Traditional People’s Thoughts of Rivers

PUBLISHED,- After reading Iqbal Ramadhan’s article entitled “The River From the Center of Civilization to the Place of Disposal” on the page, we can see how modern humans in Indonesia are very anthropocentric towards rivers. This makes the author want to dismantle how the views of traditional communities in Indonesia, about how they see the river. Seeing the nature of thinking of traditional society is of course very important, especially for those of us who live in urban areas. Traditional communities whose lives are very dependent on nature, of course, have their own methods to protect nature as their source of livelihood. 

The Baduy community is one of the traditional societies which, according to the author, has a unique view of the rivers in their area. The Baduy community is a community that resides in the area of Lebak Regency, Banten Province. The Baduy tribe itself is divided into two, namely the Inner Baduy and the Outer Baduy. In this discussion, the author will focus on the Inner Baduy, because the Inner Baduy still maintain their customs and traditions. They still carry out various religions and ancestral cultures, and prohibit modern technology and vehicles. The Baduy Dalam community is located in three villages namely Cibeo, Cikartawana and Cikeusik.

The river for the Baduy Dalam community is very important and vital for their lives. For the Baduy people, the river is their source of domestic livelihood, such as fetching water for drinking and other needs. So the Baduy people divide the river into three parts. The first is the upstream part of the river which is used for bathing, while the Baduy Dalam people usually collect water from springs to collect water for household needs. Then the second part is the middle part which is used for washing, and the last or downstream part is used for the purpose of defecating. In addition, the Baduy Dalam community also prohibits their community from using soap for bathing or washing, because according to them this will damage the river ecosystem.

The division of rivers into the mindset of the Bedouin people and the ban on the use of soap are examples of how the traditional Baduy Dalam community treats the environment. The river for their place of life and livelihood must be protected by its ecosystem by prohibiting soap when bathing or washing. In addition, the division of river categories is a form of protection for the Baduy Dalam community for the cleanliness of river water, in which the river water will be used for the household needs of the Baduy Dalam community. Although there is still a deficiency in this concept, namely defecating in rivers, the prohibition of using soap for the Baduy people is very unique because it is related to river pollution from chemical substances in soap. 

Next we will go to Bajayau village, West Daha District, South Hulu Sungai district, South Kalimantan. The people of Bajayau village have their own concept of the river. It is necessary to know that the village is crossed by a river called Nagara. Bajayau Village itself has the concept of “Batang Banyu” which is a concept that considers the river as a tree trunk that gives life to Bajayau villagers. Actually, the concept of Batang Banyu also exists in the people who live in the village of Tampakang.

If it is related to the phenomenological theory, the Batang Banyu concept shows that there is a bond of community experience that interacts with nature, where people who live in riverside areas eventually give birth to the Batang Banyu concept from generation to generation. This means that the people of Bajayau and the village of Tampakang are people who depend on the river for their lives which in turn gave birth to a concept for the river. Apart from that, we can also conclude that the river for the two communities above is very vital because it is a source of livelihood and its preservation is maintained.

The last is the concept of the river which is owned by the traditional Javanese community, where the river has a very important meaning for religious activities. In the article “The Role of the Religious Magic of Bengawan Solo in the Establishment of the 18th Century Solo City” the river is a place for one to meditate to gain magical power and glory. For the people of Solo, the confluence of the Pepe and Bengawan Solo rivers is a place for Joko Tingkir to meditate. Joko Tingkir himself is the founder of the kingdom of Pajang. Apart from that, the confluence between the two rivers is an area that is considered sacred by the Javanese, especially from a mystical point of view. Besides that, there is also the story of Sunan Kalijaga’s meditation, whose position is also on the edge of the river.

The river as a means of religion for traditional Javanese thought also shows the meaning of a sacred river. Not only is it a place of livelihood in traditional Javanese thought, the river is a means of personal approach to God. This shows how important the river is for the life of the Javanese.

We can conclude that the river in the minds of traditional people is very important and even sacred. Starting from the river as a place to depend for life to the river as a medium for self-approach to God. Of course this is a warning to us that traditional people are more aware of protecting rivers than us who live in urban areas, who with all their modernity have deliberately destroyed rivers in urban areas.

Author: Abdurrahman Heriza

Editor: Lien Sururoh


Agung Budi Sardjono and Satrio- Nugroho, “Menengok Arsitektur Permukiman Masyarakat Badui : Arsitektur Berkelanjutan Dari Halaman Sendiri,” Jurnal Teknik Sipil Dan Perencanaan 19, no. 1 (July 26, 2017): h 60,

 Fahrianoor, A. S. (2021). Konsep batang banyu pada masyarakat tepian sungai dalam menjaga keberlanjutan sungai di Kalimantan Selatan. In Prosiding Seminar Nasional Lingkungan Lahan Basah (Vol. 6, No. 3).

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