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Sundanese

Sundanese

PRONUNCIATION: sun-duh-NEEZ

LOCATION: Indonesia (West Java)

POPULATION: 30 million

LANGUAGE: Sundanese; Indonesian

RELIGION: Orthodox Islam; Catholicism; Protestantism

1 INTRODUCTION

The Sundanese are the second-largest ethnic group in Indonesia. There is a complex history behind their rich cultural traditions. This history can be traced back to the fifth century ad and the Tarumanagara dynasty, which established trade links extending as far as China. A succession of Sundanese kingdoms was followed by 350 years of Dutch colonization. During this time Sundanese lands became an important source of spices, coffee, quinine, rubber, and tea for export.

In the twentieth century, the Sundanese joined in the struggle for an independent, united Indonesian nation, which was established on August 17, 1945. Even after independence, however, some Sundanese worked to establish a separate, autonomous (self-ruled) territory. These efforts were suppressed by Indonesia's first president, Sukarno (190170). By the late-1950s, "Sunda-land" had been fully integrated into Indonesia. Called West Java, it is one of the nation's richest provinces.

2 LOCATION

The Sundanese number more than thirty million people. The vast majority live on the island of Java. Java is a small island, but it is the administrative and economic center of the Indonesian archipelago (chain of islands). The larger Javanese ethnic group forms the majority in Java's central and eastern provinces. The Sundanese constitute a majority in West Java. West Java spreads over an area of 16,670 square miles (43,177 square kilometers), about half the size of greater metropolitan Los Angeles, California. The northern coast is flat, and the southern coast is hilly. The central area is mountainous and is marked by some spectacular volcanoes.

3 LANGUAGE

Like other Indonesians, most Sundanese are bilingual. They speak both their native tongue, Sundanese, and the Indonesian national language. Generally, Sundanese is the language of choice among family members and friends, while in the public sphere, Indonesian is used. Both languages are part of the Austronesian language family.

Sundanese is extremely diverse, with various regional dialects. However, all are divided into different levels of formality depending on the social status of the person being addressed. Thus, the words one uses when talking to one's father differ from those used when talking to a friend or to one's younger sister. Most people use only two levels, or sometimes three. However, some older people make use of four.

Sundanese naming practices are extremely varied. Some people have only a single name, while others have a first name and a last name. Women do not legally change their names after marriage but are frequently called "Mrs. [name of husband]."

4 FOLKLORE

Myths and heroic stories are an extremely important part of Sundanese culture. Such stories are told through films, puppet shows, oral poetry, novels, and even comic books. Some are regional in character. They explain the history of a local kingdom, or the mythical origin of a lake or mountain. Others, like the Ramayana, are Hindu in origin.

One myth the Sundanese think of as distinctly their own is the legend of Nyi Loro Kidul, the Queen of the South Seas. As the story goes, in the fourteenth century there was a princess in the Pajajaran kingdom whose thirst for power was so great that her father placed a curse on her. The curse gave her more power than he himself had, but allowed her to wield it only over the South Seas. The princess was then reincarnated as the exquisitely beautiful Nyi Loro Kidul. Said to live off West Java's south coast to this day, she is more powerful than all the spirits. She is said to have received nighttime visits from Javanese kings and Muslim saints in her palace beneath the waves. Men who swim or fish off the south coast are warned not to wear green, for those who do are often spirited away by Nyi Loro Kidul and never return.

5 RELIGION

The overwhelming majority of Sundanese are orthodox Muslim, although some are Catholic or Protestant. Many Muslims pray five times a day, travel to Mecca at some point in their life, and fast during the holy month of Ramadan. In towns and cities, there is a mosque in every neighborhood. Each day the calls to prayer are broadcast over loudspeakers for everyone to hear. There are still many non-Islamic elements in Sundanese ceremonies and rituals, particularly those surrounding the growing of rice. They probably come from the Hindu religion that preceded the spread of Islam, or from pre-Hindu Sundanese culture.

6 MAJOR HOLIDAYS

The Sundanese have no special holidays of their own. They follow the calendar of Indonesian national holidays. It includes both secular holidays and those of the nation's official religions.

7 RITES OF PASSAGE

When a Sundanese child is born, a paraji (midwife) is usually present to provide advice. The paraji also prays to help the mother and the newborn get through the ordeal safely. Once the baby is born, its umbilical cord is cut with a special instrument called a hanis. The placenta is buried beneath a window at the rear of the house. A ritual party is held, attended by family and neighbors.

At the age of seven or eight years, boys undergo a circumcision ritual to usher them into adulthood. Before the circumcision takes place, the boy is bathed and dressed in a sarung (a skirtlike garment). The entire ceremony takes place at the boy's home. Frequently it is accompanied by a party.

Marriage is the most elaborate Sundanese rite of passage. Formally, it involves nine stages, from the initial visit between both sets of parents to the sharing of food and gifts on the day of the wedding. The groom's family brings gifts and money to the family of the bride. A few days before the wedding, the groom is "given" to the bride, along with clothing, jewelry, and money. On the day of the wedding, the groom is picked up at his home and taken to the bride's house, where he presents her with an agreed-upon amount of gold. The parents of the couple ceremonially feed them the last bites they will receive from their parents' hands. One week after the wedding, a gathering is held at the groom's house for his family and friends to meet the bride.

After a death, friends and relatives immediately gather at the house of the deceased. They bring gifts of money and rice for the family. Flowers are soaked in water, which is used for washing the body of the deceased. A religious leader (kiai) reads a prayer over the body before it is carried in a procession to the cemetery. The death is later marked by ritual gatherings on the third, seventh, fortieth, one-hundredth, and one-thousandth days after the person has passed away.

8 RELATIONSHIPS

The Sundanese place great value on showing people respect by following an unwritten code of behavior. Formal greetings are made by bowing the head and upper body. The hands are held together in front of the chest with fingers outstretched, and the fingertips touch the tips of the other person's fingers. In business settings, handshaking is acceptable. It is done with the right hand. When one lets go, the heart should be touched briefly with the same hand.

Social visits are governed by rules of etiquette for both guests and host. When the visitor is ready to go, she or he should always announce the intention to leave. The host will reply that the visitor is leaving too soon and has not even eaten yet (even if the visitor has been there for hours and the host had hoped to be doing something else).

A man must treat the woman he asks on a date with respect. This means he must pick her up at home, make small talk with her family, and pay for any food and entertainment. It would be considered humiliating for a woman to openly take the initiative in dating. However, Sundanese women have all sorts of tricks that allow them to do so while appearing to remain passive.

9 LIVING CONDITIONS

Living conditions in West Java are extremely diverse. Some people live in luxurious tropical mansions, while others live in squatter settlements with no running water or electricity. Most people live somewhere between these two extremes.

The growth of consumerism is apparent at all levels of society. The greatest objects of consumerism are cars, televisions, jewelry, and clothing.

10 FAMILY LIFE

Kinship among the Sundanese is bilateral, meaning that descent lines are traced through both the mother and the father. In principle, all the descendants of a seventh-generation ancestor are members of one extended family. The smallest kin group is the nuclear family of parents and their children. Members of a nuclear family usually live in their own house. However, it is not uncommon for relatives of either the husband or the wife to stay with them for a time.

Although marriages are sometimes arranged by parents in the traditional nine-step ritual, urbanization has made such matches increasingly rare. Couples often meet at school or in the workplace rather than at family or neighborhood gatherings. The parents of a woman often try to prevent her from seeing someone they do not approve of, in the hope that she will find someone more to their liking. The preferred marriage partner should come from the same neighborhood and be a descendant of a common ancestor. Such a marriage is called perkawinan gulangkep.

Sundanese society draws a clear line between male and female gender roles. In rural areas, women participate in subsistence agriculture and are thus quite powerful. But in cities, women are economically dependent on their husbands. To combat this dependence, many have taken on careers or part-time jobs to help earn additional cash.

11 CLOTHING

Traditional Sundanese clothing for women consists of a kebaya and a sarung (a skirt-like garment). The kebaya is a long-sleeved, fitted lace blouse that is worn over another layer of clothing. The sarung is a length of cloth that is wrapped around the waist and hangs down to the ankles. Men also wear a sarung, but instead of a kebaya, they wear a long-sleeved batik shirt or a fitted, embroidered jacket.

Increasingly, such traditional clothing is worn only on formal occasions such as weddings. Everyday dress follows either Western or Islamic styles.

12 FOOD

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. Side dishes of vegetables, fish, or meat are added to provide variety. These side dishes are spiced with any combination of garlic, galingale (a plant of the ginger family), turmeric, coriander, ginger, and lemon grass. Usually the 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. The Sundanese, being Muslim, do not eat pork. They eat the meat of goats, sheep, water buffalo, and cows. Preferred fowl include chickens, ducks, geese, and pigeons. A well-known Sundanese dish is lalapan, which consists only of raw vegetables, such as papaya leaves, cucumber, eggplant, and bitter melon. It is said to be the only Indonesian dish that features raw vegetables. Thus it often gives rise to jokes comparing Sundanese people to goats.

13 EDUCATION

The Sundanese follow Indonesia's national education system. Six years of compulsory primary school may be followed by three years of middle school, three years of high school, four years of college, and then studies toward a graduate degree.

West Java has been a center of education since colonial times. Education is valued very highly among the Sundanese. Parents will sacrifice a great deal to pay for their children's education. This is reflected in the fact that West Java has higher literacy rates than other areas of Indonesia.

14 CULTURAL HERITAGE

The Sundanese have an extremely rich cultural heritage. Many of Indonesia's most famous pop stars are Sundanese. Local music is sometimes set to the beat of "house music." One of the more traditional varieties is called degung. It is performed by a simplified gamelan orchestra blending soft-sounding percussion instruments with the melancholy sounds of a flute. Another type of orchestra is made up of an instrument called angklung (consisting of suspended bamboo tubes in different lengths that make a musical sound when shaken).

One of the oldest forms of Sundanese literature still in existence is the pantun cerita. It is a kind of traditional poetry, in which each verse consists of two couplets. It tells of Sundanese heroes from ancient times. More modern forms of literature, such as the novel, have also emerged among the Sundanese. Sundanese novels are strictly popular, rather than "high brow."

15 EMPLOYMENT

Unemployment is not as great a problem as is underemployment in West Java. Most people have some way of generating income, but they still have a hard time making ends meet. Even the new generation of college-educated youth is having a hard time finding work. When a job does open up, it is often for very low pay at one of the new factories that produce sneakers, televisions, clothing, or furniture. Such positions are usually filled by young women and uneducated men. Many jobs are filled by migrants from Central Java who are more willing to work long hours without vacations than are the family-oriented Sundanese.

16 SPORTS

The most popular sports in West Java are soccer, volleyball, badminton, and a martial art called pencat silat. Most neighborhoods have a small field in which children play volleyball and soccer. Badminton is played in neighborhood front yards or in courts at a community center. Soccer pulls in large crowds of local supporters. Pencat silat is a martial art that blurs the line between dance and self-defense. It is usually taught to groups of children at Islamic boarding schools (pesantren).

17 RECREATION

The central form of entertainment in West Java is called sore, or "evening." People go out to movies, take strolls, eat in open-air cafes, and watch public performances. It is a way to "see and be seen." People get a chance to put on their best clothes and show off their cars.

Cinemas in West Java show a mixture of Indonesian and foreign movies. Movie theaters in the city are air-conditioned and have plush seats. Poorer rural areas sometimes have open-air cinemas, which are like driveins without the cars. For those who prefer live performances, there is music and theater. One performance that always draws a crowd is sinten, in which magicians exhibit their powers. One can see, for example, people turned into birds, eggs cooked on someone's head, and people who are not hurt by the stab of a sword. Another is wayang golek, a type of puppet show, accompanied by singing and gamelan music.

At home, there is always television. Broadcasts include a peculiar blend of Indian movies, Latin American soap operas, American dramas, and Indonesian shows of all types. Television is sometimes considered a background entertainment like radio, with people going about their business while watching. It provides entertainment while people do their chores, and the soap operas provide a popular topic for discussion.

18 CRAFTS AND HOBBIES

Like the neighboring Javanese, the Sundanese are known for the art of batik. This is a technique that uses beeswax to create patterns on textiles. Originally, batik was made by painting the wax on by hand and then bathing the whole cloth in a dye. Using this process it could take up to six months to complete one sarong. Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, however, an industrial technique of stamping the cloth with wax was developed. This allowed for mass production, and today batik can be found in American and European stores.

19 SOCIAL PROBLEMS

West Java has the usual problems of a society with a large gap between the rich and the poor. As in other urban environments, there is a certain amount of crime. The Indonesian government is known internationally for its high level of corruption and its infringements on human and civil rights. It is common for criminals who have money and influence to go free, while petty thieves are given sentences of six months or more for a first offense. While alcoholism is not a serious problem, drug use in all segments of the population appears to be on the rise.

20 BIBLIOGRAPHY

Cribb, R. B. Historical Dictionary of Indonesia. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1992.

McNair, S. Indonesia. Chicago: Children's Press,1993.

Palmier, Leslie, ed. Understanding Indonesia. Brookfield, Vt.: Gower, 1985.

WEBSITES

Indonesian Embassy in Canada. [Online] Available http://www.prica.org/, 1998.

Interknowledge Corp. [Online] Available http://www.interknowledge.com/indonesia/, 1998.

World Travel Guide. Indonesia. [Online] Available http://www.wtgonline.com/country/id/gen.html, 1998.

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Sundanese

Sundanese

ETHNONYMS: Orang Sunda, Urang Prijangan, Urang Sunda


Orientation

The Sundanese are a group of nearly 25 million whose territory (Sunda) is western Java (Jawa Barat) as far east as the Cipamali river (though many Sundanese live elsewhere in Java). The Sundanese language is Austronesian; an interesting aspect of the language is that it is obligatory for speakers to distinguish in their speech the status of the addressee and the degree of intimacy between them. With the exception of the Badui subgroup, Sundanese are Muslim. Although culturally similar to the Javanese, the Sundanese see themselves as far less formal in their social relationships.


History and Cultural Relations

Because the Sundanese (especially those who lived in the hills) were long culturally isolated from the outside world, their culture is still very traditional. In Sundanese history there has been only one state, the kingdom of Pajajaran (1333-1579), which came into existence as a result of the defeat of the Sumatran kingdom by the Javanese kingdom of Singhawari. Indian traders introduced Islam in the fifteenth century; Sundanese Islam then spread outward from the ports where the Indians traded. The nobles of Sunda were converted in 1579 at the order of the sultan of Banten, who first killed the royal family. Shortly thereafter, the Islamic Javanese kingdom of Mataram gained control of Sunda, and not long after this, European power became dominant. The Dutch introduced plantation farming of coffee. On two separate occasions, in 1880 and following World War II, the Sundanese began holy wars against the Dutch with the goal of independence; both wars failed to achieve their aim. At present, the Sundanese are under Indonesian control.


Settlements

Sundanese villages are larger than those of Java, and usually have between 1,000 and 7,000 or more residents. The usual settlement pattern is one of clusters of houses separated by agricultural fields. One's fields are typically small and dispersed. Although traditional housing no longer exists, Sundanese housing may be distinguished from Javanese in that it is built on pilings.

Economy

The mainstay of Sundanese subsistence is wet-rice agriculture, though some groups in the southwest portion of Sunda still practice swidden agriculture. Up to three rice crops are grown annually, and between these crops farmers raise peanuts, yams, chilies, vegetables, and soybeans. Cash crops include corn, root crops, chili peppers, and tobacco. In coastal areas, many people also fish or practice fish farming. Bulls and water buffalo are raised to provide transportation and for plowing; otherwise, animal husbandry is insignificant. Because landholdings are typically too small to support their owners, many peasants trade, make handicrafts, or work as laborers on the farms of others.

Although there is much private land, there is also communal land set aside in most villages. There is also land that is for the exclusive use of original members of the village and for those who have benefited the community. Additionally, land is reserved for the usufruct of village administrators, who receive no salary.


Kinship

The Sundanese reckon kinship bilaterally, and the kinship terminological system is geared more toward the distinctions between generations and age than between lines of collaterality or gender. Peasants rarely acknowledge kinship ties more distant than two ascending generations and one degree of collaterality; nobles, on the other hand, have an interest in their genealogies for the purpose of establishing their kinship to ancient Sundanese kings. The nuclear family (kulawarga ) is the basic unit of society; it is to the kulawarga that the individual has the greatest obligations. There is also the golongan, or kindred, who function occasionally in the performance of life-cycle ceremonies. Finally, there is the bondorojot, an ambilineal kin group that exists among some members of the higher social classes and functions in the context of ancestor-worship ceremonies.


Marriage and Family

Subject to parental acceptance, Sundanese choose their own spouses, though in the past marriages were arranged by the parents. Polygyny is accepted but rare; men claim cost and wives' opposition as barriers to multiple wives. The marriage itself involves much ritual revolving around the rice goddess, Dewi Sri, and also includes the following stages: the groom's family formally presents a gift to the bride's parents; the marriage contract is concluded by a district Muslim religious official (naib ); and there is a formal meeting of the bride and groom. Residence is ideally neolocal, but in practice most young couples cannot afford to live alone, so for a period of years they will live with either set of parents.

Sundanese socialization is the responsibility of the mother alone; the father is seen as the one responsible for the physical existence of the child. Perhaps for this reason, children are considered to have a spiritual connection with their mothers rather than their fathers.

An individual's property is divided equally among the surviving spouse and offspring; when no spouse survives, all property is divided equally among the offspring, without regard to sex. This customary rule (adat ) violates Islamic law, which stipulates that males receive twice what females receive; to avoid this, the male is given two-thirds of the estate, and he in turn gives one-third of what he has received to his sister. The house and surrounding gardens, however, go to the offspring (usually the youngest daughter) who has lived with the parents to care for them.


Sociopolitical Organization

Dutch colonization resulted in a new class of administrative elite. Administrative personnel (pamong pradja ) enjoy the highest status in Sundanese society, and Western education and the ability to speak Dutch became the best means for raising one's status. The Sundanese are presently under Indonesian rule.


Religion and Expressive Culture

Sundanese religion is syncretic, mixing pre-Islamic and pre-Indian beliefs and practices with Islamic ones. Although the Sundanese have been Muslim for a long time, it is only since World War II that Islam has been taught. The 1ebbe, who teaches Islam, also records births and deaths in the official records. As a result of this instruction, many practices and beliefs that predated the introduction of Islam are being altered. Non-Islamic spirits are being given Islamic identities and meanings; for example, ceremonial visits to the graves of ancestors (a central, but non-Islamic, feature of Sundanese religion) and the ritual cleaning of weapons are being incorporated into Islamic celebrations such as Maulud.

See also Javanese


Bibliography

Hirokoshi, Hiroko (1978). "Islam and Social Change among the Moslem Sundanese in West Java." Kabar Sekarang 4:41-47.


Palmer, Andrea Wilcox (1967). "Situradja: A Village in Highland Priangan." In Villages in Indonesia, edited by R. M. Koentjaraningrat, 299-325. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.


Thomas, Murray, et al. (1975). Social Strata in Indonesia: A Study of West Javanese Villagers. Jakarta: Antarkarya.


Wessing, Robert (1978). Cosmology and Social Behavior in a West Javanese Settlement. Southeast Asia Series, no. 53. Athens: Ohio University Center for International Studies.

DANIEL STROUTHES

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Sundanese

Sundanese

LOCATION: Island of Java in Indonesia
POPULATION: 35 million
LANGUAGE: Sundanese, Indonesian
RELIGION: Orthodox Muslim; Catholic, Protestant

INTRODUCTION

As the second largest ethnic group in Indonesia, the Sundanese have a complex history that has given rise to rich traditions of literature, music, dance, and other arts. Th is history can be traced with certainty back to the 5th century, when the Tarumanagara dynasty established its power and built up trade links extending as far as China. A succession of Sundanese kingdoms, with centers in various parts of western Java, was followed by 350 years of colonization by the Dutch, during which time Sundanese lands became an important source of exports of spices, coffee, quinine, rubber, and tea.

Dissatisfaction with colonization led the Sundanese to join with other peoples under Dutch rule to struggle for the formation of an independent, united Indonesian nation. They achieved independence on 17 August 1945, following a brief but painful period of occupation by the Japanese during World War II. Not all Sundanese were in favor of this unification, however, and some worked with the Dutch or Islamic rebel groups to try to establish an autonomous land for the Sundanese. These efforts were suppressed by Indonesia's first president, Sukarno, and by the late 1950s "Sunda-land" had been fully integrated into Indonesia as one of its richest provinces, called West Java.

Since that time the Sundanese have watched as urbanization and industrialization, punctuated by periods of civil unrest, have completely transformed their lives. Many of these changes took place during the authoritarian rule of President Suharto, who ruled the country from 1967-1998. He aimed to keep up this pace of change for West Java by building new industries, expanding communications services, and reducing the birth rate. Many Sundanese were skeptical of these plans, as a small minority of wealthy individuals gained enormous wealth while the majority remained poor.

In May of 1998, students rose in protest against the government. On May 12 soldiers in Jakarta opened fire on student protestors, killing more than a dozen individuals. This act elicited public outrage against the government and for days the capital was engulfed in rioting that left hundreds dead. The Sundanese homeland in Western Java suffered some of the most severe violence and President Suharto was forced to resign from power. A multiparty parliamentary democracy replaced the dictator and in the last decade Indonesia has seen expansive political reforms. The policies of the new government have permitted greater expression of rights for minority groups, including reform of the Sundanese language.

LOCATION AND HOMELAND

The Sundanese number more than 35 million people, the vast majority of whom live on the island of Java. Java is the administrative and economic center of the immense Indonesian archipelago, it absorbs a large amount of traffic from other islands and other nations, so the Sundanese have grown quite accustomed to living and working alongside other peoples. Th is is especially so in the larger cities like Bandung and Cirebon, and in the area surrounding Indonesia's capital city, Jakarta.

Administratively, Java is divided into three provinces, with the central and eastern provinces inhabited predominantly by the larger Javanese ethnic group, and the Sundanese constituting a majority in West Java. West Java itself spreads over an area of 43,177 sq km (16,670 sq mi) and has a high population density, including a large rural population.

Ecologically, West Java enjoys a tropical climate and averages 125 days of rain per year, making it an extremely fertile place for agriculture. While the northern coast is flat and the southern coast is hilly, the central area is mountainous and is marked by spectacular volcanoes. The northwestern coast of Java island was devastated by the 1883 volcanic eruption on Krakatoa Island, which lies in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra islands. The volcano released a large quantity of debris into the air and tens of thousands of people were killed in the ensuing tsunamis that devastated coastal areas.

The ecological diversity of the region makes it a good place to grow a variety of crops, such as rice, tea, coffee, coconuts, rubber, cloves, and vegetables. Western Java is an important center of biodiversity. Ujung Kulon National Park, located on the western most tip of Java Island, is home to more than 50 Javan rhinoceros, one of the most critically endangered mammals on the planet, as well as a stunning array of flora and fauna.

LANGUAGE

Like other Indonesians, most Sundanese are bilingual, speaking both their mother tongue, Sundanese, and the Indonesian national language, Bahasa. Frequently, Sundanese is the language of choice among family members and friends, while in the public sphere, Bahasa Indonesian is used. Both languages are part of the Austronesian language family.

Sundanese is an extremely diverse language, with different regional dialects taking on words, intonations, and styles of their own. One thing that these dialects share is a division into different language levels. Each language level refers to a different social status. Thus, words used to address parents and elders will be different than those used when speaking to younger siblings and children. There is also a difference in verb usage. For example, Sundanese speakers use several words for the verb "to eat" depending on who is doing the eating. In everyday life, only two levels are used, or sometimes three, but some older people make use of four.

Latin script is primarily used in written Sundanese, but in 2003 the West Java government officially supported the use of the modern Sundanese script in daily activities. Adapted from historic scripts used by the Sundanese from the 14th to 18th centuries, the new script is associated with a revitalization of traditional Sundanese culture.

FOLKLORE

Myths and heroic stories are an important part of Sundanese culture. Such stories are told through films, puppet shows, oral poetry, novels, and even comic books. Some of these stories are regional in character, explaining the history of a local kingdom, or the mythical origin of a lake or of a strangely shaped mountain. Others, like the Ramayana, are Hindu in origin but have been adapted over many centuries to suit the local culture.

If there is one myth that the Sundanese think of as distinctly their own, it is the legend of Nyi Loro Kidul, the Queen of the South Seas. This legend has been around for centuries and is told in a number of old Javanese chronicles. As the story goes, there was a princess in the Pajajaran kingdom in the 14th century whose thirst for power was so great that her father placed a curse on her. This curse gave her more power than he himself had, but it allowed her to wield it only over the South Seas. The princess was then reincarnated as the exquisitely beautiful Nyi Loro Kidul, who is said to live off West Java's south coast. More powerful than all the spirits, Nyi Loro Kidul is said to have received nighttime visits from Javanese kings and Muslim saints in her palace beneath the waves. Men who swim or fish off the south coast are warned not to wear green, for those who do are often spirited away by Nyi Loro Kidul and never return.

RELIGION

The overwhelming majority of Sundanese are Sunni Muslim, although some are Catholic or Protestant. Many Muslims pray five times a day, perform the pilgrimage to Mecca at some point in their life, and fast during the month of Ramadan. In towns and cities, there is a mosque in every neighborhood, and each day the calls to prayer are broadcast over public loudspeakers. It is estimated that Islam was first introduced to Java Island in the early 14th century. While embracing Islam, Javanese Muslims retained many of their pre-Islamic beliefs and practices. There are still many non-Islamic elements in Sundanese ceremonies and rituals, particularly in those surrounding the growing of rice. Such elements probably have their origins in the Hindu influence that preceded the spread of Islam, or in pre-Hindu Sundanese culture.

A minority of Sundanese are followers of the Sunda Wiwitan and Ahmadiyah faiths. Considered to be a religion that predates the arrival of Islam and Hinduism, Sunda Wiwitan incorporates traditional animistic beliefs with the belief that there is a God, or gusti, known by many names, including Sanghyang Kersa (the All-Powerful), Batara Tunggal (the One), Batara Jagat (Ruler of the Universe), and Batara Seda Niskala (The Unseen). Followers of Sunda Wiwitan worship the sun and believe that spirits reside in stones and trees. Most of the 3,000 practitioners of Sunda Wiwitan reside amongst the Badui tribe in West Java. Sunda Wiwitan is not recognized by the Indonesian government as an official religion, and followers of the faith have had difficulties obtaining identity cards and marriage registrations.

Ahmadiyah is an Islamic sect considered heretical by many Sunni Muslims. The Ahmadiyah faith originated in India in the late 19th century when the founder of the faith, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, declared himself the promised Messiah of Islam. The Indonesian government has refused recognition of Ahmadiyah as an official religion, and followers of the religion have become victims of violence in recent years. In 2007, in the village of Manis Lor in West Java where Ahmadiyah have lived for generations, a number of mosques and homes were burned by extremist Sunni Muslims. In 2008, Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed a decree banning Ahmadiyah followers from practicing their religion or face arrest.

MAJOR HOLIDAYS

The Sundanese follow the calendar of Indonesian national holidays. In addition to holidays for each of the official religions, this calendar includes New Year's Day (January 1), celebrated the evening before with parties, street performances, and fireworks. Kartini Day (April 1) marks the 1879 birthday of one of Indonesia's most famous feminists and nationalists. Pancasila Day (October 1) is a holiday that celebrates the five founding principles of the Indonesian nation. Armed Forces Day (October 5) celebrates the anniversary of the founding of the Indonesian Armed Forces with military parades.

RITES OF PASSAGE

When a Sundanese child is born, a paraji (midwife with sha-manic powers) is usually present to entertain and provide advice to the woman giving birth. The paraji also prays and says mantras so that the mother and the newborn get through the ordeal safely. Once the baby is born, its umbilical cord is cut with a special instrument called a hanis, the placenta is buried beneath a window at the rear of the house, and a ritual party is held in which family and neighbors gather to wish the child well and to thank God for its safe birth.

At the age of 7 or 8 years, boys undergo a circumcision ritual to usher them into adulthood. Before the circumcision takes place, the boy is bathed and dressed in a sarung. Two men then lift his legs, and a specialist performs the circumcision. The entire ceremony takes place at the boy's home and is frequently accompanied by a party. It is an event boys often look forward to, as it provides them with new found respect and responsibility.

Marriage is the most elaborate of Sundanese rites of passage. Formally, it involves nine stages. First, the parents of the groom visit the bride's parents to inquire whether the girl is eligible to marry. When it is clear that she is, the parents ask each other questions to determine whether it is a good match. When both sides are in agreement about the match, the groom comes with family and friends, bringing gifts and money, and then a representative of his family proposes to the bride's family. If the bride's family agrees, the couple is engaged and is subject to a whole set of restrictions on their interactions. A few days before the wedding, the groom is "given" to the bride, along with clothing, jewelry, and money. One day before the wedding, the parents of the couple formally provide them with advice about how to have a good marriage. On the day of the wedding, the groom is picked up at his home by representatives of the bride's family and taken to her house where he presents her with an agreed-upon amount of gold. Invitees of the bride's family come to see the couple, share food, and leave gifts. The parents of the couple ceremonially feed them the last bites they will receive from their parents' hands, as they are now independent and responsible for finding their own food. One week after the wedding, a gathering is held at the groom's house for his family and friends to meet the bride.

When death occurs among the Sundanese, friends and family immediately gather at the house of the deceased, bringing gifts of money and rice for the bereaving family. The women work in the kitchen, getting ritual offerings ready, while the men make a coffin and prepare a plot at the cemetery. Flowers are soaked in water, and this mixture is used for washing the body of the deceased. A religious leader (kiai) then reads a prayer over the body before it is carried in a procession to the cemetery. The death is later remembered, and the sins of the deceased lessened, by holding ritual gatherings on the third, seventh, fortieth, one-hundredth, and one-thousandth days after the person has passed away.

INTERPERSONAL RELATIONS

The important thing about Sundanese interpersonal relations is to show people the respect they deserve by following an unwritten code of behavior. Formal greetings, for example, are made by bowing the head and upper body, holding the hands together in front of the chest with fingers outstretched, and touching the tips of the fingers to the tips of the other person's fingers. In business settings, handshaking is quite acceptable. It is done with the right hand, and as one disengages one ought to touch one's heart briefly with that same hand.

When visiting someone, a person must ask permission to enter. The host will then invite the visitor to sit and offer something to drink and eat. It is considered polite to refuse such offers, although one will usually be given a drink anyway; however, the visitor should not drink it until specifically invited by the host to do so. A visitor should always announce his or her intention to leave, to which the host will inevitably reply that the visitor is leaving too soon, and has not even eaten yet (even if the visitor has been there for hours and the host had hoped to be doing something else).

The unwritten rule of dating is that a man must treat the woman he asks on a date with respect. This means he must pick her up at home, converse with her family, pay for any food and entertainment, and escort her home. The woman's family is involved from the beginning and will intervene if they feel a man is not appropriate or is taking too many liberties.

LIVING CONDITIONS

Living conditions in West Java are extremely diverse, with a small minority living in extreme wealth and many Sundanese residing in squatter settlements with no running water or electricity. Most people live somewhere between these two extremes, but the disparity in wealth among Sundanese is great.

Beginning in the 1980s, Indonesia has permitted a greater number of Sundanese to purchase cars, televisions, jewelry, and fashionable clothing. In urban areas, motorcycles and cars have become common, though a majority of the population continues to take public transportation for daily activities. Unemployment remains a widespread problem, and Sundanese are often forced to migrate in search of a job.

FAMILY LIFE

Kinship among the Sundanese is bilateral, meaning that descent lines are traced through both the mother and the father. There are special terms for seven generations of ancestors and descendants. For example, gantung siwur means the father's father of one's great-great-great-grandparent. In principle, all the descendants of a seventh-generation ancestor are members of one's extended family. While this extended family is the largest kinship group, the smallest is a nuclear family of parents and their children. Members of a nuclear family usually live in their own house, although it is not uncommon for relatives of either the husband or the wife to stay with them for a time.

Marriages are sometimes arranged by parents in the nine-step ritual, although this is becoming increasingly rare. More common is for the parents of a woman to prevent her from seeing someone they do not approve of, in the hope that she will find someone more to their liking. The preferred marriage partner should come from the same neighborhood and be a descendant of a common ancestor. Such a marriage is called perkawinan gulangkep. Urbanization has made such matches increasingly rare, as couples often meet at school or in the workplace rather than at family or neighborhood gatherings.

Sundanese society draws a clear line between male and female gender roles. Generally, this line places women in charge of the home and men in charge of earning cash. In rural areas, where life is sustained by subsistence agriculture, women are thus quite powerful. But, in cities where there is no space for gardens and all food must be bought, women find themselves economically dependent on their husbands. To combat this dependence and to increase their standard of living, many women have taken on careers or part-time jobs to help earn cash to support their families. It is now quite common for women to enter the workforce before they marry to help support their parents. If they marry, most stop working, but some do not. Even if they do not formally have a job, most women are engaged in informal income-generating work at home, such as catering or selling clothing.

CLOTHING

Traditional Sundanese clothing for women consists of a kebaya and a sarung. The kebaya is a long-sleeved, fitted lace blouse that is worn over a brassiere or another blouse. The sarung is a length of cloth, often batik, which is wrapped around the waist and hangs down to the ankles. Men also wear a sarung, but instead of a kebaya, they wear a long-sleeved batik shirt or a fitted, embroidered jacket.

Increasingly, such traditional clothing is worn only on formal occasions, such as weddings. Everyday dress follows either Western or Islamic styles.

FOOD

The Sundanese like to say, "If you haven't eaten rice, then you haven't eaten." While there are hundreds of different ways in which rice is prepared, it is simple boiled rice that serves as the centerpiece of all meals. Side dishes of vegetables, fish, or meat are added to provide meals with variety. These side dishes are spiced with any combination of garlic, galingale (a plant of the ginger family), turmeric, coriander, ginger, and lemongrass. Usually the food itself is not too spicy, but is served with a very hot sauce made by grinding chili peppers and garlic together using a mortar and pestle.

The contents of the side dishes depend on what region a Sundanese lives in. On the coast, saltwater fish are common, whereas in the mountains, fish tends to be either pond-raised carp or goldfish. The Sundanese, being Muslims, do not eat pork, but do eat the meat of goats, sheep, water buffalo, and cows. Preferred fowl include chickens, ducks, geese, and pigeons. A dish for which the Sundanese are known is lalapan, which consists only of raw vegetables (papaya leaves, cucumber, basil, eggplant, bitter melon, etc.).

Traditionally, Sundanese sit on the floor and eat using the fingers of their right hand. Guests and men are served first, with others following in shifts. Breakfast is generally eaten before the sun comes up, lunch before noon, and dinner about 5:00 PM.

EDUCATION

The Sundanese follow Indonesia's national education system, in which nine years of compulsory primary and middle school may be followed by three years of high school, four years of college, and then studies toward graduate degrees. In the 1980s inadequate education was a wide spread problem. The percentage of the population that had, in 1985, finished primary school was 31%, while 15% had finished middle or high school. Data from 1987-88 indicates that the highest dropout rates occurred after primary school and after high school. In all, 42.8% of graduates from primary school went on to middle school, 75.6% of graduates from middle school went on to high school, and 20% of high school graduates enrolled in college. In 2003, the government of Indonesia mandated that all pupils complete nine years of education. In the post-Suharto era, a greater number of non-governmental organizations have been active in promoting and supporting education in poor regions of the country.

In general, education is very highly valued among the Sundanese, and parents will sacrifice a great deal to pay for their children's education. Th is is reflected in the better literacy rates in West Java compared with other areas of Indonesia. For example, in 1987, only 16.3% of people over 10 years of age were still illiterate in West Java, compared with over 20% in other provinces. The higher literacy rate may also be a reflection of the better facilities available in West Java, which has been a center of education since colonial times.

CULTURAL HERITAGE

The Sundanese have an extremely rich cultural heritage with highly elaborate forms of music, dance, literature, and other arts. Musically, there is a whole range of styles, ranging from traditional orchestral music to Sundanese pop. One of the more traditional varieties is called degung, performed by a simplified gamelan orchestra blending soft-sounding percussion instruments with the melancholy sounds of a flute. Another type of orchestra is made up of an instrument called angklung (consisting of suspended bamboo tubes in different lengths that sound when shaken). The angklung is an ancient Sundanese instrument that once accompanied storytelling and marching but is now used to perform anything from a traditional tune to a melody by Beethoven. Indeed, the Sundanese are not conservative when it comes to the arts but are willing to try anything new that comes along. Many of Indonesia's most famous pop stars are Sundanese, and local music is sometimes set to the beat of House music.

Sundanese dance generally consists of movements that are smaller and fewer in number than in Western dance. Movements of the hands, fingers, eyes, head, and feet are very controlled and precise. Much of Sundanese dance is influenced by the martial arts, and some is accompanied by gamelan music. Some dances tell stories, like the Mask Dance, which tells of a king's hatred after his love was rejected. Other dances are more social, like jaipong, which combines elements of a number of different dances into an erotic whole.

Sundanese literature has traditionally been closely tied to oral storytelling culture. One of the oldest forms of literature still in existence is the pantun cerita, a kind of traditional poetry in which each verse consists of two couplets, the first of which suggests the second by sound, or by some other similarity. Such poetry tells of Sundanese heroes from ancient times, often focusing on the age of Sundanese kingdoms. Such stories have been passed down for centuries. More modern forms of literature, such as the novel, have also emerged among the Sundanese. Unlike in the West, however, these novels have always been popular in character, as there is no "high" literary tradition. They are thus just as likely to be read by townspeople as by urban intellectuals.

WORK

Unemployment is not as great a problem as underemployment in West Java. Most people have some way of generating income, either in the formal or the informal sector, but have a hard time making ends meet. This is particularly true for a new generation of college-educated youth who are having a hard time finding work. When a job does open up, it is often for very low pay at one of the new factories that produces sneakers, televisions, clothing, or furniture. Such positions are usually filled by young women and uneducated men, and often by migrants from Central Java who are more willing to work long hours without vacations than are the family-oriented Sundanese.

SPORTS

The most popular sports in West Java are soccer, volleyball, badminton, and a martial art called pencat silat. Most neighborhoods have a small field in which kids play volleyball and soccer. Badminton is usually played in neighborhood front yards or in courts at a community center. Although all these sports draw spectators, soccer pulls in large crowds of local supporters. In larger cities like Bandung, riots are not unheard of when the local team meets with a team from another province.

Pencat silat is a martial art that blurs the line between dance and self-defense. It is usually taught to groups of children at Islamic boarding schools (pesantren) by a guru. Pencat silat emphasizes both the spiritual and the physical dimensions of the art and is sometimes tied to mystical practices that are said to give practitioners magical powers.

ENTERTAINMENT AND RECREATION

The central form of entertainment in West Java is called sore, or "evening." People go out to movies, take strolls, eat in open-air cafes, and watch public performances. It is a chance "to see and be seen," so people put on their best clothes, women put on makeup, and motor vehicles become objects of envy and pride.

Going to the cinema can mean different things. Cinemas in West Java show a mixture of Indonesian and foreign movies, with the former being slightly more popular. While in city centers cinemas are air-conditioned and have plush seats, marginal areas of the country sometimes have open-air cinemas, which are like drive-ins without the cars. For those who prefer public performances, there is music and theater. One performance that always draws a crowd is sinten, in which magicians exhibit their powers. One can see, for example, people turned into birds, eggs cooked on someone's head, and people who are invulnerable to the stab of a sword. Another is wayang golek, a type of puppet show in which stories from the Ramayana and Mahabarata are performed, accompanied by singing and gamelan music.

At home, there is always television. Broadcasts include a peculiar blend of Indian movies, Latin American soap operas, American dramas, and Indonesian shows of all varieties. Television is sometimes considered a background entertainment like radio, with people going about their business while watching. It provides entertainment while people do their chores, and the soap operas make a great subject for discussion.

FOLK ART, CRAFTS, AND HOBBIES

Like the neighboring Javanese, the Sundanese are known for the art of batik. Batik is a technique used to create patterns on textiles in which bee's wax is used to facilitate resist-dying. Originally, batik was made by painting the wax on by hand, using a special implement for that purpose, and then bathing the whole cloth in a dye. Using such a technique it could take up to six months to complete one sarung . Beginning in the mid-19th century, however, an industrial technique of stamping the cloth with wax was developed. This allowed for mass production and today, batik can be found in American and European stores.

SOCIAL PROBLEMS

West Java has the usual problems associated with a society in which there exists a large gap between the rich and the poor. As in other urban environments, there is a certain amount of crime, a large number of industrial strikes, and occasional riots in which masses of people wreck and burn symbols of wealth and state power. During the Suharto years, the Indonesian government was known internationally for its high levels of corruption and its infringements on human and civil rights. The repressive and corrupt aspects of government made it almost impossible to improve social justice. In the last decade, political reforms have permitted unprecedented political and social freedoms for all Indonesians. Th ough corruption and poverty remain a problem, an independent judiciary has taken root and minority groups have been permitted to petition the government for reforms.

One persistent problem in West Java is alcohol and drug abuse. While alcoholism is not a serious problem, drug use in all segments of the population appears to be on the rise. Individuals of all religious, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups have been affected by substance abuse.

GENDER ISSUES

Sundanese women in urban areas enjoy a great deal of social freedom, and West Java's modern cities ensure educational and career opportunities for middle class women. The situation in rural areas is quite different, where poverty is rampant, which fuels a sex trade crisis that entraps thousands of Sundanese women each year. High unemployment in West Java provides few job opportunities for young women. A cultural acceptance of prostitution has resulted in many families encouraging their daughters to enter the sex trade. Prostitution is endemic in Indonesian cities, and Sundanese women are found in brothels across the Indonesian archipelago. Local governments have attempted to crack down on the sex trade by refusing to issue identification documents to young women. Non-governmental organizations assist young women escape the sex trade.

In Indonesian society, homosexuals and transvestites neither enjoy legal protections nor are subjected to extreme forms of bigotry. In West Java, as in much of Indonesia, gay men and transvestites do not hide their sexual preferences, yet also have not achieved general social acceptance.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Moriyama, Mikihiro. Sundanese Print Culture and Modernity in Nineteenth-century West Java. Singapore: NUS Press, 2005.

Mustafa, R. H. Hasan. Adat Istiadat Sunda. Bandung: Alumni, 1991.

Republic of Indonesia. Jawa Barat Dalam Angka. Jakarta: Kantor Statistik, 1989.

Tamney, Joseph B. "Functional Religiosity and Modernization in Indonesia."Sociological Analysis, vol. 41, no. 1, (Spring, 1980): 55-65.

Weintraub, Andrew N. "Contesting Culture: Sundanese Wayang Golek Purwa Competitions in New Order Indonesia." Asian Theatre Journal, vol. 18, no. 1(Spring, 2001): 87 -104.

Williams, Sean. "Constructing Gender in Sundanese Music." Yearbook for Traditional Music , vol. 30 (1998): 74-84.

—revised by David Straub

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