Life In An Indonesian Village


The beautiful rumah gadang of the Minangkabau people (see image above).

Indonesia boasts a range of holiday spots, accommodating everyone from the urban backpacker exploring the city to the luxury resort for those in search of some rejuvenation. But with over half the population of the world’s 4th most populous nation living in rural areas, have you ever wondered how the everyday, ordinary Indonesian villager lives?

Rumah Gadang
The traditional dwellings of the Minangkabau people, from the Padang highlands of West Sumatra, feature unique roofs which resemble the horns of a buffalo. Several generations of one family live in each of these. These dwellings are normally divided into three main areas – the rumah tongah just inside the entrance, the bedrooms or biliak, and the kitchen and pangkalan, a large area to receive visitors.

Houses – The Long And Short Of It
Various forms of longhouse, large traditional communal dwellings, exist around the world, from Asia to Europe and North America. The Borneo longhouses, built by the Dayak people of Kalimantan, are among the most well known. Like many early human settlements, these were built by rivers, for easy access to lifes necessities – food, water and cleaning. Longhouses are built on stilts to allow for seasonal flooding, and are commonly accessed by a wooden ladder.

tym-indonesian-village2A Dayak longhouse
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Longhouses (rumah panjang or rumah betang) vary greatly in size – one, in the village of Saham, is 186 metres long and 6 meters wide, and houses over 250 people. Individial families have their own rooms or bilik, with the leader and higher ranking famillies occupying the rooms nearer the center, and the lower ranking ones near the entrance.

Longhouse living is very much communal, with each family taking on a role to benefit the community, from safety to rituals and ceremonies. A long common veranda is used for gatherings, rituals, ceremonies, meetings, performances and other activities. Cooperation and mutual aid permeate all aspects of longhouse living. And while this ancient lifestyle is on the decline today, modern communities would do well to emulate the spirit of the longhouse.

Further Reading:


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