14. A legendry cannon - Si Jagur or Kyai Setomo (from Chapter 2)



In the back courtyard of Jakarta History Museum in the Old Batavia (the present-day Kota, North Jakarta) is found an antique cannon, as big as fifteen cm calibre and four metres long, named “Si Jagur. I remember that until several years ago the cannon was located on the pavement beyond the front square of the museum (called Taman Fatahillah) but, according to old books[1],[2], it had once been positioned on the grass on the outside of the city wall. On the rear side of the barrel is attached an enormous fist, which must have been cast together with the barrel itself. Marquis Tokugawa, who saw it in 1921, wrote in his famous travelogue, Journeys to Java[2], “Although it is a kind of item that, if in Japan, would be placed in a special room and hidden from public eyes, the Dutch do not mind and leave it there exposed to anyone. Then, people are not surprised.” Indeed, the clenched fist with its thumb protruding between the pointing and the middle fingers looks strange even for us in these more modern times.

     According to the same book, there was a belief that Si Jagur was a man, alternatively called Kyai Setomo, and that “when he was to marry his fiancée cannon in Bantam [the present Banten Lama], Java would become independent by beating and expelling foreign powers”, although in reality they were to be kept separated until today, even sixty-five years after the independence of Indonesia. In the front courtyard of the Museum of Banten Lama, I saw a cannon named Ki Amuk (or Ki Pamuk), which would match Kyai Setomo in both size and shape but with no fist attached, and it was said in The Sultanate of Banten[3] that Ki Amuk was male and the other one in Jakarta was female, contrary to the description in Journeys to Java.

     According to the tradition written in a manuscript by Ranggawarsita III, a famous 19th-century court poet in Solo, and cited elsewhere, Kyai Setomo with a man’s title was no other than a male and his partner was Nyai Setomi who lived in Solo. The story is roughly as follows[4].


    Once upon a time, the king of Pajajaran saw, in his dream, a powerful weapon that sounded like thunder, and ordered his Patih [prime minister] to look for it at the risk of his life. In great difficulty, the Patih went into deep prayer with his wife, Nyai Setomi, to ask god’s help, and did not show himself to the court. Receiving a report from a messenger that two strange things were discovered in the Patih’s house, the king rushed there and recognised that they were the very weapons he saw in his dream. Then, a voice was heard that they were the incarnations of Kyai Setomo and Nyai Setomi.

     Later (after the fall of Pajajaran), Sultan Agung of Mataram who heard about the weapons ordered them to be brought to the royal capital, Kartasura. Kyai Setomo did not like to stay there and one night he went back to Jakarta by himself. When he arrived in front of the gate of Jakarta Castle, it was already morning and he could not go further. The local people regarded him as a holy cannon, called him Kyai Jagur, and offered little paper umbrellas; Nyai Setomi, who was left in Mataram and moved to the new capital, Surakarta [Solo], was not happy there and wept often. The tears she shed were received in a bowl.


     As an heirloom of the Solonese Royal Family, Nyai Setomi is held in a large coffer placed in a hall in the palaces, Keraton Kasunanan Surakarta Hadiningrat, without being exposed to the eyes of the public. In a photograph found on the internet[5], a small bowl to receive the tears shed by Nyai Setomi was placed on the floor underneath the muzzle, although the size of the cannon itself looked rather small to match her lover cannon in Jakarta. In another photograph in a newspaper[6] taken in 2010 through a semi-transparent curtain on the occasion of the annual cleaning ritual, the diameter of the barrel was apparently comparable with that of Kyai Setomo, being as large as a human head.

     As mentioned in the previous chapter (Chapter 1), Nyai Setomi and Ki Amuk appeared in the Book of Sakhender as two of the three cannons that Baron Sukmul who came from Spain gave to the Prince of Jayakarta for the price for acquiring Princess Tanuraga of Pajajaran royal lineage, although the destination of Nyai Setomi in that story was not Mataram but Cirebon. For reference, the third cannon was Guntur Geni.

     In a guidebook[7], Kyai Setomo is said to have been a trophy that the Dutch obtained during their attack at Portuguese Malacca in 1641. According to a book by Dr. de Graaf[8], Nyai Setomi had the following career.


     Nyai Setomi was an item that was probably presented to the Prince of Surabaya from the Portuguese around 1609 and was subsequently carried inland by the Mataramese when the latter seized Surabaya. Although the cannon was once plundered from the court (in Karta) in 1677 during the rebellion of the Maduranese, it was regained in the next year when the Mataram–Dutch allied force recovered the old capital. Then, it was installed in Kartasura, the new capital of Mataram. It has been held in Surakarta (Solo) ever since 1746 when the royal capital was finally moved there.


     It is supposed that the name Nyai Setomi was derived from St. Tome, a town in Portuguese Goa (1510–1961), where it was cast, and the name, Kyai Setomo, from Sancta Mariam, the name of the ship that transported the cannon. Probably, the Indonesian word, “meriam”, for cannon originated from the same word.

     With regard to Si Jagur, there was a saying among local people that an infertile woman would be blessed with a child if she visited it, as the name, Si Jagur, means “Mr. Robust” or “Mr. Fertility”. In fact, I remember that flowers were offered and incense burnt around the cannon when it was still located outside the museum.

     On the rear side of the cannon's barrel is wound a bronze belt on which is carved in relief in Latin:

           EX ME IPSA RENATA SUM (I was born from myself).

I cannot guess the intent of the gunsmith who carved this phrase and put the strange fist on an object that was a weapon of war. With respect to Nyai Setomi in Solo, such prayers as,

           Oh Jesus, Thou art the most perfect being who guides people of the world,

are said to have been carved, along with the symbol of the Portuguese king[9]. This is understandable as a sincere prayer of a gunsmith.



Si Jagur (alias: Kyai Setomo), Jakarta History Museum. Photograph taken by M. Iguchi, February 2007.




[1] F. de Haan, Oud Batavia Gedenboek uitgegeven Genootschp van Kunsten en Wetenschappen naar aanleiding van het driehonderdjarrig bestaan der stad 1919 (Eerste Deel), G. Kolff & Co., Batavia 1922.

[2] Marquis Tokugawa (translated by M. Iguchi), Journeys to Java, ITB Press, Bandung 2004/Marquis Tokugawa (diterjemahkan oleh Ririn Anggraeni dan Apriyanti Isanasari), Perdjalanan Moenoedjoe Jawa, Penerbit ITB 2006 (徳川義親 「じゃがたら紀行」, 郷土出版社 1931 (十字屋書店 1943, 中公文庫1975).

[3] C. Guillot, The Sultanate of Banten, Gramedia Book Publishing, Jakarta 1990.

[4] According to Nancy K. Florida, Javanese Literature in Surakarta Manuscripts: Manuscripts of the Mangkunagaran Palace Vol. 2, SEAP Publications, 2000, the original source was Pustaka Raja Purwa Banjaransari by Ranggowarsita (1802–73). Although the summary of the story is found in many books, such as, Suwito Santoso, Kestity Pringgoharjono, The Centhini story: The Javanese journey of life: based on the original Serat Centhini, Marshall Cavendish, 2006; Adolf Heuken SJ, Historical sites of Jakarta, 6th Ed., Cipta Loka Caraka, Jakarta 2000; Geoff Bennett, The pepper trader: True tales of the German East Asia Squadron and the man who cast them in stone, Equinox Publishing, 2006, etc., the article on the internet (below), which looked most comprehensive, has been adopted here. “Dari Nabi Ibrahim Sampai Syailendra (From Abraham to Sailendra)”, KEMBANG-KEMBANG SALAM http://mhariwijaya.blogspot.jp/2008_02_03_archive.html.

[5] “Solo”, gimonca.com. http://www.gimonca.com/indonesia/solo.html

[6] KOMPAS Citizen Image 24 Feb 2010F.


[7] Peter Turner, Brendan Delahunty, Paul Greenway, James Lyon, Chris McAsey, David Willett, Indonesia: Lonely Planet Travel Survival Kit, Lonely Planet 1995. According to an Internet article,


the cannon was made by MT Bocarro in Macao to strengthen the Portuguese fort in Malacca.

[8] H. J. de Graaf, Wonderlijke verhalen uit de Indische historie, Moesson, Den Haag 1981. The content is cited in "Bericht Onderwerp: De kanonnen bij de Solose kraton (28 okt 2010)" in, http://indonesie.actieforum.com/t3516 de kanonnen bij de solose kraton.

[9] Indro Nursito, “Legitimasi Kekuasaan Raja Mataram: Kangjeng Nyai Setomi, Meriam dari Portugis yang Keramat (The Legitimacy of the Power of Mataramese King: Nyai Kangjeng [Lady] Setomi, a Sacred Portuguese cannon)”, October 1, 2010 http://www.timlo.net/baca/4202/kangjeng-nyai-setomi-meriam-dari-portugis-yang-keramat/