Monday, 28 September 2009

Abah Ali, the Compiler of the Sundanese Calendar, Has Died in Bandung

Sundanese Corner

© Hawe Setiawan

Ali Sastramidjaja (well-known as Abah Ali) died at his home in Bandung on Friday, September 25th. He was 74.

The compiler of the Sundanese Calendar was born in Bandung on 27 October 1935. He was one of the sons of the late Neneng Sastramidjaja (well-known as Jaksa Neneng, 1903-1975), a notable public prosecutor cum businessman in the colonial era. In 1969 Ali learned technical skills at a high school in the Netherlands. He returned to Indonesia in 1970.

Since then he worked as a freelance researcher studying and discovering various aspects of Sundanese culture. He contributed valuable findings on Sundanese traditional music, script and calendar. He used computer technology in exploring the musical tonalities of the kacapi, a Sundanese traditional string instrument. He also transliterated some old Sundanese manuscripts into Latin script. The most notable of his contributions is the so called Sundanese Calendar.

Thanks to his personal initiative, people now know a particular calendar system which bases its rules on Sundanese cosmology. According to Ali, the rules of this calendar were found by him through a long period of research from 1983 until 1991.

"I spent almost my whole life exploring Sunda culture," Ali wrote in 1991, describing his 'Kala Sunda' (Sunda Calendar) in a website.

"As far as I know, the Sunda Calendar is the most accurate and finest ... calendar system, especially the Saka-Sunda Calendar (Sunda solar calendar system). I make a comprehensive study on the Julian Calendar, the Gregorius Calendar, and the Islamic Calendar," he said.

In the year 2002, along with Ajip Rosidi and the late Edi S. Ekadjati, among others, Ali found the Center for Sundanese Studies (PSS) in Bandung. This non-profit institution runs a small public library that provides books, monographs and other materials on Sundanese culture.