Culture | Saturday, 20 March 2010 | sundanesecorner.org
In spite of the fact that his contributions to the study of Old Sundanese culture and history are of great value, little has been written about Atja [pronounced a-cha]. Thanks to Ajip Rosidi’s recollection in Mengenang Hidup Orang Lain: Sejumlah Obituari (Recalling The Life of Others: Some Obituaries, 2010) and the Ensiklopedi Sunda (Encyclopaedia of Sunda, 2000), we are saved from a total ignorance about this gentleman.
Atja was born in Situraja, Sumedang, on 12 May 1929. He studied language and literature at Indonesian University. In his college years he taught at a high school in Jakarta. After graduated from university, he worked as a curator at National Museum in Jakarta in the end of 1950s or the beginning of 1960s. Working at the museum, he began studying Old Sundanese manuscripts.
In 1967 he taught Sanskrit and Sociology at IKIP Bandung (the present day Indonesian University of Education), and taught also at Padjadjaran University (Unpad). He worked as the Director of Sri Baduga Museum in Bandung from 1984 to his retirement. Atja died of a heart attack at a hospital in Jakarta on 21 April 1991.
Old Sundanese manuscripts from 16th and 17th century that have been studied by Atja (and his colleagues) are Sanghiang Siksa kanda ng karesian (i.e. the oldest Sundanese manuscript that have been known so far), Carita Parahiangan (the Story about Parahiangan), Amanat Galunggung (The Admonition from Galunggung), Carita Ratu Pakuan (The Story about King of Pakuan), Séwaka Darma, and the so called Naskah Pangéran Wangsakerta (The Manuscripts of Prince Wangsakerta) or Naskah-naskah Cirebon (The Cirebonese Manuscripts).
In 1984 there was “Sawala Kebudayaan Sunda” (Discussion on Sundanese Culture) in Jakarta, which was organized by Yayasan Pembangunan Jawa Barat, a cultural foundation led by Didi Kartasasmita. Doddy Tisnaamidjaja and Koesnadi Hardjasoemantri, two prominent scholars, organized the committee of the Sawala. In his speech, H. Didi Kartasasmita, a retired army general, said that “Sawala Kebudayaan Sunda ini merupakan peristiwa yang tersendiri, yang secara spiritual dan konsepsional akan mempunyai arti yang khusus bagi kehidupan masyarakat Jawa Barat (Discussion on Sundanese Culture would be spiritually and conceptually of a specific value for the life of the society of West Java)”.
Atja was among the scholars who presented working papers in the forum. His paper was entitled “Usaha Mengungkapkan Identitas Sunda melalui Aspek Sejarah” (Efforts in Revealing Sundanese Identity based on Its Historical Aspects). Instead of conceptualized the so-called “identity”, Atja rather illuminated some historical background of Sundanese culture and society based on inscriptions, ancient travelling records, and earlier studies in history by Dutch scholars, and old Sundanese manuscripts as well.
Atja’s contributions to Old Sundanese studies are as follows:
1. Establishing a foundation of Old Sundanese history and culture studies by means of philological methods.
2. Continuing, completing, and correcting earlier studies on the subject that had been undertaken by some Dutch researchers, e.g. C.M. Pleyte and H. Ten Dam.
3. Bridging the gap between Old Sundanese writings and Modern Sundanese writings.
4. Illuminating ancient history of Sundanese culture and society.
Atja also wrote a literary work entitled Prabu Siliwangi jeung Sanghiang Borosngora (King Siliwangi and Lord Borosngora, 1971). It is a compilation of two short novels, which characterize well-known Sundanese historical/legendary figures. It also shows Atja’s deep knowledge of the history of Sundanese culture and society.