weblogUpdates.ping Taneak Jang, Rejang Land, Tanah Rejang http://rejang-lebong.blogspot.com Taneak Jang, Rejang land, Tanah Rejang: Kisah Rumah Puyang Dari Jurai Tue asal Mandi Angin (Suku Gumai)

Kisah Rumah Puyang Dari Jurai Tue asal Mandi Angin (Suku Gumai)


Continuity of Place

Despite a series of village relocations over time, each village retains some physical continuity to the old village sites that are associated with village founders. When a Gumai village needs to be relocated, members of that village cannot simply take up residency in any existing village due to the restrictive residential rules. This requires the Gumai to create a new village at a new site. At present, due to the shortage of land, a village relocation rarely takes place, yet in the past, a series of relocations took place. At these times, it was common to create a new village with village members at a new site, or to create a new village with other Gumai from a different village, or to split into two villages. In any case, having a physical link to the old site is essential for a new village site. No village has been relocated in the past 40 years, but an outline given by the Jurai Tue of Mandi Angin highlights the association between old and new village sites:

The Jurai Tue needs to carry a handful of soil from the old site and plant it in the centre of a new village site, where a lunjuk or balai desa was formerly built. In addition to the soil, a coconut tree and an areca nut tree need to be moved from the old site to the new site. These are also to be planted in the centre of the new village. Village ancestral spirits are to be informed of this relocation through the burning of benzoin and the presentation of offerings which include a goat as a sacrificial animal. [30]

Through the replanting of trees and soil by the most authentic living descendants of the village, the Jurai Tue, the new site of a village is connected physically to the old village site.

Lunjuk, Balai Desa and Mosque

In the past, many villages in the South Sumatran highlands contained a small house that was a venue for the reverence of ancestral spirits (arwah puyang) and for performing a series of rituals commemorating village origins. These houses were known as lunjuk or rumah puyang (ancestors’ house), and were constructed in the centre of a village, which was linked symbolically to the old sites. [31] In Gumai villages, they are known commonly as lunjuk. [32] The Jurai Tue of Mandi Angin told me the following story of why such a house was called rumah puyang.

Along the Lematang River, there existed five villages whose ancestry could be traced back to the king of Majapahit in Java (Ratu Majapahit). Because of this ancestry, Dita, Muara Siban, Selawi, Pagar Batu and Muara Temiang villages are known as Suku Lima (the five tribes), and are differentiated from the Gumai. [33] The Gumai established affinal relations with them by marrying a younger sister of Gune Raje, a daughter of Remanjang Sakti, to the eldest son of Ratu Majapahit, Kerie Tabing. However, Kerie Tabing and Kerie Tungkal Diwe, a younger brother of Gune Raje, did not get along well and eventually Kerie Tungkal Diwe was murdered by Kerie Tabing. Gune Raje and his brother Pegeh (Bigeh) went to see Ratu Majapahit and demanded his son be punished for the death of Kerie Tungkal Diwe. Ratu Majapahit answered that he would surrender his son if Gune Raje and Bigeh successfully defeated Sunda Kelam, which was a part of Majapahit. Sunda Kelam is a territory which was sometimes visible and sometimes invisible, thus it is difficult to fight with. Gune Raje and Bigeh arrived at the site of Sunda Kelam but were unable to see anyone in the country. Therefore, they had to return home in vain. Remanjang Sakti ordered that another son of his, Betelak, should accompany the other two sons for this expedition to Sunda Kelam. Betelak was a great coward and he was not willing to come along. So it was suggested that his soul (nyawe) should be kept in a bamboo cigarette container called telak so that he would not feel timid or scared. When the three arrived in Sunda Kelam, Betelak performed solat twice. After his bowing, the heads of the residents of Sunda Kelam became visible; it looked as if the people of Sunda Kelam were floating in the sky. When Gune Raje prayed, the kingdom of Sunda Kelam then fell to the ground. The three Gumai men easily defeated Sunda Kelam. Gune Raje and his two brothers demanded evidence of their victory from Sunda Kelam and they were provided with two princesses and heirlooms. One of the two princesses was a daughter of Ratu Majapahit called Putri Dimengkute, and the other was a fairy (dayang) called Putri Kedayang. It was later decided that the two princesses would marry Gune Raje. Their heirlooms consisted of a cannon called Guruh Kemarau, a betel nut box called Bun, a gong known as Gong Pamor Sunda, and a dagger called Betak Sepamah. [34] They took a boat and went up the Musi River. During their voyage, the marriage between the two princesses and Gune Raje took place. When they arrived at the Lematang River, Putri Dimengkute said, ‘I cannot continue this journey since I cannot drink dirty water. So I shall return home.’ Then she explained the secrets of the heirlooms: Bun needs to be washed in the river for a rain-making ritual. When the Guruh Kemarau roars, it is a sign that misfortune such as cholera is approaching. So a ritual to ward off the coming misfortune needs to be undertaken. Then she asked that all the heirlooms should safely be brought back to the place of Gune Raje. Putri Dimengkute then added that she wished to have a small house constructed in each Gumai village so that she could visit her descendants. This house was called lunjuk and was usually built in the middle of a village and used as a site of rituals to ward off misfortune.

The penetration of Reformist Islam into the interior led to the disappearance of lunjuk in the 1930s. Hoop (1932), who travelled around the South Sumatran highlands in the 1930s to investigate megalithic remains, photographed lunjuk located in Karang Dalam village of Gumai Lembak, currently located in the Pulau Pinang Subdistrict of the Lahat District. His comments show that Islam was then rapidly penetrating the highlands and replacing traditional customs.

In the middle of the doesoen stands a small spirits-house, ‘roema dewa’ or ‘roema pojang’ [sic], of the kind formerly found in all doesoens, but which are now disappearing rapidly under the influence of Islam. [35] (Hoop 1932: 13)

This lunjuk remains at the site as an example of local cultural heritage, but it no longer functions as a ritual venue. I was able to visit this lunjuk with the Mimbar of Karang Dalam village during my fieldwork. It was a small house made of wood, with a zinc roof placed on top of four wooden pillars, each of which were two metres high. The house was big enough for two to three people to sit in after they had climbed up a ladder to enter. Inside the lunjuk was empty space with only a mosquito net, which was rolled and placed on the floor. I was told that the Jurai Tue and Mimbar used to go inside the lunjuk at times of Sedekah Rame to burn benzoin and invoke ancestral spirits there.

After the demolition of lunjuk in many villages in the 1930s, balai desa were constructed on the same sites to cater for the needs of village meetings and Sedekah Rame. Balai desa consisted of a small room with a roof, and two long benches, both of which were made of bamboo. The room was a place for the Jurai Tue, Mimbar and the head of a village (Rie Punggawa) to sit, and was set half a metre higher than the benches. Each of the long benches was able to accommodate 40 people.

The balai desa in Mandi Angin village is said to have been demolished in 1944, when the Japanese Army organised a party and criticised the practice of differentiating seating and offering arrangements depending on status. Balai desa in other villages were also gradually demolished and replaced by village mosques along with the continuing Islamisation. In Mandi Angin, the village mosque stands on the old site of the balai desa and is vaguely associated in the minds of the villagers with the old site of their balai desa. There is a stone next to the village mosque called Tapak Puyang Dimengkute, which indicates the remains of the lunjuk at that site. Since the demolition of lunjuk and balai desa, the ritual venue of Sedekah Rame has been moved to the house of the Jurai Tue or to the newly constructed village mosque. There remains little in the layout of the current village that might provide a clue to Gumai belief in ancestral and natural spirits.


Not only does a village in Gumai Talang consist of the living who share their ancestry, it comprises the ancestral spirits. Thus a graveyard (kuburan) is considered an essential part of a Gumai village. The significance of a graveyard as part of a village was expressed in the following incident, which occurred during my fieldwork:

In August 1995, students of the University of Sriwijaya came as a part of Kuliah Kerja Nyata (KKN) and stayed in five villages in Gumai Talang for two months. KKN is a social project whose aim is to send the highly educated university students to underdeveloped areas of Indonesia where they are expected to learn from their rural experience. In this case, the students organised village seminars about nutrition and how to purify drinking water. Before they leave, it is customary for students to produce something as a souvenir of their stay. In Endikat Ilir village, some students prepared house number plates which showed addresses within the village, and distributed one to each household for display. [36] Students also decided to produce a souvenir by erecting two posts to show the boundaries of the village. Students consulted with the village heads of Endikat Ilir and Muara Tandi regarding the boundaries. One post was placed between Endikat Ilir and Mandi Angin, and the other was placed between Endikat Ilir and Muara Tandi along the Kikim Raya Road. The post which demarcated Endikat Ilir village from Muara Tandi village was placed at a site which did not include the graveyard of Endikat Ilir village. It was located behind the first house in Muara Tandi village through a lane from Kikim Raya Road. According to the view of the village head of Muara Tandi, the graveyard of Endikat belonged to Muara Tandi village and the space was only lent to Endikat Ilir village. From the point of view of legal status, the graveyard of Endikat Ilir village was located within Muara Tandi village. The village head of Muara Tandi therefore asked the students to put the post so that it excluded the graveyard from Endikat Ilir village. Soon after this post was placed, the Jurai Kebali’an asked the village head of the Muara Tandi village to relocate it so that the lane to the graveyard should be regarded as a part of Endikat Ilir village. He explained that even though the graveyard is officially located within the territory of Muara Tandi village, those buried in the graveyard are all from Endikat Ilir village, including the previous Jurai Kebali’an. If the graveyard is not considered to be a part of Endikat Ilir village, the village does not have a graveyard and the deceased members of the village would be buried in Muara Tandi village. The Jurai Kebali’an insisted that the boundaries of Endikat Ilir village should include the village and its own graveyard, and this was approved by the village head of Muara Tandi. After this negotiation, the post was moved to a location which showed that the lane as well as the graveyard could be regarded as a part of Endikat Ilir territory.

In the past, each jungkuk and sungut had its own burial site. Due to a series of relocations and a shortage of land, however, many Gumai villages now have a single graveyard. Even when a village member dies outside South Sumatra, it is common to transfer the body of the deceased person to his/her village graveyard. The previous Jurai Kebali’an passed away in Jakarta in 1999 and his body was taken back to Endikat Ilir village to be buried. This is despite the fact that, according to Islamic teaching, a body should be buried as soon as possible.

Each village in Gumai Talang has its own graveyard. An exception is the graveyard shared by Suka Rame and Tanjung Dalam villages. Since the founding ancestors of the two villages were brothers, villagers regard the two villages as one unit and find no problem in sharing a common graveyard. [37] All the villagers who were born and raised in a village expect to be buried in its graveyard, and access to burial in a village graveyard is restricted strictly to village members.

In a Gumai village graveyard, there are a series of mounds of earth or spots marked by circles of big stones which indicate burial sites. The mound is often decorated with flowers. Relatively wealthy people convert the mound of soil into a rectangular coffin made of ceramics or cement. A village graveyard is always associated with the spirits of the deceased, and people dare not go there alone at night. Spirits of the ancestors believed to reside in the graveyard can be seen at night.

Due to a series of village relocations from the original village site, village founders’ graves are located in old village sites, and not in the current village graveyard. In a current village site, however, it is common to find a memorial place called tapak (‘site’) related to a village ancestor. A relatively new tapak exists in Tanjung Beringin village, which is believed to have been constructed in the 1940s. It takes the form of a rectangle, framed by stone and cement and raised 60 centimetres from the ground. It is approximately three metres wide and five metres long and has two poles, which are said to represent the head and the legs. This tapak is surrounded by a fence made of wood. The tapak was constructed because the old site of the ancestral grave had been chosen for a planned railway track. I was told that the spirit of the Puyang Ketunggalan Dusun was asked to move from the old site to the new site on the completion of the new tapak. Even though the body of the ancestor was not buried there, the spirit is believed to reside in the new site. Villagers occasionally visit this tapak, clearing grass and sprinkling water around it, particularly in the month of Ruwah. [38] Some bring a set of offerings consisting of rice cakes and betel nuts, and recite Yasin, the 36th surah of the Qur’an.

Despite its geographical detachment from the village settlement, the graveyard of each village constitutes an extension of a Gumai village, which consists of the living and the dead. A Gumai village is an entity of linkages to village origins represented by the descendants and important sites.

[30] Classifications of sacrificial animals are of great importance for the Gumai. The sacrificial goat for this occasion is kambing irang, which is a red-haired goat.

[31] The Besemah, the Gumai and the Kikim are known to have possessed small houses for ancestral spirits. In addition to the lunjuk in Karang Dalam village that I have mentioned, there is another lunjuk located in Pagardin village of the Bunga Mas Subdistrict of the Lahat District. People say that this lunjuk glows in the dark on every 13th night according to the lunar calendar.

[32] Among the Besemah this building was called rumah poyang (ancestors’ house) and was replaced by a mosque (Collins 1979: 173).

[33] These villages were administered as a part of Marga Gumai Lembak.

[34] Guruh Kemarau was believed to have been taken to the Netherlands after the Fort Jati War. Skeat (1967:373) reports that bun in the Malay Peninsula refers to bun in Dutch, which means ‘a large tin or copper box for tobacco or sirih leaves’. Among the Gumai, the pronunciation of bun is close to bon; the bon is kept in the house of the Jurai Tue in Mandi Angin village. Gong Pamor Sunda is kept at the house of the Jurai Tue of Lubuk Sepang. Betak Sepamah is located in the house of the Jurai Kebali’an.

[35] Doesoen is an old spelling of dusun, a hamlet.

[36] Residents in a village all know who lives where, and a mailman delivers all the mail to a stall along the road or the house of the village head, hence number plates in the village do not have any practical value in daily life.

[37] They used to share a village mosque, but now each village has its own.

[38] Another name of this month is Sya’ban. In this month, spirits of the dead are believed to return to their native places and people visit the graveyard.



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