Unraveling the Legends of Bathoro Katong: The Iconic Figure Behind Reog Ponorogo and Islamization in East Java

In the heartland of Ponorogo, East Java, the name Bathoro Katong resonates deeply within the local community. Regarded not only as a legendary Islamic scholar but also as the driving force behind the creation of Reog Ponorogo, Bathoro Katong’s legacy is intertwined with the region’s rich cultural and historical tapestry.

Every year, the people of Ponorogo, in collaboration with the local government, hold a special ritual known as “bedhol pusaka” to honor Bathoro Katong. This ritual, as described by A. Madani et al. in their work “The Meaning of the Singgah-singgah Chant in the Bedhol Pusaka Ritual on Satu Suro in Ponorogo” (2023), takes place on the night of Satu Suro, the Javanese New Year. During this ceremony, heirlooms believed to belong to Bathoro Katong, including Songsong Tunggul Wulung, Tombak Tunggul Nogo, and Angkin Cinde Puspito, are paraded from the regency hall to Bathoro Katong’s tomb, accompanied by the chanting of the “Singgah-singgah” chant.

Bathoro Katong’s influence extends beyond Ponorogo, reaching neighboring regions such as Madiun, Kediri, Tulungagung, and Pacitan. According to Misbahus Surur in “Islamic Clashes in the Hinterland of Java in the Memory of the Babad Alit and Babade Nagara Patjitan,” local historiographical sources consistently depict Bathoro Katong as a symbol of the Islamic penetration into the western part of East Java. He is portrayed as a nobleman who zealously sought to Islamize the former Majapahit territories, encountering resistance from those who opposed his teachings.

The story of Bathoro Katong’s life, as recorded in Babad Panaraga, begins in the 15th century AD at the Majapahit Palace. Born Raden Jaka Piturun, he was the maternal half-brother of Raden Patah, who was separated from him in childhood. It wasn’t until Raden Patah returned to Java and stayed at Sunan Ampel’s pesantren in Surabaya that Jaka Piturun reconnected with his brother. Under Raden Patah’s guidance, Jaka Piturun converted to Islam and played a significant role in the Demak-Majapahit war.

Raden Patah appointed Jaka Piturun as the duke of the Wengker region, renaming him Bathoro Katong. Bathoro Katong was tasked with opening up the forests and spreading Islam in the region. He named his realm “pramana raga,” which later became known as Ponorogo. Despite facing resistance, Bathoro Katong employed various strategies to promote Islam, including the use of the reog art form, which was based on the popular Panji stories of the Majapahit era.

The legends of Bathoro Katong and his contributions to the cultural and religious landscape of East Java are a testament to his enduring legacy. Through rituals, art forms, and historical accounts, his story continues to be told and celebrated, reminding us of the profound impact of his life and teachings on the region.