I remember when I was in high school, I love to read story books. Any genre of books that interest me, I would read. One of the story that I read was Hikayat Panji Semirang. It's a classical story same like Sejarah Malayu, or Hikayat Hang Tuah kind of story where, other who don't have patient to read it, might have fallen asleep. What interest me in the story is taking from the gender point of view.
Hikayat Panji Semirang is perhaps the most popular among many of Panji tales. It lays down the foundational myth of the people and kingdoms of Java. it begins with the descent from the heavenly kingdom of the four semi-divine princes and princess who establish their own respective kingdoms on earth: Ratu Kuripan, Ratu Daha, Ratu Gegelang and Ratu Biku Gandasari. Among the four semi-divine rulers, it is Ratu Biku Gandasari who is most loved by the God Sang Hjang Djaganata and she is rewarded by him with supernatural powers, including an omniscient knowledge of all that happen on earth.
The central character of the tale is the Princess Galuh Chendera Kirana. She is the daughter to Ratu Daha, the King of Daha. Ratu Daha has a wife, Ratu Puspa Ningrat and two consorts (gundik) Mahadewi abd his favourite, Paduka Liku. Paduka Liku's daughther was the Princess Galuh Adjeng, while Galuh Chendera Kiraba is the daughter of the consort Mahadewi.
The relationship between the two princesses Galuh Chendera Kirana and Galuh Adjeng grows increasingly problematic over time, with both of them competing for the love and attention of their father Ratu Daha. Chendera Kirana is eventually courted by the Prince of Kuripan, Raden Inu Kartopati. This angers her half-sister Galuh Adjeng even more, and then letter begins to plot againgst her.
Finally, Paduka Liku and Galuh Adjeng manage to convince Ratu Daha taht Chendara Kirana is guilty of treason againgst her father. Having incurred the wratch of Ratu Daha, Chendera Kirana is sent into exile by her father, the King. Before that, she is brought to the court, publicly chastised and her hair is cut by him. Having stripped of her courtly title and honours, Chendera Kirana flees from the place and the kingdom of Daha along with her Mother, Mahadewi.
Put it the wilderness, Chendera Kirana vows to redeem herself and begins her life anew. With her hair cut short, she decided to assume the identity of a man and declares that henceforth, she will be known as the forlorn Prince Raden Panji Semirang Asmarantaka. She dons the attire of a prince and arms herself. Relocating to the frontier between the Kingdom of Daha and Kuripan, she establishes her own kingdom. Chendera Kirana, which soon attracts a large number of followers who migrate there, though none of her (his) subjects realise that Panji is in fact a woman in disguise.
Soon Panji Semirang develops the reputation of being a fierce and ambitious warrior-prince. She(he) declares war against the neighbouring states and orders her(his) troops to invade Kuripan. Panji also orders her(his) troops to kidnap the people of Kuripan and Daha who travel acroos her(his) land, and orders them to capture the beautiful virgins of Kuripan in particular and bring them to her(him).
Ultimately, Panji is also forced to confrant the prince of Kuripan, Raden Inu Kartopati in battle. The combat between the two ends in a stalemate as both are attracted to each other and fall in love, the latter assuming that Panji is actually a man. The homosexsual love affair between Raden Inu and Panji comes to an untimely end as Panji is forced to flee the court of Kuripan. Having lost his (male) lover, Raden Inu is asked by his father Ratu Kuripan to marry the princess Galuh Adjeng of Daha instead, who happens to be the sister of Galuh Chendera Kirana(Panji Semirang). Despite agreeing to the marriage, Raden Inu pines for his beloved Panji, whom he still takes to be a man.
Panji in turn takes her(his) retinue and settles on the slopes of Mount Wilis, where they encounter the princess Biku Gandasari, one of the semi-divine primal ancestors who were among the first to descend from Kayangan and populate Jawa. Ratu Biku Gandasari counsels Panji and her retinue, before setting them on the path down to the peopled valleys and lowlands. Once again Panji(Galuh Chendera on the identity of a man, this time as an entertainer, Gambuh Warga Asmara. Meanwhile Raden Inu, who is unable to cunsummate his marriage with Galuh Adjengdue to his love for Panji, also flees the court in search of his male lover. He too assumes another identity, as the prince Pangeran Panji Djajeng Kesuma.
Eventually Raden Inu (as Pangeran Panji Djajeng Kesuma) meets with his beloved Panji, who has now taken on the form of a male performer, Gambuh Warga Asmara. Struck by the familiar apprearance of Gambuh Warga Asmara, Raden Inu fervently courts her(him). Finally it is revelealed that Gambuh Warga Asmara(Panji Semirang is actually Galuh Chendera Kirana; and the two lovers are finally reunited.
The Hikayat ends with Galuh Chendera Kirana re-assuming her identity as a woman and Pangeran Pani Djajeng Kesuma re-assuming his identity as Raden Inu. Forsaking the kingdom of Daha, they both return to Kuripan, and rule the Kingdom together.