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Friday March 31st 2017

‘Susuru’: A Tale of Two Sites

Land | Wednesday, July 14th, 2016 | sundanesecorner.org

Hawé Setiawan

Welcome to Susuru (Photograph: Hawé Setiawan)

Welcome to Susuru (Photograph: Hawé Setiawan)

As we recently enjoyed our Idul Fitri holidays, we visited two places that shared a same toponym: Susuru. Both were located in West Java’s regency of Ciamis. Separated one from another they were of different districts. Both were interesting, at least for us.

The first Susuru was a settlement that was well mannered and knew how to live in harmony. Here a mosque and a church were very close to each other, just a few steps away from one to the other. On the outskirts of it, both Muslim and Catholic gravestones occupied a same public cemetery. There was no segregation.

High on a hill, closed to the sky, it was surrounded by coffee plantations. It was part of Kertajaya Village in the District of Panawangan. You can drive to the place from Panawangan’s dictrict centre toward the hilly paths. You can also drive from the main road of Kawali, which is a nearby district. In our eyes the asphalt road to the village was under reparation.

Wilujeng boboran siam,” said some old ladies, expressing Idul Fitri greeting in polite Sundanese to us, as we passed to the front of St. Simon Church. The small church was right in the front of a madrasa, which are separated only by a small road. We just finished our afternoon prayer at Al-Ikhlas Mosque, a few meters away from the church, right at the end of the ramp, before a steep downhill road to the coffee plantations.

Here, as in many other villages, Sundanese was well maintained. In a fine Sundanese, an announcement on the mosque’s windowpane showed mutual cooperation of the villagers in performing evening activities during the Holy Month of Ramadan, not least concerning the obligation to pay alms.

When we disembarked from the village, out of the dense coffee plantations, we stopped for a moment at a junction. There was an old man by the roadside, and we asked him which way to take us to Kawali. “You can take the right road or the left one. Both are fine,” said him in polite Sundanese.

The pundén in Mount Susuru (Photograph: Hawé Setiawan)

The pundén in Mount Susuru (Photograph: Hawé Setiawan)

The next day we went to the second Susuru — Mount Susuru to be precise. My nephew Zidan guided us there, into the interior of Cijeungjing District Cijeungjing, toward the Village of Kertabumi. There we visited an ancient site that saved ancestral traces of the great Galuh’s society.

The ancient park of Mount Susuru was located on a hilltop. We took a footpaths staircase, like a stairway to heaven. The hill was surrounded by two rivers that flowed in the same direction, i.e. Cileueur and Cimuntur, before the two fused in Citanduy that flowed toward another ancient site of Karangkamulyan. Tall plants of teak grew around a pundén, a sort of holy place, and in the surrounding hills, providing a sort of sanctuary. In addition to the pundén, there were also hermitages in the form of big stones, caves, and many others.

In 2015, West Java Provincial Government issued more than IDR 900 million for building infrastructures around the site. Now, visitors can take advantage of the parking lot, public toilet, and a prayer room near the gate, as well as the walls on both sides of the path to the park. Promotion boards, brochures, and a ticket service, however, weren’t available.

On our arrival Kuswandi (50), the caretaker of the park, greeted us. The government employee previously worked at Karangkamulyan, and later moved to Mount Susuru. A hut that serves as an office stands a few meters from the pundén. Two or three colleagues assisted him at the post.

Me and Kuswandi (right), the caretaker of the ancient park of Mount Susuru (Photograph: Hawé Setiawan)

Me and Kuswandi (right), the caretaker of the ancient park of Mount Susuru (Photograph: Hawé Setiawan)

Kuswandi accompanied us to go around, telling us details of his daily activities. He also showed his findings from the area around the site, one of which was a piece of stone mortar. From the conversation we realized a number of urgent needs, such as renovating footpaths stairs, fencing the pundén, and building a room to store found artefacts.

Susuru in is also known as a plant name. Under Latin name of Euphorbia, it consists of many types. One of them, Euphorbia pseudocactus, is similar to a cactus. Thorns grew all over the stems and branches. Some cactus-like susuru also grew up around the site among teak trees.

As a toponym, Susuru is not only found in Ciamis. In Sukabumi and West Bandung, for instance, there are also Mount Susurus. In other words, there is always a region to visit, in tracing back our ancestors or simply in enjoying our holidays. At least, these are what had brought us to visit the two Susurus in Galuh.***

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