La Galigo in context
The most valuable Buginese manuscript of La Galigo, the world's largest epic, is held at Leiden University Library.
We present here manuscript NBG Boeg 188, the Buginese mythical epic “La Galigo” in twelve volumes, which has been inscribed in UNESCO’s Memory of the World register in 2011. These twelve volumes form the largest continuous part of what is the most voluminous literary work in the world. The complete work is estimated to contain 6.000 folio-sized pages and because of its enormous length no manuscripts exist that contain the complete text. Our manuscript of twelve volumes covers the initial third part of the story. La Galigo is poetry, built upon a metre of five syllables, parallelisms, and a special vocabulary. It has undoubtedly oral roots and originated around the 14th century in the Buginese former kingdom of Luwuq, South Sulawesi, Indonesia. The Buginese are the largest ethnic group of South Sulawesi, currently with an estimated population of 2.5 million people. They have a distinct language and script and until the 20th century a mature indigenous literature. Apart from being considered sacred - and by some as historical – La Galigo is definitely beautiful as a literary work of art.
The complete manuscript NBG Boeg 188 is here supplemented by various other manuscripts and historical documents from the collections of Leiden University Libraries. All of them pertain to this extraordinary mythical narrative as it was traditionally perceived among the Buginese.