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Dewi Shri

Dewi Sri , rarely Dewi Shri is the Javanese pre-Hindu and pre-Islam era goddess of rice and fertility, still widely worshipped on the islands of Balimarker and Javamarker.

Attributes and legends

Dewi Sri is believed to have dominion over the [underworld]] and the Moon. Thus, Dewi Sri encompasses the whole spectrum of the Mother Goddess- having dominion over birth and Life: she controls rice: the staple food of Indonesians; hence life and wealth or prosperity (most especially rice surpluses for the wealth of Javanese Kingdoms such as Majapahit); and their inverse: poverty, famine, hunger, disease (to a certain extant) and Death.


Most Dewi Sri myths involve Dewi Sri (also known as Dewi Asri, Nyi Pohaci, among others) and her brother Sedana (also known as Sedhana, Sadhana, Sadono, and others), set either in the kingdom of Medang Kamulan or in Heaven (involving gods such as Batara Guru) or both. In all versions where Sedana appears with Dewi Sri, they end up separated from one another: through either death, wandering, or a refusal to be married. Some versions make a correlation between Sri and the large rice paddy snake (ular sawah) and Sadhana with the paddy swallow (sriti).The nāga or snake, particualrly the king cobra is a common fertility symbol throughout Asia, in contrast to being considered representative of temptation, sin or wickedness as in Christian belief.


Dewi Sri is always depicted as a youthful, beautiful, slim yet curvaceous woman, with stylised facial features idiosyncratic to the respective locale- essentially a woman at the height of her femininity and fertility.
High Javanese culture reflecting the wayang aesthetic dictates she be depicted with a white face, thin-downward cast eyes and a serene expression. There is much cross-pollination between the qualities, aesthetics and so forth between the deity Dewi Sri and the wayang character Sinta in the Javanese version of the Ramayana and the same for Rama with Sedhana. The loro blonyo (two "pedestals" or foundations) statue also have some overlap with Dewi Sri and Sedhana.

Ritual and Custom

Dewi Sri remains highly revered especially by the Javanese, Balinese, and Sundanese people of Indonesiamarker though there are many regional analogues or variations of her legend throughout Indonesia. Despite most Indonesians being observant Sufi Muslims or Balinese Hindus the indigenous underlying animist-era beliefs (notably of Kejawen) remain very strong, are worshipped parallel to Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity without conflict; and are cultivated by the Royal Courts, especially of Cirebonmarker, Ubudmarker and Yogyakartamarker (which are also popular local and international tourist attractions. (See Sekaten and Grubeg)).
Traditional Javanese people, especially those who are observant Kejawen, in particular have a small shrine in their house dedicated to Dewi Sri, decorated with her bust, idol or other likeness of her alone; or with Sedana and possibly with a ceremonial or functional arit: the small, sickle-shaped rice-harvesting knife.

This shrine is commonly decorated with intricate carvings of snakes (occasionally snake-dragons: naga). Worshippers make token food offerings and prayers to Dewi Sri so she may grant health and prosperity to the family.
Among the rural Javanese, is the folk-tradition of where a snake having entered a house won't be chased away. Instead, the people in the house will give it offerings, as the snake is a good omen of a successful harvest.
Additionally, a ceremonial or auspicious keris will be employed by a folk-healer, sooth-sayer, paranormal or white-magic dukun in a winding, circum-ambulatory ceremony to bless and protect the villagers, the village, their shrines and the seed to be planted.
The Balinese provide special shrines in the rice fields dedicated to Dewi Sri. The Sundanese have their own unique festival dedicated to her.In current Balinese Hindu belief, Dewi Sri corresponds to an amalgam of the Hindu goddesses Devi and Shri.

The Thai Rice Goddess

In Thailandmarker, the Rice Goddess is known as Pō-sop. Often the prefix 'Mae' (mother) is added (แม่โพสพ) to her name. Paying homage to Pō-sop by rice farmers had been declining in recent times, but Queen Sirikit gave royal patronage to this ancient custom in August 2008.
Ritual offerings (Cha-laew) are made to propitiate the Rice Goddess during the different steps of rice production. Villagers believe that Goddess Mae Po-sop ensures everyone has enough to eat.

See also


  1. Pairin Jotisakulratana, Mae Po sop: The Rice Mother of Thailand
  2. Thailand revives worship of Rice Goddess - The China Post
  3. Rice Hoarding Affect Supplies in Thailand

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