments were female soldiers. The officer in command of the female soldiers was also a female with “the rank of tumenggung and a sizeable apanage grant from the court”. He also described the ruler’s female bodyguards as “armed with shields, bows, and arrows, pikes and muskets”. In 1788, one of European officials in attendance at the Yogya court remarked “the sharpshooting ability of the mounted female dragoons who were able to handle their cavalry carbines with great dexterity”.
A french estate owner who visited the Surakarta court in 1821 also reported the tradition of female soldiers there. He described the appearance of the female soldier corps: “Forty women were seated in a row immediately below the throne and were literally armed to the teeth: besides a belt with kris attached, each one held a saber or a musket in her hand”. Similarly, Admiral Wybrandt van Warwijk, in the years before the Java war (1825-1830), “saw a large royal guard formed of women armed with blow-pipes, lances, swords, and shields, and a picture of these women is to be found in the journal of the voyage. Van Goens reporte that the armed women were not only trained “in the exercise of traditional and modern weaponry but also in dancing, singing, and playing musical instruments”. The were also trained in archery and rode horses so that they displayed achievements in many disciplines. When they were in armed combat, they wor gold male clothing but when they were in archery training, they wore plain white female clothes. Although most “lady soldiers” were chosen from among the most beautiful girls, the ruler rarely took one of them as a concubine. However he might sometimes arrange their marriage with one of the great nobles of the land. Kumar has noted that “in modern Javanese literature the representation of women in armed combat and on the battlefield occurs much more frequently than one might expect”.
In his published translation the Babad Bedhah Ngayogyakarta (a contemporary Javanese account of the British 1811-1816 interregnum in the Dutch East Indies by a prince of the Yogyakarta court), Carey explained that there was mention of the name of Ratu Kencana, the principal wife of Sulta Hamengkubuwana III, who behaved in “a more manly fashion thatn the Javanese males themselves”. It was said that after the third sultan passed away, she “manfully tried to control her grief, having taken the necessary action to ensure the security of the inner kraton”. Another example of a heroic woman is Raden Ayu Yudakusuma, a daughter of the sultan of Yogyakarta. She was said to be “ a lady of ‘shrewd intelligence, outstanding ability and manly ingenuity’…(who) masterminded the massacre of the Chinese community at Ngawi on 17 September 1828 and became one of Dipanegara’s most feared cavalry commanders”.
Indonesian history also acknowledges Raden Ayu Serang as a lady “who played an active military role against the Dutch” during the 1830s. She wasl well-known as a woman with unusual spiritual power “who led a cavalry squadron in the Serang-Demak area in the first months of the war”. After independence the Indonesian government awarded two other ‘warrior women’. Cut Nyak Din and Cut Mutia from Aceh, the title of Indonesian National Hero for fighting alongside their husbands in the late 19th century Aceh War against the Dutch colonisers.
After the Indonesian declaration of independence, the state acknowledged historical woman figures as national hero because of their roles in fighting “for equal opportunities in education” and “against the colonial power during the struggle for independence”. Woman can join the military but they still have to remember their female biological destiny. Now, the question is then, why we rarely talk about the female fighters as Indonesian national female hero? Why we prefer to glorify RA Kartini, who gives the image of feminine hero, as nationa hero?
Penulis adalah Dosen Sastra Inggris UNS lulusan S3 dari Flinders Univ. Australia (08). Sedang meneliti tentang “heroic Woman” di Indonesia.
Sumber: Newsletter Kentingan, LPM Kentingan UNS Surakarta