Introduction / History / Origins / Features

The Perpatih Custom as practiced by the Minang communities that originated from the Land of the Minang or Minangkabau in Sumatera, Indonesia, is a social structure and system that defines the lives of communities according to the matrilineal concept, adapted to the living structure of clans through the principles of kindness and consensus. These rules are inscribed in the customs regulations known as pesaka or heritage, and covers all aspects of life be it social, economic or politic. The custom, as practiced by generations, suggests the methodology to be implemented for a peaceful and smooth living.

This custom has a clear social conduct and a kind community, taking examples from nature being that contains a high value of life philosophy. The society is encouraged to work together and help each other, while the rule to be part of a new family is through marriage. Clan division to groups known as perut, suku or luak is highly prioritised. In the division of wealth the custom greatly respects the mothers (that is the women).

This custom too arranges society administration, the choosing of leaders and their scope of powers according to the social level and tier in the group division. Apart from practicing democratic and hierarchal types of administration, the custom too gives priority to universal fairness and establishes future leaders in levels.

The strength of this custom lies in the value of consensus, in that any decision has to be achieved through meetings (discussions) and via a retreat. Social, economic and political problems are discussed consensually in search of a unanimous settlement. The end result is achieved not via majority vote but by consensus.

The Perpatih Custom in Historical Perspective

The Minangkabau community that inherits this custom strongly believe that Datuk Perpatih Nan Sabatang or also known as Cati Bilang Pandai, the advisor to Sri Maharaja Dirajo, the first ruler of Minangkabau, established the matrilineal system through the personality of the Ibu Kandung or Biological Mother. The term Adat Perpatih only started since the arrival of Islam in the 15th century, in tandem with the establishment of this custom in regions that eventually merged to form the present state of Negeri Sembilan in the 18th century.

The Perpatih Custom in Negeri Sembilan

In the 15th century the eastern coast of Sumatera in Indonesia is a part of the Minangkabau region under the administration of the Malacca Sultanate in the Malay Peninsula. Hence, the arrival of the Minangkabau community to the peninsula was a normal practice. They brought along this custom and there by it was accepted and started to expand especially in the areas of Paya Kumbuh, Batu Hampar, Tanah Datar and Seri Lemak.

The Perpatih Custom in Negeri Sembilan and Naning is a merger of this custom as practiced in Minangkabau with the customs of the locals and based on religious laws. Hence, there is a difference in elements of the custom in these regions with the one in Minangkabau that contains elements of migration, trading or moving.

The Biduanda Clan is the main clan of the 12 clans in the system of the Negeri Sembilan Perpatih Custom, and is found in any custom region or luak, as this is practiced by the original inhabitants.

The Perpatih Custom in Negeri Sembilan is categorised in four parts, that are The True Custom (Adat Nan Sebenar Adat), The Custom by It Own Self (Adat Nan Teradat), A Madeup Custom (Adat Nan Diadatkan), and Ceremonial Custom (Adat Istiadat).

1. The True Custom (Adat Nan Sebenar Adat)

This custom is inscribed in religious laws made by God to arrange the lives of humans, and the custom can not be bargained. In Islam the laws are arranged in the holy Quran and Hadiths or sayings by Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, concerning matters that are prohibited and non-prohibited.

2. The Custom by It Own Self (Adat Nan Teradat)

This custom is an arranged law or created by it own self. As an example, if a borrower were to borrow something from someone then the law is that the borrower has to return the borrowed matter to the lender.

3. A Madeup Custom (Adat Nan Diadatkan)

This custom is the norms and laws that have become normal procedures and then agreed upon consensually to act as moulds in the arrangement of communal living in a particular region or nation.

4.Ceremonial Custom (Adat Istiadat)

This custom is about the norms in a particular community that eventually become continuous and expanded. The custom has no laws, but those who do not practice it are usually condemned. As an example, in the Eastern communities a younger person normally kisses the hand of the elder as a mark of respect and courtesy.

Photo by State Museum Negeri Sembilan 

Jabatan Kebudayaan dan Kesenian Negara, Negeri Sembilan

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