OUR JAVANESE BELL

A chance letter from a Lancashire vicar about the origins of his rather unusual church bell led to the discovery of its eighteenth-century Gresik origins. Based on a careful deciphering of the bell's three-line Javanese inscription, the present article speculates on its history, its symbolic significance for the eighteenth-century Gresik Bupatis who ordered its casting, the reasons for its presentation to the local Dutch Civil Commissioner in 1790, and the manner oaf its subsequent plunder by the British during the Napoleonic Wars. The article then compares the Gresik bell to two other bells cast in Java and Madur

in the early nineteenth century, the 'Cakraningrat Bell' made on the orders of a ruler of the court of Bangkalan in western Madura in 1840 to celebrate the granting of a Dutch knightly order {ridder orde), and a Surakarta bell crea tedat the behest of a senior court official with close links to both the Mangku- negaran and Kasunanan (Kraton Surakarta) in 1803.

An analysis of Javanese and European influences on bell casting technique and embellishment in this period, leads on to a brief resume of the function of bells in Javanese musical history since the Hindu-Javanese period, and a consideration ot the manufacturing techniques of Javanese gong smiths through to the mid-nineteenth century. The article concludes that the Gresik and Bangkalan bells were the products of the celebrated gong smithies and gun foundries of Gresik which flourished between c. 1730 and c. 1840, which are today only dimly remembered in local place names in the Gresik area.

The Gresik Bell (1754/1790)

In September 1989, after having received a letter from the vicar of the Immanuel Feniscowles Parish Church of the Anglican parish of Feniscowles in Blackburn, Lancashire, Peter Carey journeyed north from Oxford to make an interesting discovery: the swinging church bell with clapper in this parish church (see Plate 1), which had long been thought to be of Coptic Christian origin, was in fact Javanese with an inscription which linked it to the late- eighteenth-century Bupati of Gresik (see Plate 2). According to local parish sources, the bell had come into the hands of Major Sir William Fielden (1779- 1867), a local cotton magnate, ex-army officer and builder of Feniscowles church, who had served in the Mediterranean and Middle East during the Napoleonic Wars (1799-1802/1803-15). It was known that it had been trans ported by sea and canal for the church's consecration in 1836, and it was ini tially thought from the inscription that Sir William had obtained it from a Coptic Christian community in the Middle East during his war service ^).

Peter Carey's initial researches proved beyond any doubt that the bell and its inscription were Javanese. After much careful deciphering - for the inscrip tionwas badly worn in many places - the following three-line transcription was made:

Line 1: gantha puniki winastan Pun Lingga-Swara, kawangunan Kangjeng Kyai Tumenggung Jayanegara ing Nagari Tandhes,, sampuniki wardi ing din- ten Jumungah tanggal ping s[e]lawé sasi Jumadilakir taun Dal ing mangsa awaling Dhestha,, asangkala warni swara kareng-

 

Line 2: -ngé jalma angkaning warsa, 16 7 9,, loncèng puniki ing mangké sampun resak, dados kawangun malih dhateng Bupati Kasepuhan, Kyai Tumenggung Arjanagara,, [a]w[i]t [talang] disukakfajken dhateng Loji Tandhes kala Tuwan Pétor Mister Antuniyus

Line 3: Sawènkèh,, kala kaserat ing dinten Senèn tanggal ping walulékur sasi Sawal ing taun Ehé,, asangkala ébah ing jalma kaswarèng mandra,, angka ningwarsa, 1716 (2\

 

In English translation, this reads:

 

Line 1: 'This bell has been called Pun Lingga-Swara («The Image of Sound»). It was made for the Honourable Kyai Tumenggung Jayanegara of Gresik (3). Now its [chronological] meaning was given as Friday, the twenty- fifth of the lunar month Jumadilakir in the [fifth-] year [of the eight-year windu cycle] Dal at the beginning of the solar month Dhestha, with the chro nogram: «the shape of sound has been heard»'

 

Line 2: ' by man», numerical equivalent of the [Javanese] year 1 6 7 9 [19 April 1754] (4). This bell was later damaged, but was recast again by the Bupati of the Kasepuhan [ie the senior Bupati of Gresik], the Honourable Kyai Teumernggung Arjanagara. As an advance payment, this bell was presented to the [Dutch] Residency {Loji) of Gresik at the time of Tuwan Civil Commission

étor] Meester Anthonius'

 

Line 3: 'Schwenke. The time of this writing was Monday the twenty-eighth of the [lunar] month Sawal in the [second] year [of the eight-year windu cycle] Ehé, with the chronogram: «the movements of man are known [to precipitate] wandering», numerical equivalent of the [Javanese] year 1 71 6 [12 July 1790].

Immanuel Javanese Bell

Plate 1. Immanuel Feniscowles Parish Church of the Anglican Parish of Feniscowles in Blackburn, Lancashire, England (Courtesy of the Reverend John Crée MA, Vicar of Feniscowles); the Gresik bell kept in it.