MARGINALIA: More on ‘Dyakatla’

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JAKARTA (MindaNews /20 November) – While waiting in the NAIA departure area last Tuesday (November 15), I posted this marginalia in my FB wall:

“‘DYAKATLA’. Our old folks would say, “So-and-so had been in Dyakatla.” (‘Dyakatla’ is understood to mean a far-flung place.) Or, one of them would threaten, “Once I’m fed up, I will leave you all and go to Dyakatla and you will never see me again!” We would realize later that by ‘Dyakarta’ they actually meant ‘Jakarta’ – a relatively far-flung place then. Heading toward Dyakatla now, if He wills, to share an idea on behavioral economics, personal finance and a transmitted supplication text…”

Around five hours after my post, a young history professor, who is a friend of mine both online and offline, commented thus: “The old name of Jakarta is Batavia.” This short comment gives the impression, to me at least, that the timeline of the names of the city is just divided into two: the old (Batavia) and the recent (Jakarta), and therefore, to link ‘Dyakatla’ (a term of the oldfolks) to Jakarta (which is a ‘recent’ name) is historically inaccurate.

“Noted Prof. Yes, we must always be students,” I replied.

In addition to the fact that I had no time to give a long reply as I had just arrived in the Soekarno-Hatta Airport then, with this short reply of mine I wanted to convey that we are all supposed to be always open to correction and criticism, as research work – or, studying, you may say – is always ‘a work in progress,’ constituting both learning and unlearning.

Yes, it is true that Jakarta was called ‘Batavia’ during the Dutch colonial rule of Indonesia (1619-1942).

At the same time, it should not escape from our attention the following points:

  1. The city has been named differently in various times.
  2. Prior to the coming of the Dutch, it was called Jayakarta, Djajakarta or Jacatra (1527-1619) (during the short period of Banten Sultanate and even afterward). It is interesting to note that ‘Jacatra’ is perhaps the closest to ‘Dyakatla’ (with just the letter ‘r’/’l’ variance).
  3. The city was known as Djakarta from 1942 to 1972.
  4. Finally, it has adopted its present spelling of ‘Jakarta’ since 1972.

As such, prior to be known as Batavia during the Dutch colonial rule, it was already called by various names – Jayakarta, Djajakartar, Jacatra, Djakarta, and Jakarta – which would be pronounced ‘Dyakatla’ by our old folks.

Moreover, even during the time when Jakarta was called ‘Batavia’, it was not unlikely that people still kept on calling it by its previous name or names (Jayakarta, Djajakartar, and/or Jacatra), especially in view of the fact that ‘Batavia’ is a Dutch coinage and therefore a colonial name. (Batavia originally refers to a land inhabited by the Batavian people during the Roman Empire, and which today forms part of the Netherlands.)

Even today, Gil Puyat Avenue in Makati City is still known to all and sundry as Buendia. So is Claro M. Recto in Davao City as Claveria. And similar cases are as many as the frogs during rainy days.

In conclusion, although Jakarta is now relatively near, thanks to the modern-day revolution in transportation and communication, ‘Dyakatla’ remains part of vocabulary of our vernacular to mean ‘any remote or hard-to-reach place’.

It’s the grandiose Garuda’s home.

[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Mansoor L. Limba, PhD in International Relations, is a writer, educator, blogger, chess trainer, and translator (from Persian into English and Filipino) with tens of written and translation works to his credit on such subjects as international politics, history, political philosophy,intra-faith and interfaith relations, cultural heritage, Islamic finance, jurisprudence (fiqh), theology (‘ilm al-kalam), Qur’anic sciences and exegesis (tafsir), hadith, ethics, and mysticism. He can be reached at mlimba@diplomats.com, or http://www.mlimba.com and http://www.muslimandmoney.com.]

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