The 12 Batin Nations of Jambi

or

The 12 Batin Tribes / Clans

(Suku Bangsa Dua Belas / Bangsa XII)

Batin Girl

Girl from the Batin V Association of Villages

For several years we’ve been attempting to make sense out of the 12 Batin Tribes. We’ve finally come to the conclusion that all existing documentation originated from oral information handed down over multiple centuries. The several documents that attempt to describe these 12 Batin Tribes are insufficient. We’ve found no evidence that would give us firm footing to trust any of the extant information.

We are convinced that all accounts of the 12 Batin Tribes are speculative attempts at trying to assemble something that has been buried through the passing of time, and which clearly has been intermingled with legends.

The 12 Batin Tribes are said to be illustrated in the Jambi Coat of Arms. Our attempt to get clarification on the coat of arm’s symbolism introduced us to conflicting explanations, some of which were vaguely logical. These explanations often produced more questions than answers.

There Are No Batin Ethnic Groups

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

Traditional head covering, which they call a takuluk.

To clarify, there never were any distinctly unique and separate ethnic group with the name batin (heart). There are, however, people living in Jambi who’s descent is mostly from West Sumatra (Minangkabau), and have at this time been mixed with many other ethnic groups, like Javanese, Batak, Malay, etc. These groups of people have been living in an association of villages for a long time. These villages were considered to have a single heart, or were like minded, thus the term batin. For example, the Batin 5 of the Rantau Panjang area say they are made up of 5 villages which are sebatin (they have one heart).  The Batin 5’s history, as obtained from the Kantor Camat (government office in the Tabir Kecamatan district of the Merangin regency), shows the origin of  the Batin 5 as coming from 2 possible legendary stories (which can be read by clicking this link). This information is vastly different from the three references about the Batin that we’ve listed below.

A Batin Man

Man from the Batin V Association of Villages

Another Batin clan is the Batin 9. This group more accurately should be classified with the Anak Dalam ethnic group. As with the Batin 5 of the Rantau Panjang area, the Batin 9 base their uniqueness on their legends. They use the term batin the same way the Batin 5 does above, in that the Batin 9 are sebatin–(one hearted). This one-heartedness of the Batin 9 came from their legendary story that tells of them being 9 siblings, the sons and one daughter from a single Jambi king. Or, according to a separate legendary account, the 9 children were from a wealthy man from Palembang (read the two legends by clicking these links: Legend #1; Legend #2).

From the few sources of information available to us, our conclusion is that it is impossible to assemble a clear historical picture of the 12 Batin Tribes (Suku Bangsa Dua Belas).

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The below map is an original map used by the Dutch during their colonization of Jambi. The Dutch had Jambi divided into multiple regions, and within those regions the locations of the several Batin clans (marga/margo) can be seen. We added the white arrows to give greater clarity to the locations of the Batin clans

Clicking on the below map will allow it to be seen in a higher resolution.

Map showing the batin clans (marga) spread around the province during the Dutch occupation. The map was obtained from the Rumah Adat (cultural home) in Muara Bulian.  The map's date is unknown.

Map showing the Batin clans (marga) spread around the province during the Dutch occupation (1600s-1940s).
The map was obtained from the Rumah Adat (cultural home) in Muara Bulian.
The map’s date is unknown.

The above map leaves us with many questions, like:

  • Why were the Batin clans numbered the way there were?
  • Why do the numbers jump haphazardly. For example:
    • There is a Batin 2 (Why is there no Batin 1?)
    • There is a Batin 3 Upstream
    • There is a Batin 3 Downstream
    • There are two Batin 5s (Why were there two Batin 5 clans and no Batin 4?)
    • There is a Batin 6
    • There is a Batin 7
    • There is a Batin 8
    • There is a Batin 9 Upstream
    • There is a Batin 9 Downstream
    • There is a Batin 24 (Why do the numbers jump to 24, with no 10-23?)

Nobody we spoke with could answer the above questions we had about the batin numbering system. Below are three references we found on the the 12 Batin clans (Suku Bangsa Dua Belas). These references made only vague comments concerning the topic at hand, obviously because with the lack of clear documentation, it was impossible for the writers to add anything substantial. The information has clearly been lost through the passing of time.

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1. Malay Dialects of the Batanghari River Basin:` “.  by Karl Anderbeck

A young Batin woman and her baby.

A young lady and her baby.

Pg. 4: Anderbeck’s work indicates that the Jambi lowlands, from the eastern slopes of the Barisan Mountain Range, and downstream as far as the City of Muara Tembesi, from the 7th century and on, was organized into lose alliances of villages called Batins. He indicates that the term batin is a title given to the alliance’s chief. He goes on to explain that these alliances were institutionalized by the Dutch during the 19th century. Two examples he gives are the Batin 8, close to the City of Sarolangun, and the Batin 5, located in and around the Village of Rantau Panjang. Anderbeck indicates that these alliances were officially abolished in 1978 and were replaced with the current system of governance.

2. Sumatran Sultanate and Colonial State:  .““`   “““by Elsbeth Locher-Scholten and Beverley Jackson

The below are direct quotes taken from the book “Sumatran Sultanate.”

Pg. 48: “The Bangsa XII [12 Nations] were said to be descendants of twelve of the thirteen sons of a former sultan. They did not pay taxes but contributed services instead: they were responsible for maintaining law and order and served as the sultan’s bodyguard; they supplied timber, worked as oarsmen, and carried the royal parasol [umbrella]….”

“The chiefs of the original batin population, organized in dusun [villages] or federations of dusun, possessed a large measure of autonomy. They were elected by their own people; their letter of appointment from the sultan was a mere formality. They determined who could use what land; not even the sultan could interfere in such matters. They had jurisdiction over their own affairs, and for them The Bangsa XII [The 12 Nations], not the sultan, was the highest court of appeal.”

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3. Jambi Dalam Sejarah Nusantara (692-1949):  `.“by A. Mukty Nasruddin*

The below chart was obtained from page 95 of “Jambi Dalam Sejarah Nusantara.”

This chart in Nasruddin’s book is incapable of being substantiated and is obviously filled with elaborate speculation. The chart attempts to describe the villages the 12 Batin Nations [tribes] lived in, the name of the larger area around their village, the name of the person that particular tribe was said to have descended from, as well as that tribe’s respective responsibilities toward the king. It would be proper to dismiss this chart into a legendary classification.

*This book by Nasruddin is only available at the Museum Negeri Jambi library.

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Area

Nation

(tribe)

Head of the Tribe

(progenitor)

Duties

VII Kota & IX Kota

Dusun Tuo-Muaro Sumai

Sunan Pulau Johor

Guard the fortress from outside enemies.

Petajin

Betung Bedara

Orang Kayo Pedataran

Affairs of Development

Marosebo

Kembang Seri

Sunan Kembang Seri

Internal Security

Jebus

Dendang Sabak. Jebus

Orang Kayo Pingai

Make all preparations for the coronation of a new king.

Air Hitam

—————-

Orang Kayo Gemuk

Provide food for the palace.

Awin

Pulau Kayu Aro

Sunan Muaro Pijoan

Guard the rear of the king with spears.

Penagan

Pijoan & Kuab

Sunan Kembang Sri

Guard the front of the king with spears pointing downward.

Miji

Sekernan

Sunan Kembang Sri

Maintaining the king’s health by keeping his bedroom clean.

Pinokawan Tengah

Sungai Duren

Sunan Kembang Sri

Courier

Mestong

Sarang Burung

Kiai Patih Senapati

Providing and maintaining weapons.

Kebalen

Kedaton / Rengas Condong / Terusan

Singapatih

Guard the king on the left and right side.

Pemayung

Tanjung Pasir

Ronggomas

Carry the royal parasol [umbrella] if outside the palace.

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