History and Customs of Lampung Ethnic Group

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Collection Tropen Museum, Netherland

TERASLAMPUNG.COM, BANDAR LAMPUNG–Lampung is located in a Southern tip of Sumatera Island. Since its location is near Java Island, and only separated by a strait, Lampung Province often called as “North Java”. And since Lampung is a gateway for Sumatera Island, for all territories of Sumatera Island, Lampung plays a strategic position.

Lampung Province was officially declared by Indonesian Government through the Governmental Regulation as Substitute (Perppu) of the Act No 3/ 1964, March 18, 1964. Later on, that Perppu became the Act No. 14/1964. Lampung was formerly a residency under the territorial authority of South Sumatera with Palembang as its capital.

Lampung is geographically located in South East tip of Sumatera Island at 103o40 -105o50 longitude and 3o45–6o45 South latitude position. Lampung Province administrative territory are as follows: its North side is adjacent to Bengkulu and North Sumatera Province; its East side is adjacent to Hindia Ocean; and its South side is adjacent to Sunda Strait.

The total width of Lampung territory is 51.991,8 km2 that comprises of 35.376,5 km2 of mainland and 1.105 km of coastal line length (including 69 small islands with Pulau Tabuan as its bigger one). Lampung has big strait: Teluk Lampung and Teluk Semangka. The width of its coastal area is about 16.625,3 km2.

According to the Central Bureau of statistic (BPS) data, the total number of Lampung citizen was 6.915.950 in 2004. Nowadays, the total number of Lampung citizen is approximately more than 7 millions. Javanese ethnic group is greatest number (more than 40percent). Whereas the total number of Lampung ethnic group is less than 40 percent.

In addition to migration, the great number of new comers in Lampung (particularly Java ethnic group) was a result of colonization program undergone by the Dutch Colonial Government. The first colonization, namely by moving Central Java citizens to Gedongtaan in South Lampung, was in 1901. After the Indonesian independence, the moving of Java citizens to Lampung was undergone through transmigration program. The transmigration wave that ran until 1980 caused Java ethnic group becomes the greatest number of Lampung citizen.

Lampung is one of multiethnic province in Indonesia. People of numerous ethnic groups — Lampung, Banten, Javanese, Sundanese, Balinese, Padang, Semendo, Komering, Batak, Bugis, Madura, Tionghoa, etc.— live there. They live in a coexistent life. Since people of heterogeneous ethnic groups live peacefully here, Lampung often called as “miniature of Indonesia”.

History of Lampung

Professor Hilman Hadikusuma, Barusman, and Razi Arifin in their book entitled Adat Istiadat Orang Lampung (1996), stated that the history of Lampung ethnic group dated back to the age of animistic Hindu: from the early years of first century until the beginning of 16th Century. The age of animistic Hindu means the era when many isms or cultural systems of India, as well as the teaching of Buddhism, influenced Lampung customs.

The history of Lampung as a maritime territory is proven through its archeological remains, i.e. ceramic of Han Dynasty (206-220 B.C.) and Ming Dynasty (1368-1643 A.D.). According to China chronicle, in 7th Century there was a kingdom called Tolang P’ohwang (to=people, Lang P’ohwang=Lampung) or Tulangbawang in south area (Namphang).

Its capital was approximately in Menggala or Tulangbawang River till Pagardewa (Tulangbawang Residency now). Unfortunately, since its limited archeological remains, it is hard to trace back the footstep of that kingdom.

Lampung geographical position as a maritime territory, made Lampung ethnic group famous as fishermen since a long time ago. Lampung traditional ship was famously known as Jung. Later on, this Jung was well known as one of important ornament for Lampung cultural inheritance, including as one of ornate motif for Lampung tapis.

In the meantime, since a long time ago, merchants from all over Nusantara and foreign countries visited Lampung and engaged in commerce. In addition to merchants and fishermen from Bugis, Makasar, Banten, Cirebon, and Palembang, Gujarat people were the other merchants and fishermen who visited Lampung since 18th Century. Even in 14th Century, China people (during the period of Ming Dynasty) preceded to visit Lampung.

The historical track of Lampung is also possibly traced back to some ancient inscription. Based on Palas Pasemah ancient inscription in South Lampung and Batu Bedil ancient inscription in Tanggamus Regency, for instance, it is known that in 8th Century Lampung was under the reign of Sriwijaya Kingdom.

Numerous archeological remains in written forms showed that Lampung people had a high culture. It showed that Lampung ethnic group had literate culture since a long time ago. Another evidence is that Lampung ethnic group had their own alphabet (Kha-ga-nga). Some experts said that Lampung alphabet came and developed from the alphabet of Dewdatt Deva Nagari, India. Hose alphabets were syllables like those of Java alphabets (Ha-na-ca-ra-ka).

Thanks to the arrival of Islam to Lampung in 16th Century, in the reign of Sultan Hasannudin (1522-1570 A.D.), that literate culture was well maintained in Arabic and Kaghanga writing form.

Since Lampung natural resource was greatly overflow, particularly for its spieces, two big kingdoms (Sriwijaya Kingdom and Banten Sultanate) vied for conquering Lampung. The ultimate goal of both two kingdom were not just for the sake of turning Lampung to be the part of their conquered territory but mainly also for monopolizing its spices and numerous forest richness.

When Banten Sultanate was under the reign of Sultan Ageng Tirtayasa, to conquer Banten, the Dutch Colonial played him against his son, Sultan Haji. Being seduced into tricky VOC’s promise, Sultan Haji eventually supported the Dutch Colonial and fight against his father. As recompense, Sultan Haji presented Lampung territory to Dutch Colonial.

In April 7, 1682, Sultan Haji removed Sultan Ageng Tirtayasa from his power. The Dutch Colonial went on to appoint Sultan Haji as the successor. The result of negotiation between VOC and Sultan Haji was the Charter dated August 27, 1682. That Charter stated that Sultan Haji gave the authority of spices commerce in Lampung to VOC. By so doing, VOC had the right and authority to monopolize the commerce enterprise in Lampung territory.

The Dutch Colonial eventually conquered and had freedom of action in Lampung. Since 1857 on, the agricultural commerce enterprise consisted of coffee, natural rubber, and oil palm were begun being developed. In 1913 the Dutch Colonial built Tulangbawang-Palembang railway for the sake of transportation of that natural yields. Since the dawn of Indonesian independence and the time of struggle to chase the Dutch and Japan Colonial away, Lampung freedom fighters showed their effort to fight for their country.

The coming of various foregn cultures and nations to Lampung territory eventually influenced the customs of Lampung ethnic group. Those customs of Lampung ethnic group presently practices amid the daily lives of Lampung people. Although most of them are muslims, the Hindu influences on their dresses and equipments are obvious during their traditional ceremony and on tapis clothes as well. Various ornate motives of old tapis showed that animism, Hinduism, China, Dongson, and Islam strongly influenced tapis.


Lampung ethnic group called their village as tiyuh, anek, or pekon. Before 1952, some villages in Lampung belonged to a clan in the reign of sub-district. During the era of post-World War II, the sub-district called as onderdistrik and headed by a Demang assistant (Camat).

After 1952, one clan or more were combined to be a negeri (village) and headed by kepala negeri (the head of village). During the era of new Order regime, negeri was changed into desa. Desa government, in the settlement of both Lampung native citizen and Javanese-Balinese origin transmigration area, consisted of kampongs governed by the head of kampong (lurah). Those kampongs were under the reign of sub-district governed by sub district head (camat). As the time of Reformasi went by, in 1999 desa government finally reused the term pekon and tiyuh.

Lampung society put the kinship status based on patriarchal line (patrilineal). A kinship group was based on one father, one grandfather, or forefather/ancestor. One-father kinship relationship is called as menyanak, senuwon or sangalamban (in same house).

The kinship relationship based on one grandfather and one ancestor in one group was called as buay. The one-buay members are those under the same cultural and custom tie (mewari). And since they have territorial and genealogical relationship and marital tie based on ngejuk-ngakuk (take-give) and lived in-group, the members of that clan knew one each other.

The smallest kinship group, i.e. nuclear family (batih), consists of father; mother and unmarried children live in one family. Grandfather and grandmother often live in one of their eldest son/daughter or married son/daughter. This kind of family called as menyanak.

Most of Lampung people are Muslims. All of Lampung citizen are possibly regarded as Muslims. Islamic religion does not merely influence the private life but also strongly colors the social system and its customs.  However, it does not mean that there was not old belief inheritance that influenced them prior to the coming of Islam in Lampung.

Lampung ethnic group presently live in Lampung have a well-maintained customs. Although they come from the same Lampung ethnic group, there are some differences concerning the customs of lives between one group and another ones. In general, there are two big groups of Lampung people: Lampung Pepadun and Lampung Saibatin (Coastal Lampung).

Lampung ethnic group of Pepadun is a native ethnic group live in Abung Siwo Mego (Abung with Nine Clans) in North Lampung, Tulang Bawang Mego Pak (Tulang Bawang with Four Clans) in Tulangbawang, Pubia Telu Suku (Pubian with Three clans) in Central Lampung and East Lampung, as well as Buay Lima in Way Kanan Residence.

Lampung ethnic group of Saibatin consist of citizens of Peminggir Melinting, South Lampung, Peminggir Teluk in Bandarlampung, Peminggir Semaka in Tanggamus Residence, Peminggir Sekala Brak in West Lampung, and Komering in borderlines of South Sumatera.

Based on its geographical territory, citizens of Lampung Pepadun are those who inhabit mainland. In other hand, citizens of Lampung Saibatin are those who formerly lived in coastal areas.

The main difference of both Lampung Pepadun and Lampung Saibatin/Peminggir are particularly concerning the system of their traditional leadership. Within the society of Lampung Saibatin, the problem of traditional leadership is something inherited. In the meantime, according to Lampung Pepadun, the traditional leadership possibly acquired through a certain traditional ceremony and approved in traditional meeting.

Therefore, a well-known rich man and has great influence amid society, according to Lampung Pepadun custom, can reach a higher class and leaves his old lower class. To gain that level, one should run a traditional (begawi adat) commonly undergone by slaughtering some carabaos and inviting surrounding citizens for fiesta (often held for one week).

Those both two ethnic groups are commonly known as social groups run traditional ceremony up till now. Traditional ceremony is often held to commemorate the birth of child, during circumcision of children as they grow young, wedding party, presentation for higher status (adok) and death.

Those two Lampung people groups have different customs. However, in general, they can live coexistence life. Both two groups welcome warmly the outsiders or new comers. That openness had long existed and developed based on well-known Lampung people philosophy called as piil pesenggiri, berjuluk beadek, nemui nyimah, nengah nyappur, and sakai sambaian.

Piil pesenggiri literally means self-esteem. It means Lampung people have strong integrity to depend the truth, dignity and self-esteem. Lampung people are not fear of death for maintaining their self-esteem and dignity. Lampung people, particularly those with Pepadun customs as traditional leader, recognize themselves a high-ranked people before other citizens.

Bejuluk beadek or juluk adek means that all Lampung people should have special title. Giving a traditional title commonly held during a traditional wedding ceremony. Nemui nyimmah means being welcomed to have guest. Since Lampung people are proud of praise and harmony they are proud of welcoming guest and presenting gift to certain people, particularly to those who have kinship relationship (nyimmah).

In addition to its meaning as pond of welcoming guest and presenting gift, nemui nyimmah also means pond of forgiving other’s faults. It is why Lampung people like to visit other people (nengah) and make acquaintances (nyappur). Nengah nyappur means live co-existent life with other. Based on Nengah nyappur philosophy, Lampung people are famously known as people pond of cooperation (Nengah nyappur).

The social stratification of Lampung people in the traditional hierarchy is based mainly on their social status. The kinship relationship is separated among women, married and unmarried kinship.

The traditional social stratification of Lampung people is as follow: First, tuha raja or tohou rajou that means that traditional leader (punyimbang) member of kebuayan, clan, tiyuh or pekon (village), and those who have the authority and right to run the customs based on consensus—they commonly called as perwatin. The member of perwatin should be married and have special status in traditional hierarchy.

Second, bebai-mirul: the wives of punyimbang and those who has the authority to manage women status in accord with their husband status. During traditional ceremony, all bebai mirul should perfectly provide all kind of foods and mengiyan (their husbands) help their duties.

Third, lakau mengiyan: brother-in-law (wife’s brother). This group must provide the ceremonial place inside house and traditional place, traditional equipments, the guest and help the coking activity. During the traditional wedding party, mengiyan (the husbands who come to the ceremony) should accompany the bridegroom. In other hand, the bride should be accompanied by mirul (their wives).

Fourth, adik warei: the younger brothers. They are fully responsible for the children of nephew. During the traditional ceremony for nephew’s children—such as presentation of higher status, wedding party and circumsition—they are responsible to manage all activities. The member of adik warei has the right to substitute his brother or sister’s offspring. When a brother is dead, his former wife is possibly married.

Fifth, apak kemaman: a group consists of father and uncle based on the relationship of father kinship. As the case of adik warei, they are also responsible to the life of their nephew’s children. This group is respected traditional leader as adik warei.

Sixth, lebuw kelambu or lebu kelama: the man group that come from father and mother’s brothers. During traditional ceremony they become respected advisors. However, they do not have right to make any decision.

Seventh is kenubei-binulung. Kenubei-binulung are children of mother’s brothers of sisters. Binulung are children of father’s sisters. Kenubei and binulung should back the traditional ceremony. However, the do not have any right to influence any decision during the ceremony.

Eight is muli-menganai. Muli-menganai is group of young boys and girls responsible for helping the ceremony. In addition to their assistance on providing the ceremonial equipment, they should also perform their dance show.

Ninth is bebai sanak. They are married women and have children. During traditional ceremony, bebai sanak should stand by the house, kitchen, and yard. They should not sit inside perwatin, let alone in sesat or special place for traditional ceremony.

Oyos Saroso HN/Damanhuri Armadi

Source: thejakartapost.com

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