The Ikan Dewa (‘Fish of the Gods’) is a dark river carp that can be found only in Java, Sumatra, Borneo, southern Thailand and Vietnam. Because of its rarity and the legends surrounding it, the Sundanese and Javanese people consider it a sacred fish.
It can mostly be found in rivers and ponds around Mount Ciremai, West Java, such as the Cibulan, Cigugur, Pasawahan, Linggajati and Darmaloka sacred ponds.
In Java, no one dares to keep this fish at home or to eat it. Whoever is disturbing the fish is said to experience misfortunes and disasters in his life.
This fish has similar scales to the Arowana fish. The god fish has a black color with a length ranging from 60 cm to 1 meter. It is known to be very friendly to visitors.
The ‘Fish of the Gods’ is never just discarded after its death. They must be buried. If not, they are said to stink like a human corpse. This fish can live more than 20 years and is said to have has existed since the era of King Siliwangi.
Strange incidents often happen around this fish. When some visitors took pictures with the fish, the results were changing. Once the photo turned into a crown-headed woman, another time it turned into a tiger, yet another time into a naga (dragon-snake).
In Sumatra and in Thailand it is eaten however, and in Sumatra it is said to be the “food of kings”. In Thailand, this fish is known as pla pluang chomphu, where it also has an endangered status. After its habitat was destroyed due to the Bang Lang Dam, in 1999, Queen Sirikit presided to the release of some of the fish back to nature.
Later, she ordered the fish to be farmed on the Royal Project. It is today grown in large quantities by the Yala Inland Fisheries. This fish is sold at 2,000 baht (60 USD) per kg and in Hong Kong at 8,000 baht (242 USD) per kg.
The Sacred Pond of Mount Ciremai
In the Kuningan area near Cirebon (West Java), the Ikan Dewa can be found in sacred ponds in the Maniskidul village (District Jalaksana) and its surrounding areas, where it is believed to bring blessings to anyone who can touch his body.
The fish in this pond are believed to be sacred creatures. It is said that the fish have been in the pond for centuries, and their numbers, according to local residents, has never decreased nor increased.
However in that pond, the visitors can swim with the fish. The pool, built in 1939, is 70 meters long and 30 meters wide. Cool water flows directly from the slopes of Mount Ciremai. The Cibulan pond is located about 7 km from Kuningan, or approximately 28 km south of Cirebon.
Another strange fact is that when the pond water is drained, the fish that were in the pond will disappear somewhere and when the pond is filled with water again, the fish will reappear the same amount as before the pond drained.
The legend says that the Ikan Dewa in the Cibulan pond were soldiers who defied King Siliwangi, king of the Pajajaran kingdom and were cursed by him to become fish.
The Cibulan area is rich in history, myths and legends. Near the Cibulan pond also lies the Prabu Siliwangi Petilasan site, where are seven water springs, each of which having different properties for the seekers.
Near the town of Cilimus (between Cirebon and Kuningan city), also lie the natural volcanic hot springs of Sangkanhurip, as well as the Forest Sanctuary of Linggajati.
The Seven Springs (‘Sumur Tujuh’)
In addition to the pond, Cibulan attracts visitors and pilgrims to its seven sacred springs (‘Sumur Tujuh’), which are located in the Western corner of the pond area.
The Seven Springs, or Seven Wells each have a name – the Well of Glory, the Kemulyaan Well, the Well of Fulfillment, the Cirancana Well, the Cisadane Well, the Ease Well and the Safety Well.
There is a golden crab in one of the ponds. Visitors who can see the crab will be answered.
The Seven Wells surround an old shrine which is said to be the place where King Siliwangi rested after returning from the Bubat War. It is a stone structure like a menhir with two tiger stripes, a symbol of the greatness of the great King of Pajajaran.
The Seven Wells and Petilasan Prabu Siliwangi are visited by pilgrims on Friday night on a Kliwon day of the Javanese calendar. The water from the Seven Wells brings blessings and is said to grant their wishes.