Indonesia Banget #4 : Malam Bainai

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This month’s Indonesia Banget is more like Minang Banget 🙂

To know what Indonesia Banget is, you need to read the first post of Indonesia banget, here.

Minangkabau is how people in West Sumatra called their land. Sumatra is one of many Islands in Indonesia. It is located on the west side of Indonesia. Both my Parents come from west Sumatra. It can be said that I have west Sumatra blood, but I was born and raised in Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia.

Sumatra Island

I choose to talk about Malam Bainai (Bainai Night) because my best friend had held this tradition 2 months ago. This is not national tradition, it belongs only to Minangkabau people.

What is Malam Bainai?

Malam Bainai is held a night before the wedding. It is held by the bride family. At this night, 9 women will put inai on Anak Daro’s nails. I don’t know how to translate Inai, it’s like nail polish but made of inai’s leaves. It turns the nail color into something between red and orange. Women in Muslim counties often wear inai because they are still allowed to do Sholat when wearing inai (they can not do Sholat when wearing nail polish made of chemical stuff). Anak Daro is bride in Padang Language (west Sumatra traditional language)

This traditional event is usually held when the bride is the 1st daughter of the family. The reason is very simple, to let everyone knows that they are about to let go their first daughter into a marriage life. They’ll invite all their family and friends to attend this event.

Long time ago, putting inai on the bride’s nail was not only to make their nails became beautiful. It was also believed that those red fingernails would protect the bride from everyone who felt jealous at her. It would also protect her from the danger that lied ahead of her while preparing for her wedding. After the wedding, those red fingernails became a sign that the woman had married.

Those belief was no longer become the reason of Malam Bainai because it isn’t appropriate with Islam. Nowadays, inai is only to make the bride looks more beautiful.

The Dress

The dress for Malai Bainai is called Tokah. Tokah is a kind of long fabric wraps around the bride’s chest and shoulder. It might be hard to see it in the picture. It has the color of gold and covered with accessories with the same pattern as the cloth.

The bride will also wear Sunting. Sunting is the accessories on her head that looks like golden flowers. Every Minang’s bride will wear sunting on her head on their wedding day. But the sunting for malam bainai is shorter than the one she will wear on her wedding day. The one she is wearing for her malam bainai is a simple kind of sunting.

The Procession

It begins with walking the bride into the house. She is then sitting in front of the pelaminan (small version of wedding’s pelaminan). The bride’s parents will sit on the pelaminan. The parents will give advice to their daughter and the daughter will say thank you for the things her parents had done to raise her up.

The second thing to do in malam bainai is showering. It’s not an actual showering like in Java Island, the showering is only a symbolic act. The showering is done by both parents and family from both parents. They will give her more advices.

After the showering comes the main event, putting inai on the bride’s nail. The number of inai has to be odd number, the most is 9 inai. Some will be put by the bride’s family and some others will be put buy the groom’s family. 1 will be put by the bride’s friend who is still single.

The purpose of 9 inai, instead of 10 inai for 10 fingernails, is to remind us that no body is perfect.

Once all inai have been put, the procession is officially over. Throughout the procession, the groom doesn’t present in the house.

Malam bainai is not often done anymore by Minang people. To tell you the truth, that was the first time I saw malam bainai.

All the pictures were taken by me (Click on the pictures to enlarge it) on my best friend’s Malam Bainai. My part in this procession was as the bride’s friend who is still single 😉

I hope you enjoy reading this glimpse of Indonesian tradition which I’ll keep on sharing every month.

19 thoughts on “Indonesia Banget #4 : Malam Bainai

  1. Oh, nice to know more about you Novia. So kamu orang Padang then? That’s so interesting that there are sooo many very different custom in our country… I’ve never seen Malam Bainai either. I’m from Java, my mom is from Solo and my dad from Surabaya, and I’m what you call third generation Chinese. My mom & aunties have Chinese names but my brothers & I don’t, nor do we speak any Chinese dialect (I wish I did though). My mom & grandma actually speaks Dutch as often as they speak Indo, as well as Javanese, too.

    1. Yes, saya orang awak 😉 but I can’t speak Padangnese, I understand the language but having problem speaking it. Can you speak Javanese?

      You have interesting family with so many languages. Is your mom speaks Mandarin? Most my friends who have chinese blood can’t speak chinese anymore. Their grandparents still speak in chinese.

      We have TOO many customs, each province has different customs…I wish I can write about all of them, but that will require a lot of research. I’m happy to that our country has so many interesting customs.

  2. Thanks for this interesting post. Beautiful and colorful. She looks so beautiful. I like this with the 9 nails. I do this with my nails, they are very long and occasionally I break one and people always say: now you must cut them all and I always say, no it is wrong to always want to be perfect. It is not possible anyway. Is the headdress not very heavy? Did they choose each other or did the family choose?

    1. You’re welcome Caroline 🙂
      It’s nice to have 10 long nails, I can only have 5 because I can’t let the nails in my right become long.

      Hehe if you think that headdress is heavy, you’ll be surprise to see the one for the wedding day, it is 3 times bigger than that. My friend told me that that thing is heavy but she has to bear it.
      She doesn’t choose it, the wedding dresser choose it for her, she just sit nicely and let the dresser put as many golden flower as possible.

  3. Thanks for this entry!I wanted to ask you how an indonesian wedding is, when you’ve posted on your fb wall that your friend has married.And here’s the answer!I thought that there was a traditional thing like the bride’s dress, cause most of the southern countries have a special tradition.German wedding is so boring in comparison to this wedding prep.

      1. I don’t know other european traditions, but in Germany the bride wears mostly a white dress to show her innocence.My granny married my grandpa after second world war.At this time it was usual not to sleep with each other before the marriage.My parent’s generation and the following generations are more open.They still wear a white dress, but they aren’t innocent anymore;-) Some brides wear a colored dress.Everything is allowed.It’s a free decision.Some couples like the way foreign countries celebrate their wedding and they travel the long way to celebrate the wedding in another world far away from Germany.It is really boring to marry in Germany.No tradition, no music, no fun.I don’t want to marry even if I had someone.Cause I could marry a woman here too;-)

        1. So, in other word, Germany use the kind of dress that is used by most people around the world, right?
          I never knew that the white dress represent innocent, tho they are not innocent anymore as you put it out ;). A lot of Indonesian people are not as innocent as they used to be, just like your parents’ generation…but there are still a lot of people who keep their virginity till they get married, especially those who keep their religion (Islam) so strong.
          Why don’t you wanna get married? I haven’t had the luxury of marriage yet but that doesn’t mean i don’t want to get married someday.

          1. I heard the prophet mohammed had a wife that was 40 years old when they married.It’s ok for you-only 7 years to wait Novi 😉
            I don’t want to get married, cause in Germany you have to pay for your partner if he or she gets sick and doesn’t have the money to pay.First it sounds good and normal.Everyone would help the one they love.But you can only help someone with money if you’re having the money, Right? In Germany we have laws that say:If you don’t have the money in your pocket to pay for your partner and you are having a house or anything precious like a car or jewels you have to sell this things to get money.But what if you love your house too?And you need your house?Never mind-you have to pay for your partner until you are poor too.Me and my mom experienced this case when my father was accommodated in a nursing home and we couldn’t pay the bills.The only solution was the death of my father, cause we said we don’t want to inherit and this meant also not to pay the bills.I always thought of this experience and that’s the main decision for me NOT to marry.
            Without my dad we’re feeling heartbroken, but without money our whole life would be broken.You can’t live without love but love won’t fill-up your stomach.
            I’m definitly not someone who hates the marriage, but I hate the money-thing around!

          2. Siti Khadijah (Prophet Muhammad’s wife) was a widow when she married him.
            Thanks for the comforting words, but I’m enjoying my life with or without a husband 🙂

            Aah … I see! I understand your point. I think that problem applies everywhere, not only in Germany.

  4. hello! i’m a first generation indonesian in the u.s. and i’m minang too. i just got married last night and our ceremony was done in the minang tradition, sunting and everything, it was pretty painful, but great. i was very honored that my now husband could experience the culture. my mother hosted a malam bainai in my home and only the ladies of the community came. we didn’t do the inai (called henna in english) but we did the rose water bath/pouring. it was a very beautiful night & ceremony. thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Audra, it’s so nice to know that you are still using the tradition eventhough you live in another country. Was it difficult to get the suit and other wedding equipments?

      1. hello! there’s a strong minang community here in houston and everyone helped out for the wedding. a tante of mine let me use her daughter’s sunting from her wedding 3 years ago, the indonesian consulate helped, and our family in indonesia sent more sunting, the dress and the songket that my mother and i wore along with the decorations. it was a real honor to represent the culture.

        1. wow..I am glad to hear that. Strong community in a far away land is something I consider as AMAZING. I am not a nationalist person but I really love our rich culture…and to know that these vast variety of culture is still being used is really heart warming.

          I am a bit unsure here, you said you are 1st generation, does that mean you are born in US? can still speak Indonesian?

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