Badui Community in Banten – Sacred Lives

In a fast-changing world, the Badui community in Banten reminds an enigma. A deeply spiritual community, a wholly unique and closed society, the Badui people of Banten steadfastly maintain their ancient ways, rejecting most trappings of modern society.

Members of the innermost community, the badui Dalam (inner badui people), live in one of three villages, Cibeo, Dikertawana and Cikeusik, nestled amongst the forested foothills around Mt. Kendang, southeast of Rangkasbitung. Deliberately spurning all contact with the world beyond their group, the Badui Dalam are completely surrounded by a protective buffer zone of badui Luar (outer Badui people).

The 400 or so members of this community believe they are the direct lineal descendants of the first people to occupy the Earth, the land they are born from is a living mandala, a representation of the entire universe. To prevent devastation and calamity throughout the world, they strive to live in harmony with the earth and in conformity with the ways prescribed by their ancestors. Thus, there are no schools, no medical facilities and no government offices of any kind. Each of the three Badui Dalam villages is headed by a “puun”, a hereditary spiritual and temporal leader whose person is sacred. The land within Badui Dalam territory is also regarded as sacred, and outsiders, including the Badui Luar, are forbidden to till its soil or settle there.

Badui Luar Village (outter Badui village)

The Badui Dalam are not permitted to wear any cloth but the rough white homespun they weave themselves. The may not cultivate cash crops, use fertilizers, eat any four-legged animals, domesticate any livestock apart from chickens or use any medicine except their own herbal preparations. They agriculture is limited to “lading” or shifting cultivation, which relies on the natural fertility of newly cleared ground seldom productive for more than two seasons.

The Badui Luar, or Outer Badui community. Of almost 8000 individuals living in 67 villages, speak the same archaic dialect of Sundanese as do the insiders, to whom they are related by ties of blood, marriage and ritual. The taboos and rules that govern this group are considerably less rigorous than on the inside, although the use of vehicles, machinery, electricity, and chemicals within their territory is still forbidden, as is the cultivation of commercial crops. Members of the Badui Luar may travel in motorized vehicles when journeying outside the area, however, and have far more frequent interactions with the outside world. Although obliged to wear only their homespun blue or black cloth, and forbidden to wear trousers, some of the Luar people now proudly sport the colorful sarongs and shirts favored by their Sundanese neighbors.

A bridge made of bamboo

Other elements of civilizations such as toys, money and batteries are rapidly infiltrating especially in the villages to the north, and it is no longer unusual for an outer Badui to make a journey to Jakarta, or even to work outside as a hired hand during the rice planting and reaping seasons. Some even work in big towns and cities like Jakarta, Bogor and Bandung. Animal meat is eaten in some of the outer villages where dogs are trained for hunting, though animal husbandry is still forbidden.

The origins of the Baduis are obscured by the absence of a recorded or written history, though ethnically they appear to come from the same stock as the Sundanese and the Javanese. There was a popular suggestion that they are remnants of the last Hindu Kingdoms in West Java, Pajajaran, but this fails to account for their unique nature or their religion, which shows no Hindu influence. Theirs is a strange blend of animism and certain Islamic elements, with some original ideas thrown in for good measure.

The Badui’s most hallowed ground lies on Gunung Kendeng, in a place called Arca Domas, which is annually visited (and only) by “puun” of the inner communities. It is possible to visit some of the villages on the northern rim of the badui Area; the most easily accessible is Desa Kaduketug, which is a good four-hour hike from Leuwidamar, 24 kilometers south of Rangkasbitung.