Minangkabau Culture

Minangkabau Peoples

The people of Minangkabau is the Malay who reside current West Sumatra Province with the capital city of Padang. Historical researches revealed that the first kingdom on the country was located around 60 kms away from Bukit Tinggi city, a place called Pagaruyung. Here was found stone inscription in old Malay language and old Javanese writing. The inscription mentioned that king Adityawarman was ruling the country who was assigned by the kingdom of Pajajaran from West Java in 14th century. During the time West Java was under the control of the Great Kingdom of Majapahit. 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 Malay archipelago 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 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). 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. 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 made the Minangkabau homeland (the province of West Sumatra) one of the powerhouses in the Indonesian struggle for independence. The Minang people belong to the Malay stock. Despite widespread use of Bahasa Indonesia, 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 render it unintelligible to Malay speakers. Today both natural (farming) ,trade and cultural tourism have become considerable economic activities in West Sumatra. Most notable of Minang culture is its culinary tradition, with unique spicy foods such as Rendang, Soto Padang (a soup), Sate Padang and Dendeng Balado (beef with chilli sauce). Minangkabau restaurants, which are often called "Padang" restaurants in reference to the capital of West Sumatra, are present throughout Indonesia and some neighboring countries. Massive earth quake on 30th November 2009 hit the country of Minangkabau killing more then 1000 persons and thousands of houses building, supermarkets and shops were in a total damage as by information collected by National Disaster Agency.

Minangkabau – Ceremonies and festivals

  • Minangkabau ceremonies and festivals include:
  • Turun mandi – baby blessing ceremony
  • Sunat rasul – circumcision ceremony
  • Pesta parkawinan – wedding ceremony
  • Batagak pangulu – clan leader inauguration ceremony
  • Turun ka sawah – community work ceremony
  • Manyabik – harvesting ceremony
  • Hari Rayo – Islamic festivals
  • Adoption ceremony
  • Adat ceremony
  • Funeral ceremony
  • Wild boar hunt ceremony
  • Maanta pabukoan – sending food to mother-in-law for Ramadhan
  • Tanah Ta Sirah, inaugurate a new clan leader (Datuk) when the old one died in   the few hours (no need to proceed batagak pangulu, but the clan must invite all clan leader in the region).
  • Tabuik – Muslim celebration in the coastal village of Pariaman

Minangkabau – Arts

  • Traditional Minangkabau arts include:
  • Randai, folk theater which includes music, dance and drama
  • Saluang Jo Dendang ("bamboo flute and singing")
  • Talempong (gong-chime) music
  • Tari Piring ("Plate dance")
  • Tari Payung ("Umbrella dance")
  • Tari Indang, traditional dance
  • Pidato Adat, ceremonial orations
  • Pencak Silat, performance based upon the Silat martial art

Minangkabau – Crafts

Traditional Minangkabau crafts include:

  • Hand weaving of Songket cloth
  • Embroidery
  • Wood carving
  • Goldsmithing and silversmithing of jewelry by filigree and granulation techniques


The staple ingredients of the Minangkabau diet are rice, fish, coconut, green leafy vegetables and chili. 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.
Minangkabau Dishes

  • Rendang, chunks of beef stewed in coconut milk and chili gravy usually cooked 4-5 times a year
  • Sate Padang, skewered barbecued meat with peanut sauce
  • Sambal Balado
  • Kalio
  • Palai
  • Dendeng  (beef with chili sauce)

Minangkabau Snacks and Drinks

  • Lemang
  • Tapai
  • The Talua, mixed egg and tea
  • Dadiah


Rumah Gadang (Minangkabu: 'big house') are the traditional homes (Indonesian: rumah adat) 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. The houses have dramatic curved roof structure with multi-tiered, upswept gables. Shuttered windows are built into walls incised with profuse painted floral carvings. The term rumah gadang usually refers to the larger communal homes, however, smaller single residences share many of its architectural elements.
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 folktales Rancak 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 his ship is flung against rocks by a storm. 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.

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