Indonesia is an expansive archipelago composed of more than 300 ethnic groups living side by side. Each ethnic group holds a differing culture with a unique set of beliefs, knowledge, arts, laws, and customs. These cultures are reflected through everything in their life, from their identity, cultural performances, crafts, to how they envision their ideal home. The ideal home according to each of these ethnic groups is further reflected through their traditional house or rumah adat. These traditional houses possess a social significance to the community. They also demonstrate the ethnic group’s ingenuity based on their architecture, environment, and spatial organization. Each traditional house in Indonesia also retains a distinctive look. Curious about these traditional houses? We have gathered 9 iconic Indonesian traditional houses below, let’s check them out!
Sometimes also known as Gargo house, this traditional house belongs to the Batak people of North Sumatra. In the past, the Bolon house was inhabited mainly by the kings of North Sumatra. Bolon house is composed of timbers with steeply sloping roofs and wooden supporting poles under its floor. The exterior walls of the house are decorated with ornaments to repel evil influences. These ornaments consist of anthropomorphic and zoomorphic designs which are painted with natural colors.
Meaning 'large house' in the Minangkabau language, the Gadang house belongs to the Minangkabau people of West Sumatra. The traditional house is also known as Bagonjong house or Baanjuang house. The house is widely known for its unique roof which looks similar to buffalo horns. As a symbol of Minangkabau communion, the Gadang house functioned mainly as their traditional institution. The rooms inside usually amounted in odd numbers from three up to eleven, depending on the number of women within the family. The exterior of the Gadang house is also ornamented with carvings of varying motifs such as plants, flowers, fruits, or geometric shapes.
This traditional house belongs to the Javanese people of Central Java. Some popular characteristics of the Joglo house include its pyramid shingled roof, expansive terrace, and three exterior doors. The name itself came from the word Tajug Loro (Juglo) which means 'two mountains'. Mountains are considered to be sacred according to Javanese philosophy. Joglo house is commonly held by four main pillars called saka guru. Philosophically, the terrace is meant for maintaining the relationship among the neighbors, while the doors reflect the harmony and openness of its inhabitants. Generally, a Joglo house consists of eight rooms, each serving a different function.
The traditional house of Bali is regularly composed of a single compound with multiple parts inside. Each part serves a different purpose. These parts are Angkul-Angkul, Aling-Aling, Sanggah, Bale Manten, Bale Sakenem (or sometimes known as Bale Dangin or Bale Gede), Bale Dauh, Bale Sakapat, Pawaregen, and Klumpu/Jineng. The Angkul-Angkul is the front gate of the compound itself. The Aling-Aling serves as a barrier between Angkul-angkul and the yard. The Sanggah serves as a private worshipping place for the family. The main building Bale Manten serves as the residence of the head of the family and their spouse. Bale Sakenem serves as a place to hold ceremonies. Bale Dauh serves as a place to receive guests. Bale Sakapat serves as the family’s leisure room. Pawaregen serves as the kitchen of the residence. While Klumpu/Jineng serves as the storage for the family's grains.
Known for its distinct boat-shaped roof, the Tongkonan house belongs to the Torajan people of South Sulawesi. The house symbolizes the dignity and family values of the Torajan people. Tongkonan house mainly functioned as the community's establishment, whether for living, socializing, ceremonies, or rice granary. Usually, the house is painted with four main colors namely red, yellow, white, and black. Moreover, the house is often decorated with buffalo heads and other things such as chicken heads or dragon sculptures.
The traditional house of Dayak people from West Kalimantan is renowned for its extensive length[U1] . The length of Dayak longhouses usually reaches 300 meters with about 60 families living inside. The house is also known for its high wooden stilts made for avoiding floods. Dayak longhouses are made with durable timber woods known as Bornean ironwood or ulin. Each family lives within the rooms separated across the house.
This traditional house belongs to the Sasak people of West Nusa Tenggara. It is mainly composed of bamboo, straws, reeds, and woods.
There are many types of Sasak house, namely Bale Lumbung, Bale Bonder, Bale Tani, Bale Jajar, Bale Kodong, and Bale Gunung Rate. When people talk about Sasak house, they usually refer to Bale Lumbung which is known for its curved roof shape. Like any other traditional houses, the Sasak house reflects the beliefs and values held by the Sasak people.
Uma Kelada can usually be found in Sumba Island, East Nusa Tenggara, particularly in Ratenggaro Village. As a part of Sumbese cultural heritage, the traditional house is known for its towering straw roof, whose height depends on the social status of its inhabitant. Moreover, the foundation of Uma Kelada house is mainly composed of bamboo. No windows are made in this house, instead, the light and air went through the small gaps in between the bamboo walls.
This humble abode can be found mainly in the eastern part of Indonesia, particularly in West Papua. Honai house belongs to the Dani people. Unlike any other traditional houses, the whole family doesn’t live inside a single Honai house together. Instead, the male and female members of the family live separately in different houses. Shaped like a mushroom, the house only consists of one small room with a single door. The house is generally made without windows to ward off cold weather and predatory animals.
These are some of the well-known traditional houses in Indonesia. There are many more interesting traditional houses from other ethnic groups you can discover here. Furthermore, other than through traditional architecture, Indonesian architecture has also been developed through a mixture of various styles as a result of the country's rich history. Some of these styles include, Islamic architecture, colonial architecture, and post-independence architecture. Go give them a visit once you are able to travel to Indonesia! As always, remember to follow the existing health protocols all the time, by wearing your mask in public, keeping your distance from others, washing your hands regularly, avoiding crowded places, and minimizing your mobility.
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