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PULAU BANYAK > HISTORY AND TALES


Click to enlargeThe earliest people in Pulau Banyak lived on the biggest island Pulau Tuangku. They probably arrived from Simeulue in the northwest. In the 18th century Tuangku was a minor kingdom controlled by the Sultan in Banda Aceh. It functioned as a transit point for slave traffic from Nias to Aceh. As a result, the population is a mix of several ethnic groups. The population of Desa Ujung Sialit came however directly from Nias in the first half of the last century.

Tourism started to develop in 1994 and reached its height in 1997 with almost 1.000 visitors per year. After that tourism all over Indonesia, especially in Sumatra, started to decline due to the Gulf War, smoke from burning forests, new visa rules, and increasing political unrest in Aceh. The martial law in Aceh between 2002 and 2005 killed all tourism. What was left of bungalows fell apart and were finally washed away by the tsunami in the end of 2004.

SOME TALES FROM THE ISLANDS

There are many sea ghosts (Hantu Laut) in Pulau Banyak and they get the blame for many bad things. There are both female and male sea ghosts. These ghosts are not human, but instead are some kind of fish ghosts. The female ghost is called Bundung. Her evil specialty is to climb the masts of ships. Up in that position she is visible, but otherwise not. Up in the mast she can attract lightning to the ship or she can empty her bowels over the ship. The excrement looks like palm oil and the end result is that the ship sinks.

The male ghost is called Ka'aswin. He can be seen at the start of storms. He has one eye, which appears as a green light. if you come too close it turns red instead and then it can be very dangerous. Ka’aswin influences your brain and can cause boats to sail aground. He can also give you a fever. If a fisherman sees the eye he says the name "Ka'aswin" repeatedly.

The crocodile ghost (Hantu Buaya) can enter a crocodile and make it vicious. The last crocodile on Palambak Besar disappeared in the beginning of the 70ies, but according to some people there is one still left, living together with a crocodile ghost, somewhere on Palambak Besar. The last time it was seen was in 1990, but its bad breath can sometimes be felt at the beach. Unfortunately, for the crocodile, he cannot get out of the jungle because too much vegetation has grown up. His genitals get stuck in the branches.

The last crocodile on Rangit Besar was killed in the seventies. it was caught by Pak Silong, a crocodile "Pawang". (Pawang is a person who can communicate with animals). He used a chicken as bait on a hook. The crocodile was nine "hesta" long. One “hesta” is the distance between a grown up’s elbow and fingertips, hand held flat out. According to another version the crocodile was killed by an old woman with a piece of wood from a magic tree. She just hit the crocodile in the head three times and it died.

In the old time, when a fisherman met a crocodile at sea, he used to say: "Jauh nenek, jauh, saya pergi cari makan" (Go away grand mother, go away, I am just looking for food.)

In Bangkaru there were many ghosts. Until 20-30 years ago people used sailing boats to go there. There were always three persons an board. One of them was a "Dukun" (A traditional healer with supernatural powers). His role was to protect them all from all the devils and ghosts on Bangkaru and to make the waves smaller. The devils used to call the visitors with human voices and tried to make the visitors follow the sound. The Dukuns did a good job, as no one ever got lost and only one person ever drowned at Pelanggaran.

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