The Sundanese ( Sundanese : Urang Sunda; Indonesian: Suku Sunda) are an ethnic group native to the western part of the Indonesian island of Java. They number approximately 31 million, and are the second most populous of all the nation's ethncities. The Sundanese are predominantly Muslim. During the 2010 Census the government identified 1,128 ethnic backgrounds in the country, though total figures are not yet released for Sundanese.
The Sundanese have traditionally been concentrated in the provinces of West Java, Banten and Jakarta, and the western part of Central Java. The provinces of Central Java and East Java are home to the Javanese, Indonesia's largest ethnic group.
Sundanese culture has borrowed much from Javanese culture, however it differs by being more overtly Islamic, and has a much less rigid system of social hierarchy.
The common identity that binds Sundanese together is their language and culture. The Sundanese people are known as optimistic, friendly, polite and cheerful people, but they can be timid and sensitive emotionally.
The name Sunda derives from the word su which means goodness. Sunda also means light, cleanness, bright, and white
The Sundanese are of Austronesian origins who are thought to have originated in Taiwan, migrated though the Philippines, and reached Java between 1,500BCE and 1,000BCE.
The Sunda Wiwitan belief contains the legend of origin of Sundanese people; Sang Hyang Kersa, the supreme divine being in ancient Sundanese belief created seven bataras (deities) in Sasaka Pusaka Buana (The Sacred Place on Earth). The oldest of these bataras is called Batara Cikal and is considered the ancestor of the Kanekes people. Other six bataras ruled various locations in Sunda lands in Western Java. A Sundanese legend of Sangkuriang contain the memory of the prehistoric ancient lake in Bandung basin highland, which suggest that Sundanese already inhabit the region since Stone Age era. Another popular Sundanese proverb and legend mentioned about the creation of Parahyangan (Priangan) highlands, the heartland of Sundanese realm; "When the hyangs (gods) were smiling, the land of Parahyangan was created". This legend suggested the Parahyangan highland as the playland or the abode of gods, as well as suggesting its natural beauty.
Sundanese ladies performing Jaipongan Mojang Priangan dance.
Hindu influences has reached Sundanese people as early as 4th century CE as evident in Tarumanagara inscriptions. Court cultures flourished in ancient times, for example, the Sunda Kingdom, however, the Sundanese appear not to have had the resources nor desire to construct large religious monuments similar to those in Central and East Java.
Inland Sunda is mountainous and hilly, and until the 19th century, was thickly forested and sparsely populated. The Sundanese traditionally live in small and isolated hamlets, rendering control by indigenous courts difficult. The Sundanese, in contrast to the Javanese, traditionally engage in dry-field farming. These factors resulted in the Sundanese having a less rigid social hierarchy and more independent social manners. In the 19th century, Dutch colonial exploitation opened much of the interior for coffee, tea, and quinine production, and the highland society took on a frontier aspect, further strengthening the individualistic Sundanese mindset.
There is popular belief among Indonesian ethnicities that Sundanese are famous for their beauty, in his report "Summa Oriental" on early 16th century Sunda Kingdom, Tomé Pires mentioned: "The (Sundanese) women are handsome, and those of the nobles chaste, which is not the case with those of the lower classes". Sundanese women are — in estimation of Indonesians — the most beautiful in the land. In Indonesian popular beliefs, it is because of the climate, they have lighter complexion than other Indonesians, and because the Sundanese diet features raw vegetables, they reputedly possess especially soft skin. Bandung ladies, popularly known as Mojang Priangan are reputedly pretty, fashion smart and forward looking. Probably because of this, many Sundanese people today pursue careers in the Indonesian entertainment industry.
The Sundanese language is spoken by approximately 27 million people and is the second most widely-spoken regional language in Indonesia, after Javanese. The 2000 Indonesia Census put this figure at 30.9 million. This language is spoken in the southern part of the Banten province, and most of West Java and eastwards as far as the Pamali River in Brebes, Central Java.
Sundanese is more closely related to Malay and Minang than it is to Javanese, although Sundanese has borrowed the language levels denoting rank and respect. There are several dialects of Sundanese, from the Sunda–Banten dialect to the Sunda–Central Javanese dialect which mixes elements of Javanese. Some of the most distinct dialects are from Banten, Bogor, Priangan, and Cirebon. In Central Java, Sundanese is spoken in some of the Cilacap region and some of the Brebes region. It is known that the finest Sundanese dialect — which is considered as its original form — are those spoken in Ciamis, Tasikmlaya, Garut, Bandung, Sumedang, Sukabumi, and Cianjur. Dialect spoken by people living in Cianjur is considered as the most refined Sundanese. While Sundanese spoken on north coast, Banten and Cirebon is considered less refined. While the language spoken by the people of Baduy is considered the archaic type of Sundanese language, before the Sundanese people adopt the concept of language stratification to denote rank and respect as demonstrated (and influenced) by Javanese.
Today, Sundanese language are mostly written in latin alphabet. The example of Sundanese language media is Mangle Magazine that is written in latin alphabet. However, there is an effort to revive Sundanese script that have been used by ancient Sundanese between 14th and 18th centuries. The example are the street names in Bandung and several cities in West Java are written in both latin and Sundanese scripts.
The initial religious system of the Sundanese was animism and dynamism with reverence to ancestral (karuhun) and natural spirits identified as hyang, yet bears some traits of monotheism. The best indications are found in the oldest epic poems (wawacan) and among the remote Baduy tribe. This religion is called Sunda Wiwitan ("early Sundanese"). The rice agriculture had shaped the culture, beliefs and ritual system of traditional Sundanese people, among other the reverence to Nyai Pohaci Sanghyang Asri as the goddess of rice and fertility. The land of Sundanese people in Western Java is among the earliest place in Indonesian archipelago that being exposed to Indian Hindu-Buddhist influences. Tarumanagara followed by Sunda Kingdom adopted Hinduism as early as 4th century. The Batujaya stupa complex in Karawang shows Buddhist influences in West Java. The 16th century sacred text Sanghyang siksakanda ng karesian contain the religious and moral rules, guidance, prescriptions and lessons for ancient Sundanese people.
Around 15th to 16th century Islam began to spread among Sundanese people, accelerated after the fall of Hindu Sunda Kingdom and the establishment of Islamic Sultanate of Banten and Cirebon in coastal West Java. Numerous ulama (locally known as "kyai") penetrated villages in mountainous region of Parahyangan and established mosques and schools (pesantren) and spread Islamic faith into Sundanese people. Small traditional Sundanese communities had decided to retain their indigenous social and beliefs system, adopt self-imposed isolation, and refuse foreign influences, proselytism and modernization altogether, such as those of Baduy (Kanekes) people of inland Lebak Regency. Some of Sundanese villages such as those in Cigugur Kuningan retained their Sunda Wiwitan belief, while some villages such as Kampung Naga in Tasikmalaya, and Sindang Barang Pasir Eurih in Bogor, although admittedly identify themself as muslim, still uphold pre-Islamic traditions and taboos and venerated the karuhun (ancestral spirits). Today, most of Sundanese are sunni Muslims.
After Western Java fell under Dutch East India Company in early 18th century, and later under colonial Dutch East Indies control, the christian evangelism upon Sundanese people started by Christian missionaries of Genootschap voor Inen Uitwendige Zending te Batavia (GIUZ). This organization founded by Mr. F.L. Anthing and Pastor E.W. King in 1851. However, it was Nederlandsche Zendelings Vereeniging (NZV) which sent their missionaries to Sundanese people. They started the mission in Batavia, and then to several town in West Java such as Bandung, Cianjur, Cirebon, Bogor and Sukabumi. They built schools, churches and hospital for native people in West Java. Compared to large Sundanese Muslims, the numbers of christian Sundanese is scarce, today the christian in West Java are mostly Chinese Indonesian resided in West Java with only small numbers of native Sundanese.
Family and social relations
|seventh month of pregnancy|
Sundanese culture has borrowed much from Javanese culture, however it differs by being more overtly Islamic, and has a much less rigid system of social hierarchy. The Sundanese, in their mentality and behavior, their greater egalitarianism and antipathy to yawning class distinctions, their community-based material culture, of feudal hierarchy, apparent among the people of the Javanese Principality. Central Javanese court culture nurtured in atmosphere conducive to elite, stylized, impeccably-polished forms of art and literature. In a pure sense, Sundanese culture bore few traces of these traditions.
Culturally Sundanese people adopt a bilateral kinship system, with male and female descent are of equal importance. In Sundanese family the important rituals revolved around their life cycle, from the birth to the death. Adopting many of previous Animism and Hindu-Buddhist, and mainly Islamic traditions. For example during seventh month of pregnancy there is a prenatal ritual called "Nujuh Bulanan" the very same as Naloni Mitoni in Javanese tradition, which can trace its origin to Hindu ritual. Shortly after the birth of a baby the ritual called "Akekahan" (from Arabic word: Aqiqah) an Islamic tradition where the parents slaughtering a goat for baby girl or two goats for baby boy, the meat later cooked and distributed to relatives and neighbours. The circumcision ceremony is performed on pre-pubescent boy and might celebrated with Sisingaan (lion) dance. Wedding ceremony is the highlight of Sundanese family celebration with complex rituals from "naroskeun" and "neundeun omong" (marriage proposal and agreement conducted by parents and family elders), "siraman" (bridal shower), "seserahan" (presenting wedding gift for the bride), "akad nikah" (wedding vows), "saweran" (throwing coins, mixed with flower petals and sometimes also candies for the unmaried guest to collect and believed to bring better luck in romance), "huap lingkung" (bride and groom feed each other with their hand around to symbolize love and affection), "bakakak hayam" (bride and groom ripping a grilled chicken through holding each of its leg, a traditional way to determine which one will dominate the family which is the one that get the larger or head part), and the wedding feast inviting whole family and business relatives, neighbours, and friends as guests. The death in a Sundanese family usually performed through serries of rituals in accordance of traditional Islam, such as the "pengajian" (reciting Al Quran) including providing "berkat" (rice box with side dishes) for guests. The Quran recitation performed in the day of the death and everyday through seventh day; later performed again in 40th day, a year, and 1,000th days after the death. However today this traditions is not always closely and faithfully followed since the growing numbers of Sundanese adopt a less traditional Islam which often discard many of old traditions.
|Sundanese leuit (rice barn)|
The traditional profession of Sundanese people is agricultural, especially rice. Sundanese culture and tradition are usually centred around the agricultural cycle. Festivities such as Seren Taun harvest ceremony is held in such high importance, especially in the traditional Sundanese community in Cipta Gelar village, Cisolok, Sukabumi; Sindang Barang, Pasir Eurih village, Taman Sari, Bogor; and the traditional Sundanese community in Cigugur Kuningan. Since early times, Sundanese have predominantly been farmers. They tend to be reluctant to be government officer and legislators. The typical Sundanese leuit (rice barn) is the important part of traditional Sundanese villages, it held in high esteem as the symbol of wealth and welfare.
Next to agriculture, Sundanese people often choose business and trade to make a living although mostly are traditional entrepreneurships, such as a travelling food or drink vendors, establishing modest "warung" (food stall) or restaurant, as the vendor of daily consumer's goods or open a modest barber shop. Several traditional traveling food vendors and food stalls such as Siomay, Gado-gado and Karedok, Nasi Goreng, Cendol, Bubur Ayam, Roti Bakar (grilled bread), Bubur Kacang Hijau (green beans congee) and Indomie instant noodle stall are notably runs by Sundanese.
Today, there is quite a lot of Sundanese people turn to music and entertainment industry, some of them become famous Indonesia's singers, musicians and actors in Indonesian Sinetrons.
Sundanese literature was basically oral; their arts (architecture, music, dance, textiles, ceremonies, etc.) substantially preserved traditions from an earlier phase of civilization, stretching back even to the Neolithic, and never overwhelmed (as eastward, in Java) by aristocratic Hindu-Buddhist ideas. The art and culture of Sundanese people reflect historical influences by various cultures that include pre-historic native animism and shamanism traditions, ancient Hindu-Buddhist heritage, and Islamic culture. The Sundanese have very vivid, orally-transmitted memories of grand era of the Sunda Kingdom. The oral tradition of Sundanese people is called Pantun Sunda, the chant of poetic verses employed for story-telling. It is the counterpart of Javanese tembang, similar but quite different with Malay pantun. The Pantun Sunda often tell the Sundanese folklores and legends such as Sangkuriang, Lutung Kasarung, Ciung Wanara, Mundinglaya Dikusumah, the tales of King Siliwangi, and popular children folklore such as Si Leungli.
Traditional artforms include various of musics, dances, and martial arts. The notable Sundanese musics are angklung bamboo music, kecapi suling music, gamelan degung, reyog Sunda and rampak gendang. Angklung bamboo music instrument is one of world heritages of intangible culture.
The most well known and distinctive Sundanese dance are Jaipongan, a traditional social dance which usually but mistakenly associated with eroticism. Other popular dances such as Merak dance describing colorful dancing peafowls. Sisingaan dance is performed especially in Subang area to celebrate circumcision ritual where the boy to be circumcised is seated upon a lion figure carried by four men. Another dance such as Dewi dance and Ratu Graeni dance shows Javanese courtly Mataram influences.
Wayang golek puppetry is the most popular wayang performance for Sundanese people. Many forms of kejawen dance, literature, gamelan music and shadow puppetry (wayang kulit) derive from the Javanese. Sundanese puppetry is more influenced by Islamic folklore than the influence of Indian epics present in Javanese versions.
The Pencak silat martial art in Sundanese tradition can be traced to the historical figure King Siliwangi of Sunda Pajajaran kingdom, with Cimande is one of the most prominent school. The recently developed Tarung Derajat is also a popular martial art in West Java.
Sundanese cuisine is one of the most popular traditional food in Indonesia, and it is also easily found in Indonesian cities. The Sundanese food is characterize with its freshness; the famous lalab eaten with sambal and also karedok demonstrate the Sundanese fondness for fresh raw vegetables. Similar to other ethnic groups in Indonesia, Sundanese people eat rice for almost every meal. The Sundanese like to say, "If you have not eaten rice, then you have not eaten." Rice is prepared in hundreds of different ways. However, it is simple boiled rice that serves as the centerpiece of all meals.
Next to steamed rice, the side dishes of vegetables, fish, or meat are added to provide variety of taste as well as for protein, mineral and nutrients intake. These side dishes are grilled, fried, steamed or boiled and spiced with any combination of garlic, galingale (a plant of the ginger family), turmeric, coriander, ginger, and lemon grass. The herbs rich food wrapped and cooked inside banana leaf called pepes (Sundanese:pais) is popular among Sundanese people. Pepes available in many varieties according to its ingredients; carp fish, anchovies, minced meat with eggs, mushroom, tofu or oncom. Oncom is popular foodstuff within Sundanese cuisine, just like its counterpart; the tempe popularity among Javanese people. Usually food itself is not too spicy, but it is served with a very hot sauce made by grinding chili peppers and garlic together. On the coast, saltwater fish are common; in the mountains, fish tend to be either pond-raised carp or goldfish. A well-known Sundanese dish is lalapan, which consists only of raw vegetables, such as papaya leaves, cucumber, eggplant, and bitter melon.
In general, Sundanese food taste rich and savory, but not as tangy as Padang food, nor as sweet as Javanese food.