Last month, December 2011, I missed my Indonesia Banget post. I had it in mind what to write but a very unfortunate incident happened, my mom passed away. I guess from now on, 17 of each month is no longer special for sharing about my country. This date has more meaning for me.
I was planning to share about Indonesian people’s habit but I changed my mind as today is a month anniversary of my mom’s death. I am going to share about graveyards in West Sumatra. Why is it special? Because graveyard in West Sumatra is different compared to other parts in Indonesia. In Jakarta, where I live in, graveyard is open to anyone who can rent the land. I don’t know exactly how much because different area has different rent fee. In West Sumatra, most graveyards are free because they belong to suku (in English it could be called as tribe).
Let me introduce you to suku before talking about graveyards.
West Sumatra is a matriarch land where bloodline runs through mother’s side. In most part of the world, be it in Europe, America or Asia…family names are always based on the father’s side, children don’t normally used their mother’s family name. In West Sumatra, although people don’t use family name, but their suku is always following their mother. My mother came from suku Melayu, therefore my brothers and I are also Melayu. My brothers married women from Java, their children no longer have suku because father can’t pass down their suku to their children. When I have children, my children will be Melayu just like me. If my brothers married women from west Sumatra, their children will follow their mother’s suku, they would not be considered as Melayu.
I hope you understand what suku is by now.
Most graveyards in Padang belong to certain suku. There are also public graveyards which are no different to any public graveyards in the world (I am going to ignore this public graveyards). Everyone who comes from a certain suku donates an amount of money to their chief and the chief will bought a land that will be used as graveyard for his suku. That graveyard will pass down through generations for years to come. When a member of the suku died, they will be buried in that land for free…no rent fee is required. Even after a hundred year, people from that suku can be buried there. The problem is, after a century the graveyard will be full. It would be difficult to find empty land. Fortunately, at least for this generation, old graveyards are only marked with nisan (a carved stone with name of the deceased). People in this generation often take off the nisan and bury another body on the same spot. Unfortunately for the future regeneration, people are starting to mark their family grave with cement and tiles. It would be difficult to cast away that thing.
My mother’s suku is planning to buy another land as the current land is getting almost impossible to bury another person. My mom was lucky because she could be buried next to her grandma and her mother (my grandma).
The disadvantage of this kind of graveyards is that husband and wife can’t be buried side by side because husband and wife come from different suku, therefore they will be buried in different graveyards. The other disadvantage is there is no graveyard keeper, all graveyards that belong to suku are not well-kept. Each grave is taken cared by family member. Some graves are left unattended with grass covering the grave. Take a look at my grandma from my father’s side (see the photos below ). She was buried in a very fertile land, plants are easy to grow there. I felt like hiking when I went to visit her grave. When I got to her grave, her grave was covered with grass. My cousin had to clean it first. He said he had cleaned it several months ago but because of the land’s condition, the grass and the plants had covered it again.
Tagak Batu Tradition.
At first, the grave looks like this>>>
The body is wrapped in nothing white sheet that we called kafan. A piece of wood is placed on top of the body. The wood is not as strong as Christian coffin, the wood is very easy to break. Once the wood has broken, the soil on top of the wood will fall down and making the grave a bit flat. It usually happens on the second week after the burial. The family member will add more soil on top of it and they will then put the nisan on both sides of the grave, the head and the feet. The putting of the nisan is called Tagak Batu. It looks like this>>>
Usually, about one hundred days after the burial, the soil will become hard…and that is the time when people start putting little ‘house’ on top of the grave (see the first photo above).
In Islam Tradition, when we visit a grave, we pray for the deceased.
That’s all about my homeland graveyards. Hope you enjoy reading this. You can read more about Indonesia by clicking on the button up there.
Note: These photos are of my family, please DO NOT use them without my permission.