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Minangkabau (Fundamental of culture, religion, belief and tradition) Essay

The Minangkabau ethnic group, also known as Minang (Urang minang in Minangkabau language), is indigenous to the highlands of West Sumatra, in Indonesia. Their culture is matrilineal, with property and land passing down from mother to daughter, while religious and political affairs are the responsibility of men (although some women also play important roles in these areas). Today 4 million Minangs live in West Sumatra, while about 3 million more are scattered throughout many Indonesian and Malay peninsular cities and towns. The Minangkabau are strongly Islamic, but also follow their ethnic traditions, or adat. The Minangkabau adat was derived from animist beliefs before the arrival of Islam, and remnants of animist beliefs still exist even among some practicing Muslims. The present relationship between Islam and adatis described in the saying “tradition [adat] founded upon Islamic law, Islamic law founded upon the Qur’an” (adat basandi syara’, syara’ basandi Kitabullah).

B. Historiography

In the 14th century, minangkabau people arrived in Negeri Sembilan by Melaka and reached Rembau. They are civilized and able to socialize with the natives very well. Therefore, mixed marriages among them have created Biduanda tribe. Biduanda tribe is the original beneficiary of Negeri Sembilan and community leaders minang to be selected must be from the Biduanda tribe. The biduanda tribe have created a leader of Negeri Sembilan called ‘Penghulu’ and then ‘Undaang’.

C. Culture

The Minangs are the world’s largest matrilineal society, in which properties such as land and houses are inherited through female lineage. Some scholars argue that this might have caused the diaspora (Minangkabau, “merantau”) of Minangkabau males throughout the Maritime Southeast Asia to become scholars or to seek fortune as merchants. As early as the age of 7, boys traditionally leave their homes and live in a surau (a prayer house & community centre) to learn religious and cultural (adat) teachings. When they are teenagers, they are encouraged to leave their hometown to learn from schools or from experiences out of their hometown so that when they are adults they can return home wise and ‘useful’ for the society and can contribute their thinking and experience to run the family or nagari (hometown) when they sit as the member of ‘council of uncles’. This tradition has created Minang communities in many Indonesian cities and towns, which nevertheless are still tied closely to their homeland; a state in Malaysia named Negeri Sembilan is heavily influenced by Minang culture because Negeri Sembilan was originally Minangkabau’s territory (the people believe so by the old story from the ancestor).

Due to their culture that stresses the importance of learning, Minang people are over-represented in the educated professions in Indonesia, with many ministers from Minang. The first female minister was a Minang scholar. In addition to being renowned as merchants, the Minangs have also produced some of Indonesia’s most influential poets, writers, statesmen, scholars, and religious scholars. Being fervent Muslims, many of them embraced the idea of incorporating Islamic ideals into modern society. Furthermore, the presence of these intellectuals combined with the people’s basically proud character, made the Minangkabau homeland (the province of West Sumatra) one of the powerhouses in the Indonesian struggle for independence. Today both natural and cultural tourism have become considerable economic activities in West Sumatra.

1. Ceremonies and festivals
Minangkabau ceremonies and festivals include:
§ Turun mandi – baby blessing ceremony
§ Sunat rasul – circumcision ceremony
§ Baralek – wedding ceremony
§ Batagak pangulu – clan leader inauguration ceremony. Other clan leaders, all relatives in the same clan and all villagers in the region are invited. The ceremony will last for 7 days or more.
§ Turun ka sawah – community work ceremony
§ Manyabik – harvesting ceremony
§ Hari Rayo – Islamic festivals
§ Adoption ceremony
§ Funeral ceremony
§ Wild boar hunt ceremony
§ Maanta pabukoan – sending food to mother-in-law for Ramadhan § Tabuik – Muslim celebration in the coastal village of Pariaman § Tanah Ta Sirah, inaugurate a new clan leader (Datuk) when the old one died in the few hours. § Mambangkik Batang Tarandam, inaugurate a new leader (Datuk) when the old one died in the pass 10 or 50 years and even more, must do the Batagak Pangulu.

2. Performing arts

Traditional Minangkabau music includes saluang jo dendang which consists of singing to the accompaniment of a saluang bamboo flute, and talemponggong-chime music. Dances include the tari piring (plate dance), tari payung (umbrella dance) and tari indang. Demonstrations of the silat martial art are performed. Pidato adat are ceremonial orations performed at formal occasions. Randai is a folk theater tradition which incorporates music, singing, dance, drama and the silat martial art. Randai is usually performed for traditional ceremonies and festivals, and complex stories may span a number of nights.

It is performed as a theatre-in-the-round to achieve an equality and unity between audience members and the performers. Randai performances are a synthesis of alternating martial arts dances, songs, and acted scenes. Stories are delivered by both the acting and the singing and are mostly based upon Minangkabau legends and folktales. Randai originated early in the 20th century out of fusion of local martial arts, story-telling and other performance traditions. Men originally played both the male and female characters in the story, but since the 1960s women have also participated.

3. Crafts

Minangkabau songket, the pattern in the lower third representing bamboo sprouts West Sumatra grand mosque with Minangkabau-modern style. Particular Minangkabau villages specialize in cottage industries producing handicrafts such as woven sugarcane and reed purses, gold and silver jewellery using filigree and granulation techniques, woven songket textiles, wood carving, embroidery, pottery, and metallurgy.

4. Cuisine

The staple ingredients of the Minangkabau diet are rice, fish, coconut, green leafy vegetables and chili. The usage of meat is mainly limited to special occasions, and beef and chicken are most commonly used. Pork is not halal and therefore not consumed, while lamb, goat and game are rarely consumed for reasons of taste and availability. Spiciness is a characteristic of Minangkabau food, and the most commonly used herbs and spices are chili, turmeric, ginger and galangal. Vegetables are consumed two or three times a day. Fruits are mainly seasonal, although fruits such as banana, papaya and citrus are continually available. Three meals a day are typical with lunch being the most important meal, except during the fasting month of Ramadan where lunch is not eaten. Meals commonly consist of steamed rice, a hot fried dish and a coconut milk dish, with a little variation from breakfast to dinner. Meals are generally eaten from a plate using the fingers of the right hand.

Snacks are more frequently eaten by people in urban areas than in villages. Western food has had little impact upon Minangkabau consumption and preference to date. Rendang is a dish which is considered to be a characteristic of Minangkabau culture, and is cooked 4-5 times a year. Other characteristic dishes include Asam Padeh, Soto Padang, Sate Padang, Dendeng Balado (beef with chili sauce). Food has a central role in the Minangkabau ceremonies which honor religious and life cycle rites. Minangkabau food is popular among Indonesians and restaurants are present throughout Indonesia. Nasi Padang restaurants, named after the capital of West Sumatra, are known for placing a variety of Minangkabau dishes on a customer’s table along with rice and billing only for what is taken. Nasi Kapau is another restaurant variant which specializes in dishes using offal and the use of tamarind to add a sourness to the spicy flavor.

5. Architecture

Rumah gadang (Minangkabau: ‘big house’) or rumah bagonjong (Minangkabau: “spired roof house”) are the traditional homes of the Minangkabau. The architecture, construction, internal and external decoration, and the functions of the house reflect the culture and values of the Minangkabau. A rumah gadang serves as a residence, a hall for family meetings, and for ceremonial activities. With the Minangkabau society being matrilineal, the rumah gadang is owned by the women of the family who live there – ownership is passed from mother to daughter.

6. Oral traditions and literature

Minangkabau culture has a long history of oral traditions. One oral tradition is the pidato adat (ceremonial orations) which are performed by panghulu (clan chiefs) at formal occasions such as weddings, funerals, adoption ceremonies, and panghulu inaugurations. These ceremonial orations consist of many forms including pantun, aphorisms (papatah-patitih), proverbs (pameo), religious advice (petuah), parables (tamsia), two-line aphorisms (gurindam), and similes (ibarat). Minangkabau traditional folktales (kaba) consist of narratives which present the social and personal consequences of either ignoring or observing the ethical teachings and the norms embedded in the adat. The storyteller (tukang kaba) recites the story in poetic or lyrical prose while accompanying himself on a rebab. A theme in Minangkabau folktales is the central role mothers and motherhood has in Minangkabau society, with the folktalesRancak diLabueh and Malin Kundang being two examples.

Rancak diLabueh is about a mother who acts as teacher and adviser to her two growing children. Initially her son is vain and headstrong and only after her perseverance does he become a good son who listens to his mother. Malin Kundang is about the dangers of treating your mother badly. A sailor from a poor family voyages to seek his fortune, becoming rich and marrying. After refusing to recognize his elderly mother on his return home, being ashamed of his humble origins, he is cursed and dies when a storm ensues and turn him along with his ship to stone. The said stone is located in Air Manis beach and is known by locals as batu Malin Kundang Other popular folktales also relate to the important role of the woman in Minangkabau society.

In the Cindua Mato epic the woman is the source of wisdom, while in whereas in the Sabai nan Aluih she is more a doer than a thinker. Cindua Mato (Staring Eye) is about the traditions of Minangkabau royalty. The story involves a mythical Minangkabau queen, Bundo Kanduang, who embodies the behaviors prescribed by adat. Cindua Mato, a servant of the queen, uses magic to defeat hostile outside forces and save the kingdom. Sabai nan Aluih (The genteel Sabai) is about a young girl named Sabai, the hero of the story, who avenges the murder of her father by a powerful and evil ruler from a neighboring village. After her father’s murder her cowardly elder brother refuses to confront the murderer and so Sabai decides to take matters into her own hands. She seeks out the murderer and shoots him in revenge.

7. Language

Location ethnic groups of Sumatra, the Minangkabau is shown in light and dark olive. The Minangkabau language (Baso Minangkabau) is an Austronesian language belonging to the Malayic linguistic subgroup, which in turn belongs to the Malayo-Polynesian branch. The Minangkabau language is closely related to the Negeri Sembilan Malay language used by the people of Negeri Sembilan, many of which are descendants of Minangkabau immigrants. The language has a number of dialects and sub-dialects, but native Minangkabau speakers generally have no difficulty understanding the variety of dialects. The differences between dialects are mainly at the phonological level, though some lexical differences also exist. Minangkabau dialects are regional, consisting of one or more villages (nagari), and usually correspond to differences in customs and traditions.

Each sub-village (jorong) has its own sub-dialect consisting of subtle differences which can be detected by native speakers. The Padang dialect has become the lingua franca for people of different language regions. The Minangkabau society has a diglossia situation, whereby they use their native language for everyday conversations, while the Indonesian language is used for most formal occasions, in education, and in writing, even to relatives and friends. The Minangkabau language was originally written using the Jawi script, an adapted Arabic alphabet. Romanization of the language dates from the 19th century, and a standardized official orthography of the language was published in 1976.

ISO 639-3
Population (as of)
6,500,000 (1981)
Agam, Pajokumbuh, Tanah, Si Junjung, Batu Sangkar-Pariangan, Singkarak, Orang Mamak, Ulu, Kerinci-Minangkabau, Aneuk Jamee (Jamee), Penghulu. Source: Gordon (2005).

Despite widespread use of Indonesian, they have their own mother tongue. The Minangkabau language shares many similar words with Malay, yet it has a distinctive pronunciation and some grammatical differences rendering it unintelligible to Malay speakers.

8. Adat and religion

Animism has been an important component of Minangkabau culture. Even after the penetration of Islam into Minangkabau society in the 16th century, animistic beliefs were not extinguished. In this belief system, people were said to have two souls, a real soul and a soul which can disappear called the semangat. Semangat represents the vitality of life and it is said to be possessed by all animals and plants. An illness may be explained as the capture of the semangat by an evil spirit, and a shaman (pawang) may be consulted to conjure invisible forces and bring comfort to the family. Sacrificial offerings can be made to placate the spirits, and certain objects such as amulets are used as protection. Until the rise of the Padri movement late in the 18th century, Islamic practices such as prayers, fasting and attendance at mosques had been weakly observed in the Minangkabau highlands.

The Padri were inspired by the Wahhabi movement in Mecca, and sought to eliminate societal problems such as tobacco and opium smoking, gambling and general anarchy by ensuring the tenets of the Koran were strictly observed. All Minangkabau customs allegedly in conflict with the Koran were to be abolished. Although the Padri were eventually defeated by the Dutch, during this period the relationship between adat and religion was reformulated. Previously adat was said to be based upon appropriateness and propriety, but this was changed so adat was more strongly based upon Islamic precepts. With the Minangkabau highlands being the heartland of their culture, and with Islam likely entering the region from coast it is said that ‘custom descended, religion ascended’ (adat manurun, syarak mandaki).

Bugis (Fundamental of culture, religion, belief and tradition)

Religious Beliefs.

Almost all Bugis adhere to Islam, but there is great variety in the types of Islam practiced. Most Bugis identify themselves as Sunni Muslims, but their practice, influenced by Sufi tenets, is a syncretic blend that also includes offerings to spirits of ancestors and deceased powerful personages. However, reformist Islamic organizations, especially Muhammadiyah, have gained many adherents in some areas and have established their own educational institutions. The I La Galigo literature preserved in ancient manuscripts ( lontara’ ) describes a cosmology involving an upper-world and an underworld, each of seven layers, and a host of heavenly beings from whom nobles trace descent, but knowledge of details of this literature is not widespread among commoners. The To Lotang, a group of non-Muslim Bugis in Sidrap regency, continue to adhere to an indigenous belief system based on the lontara’ and similar to that of the Toraja to the north, but has had to affiliate with the national Hindu movement to retain legitimacy as a religion.

The extent to which Hindu-Buddhist notions have influenced Bugis religious and sociopolitical notions is currently a matter of debate. The I La Galigo literature presents a pantheon of deities ( dewata ) from whom nobles trace descent, but contemporary Bugis argue that this literature basically recognizes a single great God ( Dewata Seuwa é ) in accord with the monotheism of Islam. Despite this, some of the other deities (e.g., the rice goddess) are still given offerings, even by Muslims. Village Bugis also recognize a panoply of local spirits associated with the house, the newborn, and sacred sites; they are variously termed “the ethereal ones” ( to alusu’ ), “the not-to-be-seen” ( to tenrita ), “evil spirits” ( sétang ), etc. In fact, every object is thought to have its own animating spirit ( sumange’ ), whose welfare must be catered to in order to insure good fortune and avert catastrophe.

Religious Practitioners.

In addition to Islamic judges ( kali ), imams serve as local leaders of the Muslim community; they conduct Friday worship services, deliver sermons, and preside at marriages, funerals, and local ceremonies sanctioned by Islam. Small numbers of transvestite priests ( bissu ), traditionally the guardians of royal regalia, still, though rarely, perform rituals involving chants in a special register of Bugis directed to traditional deities recognized in the lontara’. Curing and consecration ceremonies are conducted by sanro, practitioners with arcane knowledge and expertise in presenting offerings and prayers to local spirits.


Besides the celebration of calendric Islamic holidays (Lebaran, Maulid, etc.), Bugis of syncretic orientation perform many domestic consecration ceremonies ( assalamakeng ) involving offerings to local spirits, guardians of the house, supernatural siblings of the newly born, and other such spirits. Some districts and regencies also sponsor festivals marking planting and harvesting, although some of these have become more civic spectacles than religious celebrations. Especially among nobles, weddings are major occasions for the display of status and often involve presentations of local culture, including processions. The bissu rituals, however, increasingly are restricted and performed without large audiences.


Regional dances (e.g., padendang ) are still performed at some ceremonies for the harvest and other occasions, as well as at government-sponsored festivals, but some (e.g., bissu dances) are now rarely performed. Young men enjoy practicing Indonesian martial arts ( pencak silat ) and the traditional sport of maintaining a woven rattan ball ( raga ) in the air with one’s feet and other body parts, excluding the hands. Traditional Bugis houses still abound, and are used as the basis of modern architectural designs, but figurative art is meager in keeping with Islam.

Bugis music is also heavily influenced by Middle Eastern models. Music performed on flute ( suling ) and lute ( kacapi ) similar to that in West Java is common. Epic songs of traditional and contemporary martial heroes are still composed and performed, even on radio. Amulets, especially of Middle Eastern origin, are in demand, while Bugis badik, daggers with characteristically curved handles, are prized heirlooms. Gold ornaments and gold-threaded songket
cloths are paraded at weddings. Royal regalia are now on display in some local museums.


While Western medicine has made inroads with the government-established rural medical health centers ( puskesmas ), many illnesses are seen as specifically Bugis and curable only by indigenous practitioners ( sanro ) who use such techniques as extraction of foreign objects, massage, use of bespelled or holy water, and blowing on the patient after the utterance of prayers. Illness may be due to one’s spirit leaving the body when subjected to sudden shock, and certain therapies are directed to its recovery. Invulnerability magic is much prized, with the shadow playing an important protective role. Certain illnesses and misfortunes are inflicted by specific spirits associated with each of the four major elements—fire, air, earth, and water.

Death and Afterlife.

Islamic notions of heaven and hell are now most influential, although among syncretic Bugis local spirits are still identified as the spirits of deceased rulers and other formerly powerful individuals. Funerals follow Islamic rites, and are not occasions for major redistributions, as among the neighboring Toraja. Memorial gatherings for prayer and a shared meal may be performed at such intervals as forty days after a death.

History of the Bugis in Malaysia

Traditionally rice farmers, the reputation of the Bugis as seafarers began only after 1670. Defeated in a protracted civil war in their homeland in southwest Celebes (now Sulawesi) in 1669, they started a diaspora and entered into the politics of the Malay peninsula and Sumatra. Under the leadership of Daeng Parani (“Daeng” is a Bugis noble title), the descendants of Daeng Relaga settled on the Linggi and Selangor rivers and with the creation of the office of the Yam Tuan Muda (Bugis underking), became the power behind the Johor throne beginning from 1722.[2]

Conquest of Riau-Johor: After Sultan Mahmud II of Riau-Johor was murdered in 1699, his Bugis bendahara, Abdul Jalil, became the new Sultan. Many locals did not support him as he was not of royal blood [3] and being Bugis, was neither a Malay. Thus, upon ascending the throne, Abdul Jalil killed all the wives of Sultan Mahmud to avoid any future claims to the throne. However, one wife, Che Mi, managed to escape to Minangkabau and gave birth to Raja Kechil.[4] Less than two decades later in 1718, Raja Kechil (then aged 18 or 19) assembled a Minangkabau fleet and ousted Sultan Abdul Jalil, basing his legitimacy on the claim that he was the posthumous son of Sultan Mahmud Shah II.

Sultan Abdul Jalil was demoted to Bendahara and he fled to Pahang but was murdered by Raja Kecil’s men.[5] Abdul Jalil’s brother ran amok and killed his own wife and children.[6] Led by Daeng Parani from Selangor in 1722, the Bugis mercenaries who had earlier assisted Raja Kechil in his campaign now changed sides and fought against Raja Kechil. Chain-cladded and using muskets and blunderbusses, Daeng Parani’s warriors drove Raja Kechil out of Riau-Johor where he flee to Siak and founded a new Sultanate. Because the Bugis were not regarded as Malays, Daeng Parani asked Sultan Mahmud’s son, Sulaiman, to become the figurehead ruler, whilst making his own brother, Daeng Merwah, the Yamtuan Muda who would wield true power in the kingdom. For the next 200 years, the Bugis Yamtuan Mudas would be the real power behind the throne.

Selangor Sultanate (1745-present): The Bugis first settled in Selangor around 1680. After wielding power in Riau-Johor, the Yamtuan Muda’s family ruled Selangor from there. Wishing to break away from Riau-Johor, Selangor’s Bugis chief, Raja Lumu, traveled to Perak in 1745 and was installed as the Sultan of Selangor by Sultan Muhammad Shah who had become the Sultan of Lower Perak the year previous. Raja Lumu then took the name of |Sultan Sallehuddin Shah and became the first Sultan of Selangor. His descendants rule Selangor to this day.

First Bugis-Dutch War (1760): The Bugis and the Malays in Bintan, the capital of Riau-Johor, were always at loggerheads and in 1753, the Bugis decided to leave for Linggi in present-day Negeri Sembilan to begin their own trading center. As they were good traders, ships soon traveled to Linggi to trade and Bintan lost its wealth. In 1760, Sultan Sulaiman asked the Dutch to help him defeat the Bugis in revenge. Unfortunately for him, the Bugis uncovered his plan and attacked the Dutch first, almost capturing Dutch Melaka. After the Dutch won, Sultan Sulaiman made a fatal mistake by allowing Daeng Kemboja, the defeated Bugis leader, to return to Bintan. That same year, the elderly Sultan Sulaiman died. His son and grandson, who in turn became the sultan, died the following year in quick succession. Many Malays believed that the three sultans were poisoned by the Bugis.[7] The infant Sultan Mahmud Shah III was then installed and with no strong sultan to challenge them, the Bugis once again became powerful in Riau-Johor.

Second Bugis-Dutch War (1784): Hostilities between the Bugis and the Dutch was sparked by a dispute over the cargo of a seized English ship. In frustration, the Bugis leader, Raja Haji, began to attack ships in the Straits of Melaka, prompting a failed Dutch attempt to try to blockade Bintan. Supported by Selangor and Rembau, the Bugis then attacked Dutch Melaka. Raja Haji was killed and the Bugis fled to Bintan when vessels from Holland arrived and defeated the Bugis. The Dutch then captured Bintan and took control of Riau-Johor. Sultan Mahmud remained as sultan but the new Dutch Resident, David Ruhde, held the real power. Thus, power in the old kingdom of Riau-Johor passed from the Malays to the Bugis and now to the Dutch.

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