Dragons of the Lake
How to Recognize Sri Gumum if You Meet Her
Malayu stories, Sri Gumum is a
to-be-feared crocodile, while in Orang Asli stories, she is the
to-be-respected spirit of Tasik Chini, who may take the form of a
snakelike dragon but also other forms (see Legenda Naga Tasik Chini). So, if you have seen something
it was Sri Gumum? Perhaps, but here are a few things to consider before
others have, also in recent years, reported to have seen strange things
happening around the lake: Waves of unclear
origin that make boats capsize, or moving objects that on and off stick
the water. Take, for instance, my personal experience in 1992:
a swarm of flies
started to hover
in front of the door opening of a house. To enter or leave the house,
people had to walk through this swarm but, when doing so, were not
harassed by the flies. It was as if the flies were looking for a place
to stay and, as was said, were waiting to see whether the people in the
house were willing to leave the house to let them stay there instead.
The flies disappeared when it rained, but returned afterwards. They
also disappeared during the night, but returned the next day. Only
after three days, they disappeared alltogether.
Orang Asli categorize such events as mysteries. However, they
hesitate to attribute them to Sri
big snake at Tasik Chini is Sri
Gumum. For instance, the Jakun have a story about an egg-eating man
that became a snake (see The Tasik Bera Connection),
but this snake is not
She can neither be found in the place known as lubang
Sungai Chini (see Satellite
Jakun story, this hole was home to a ferocious
big snake that, however, has been killed.
to you as a crocodile? Yes, if you would see a
crocodile at Tasik Chini, it might be Sri Gumum. Currently, there are
no crocodiles at Tasik Chini, but
in Tasik Chini (which may explain the way Sri Gumum appears in Orang
Malayu stories). These crocodiles were probably Tomistoma schlegelii
(false gharial) and lived in Tasik Chini until the 1960s.
crocodiles did not
for no reason. An old woman is said to have watched over the crocodiles
until she died in the 1960s. She fed
them and they slept under her house on the lake. In contrast to the
Malayu stories, the crocodiles were
harmless (after all, according to Jakun story, once they were humans
themselves), but they left
after the old woman had died. That the crocodiles were like humans is
also clear from the next story (told by Epen in 1982 to Rosemary
at Tasik Chini
At first, there
were crocodiles at
Tasik Cini. Whatever. If we had problems, wanted to put on a kenduri or
a jamuan, dishes, bowls, pots, and pans could be borrowed, or even
rice. After the feast, we would return the dishes, bowls, pots, pans
and rice. Even if we broke them, we would return them.
Came a time when people were having a
borrowed dishes, pots, and pans, but they didn't return them anymore.
Therefore, until now, we cannot borrow these anymore. From that time,
s/he was hostile and would grab people and eat them. There were three
men paddling their canoe and he grabbed the one in the middle. The ones
at the front and back didn't realize it.
Tired of the crocodile always taking
called on some white people. So, he shot it, he shot it, then they went
home. Around midnight he returned to sleep at his house. The next day,
when the "boy" attempted to wake him up, he didn't make a sound. After
a while, he went to his room, he looked. He was dead. Therefore, the
white man there was dead and the crocodile there was also dead.
In what other form
could Sri Gumum appear to you? Well, it might be in
the form of one of the next two dragons:
3—4 meter long monitor lizards (akin to the
well-known Komodo dragon) that are known to live in Malaysia. The
Varanus Bengalensis, in particular, is known to live in/around Tasik
Chini (I sighted one in 2010). The Jakun at Tasik Chini
sometimes ate its eggs,
and they call it a geriang
(the Semelai at Tasik Bera call it a gryang). Geriang
to be an
old preMalay Orang Asli word that has been used to
name various places in Malaysia. For instance, there is Sungai Geriang,
Kampung Sri Geriang, and also the geriang-shaped
in the state of Kedah.
As it goes with spirits,
Sri Gumum is pretty elusive and it is hard to be sure that you have met
her, however strange your experience might have been. My closest call
encounter with Sri Gumum?
In 1991, near
Tasik Chini, I
was alone when I had a close encounter with a dragon. It was
definitely not a crocodile and, to the best of my memory, it was not a geriang.
Afterwards, nobody could tell me what it might have been. It
was somewhat similar to a geriang,
but it was completely black and it had a protruding
backbone. I was just on my way to the market to buy food but, perhaps,
my enchanted encounter with Sri Gumum....