Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The people of Java; Ethnic Groups & their languages

Java’s inhabitants include three major ethnic groups, the dominant Javanese, the Sundanese, and the Madurese, and by two smaller groups, the Tenggerese and the Badui.

Languages used in Java


The 3 major languages used on Java are Javanese, Sundanese and Madurese. There are also other languages used on Java such as Betawi (a Malay dialect local to the Jakarta region), Osing and Tenggerese (closely related to Javanese), Baduy (closely related to Sundanese), Kangeanese (closely related to Madurese), Balinese, and Banyumasan. However, majority of the population on Java Island also speaks Indonesian, often as their second language.
Click here to listen to the Sundanese Language - Listen!

Lets take a closer look at the 3 major ethnic groups on Java Island.

1. The Javanese

Javanese is the ethnic group native to the island and it constitute approximately 70 percent of Java’s population. The Javanese live primarily in the central and eastern portions of the island. Most of the Javanese people uses the Javanese language to communicate. However a certain percentage of the Javanese uses Indonesian or both Javanese and Indonesian language while communicating.

Most Javanese in the island follow Islam as their religion. Some also follow Christianity (Protestantism aand Catholicism ), which are mostly concentrated in Central Java (particularly Surakarta, Magelang and Yogyakarta for Catholicism). In a much smaller scale, Buddhism and Hinduism are also found in the Javanese community.

Many Javanese follow the ethnic religion Kejawen, which is animistic with strong influences of Hinduism and Buddhism and some rituals in Islam. The Javanese community is also known for syncretism of beliefs. All the outside cultures were absorbed and interpreted according to the Javanese traditional values, creating a new set of religious beliefs unique to local culture.
(Information adopted from the book Indonesia, The Island State, Mark De Fraeye and Pieter ter Keurs)

2. The Sundanese

The Sundanese are the native ethnic group in western Java. 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. Although Sundanese religious practices share some of the Hindu-Buddhist beliefs of their Javanese neighbors - for example, the animistic beliefs in spirits and the emphasis on right thinking and self-control as a way of controlling those spirits - Sundanese courtly traditions differ from those of the Javanese.

The Sundanese language possesses an elaborate and sophisticated literature preserved in Indic scripts and in puppet dramas. These dramas use distinctive wooden dolls (wayang golek, as contrasted with the wayang kulit of the Javanese and Balinese), but Sundanese courts have aligned themselves more closely to universalistic tenets of Islam than have the elite classes of Central Java.

Although Sundanese and Javanese possess similar family structures, economic patterns, and political systems, they feel some rivalry toward one another. As interregional migration increased in the 1980s and 1990s, the tendency to stereotype one another's adat (tradition) in highly contrastive terms intensified, even as actual economic and social behavior were becoming increasingly interdependent.

The Madurese, also known as Orang Madura, is the third largest ethnic group in Indonesia. The majority of the Madurese (nine million) live on East Java near the island of Madura, with four million still inhabiting Madura. The Madurese spoke the Madurese language, with some of them also able to speak the Indonesian language. This ethnic group is also known as the "Cowboys of Indonesia" as cattles are regarded as an important element in their culture. In fact, bull-racing is one of the favourite sports among the Madurese. In addition, the Madurese are known for their rough, hot-tempered character and they are usually not well-liked among the other Indonesians as people are usually afraid of their character.

A majority of the Madurese are Muslims with a certain belief in folk Islam which focuses on seeking protection in life through the magic of either appeasing or controlling good and bad spirits. They have a strong belief in spirits, the use of amulets, black and white magic and the worship of ancestors. Nevertheless, Islam is an integral part of the social, political and economic life of the Madurese. (Information adapted from http://www.thefellowship.info/Missions/Global-Missions/People-Groups/Madurese)

Next up - Lets get to know Jakarta!

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