By Ibnu Adam Aviciena
Baduy people are known with their obedience to their customs. They will perform what their puún or leader commands in the name of custom. They will never marry more than one woman; they will never use the products of modernity, and so on and so forth. If they cannot undertake the customs, they must leave their home town and live in Baduy Luar or Luar Baduy.
However, from my last visit to Baduy in January 2009, I found there was an imagination in the minds of Baduy children. From the fact and other factors, fast or slowly, they will not be able to maintain their customs. Eventually, they will be defeated by their enemy: modernity.
Baduy and its Customs
The term Baduy refers to a certain region and a certain group of people, in Lebak, Banten province. Baduy as a region is located in Desa Kanekes, Kecamatan Leuwidamar, Kabupaten Lebak. Ahmad Yani in his Etnografi Suku Baduy explains that Desa Kanekes borders Kecamatan Bojong Manik in the west, Kecamatan Muncang in the east, Kecamatan Cijaku in the south, and Desa Bojong Menteng, Desa Cisimeut, and Desa Nagaya in Kecamatan Leuwidamar in the north. It takes three hours from Jakarta (173 kms) and one and a half hours from Rangkasbitung (37 kms), the capital city of Lebak.
It should also be explained three terms related to Baduy: Baduy Dalam (inner Baduy), Baduy Luar (outer Baduy), and Luar Baduy (non-Baduy). Baduy Dalam and Baduy Luar are Baduy, the term which refers to people and their religion and culture. They are differentiated because they have their own region and customs. The customs applied in Baduy Luar are looser than those of in Baduy Dalam. Baduy Luar is also the place for the people of Baduy Dalam who cannot bear with the customs. Customs in this case have to be understood as religion, because as Wadi, a Baduy Dalam man, describes that customs and religion in Baduy are mixed. They themselves are difficult to differentiate which one is included in religion and which one is not. They call their religion ‘Sunda Wiwitan’ or the first Sunda.
The following is the examples of their customs or the rules of their religion. The people of Baduy must not marry more than one woman. He must accompany his wife until dying. They must also not use the products of modernity such as soap, nails, toothpaste, television sets, telephones and handphones, etc. They must make their own clothes and the colours which are permitted only white and black, not others. To be called as a human a Baduy man or woman has to be circumcised. Extraordinarily, they must not go to school. They say, if they are cleaver they worry to lie. And there are many other rules.
The Imagination of Modernity in the Minds of Baduy Children
One who is visiting Baduy can be lodged at a local villager’s house, either in Luar Baduy, Baduy Luar, or Baduy Dalam. To reach Baduy Dalam he or she has to go up and down many hills. It is very tiring since the area of Baduy Dalam is remote and very far from the border between Luar Baduy and Baduy Luar. To a certain extent, Baduy Luar can be understood as a barrier or protector of Baduy Dalam and its religion and culture.
Ciboleger a village in the border is now different from it was in two years ago, although the difference is not very much. Now there is a tower for transferring the signal of cellular phone. Another one is also planted in the region of Baduy Luar. Modernity is obviously approaching them. The question is: how do they respond to their enemy?
Entering Cibeo, one of the three villages of Baduy Dalam, one will see names are written in the walls of lueit, a house for rice and in some walls of the houses. They do not go to school, but they recognise letters. Wadi, an inhabitant of Baduy Dalam, explained that the names in the walls were written by children. They learn letters from their friends, especially from those who have contacts with people in Baduy Luar. In the walls there were also the pictures of a car.
In a morning in the first week of January a group of children were playing on the ground. Some had gone to humas (dried rice field). They, the children who were playing, made a number of pictures on the ground. There were pictures of houses including a set of television, cable, lamps; helicopters, and a tower for transferring the signal of cellular phone.
They affirmed that they knew the tower because there was a tower in the region of Baduy Luar. They see it every time they go to Baduy Luar for some purposes. They know television sets, cable, and lamps from Ciboleger. Sometimes they watch television at the people’s houses. “We never see helicopters [closely]. We know helicopters because sometimes they fly over our village,” they explained. They also showed their ability to make a toy. They named it as a car.
Modernity Will Kill Them
At 8 o’clock in that morning Wadi bought salty fish. At that time there were a number of sellers of household need who came from Luar Baduy. He, like other people in the villages of Baduy, used money for transaction. They get money from selling handicrafts and providing their houses for guests.
Indeed they are very obedient to their customs. They reject the products of modernity. None ever sees that they use soap for bathing. They do not have television sets, moreover a handphone. Religion does not allow them to utilise them. If they use the products, they believe that calamities will come. As a punishment a man who breaks the religious rule must leave the villages of Baduy Dalam. Nevertheless, they forget that the money they use every day is one of the products of modernity.
Of course it is almost impossible not to use money. They have been dependent on people outside. Wadi explained that many Baduy Dalam people who had left Baduy Dalam because of many reasons. They departed their home town because they could not stand with the customs. Their religious laws are considered to be too tight. They need the regulations which are looser. The men and women who have couples from Baduy Luar must also leave Baduy Dalam. Besides, Baduy Dalam and Baduy Luar are the place for the adherents of Sunda Wiwitan. Consequently, those who convert must not live in Baduy, although they are still admitted as relatives and are permitted to meet each others.
Furthermore, anxiety is now covering them. Time by time the number of the population increases, but at the same time the wideness of land never adds. As the time goes the ownership of land decreases. Wadi is of them who worries about his future. He admitted that he had bought land in Baduy Luar. What will happen then when the broadness of land is reduced, when their generation have close contacts with people of Baduy Luar and Luar Baduy, when technology keeps approaching, when sellers and guests remain coming? Fast or slowly, their enemy, modernity, will kill them.*