The History and

Social Order of the Batin V

Batin woman with a traditional head covering, which they call a takuluk.

Batin woman with a traditional head covering, which they call a takuluk.


Batin V

According to oral history, the Batin V association of villages were said to have originated from 60 families that moved from the ancient Village of Koto Rayo. The original Village of Koto Rayo is located 7 kilometers downstream on the Tabir River from the Village of Rantau Limau Manis. Because the ancient Village of Koto Rayo is uninhabited, its name was transferred to another village just north of Rantau Panjang several years ago. Koto Rayo’s current location can be seen with this link.

What is the Meaning of Batin V?

According to Pak (Mr.) Iskandar, at the Batin V’s Cultural Center (Rumah Tuo—old house), batin means sehati, or “one heart.” Specifically, this is in reference to 5 villages that in the beginning made an agreement to live in community, all submitting to the same cultural laws.

Mr. Iskandar clearly explained that the Batin V are not a distinctively different ethnic group, and men in the other Batin V villages confirmed this. The men of Batin V say they were uncertain of their origin, though they suggested they may be descendants of the Minangkabau, and at this time mixed with Javanese and Melayu (although some claimed they are not Melayu – Jambi asli). There are no extent documentation to give evidence to any of these beliefs, but it is clear that the Batin V do have a materlinear system, which the Minangkabau also have.

Legend of the Batin V’s Origin (One Version)

For a long time the citizens in the Village of Koto Rayo lived peaceful and tranquil lives, with Puyang Depati being their leader. It is said that Puyang Depati had a very beautiful daughter, and one which many kings and princes wished to marry. One very powerful and renowned king of that age was the famous Tun Talanai. This king presented a proposal to marry this young woman, but neither he nor any other suitor pleased Puyang Depati and his daughter.

Fish trap in the middle of the Tabir River. The large trap is called a sukam.

Fish trap in the middle of the Tabir River. The large trap is called a sukam.

Due to the fact that Puyang Depati felt it wasn’t safe for him to keep his daughter in the Village of Koto Rayo, he and all the village leaders agreed to move to a new and safer location to start a new village. To prevent them from being pursued, the entire Village of Koto Rayo was destroyed and all traces of it ever having been was removed from eyesight.

Legend of the Batin V’s Origin (Another Version)

The 60 families that resided in the Village of Koto Rayo moved from its original location because they were often plagued with diseases that originated from the nearby Batanghari River. Those 60 families left and searched upstream on the Tabir River till they came upon the location now known as the Village of Tanjung Muaro Semayo. From that village all 60 families spread out into different locations along the Tabir River where they each built their respective villages. The 60 families were said to have been divided like this:

  1. The Village of Tanjung Muaro Semayo was built by 19 of the families. It is said that Puyang Depati lived in this village, and that his descendants still reside there.
  2. The Village of Seling was built by 14 of the families.
  3. The Village of Kapuk was built by 9 of the families.
  4. The Village of Pulau Aro was built by 13 of the families, and
  5. The Village of Muara Jernih was built by 5 of the families.

Two other associated legends can be read by clicking the below links:

Meaning of the Five Village’s Names

Tanjung Muara Semayo: This name comes from the word semayo, which translated means covenant. It was at this location that the original 60 families made a covenant amongst themselves after they left their original homes in the Village of Koto Rayo. After a period of time the name slowly became Rantau Panjang.

These bridges rock and sway, especially when motorcycles cross, or when a person begins to jump up and down in the center of it.

These bridges rock and sway, especially when motorcycles cross, or when a person begins to jump up and down in the center of it.

Seling: This village was located between the villages of Tanjung Muara Semayo and Kapuk, and since the word seling means alternate, it received this name because it came after the Village of Tanjung Muara Semayo.

Kapuk: This village is located in the very center of the five Batin villages that were built along the length of the Tabir River. This then became the location for official meetings of the leaders from the five villages (musyawarah), and where they would settle differences or discuss challenges they were all facing.

[This joint meeting of leaders of the 5 villages are no longer conducted on a regular basis. The Head of the Village of Kapuk informed us that if there is a meeting, it is very rare, and it would only be the cultural experts that would attend (tokoh adat). These meetings were mostly used prior to Indonesia’s independence.]

Pulau Aro: This name was taken from the natural surroundings of the area. When this village was first built there were many small growths emerging from the river, like clumps of islands. These islands had the aro plant growing from them. So the village was called “Aro Island” (pulau = island).

Muara Jernih: This village was bult close to the mouth of the Jernih River, so it took on the name Muara Jernih (Muara = mouth, and jernih = clear…..the mouth of Clear River.)

Development of the Batin V Came in

Three Phases

First Phase—During the first phase of development the various upper levels of government and cultural laws were established.

Batin Boy

Batin Boy

Second Phase—Colonization: During the Dutch colonization of Jambi, and the other islands now known as Indonesia, the governing structure and laws of the Batin V were not changed, but there were additional laws added, which were laws associated with the Dutch government.

Third Phase—Independence: During this final phase, after Indonesia’s Independence, the Batin V adjusted themselves and their laws to become compliant with the new Indonesian government. Even with the new Indonesian government, the cultural laws remained in place, with the leader of the Batin V being a Pasirah, or Pesirah (leader of a clan or family). This man carried the title of Rio Depati.

Social Structure

[Though at one time this social structure functioned, we were informed that much of the inter-communal relationships between villages are virtually non-existent today. We were told that there is an older brother –younger brother relationship (kakak-adik) with the four western villages, with Rantau Panjang (the far eastern) being the “elder brother.”

We were told that if Rantau Panjang conducts a large cultural event, they will invite the other 4 villages to come and participate, but it’s usually only the man who is knowledgeable in cultural laws (tokoh adat), or maybe the village leader (kepala desa) that will attend. Today, each respective village conducts their own ceremonies and celebrations.]

Batin Girl

Batin Girl

The social order of the Batin V can be seen by looking at the relationship between the cultural governing authorities and the citizens of the communities.

In the cultural setting, the relationship between the leadership and those that are led is well-defined. The head of a certain section of people (Kepala Kampung) may not immediately go to and address the top leader of the Batin V (Pasirah Kepala Marga). This leader must follow the chain-of-command and go through the head of the village first. After that the head of the village will pass any relevant information, inquiries, requests, etc., to the top leader of the Batin V (Pasirah Kepala Marga). The relationship between the village heads are very good, and this can be seen where there is need for them all to join together to conduct a joint community project (gotong-royong).

P. with a Batin Woman

The cultural customs are symbolic of the life of the people in the community, and it takes on the form of agreements to live according certain cultural and social norms.

From the time a home is built and lived in, in the same area with many other homes, it will be done by making the statement that all in the area are in an agreement with the culture of the people living in the area. This agreement of people in a community becomes a guideline for living together in a community.

The goal of these cultural rules is to create a community of people who are at peace, tranquil, and obedient. It also serves to create a community that has one heart and one view of life.

A good social system that unites a community will make that community stand out as an example to others. Every citizen that desires to open a new garden or field in the community, or in an area outside the neighborhood, must first receive permission by the head of the neighborhood (kepala kampung). The head of the neighborhood will then follow cultural procedures, which is to first sacrifice a chicken with white rice mixed with yellow gravy. After the sacrificial ceremony is completed, the new garden or field can be cleared for planting. No further permission from higher levels of authority are required.

[Sacrificing animals like this prior to clearing land for farming is common throughout the Jambi Province, maybe for other areas of Indonesia as well. This sacrifice is for the purpose for appeasing the spirits in those areas, so they will grant permission for the land to be used, and so they won’t hurt the crops in anyway. It’s also expected that the spirits will be pleased and they will bless the production of the field. Some say that the sacrifice is also to chase away any evil spirits that could be in the area.]

The life of the citizens in the community is life with one spirit, which is very unique for the people in Rantau Panjang. This is clearly seen in the daily life of the community as they mutually work to assist one-another. This then is the meaning of community living (hidup berkampung). Where this togetherness is most evident is in the community work days (gotong royong).

Batin Girl As with other Batin, this young girl's facial features reflects intermarriage with Chinese.

Batin Girl
As with other Batin, this young girl’s facial features reflects intermarriage with Chinese.

The evidence of unity in community living is that suffering and happiness is experienced by all together.

The uniqueness of living life in community is that all people’s views are the same, without anyone having a social status that is different from others.

This social view of life applies to the old and young, to the rich and poor, and all are jointly served and loved.

All behavior and actions are carried out with feelings of gentleness and well-being for all involved.

Unity and equality among families is also something that is highly valued. In all things there is always a compromising nature that permeates the nuclear, as well as extended families. The citizens of Rantau Panjang have a matrilineal culture. The women work hard and oversee their children, husbands, and household, so that in the family the woman is the head of the family and greatly honored, both with their amount of labor they supply, as well as being the one who receives the inheritance from parents.

Livelihood

In general, the majority of the Batin V people earn a living through:

Farming

Rice field being watered from the near by foothills of the Barisan Mountain Range.

Rice field being watered from the near by foothills of the Barisan Mountain Range.

  • Farming rice is the primary crop.

Plantations

  • Around 95% of the Batin V work on rubber and palm oil plantations.

Forest Products

  • Rattan and resin is obtained from the forests and then sold in the markets.

Dredging / Panning for Gold

  • The rivers are the location for where gold is searched for. Men, women, and their children are involved in this work.

Fishing

  • Fishing is in the Tabir River, as well as smaller streams in the area. This fishing is mostly for the immediate family’s consumption.

Religion and Knowledge

Knowledge about religion plays an important role among the Batin V because all cultural laws have been derived from religious laws.

In general, the people of Batin V follow the Islamic religion and they are very fanatic. In previous ages all education was conducted in the mosques, and all education was conducted by the religious teachers.

As the community of Batin V began to develop, there was also the development of national public schools.

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*Most of the above information was translated by us. It originated from the unpublished book: Selayang Pandang Sejarah, Tatanan Masyarakat dan Rumah Adat Kampung Baru Rantau Panjang (Overview of History, Social Structure, and the Cultural House in the New Neighborhood of the Village of Rantau Panjang);  by Sanusi, Dkk and Zainuddin

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