Intangible cultural heritage values in the Sunda Wiwitan ritual and ancient Sundanese manuscripts as basic concepts of traditional building in Indonesia

Writer : Nuryanto
Year : 2023


There are few studies on religion and Sundanese manuscripts, so not many people know about them, because they are considered outdated, more personal-- and require high reading skills (philology expert). This study aims to reveal the values contained in the Sunda Wiwitan ritual and the old Sundanese manuscript as the basic concepts in the architecture of traditional buildings. The focus of the research is on traditional houses with locus in Baduy Tangtu village, Leuwidamar district, Lebak regency, Banten Province, Indonesia. The research method uses qualitative descriptive ve on with an ethno-architectural approach. The research findings are in the form of three main values as basic principles: (1) The conception of cosmology in the form of three world classification values, namely ‘buana tilu’ namely ‘buana nyungcung’, ‘buana panca tengah’, ‘buana larang’. The principles of ‘rohangan tilu’ namely ‘tepas imah’, ‘tengah imah’, ‘pawon’ and the principles of ‘ngadegkeun wangunan’ namely ‘memehna’, ‘salila, ‘sanggeusna; (2) Conception of the basic form of the building, namely ‘tangtungan jelema’: ‘hulu’, ‘awak’, ‘suku’; (3) The concept of site selection for building, namely ‘warugan lemah’ so that the occupants are safe and avoid disaster. The values contained in the three findings can be used as guidelines by the Sundanese people in establishing their homes universally.

Sunda Wiwitan, imah panggung, buana, ngadegkeun, Warugan Lemah, tangtungan jelema, Sanghyang Siksakanda-ng Karesyan, ritual

1. Introduction

Religion and old texts as ancestral heritage have a very close relationship, like two sides of a coin. In the view of the Sundanese people, the relationship between the two things is stated in the sentence ‘ageman keur tetekon hirup, ari titinggalan keur cecekelan hirup jeung kahirupan’, meaning that religion is a belief in life, while the ancestral heritage is a guide for life (Nuryanto et al. 2021). Thus, religion is a source of values that are used as guidelines (norms) in life. The Sundanese believe that, without religion, humans would not be able to act properly.

The Sundanese people are very religious and faithfully practise the doctrine of their ancestors. This can be proven from the ancient Sundanese era, the Tarumanagara Kingdom ca. 358 CE to the Pakwan Pajajaran Kingdom ca. 1030 CE (Munandar 2010). The ritual media at that time were in the form of archaeological objects made of stone, found in Bandung, Karawang, Garut, Ciamis, Kuningan and elsewhere (Munandar 2010). Furthermore, Munandar also mentioned, the sacred building as a place of worship at that time was likely different from those of the Singhasari and Majapahit Kingdoms in the form of temples or petirthaan.

The difference is based on the belief system of the Sundanese people, who are not Hindus or Buddhists, but Sunda Wiwitan (Garna 1984). Although they are familiar with Hindu and Buddhist doctrines, Sunda Wiwitan pre exists these religions and has become their belief (Munandar 2010). In terms of rituals, the Pantun Bogor relates that the ancient Sundanese people of the Pakwan Pajajaran period held a ceremony once a year at the main sacred building in the form of a staircase at Bale Pamunjungan Kihara Hyang, to the south-east of the capital (Djatisunda 2008).

Sunda Wiwitan’s doctrines contain the concept of divinity, human social relations and the universe (Hyang, manusa, buana). The values of these doctrines are widely contained in old Sundanese manuscripts, such as Sewaka Darma, Warugan Lemah and Sanghyang Siksakanda-ng Karesyan (Darsa and Ekadjati 2006).

Many of the contents of the manuscripts of Warugan Lemah and Sanghyang Siksakanda-ng Karesyan relate to buildings. Although the manuscripts are not very detailed, they provides an overview of the site conditions, cosmological orientation, materials, forms, and ceremonies (Nuryanto et al. 2021). How do Sunda Wiwitan values manifest as the basic concept of their building architecture?

The manifestations of the Sunda Wiwitan values and ancient Sundanese manuscripts are clearly seen in the Baduy Tangtu village, the prototype of Sundanese society in Indonesia. The architecture reflects adherence to the Tatali Paranti Karuhun (ancestral custom) from the past and has not changed. In this articlepaper, I will explore this so that the wider community knows about it.

2. Research Methods

The method used in this research is a qualitative descriptive with ethno-architecture (ethnography architecture) approach, meaning that observe the artefacts or physical remains of the architecture through human activity as a whole. To help researchers collect data in the field in strengthening their qualitative descriptive arguments, an ethnographic architecture(ethno-architecture) approach is needed (see Figure 1). The ethno-architecture approach is often referred to as field research (Creswell 2003) or participant observation(Neuman 2006). The scheme of the observation process was adapted from Spradley (2016) with three steps: descriptive observation, focused observation and selective observation (see Figure 1 and 2). Considerations of ethno-architecture strategies include the following: (1) the emphasis is not only on process but also on material aspects; (2) a deep understanding that the intangible cultural heritage values in the Sunda Wiwitan ritual and ancient Sundanese manuscripts in the context of architecture is not only technical (concrete) but also mystical (abstract); (3) information is obtained directly from primary sources; (4) the research process is fun because they interact directly with each other. The six research steps of the ethno-architecture approach are listed below and shown visually in this case can be seen in Figure 1 and 2 below:

First: The research project must be determined with the topic ‘intangible cultural heritage values in the Sunda Wiwitan ritual and ancient Sundanese manuscripts as basic concepts of traditional building architecture of the Sundanese Peoples, Indonesia’.

Second: Three questions are designed to guide the focus of the research in the Baduy community (1) How does the cosmological conception of the Baduy people originate from the Sundanese Wiwitan religion, and how does it manifest in the spatial layout of buildings and the principles of constructing traditional buildings?; (2) How are Sunda Wiwitan values manifested in the basic form of the building?; (3) What is the concept and embodiment of Sunda Wiwitan values in the selection of building sites?

Third: I collected ethnographic data obtained from the field about Sunda Wiwitan religion, especially the cultural, social, ritual and sacred activities in the process of constructing traditional buildings in Baduy village from start to finish. Data were collected in three ways namely: direct interviews with informants or respondents; photographic documentation of the activities of the Baduy people. The informants who became the focus of the interview were: puun (traditional leaders), tukang wangunan (local builder) and warga (society).

Fourth: I recorded and built social-ritual relations with the local community, especially during the ngadegkeun imah procession (building construction). This activity includes preparation, implementation and ceremonies (rituals) from start to finish. I recorded datee through interviews, sketches and photographs.

Fifth: I analysed and generalised the data obtained from the field in four ways: domain, taxonomy, componential, and themes. At this point, the values contained in the Sunda Wiwitan religion and its manifestations in the process of building Baduy society are described.

Sixth: I wrote an ethnographic report based on the data collected. The report is presented in descriptive form or a detailed description of the Sundanese community in Baduy village, especially about the relation between intangible cultural heritage values in the Sunda Wiwitan ritual and ancient Sundanese manuscripts as basic concepts for their traditional building architecture. In this report, I describe: (a) cosmology and values; (b) cultural and social activities (humans and the universe); (c) ritual activities related to God and his ancestors during the building process. This report is then discussed using relevant theories to make it more objective. After that, the next step is to draw conclusions and outline limitations of the research as a final note for further research.

3. Research Results

3.1. Overview of the Baduy Tribe

The Baduy community is a Sundanese ethnic group living in Kanekes Village, Leuwidamar district, Lebak Regency, Banten province, Indonesia (see Figure 3). There are several names for this tribe, such as urang Kanekes, urang Rawayan, urang Baduy and urang Banten Kidul. According to (Nuryanto et al. 2021), these names are based on the location of their residence, the name of the village (kanekes), the name of the bridge connecting the village (rawayan), the name of the river (cibaduy), or the name of the area of origin (banten), which is located in the south (kidul).

Historical records on the origins of the Baduy people written by van Tricht (1932), Adimihardja (1976), Sam(1986), Danasasmita and Djatisunda (1986), Garna (1987), Danasasmita (2015), have stated that they came from the local area (Indigenous people) who were given a special task by the King of Sunda 13 Rakreyan Darmasiksa to guard and manage the Mandala in Kabuyutan (holy place). According to Nuryanto et al. (2021), it could be that the Baduy people are actually descendants of the ancient Sunda Kingdom before Rakreyan Darmasiksa.

The map below (see Figure 3) shows the research locations in three Baduy Tangtu villages, namely: Cikeusik, Cibeo, and Cikartawana. These three villages belong to the Baduy Tangtu group who are obedient to the orders of their ancestors (sacred villages). Meanwhile, Panamping and Dangka villages are included in the outer Baduy areas, which have been affected by the influence of modernisation. According to Saputra (1950), the Baduy Tangtu community has an ancestor named Batara Patanjala, who was passed down by Batara Tunggal from kahyangan (‘heaven’). The location where Batara Patanjala was dropped off, named Mandala, is located in the southern part, close to Mount Kendeng. There are also Sasaka Domas or Sasaka Pusaka Buana (sacred objects) for their rituals. That is why, these very sacred places are forbidden to anyone (Garna 1984).

The location of Baduy village is at the foot of Mount Kendeng, which has a height of about 300-_600 metres above sea level. The Indigenous community that lives there is a native Sundanese tribe that has existed for thousands of years. The majority of the population live from farming by planting rice in huma. They are untouched by modernisation, and their lives depend according to the rules of their ancestors [Nuryanto 2019].

According to Garna (1984) and Permana (2006), the name ‘Baduy’ is taken from the name of the ‘Cibaduy’ River in their area. Even so, they prefer to be called Kanekes according to the name of their village. Meanwhile, the term Tangtu comes from the word tantu which means ‘principal’,’ core’, or ‘provisions’ that cannot be changed. While Panamping comes from the word tamping which means thrown away, while Dangka means ‘dirty’. Tamping and dangka both have the meaning of being a dumping ground for tangtu people who violate ancestral customs. The exiled person may return to the tangtu area on the condition that they carry out a ritual procession in the form of panyapuan, meaning cleansing the soul led by a Pu’un or traditional leader (Permana 2006).

Nuryanto et al. (2021) states that the tradition of the Baduy Tangtu community is (always) changing places of residence according to the orders of their ancestors. According to their belief, one day, the villages of Cikeusik, Cibeo, and Cikartawana will meet to fulfil the promise of their ancestors at a predetermined place. Currently, they are just biding their time while continuing ngalalakon(‘wandering’) looking for that place. The order to move places will be received by the traditional leaders in the three villages. Cikeusik occupies the highest position at the southernmost tip (owner of power), Cibeo is in the middle (executive power) and Cikartawana is located at the bottom (guardian of power).

The Baduy community as a prototype of the Sundanese people refers to the understanding of urang Sunda which according to Rosidi (2010) means people who live and use Sundanese cultural values in their lives. Warnaen (1987) states that urang Sunda or Sundanese people are defined as people who claim to be themselves and are recognised by others as Sundanese. There are two main criteria that can be used as a guide to refer to someone as Sundanese or not. The first is based on ancestry or blood relations. The second is based on socio-cultural context, meaning that if you are raised in a Sundanese socio-cultural environment and you live and use Sundanese cultural norms and values, you can be consiedered Sundanese. Thus, lineage and place of birth are not a requirement for someone to be called urang Sunda.

2.2. The Values of Sunda Wiwitan Rituals

Etymologically, Sunda Wiwitan means the first or the beginning. Sunda Wiwitan can be interpreted simply as a religion (see Figure 2) that was first embraced by the ancient Sundanese people, who have existed since the time of the Tarumanagara Kingdom or even earlier(Munandar 2010). This belief system relates to the universe which is divided into three levels: (1) Sakala, the supernatural essence that manifests itself in real terms; (2) Sakala-Niskala, a supernatural substance that can appear but can also be invisible or virtual; (3) Niskala, the supernatural essence never appears in the real form at all.

The supernatural powers that fill nature are based on the’ Hyang’ called Guriang Tujuh or Tujuh Guriang(see Figure 6), which is the incarnation of Sang Hyang Niskala, the highest superhuman being in the religion of the ancient Sundanese people (Munandar 2010). Guriang Tujuh is Sang Hyang Tujuh who resides in Sasaka Domas, Salaka Domas, or Sasaka Pusaka Buana which is a place of worship of ancestral spirits for adherents of the Sunda Wiwitan religion of the Sundanese tribal community in Baduy (Nuryanto 2019).

The Sunda Wiwitan religion which comes from the Guriang Tujuh concept emphasises that the position of gods in Hindu and Buddhist religions is lower than Hyang (see Figure 6). So it can’t be said that Sang Hyang Tunggal is Shiva, Sang Hyang Wenang is Brahma, and Sang Hyang Wening is Vishnu. The Sunda Wiwitan religion should not be confused with the pantheon of Indian spirituality, one must find an ancient Sundanese source that speaks of its own supernatural power (Munandar 2010). Figure 6 show the position of the Divine Essence in the conception of the Sunda Wiwitan religion adopted by the Baduy people.

The Guriang Tujuh (see Figure 6) in the ancient Sundanese religious conception include: (1) Sang Hyang Ijuna Jati; (2) Sang Hyang Tunggal; (3) Sang Hyang Lenggang Buana; (4) Sang Hyang Aci Wisesa; (5) Sang Hyang Aci Larang; (6) Sang Hyang Aci Kumara; (7) Sang Hyang Manon. The Guriang Tujuh are the embodiment of Sang Hyang Niskala or also called Sang Hyang Jatinistemen which in Serat Dewabuda is also called Sang Hyang Taya (Munandar 2012). In conclusion, Sunda Wiwitan is a religious concept of the ancient Sundanese community that essentially worships Sang Hyang which cannot be touched and seen in its form and cannot appear in real form. This means that the original religion of the Sunda Kuna people was not Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, or Christianity. The religion of the Sunda Kuna people existed before those religions existed [Munandar, 2010]. They do not worship the God embraced by Hindus, Buddhists, Islam, Judais, or Christians. They worship the Holy Essence which is called Sang Hyang or Sang Hyang Kresa (‘The Most Willing’).

Munandar (2012) explains that Sang Hyang cannot be described, let alone made into a statue. Ordinary people, usually use natural stones that are erected like menhirs as ‘ekagrata’ (real objects of worship). The Sunda Wiwitan ritual procession concentrates all its religious activities on the terraced punden called Lalayang Sasaka Domas as a holy place as well as a mecca for the ancient Sundanese people who are well guarded and cared for by the Baduy people. Lalayang Sasaka Domas or Salaka Domas means ‘The Holy Scripture of Eight Hundred Verses’. It contains teachings on the perfection of life from birth (Sambawa), adulthood to old age (Sambada), death, and life in heaven(Winasa) (Permana 2006).

The ritual values contained in Sunda Wiwitan are related to the Sundanese cosmological system of the universe. There are three important values: (1) Niskala’s position is hirup. The word hirup describes Buana Nyungcung or Sunda Wiwitan, which has a value as nature of all origins (awang-uwung), meaning the highest position in natural systematics; (2) the position of Buana Larang as a natural being (pawenangan), has a value as Salaka’s doctrines, whose contents are about rasa (‘taste or form’), which is in the human body; (3) the position of Buana Panca Tengah as Sunda Sambada, has a value about events called alam. The meaning of this value is also referred to as kuring or kurung, which means kurungna rasa, meaning the womb as an intermediary realm that processes the human body (waruga) with its soul (lelembutan) (Darsa and Ekadjati 2006).

Thus, Sunda Wiwitan has a Sa-Asal value, meaning the process of the human journey from nothing to proceed in the natural origin through the intercession of the father and mother. Sunda Sambada has the value of Sa-Tunggal”, which is the process through which the father and mother unite with the earth in the womb or the mother’s love. While Sunda Sawawa is worth Sa-Bakal, which is a substance taken for the survival of the waruga or body (Darsa and Ekadjati 2006). There are three layers of the universe: (1) Buana Nyungcung (upperworld/sacred value/the place of the gods or ancestors); (2) Buana Panca Tengah (middleworld/centre of balance/neutral values/ man living; (3) Buana Larang (underworld/profane or dirty value/place for evil spirits and dead bodies) (Danasasmita and Djatisunda 1986).

Danasasmita and Djatisunda (1986) also mentioned that the three layers of nature are connected by a single axis called the ‘axis mundi’. This axis mundi is located at the centre of the world and connects one layer to another. Through the axis mundi, humans can communicate with the Upper World and the Underworld. Views of cosmology in various parts of the world do not in principle vary much by region. The three layers of nature above in the understanding of the Sundanese people are manifested in the form of their residential building: the panggung. Imah panggung (‘stilt house’) are arranged based on three world levels: the Niskala or Buana Nyungcung (Upper World) has sacred value, the Sakala-Niskala or Buana Panca Tengah (Middle World) has neutral value and the Sakala or Buana Larang (Underworld) is of profane value.

2.3. The Values of Sundanese Manuscripts

The general understanding of the script is discourse or handwritten text, usually bundled or recorded (not printed), or books containing handwritten discourse (Permana 2010). Old Sundanese manuscripts mean manuscripts compiled and written in the Sunda region (West Java) and manuscripts containing stories or descriptions relating to the region and the Sundanese people (West Java) as the core or main content of the manuscript (Permana 2010). The technique of making texts in the old Sundanese manuscript uses traditional media such as writing pads, including daun lontar, gebang, daluang, bamboo, coconut leaves and paper. It is possible that other types of materials were also used as a writing base for the manuscript. In this paper, the media used is daun lontar, a type of palm tree from the borassus flabellifer species, which usually grows in the lowlands (Darsa and Ekadjati 2006).

There are several ancient Sundanese manuscripts, including: Sanghyang Siksakanda-ng Karesyan, Serat Dewabuda or Serat Sewakadarma, Warugan Lemah, Nagara Tengah, Carita Parahyangan and Amanat Galunggung (Munandar 2010). Among the names of the texts above that contain content about the art of architecture are the Sanghyang Siksakanda-ng Karesyan manuscripts and Warugan Lemah. The two texts tell of ancient Sundanese sacred buildings related to religion and people’s homes (Nuryanto 2019).

The Sanghyang Siksakanda-ng Karesyan lists the year of writing as 1440 Saka (1518 CE) and the place of writing as Galuh (the capital of the Sunda Kingdom) which is now located in Ciamis Regency, West Java province, Indonesia. This manuscript provides an overview of the moral guidelines for people’s lives at that time, including various sciences that must be mastered, one of which is the art of architecture. Based on the contents of the text, the word Siksakanda-ng Karesyan can be interpreted as a rule or teaching about living wisely (arif) based on darma (Danasasmita et al. 1987). According to Nurwansah (2017), the content of the manuscript consists of three parts: (1) Dasa Kreta and Dasa Prebakti (opener, explaining ten rules); (2) Karma Ning Hulun (behaviour towards the king in the state); (3) Pangimbuh Ning Twah (complementary actions).

The values contained in the Sanghyang Siksakandang Karesyan manuscript relate to the basic form of the Sundanese traditional house in the form of ‘panggung’ or ‘imah kolong’. This is as in the Pitutur Karuhun (ancestral message) which reads in Sundanese language below:

— dijenengan Anggaraksa, karesepna moro bae, gawena ngan leuleuweungan, moro mencek reujeung uncal, anu ngudag beuki jauh, sasab ka Nagaratengah. Isuk-isuk tas ti cai, nenjo kai nu ngajajar, aki kula asa kaget, pager galede ngajajar, urut naon baheulana, aki ngajawabna bingung, sabab teu meunang rasiah. Eyang Anggawana sakti, nerangkeun asal mulana, sajarah nagara gede, Ratu Agung anu gagah, kabeh taya nu kaliwat, kai ngajajar jarangkung, eta urut kandang jaga —

Pitutur Karuhun above describes the basic form of the building in the form of panggung using high tihang kai (‘main pillars of wood’) in the kedhaton (palace) in the Sunda Kingdom. This panggung form is then applied to the houses of the Sundanese people as the main building. Sundanese houses, in general, are imah panggung. Adimihardja (1992) describes that the shape of panggung as a characteristic of traditional Sundanese buildings is spread throughout the Tatar Sunda region with umpak as the foundation.

From Pitutur Karuhun it is also known that the basic form of the imah panggung plan is a pasagi (‘box or rectangle’) that extends from north to south. According to some sources, the pasagi form is based on the understanding system of the past Sundanese people about “madhab papat kalima pancer”, meaning that the spatial orientation has four cardinal directions: kidul (‘south’), kaler (‘north’), kulon (‘west’), wetan (‘east’), plus a centre called pancer (Nuryanto 2019). The south direction has a sacred value because that is where the Sasaka Domas, the centre of worship or place of prayer is located, as well as the residence of the king (Karaton Suradipati) as the representative of Hyang. North, west and east are consiedered profane (Permana 2006).

Other important values found in the Sanghyang Siksakanda-ng Karesyan manuscript are the decorative forms of the house and various roof models. Danasasmita et al. (1987) mentions, there are various types of decoration, such as: (1) Badawang sarat (large fish decoration); (2) Kawung (a palm tree); (3) Simbar (leaf form); (4) Wadasan (symbol of Mount Meru). While the roof models include the following: (1) Anjung meru (a tapered shape like a mountain); (2) Badak heuay (the shape of an open rhinoceros mouth); (3) Julang ngapak (a shape resembling a bird in flight); (4) Sulah nyanda (similar to a pregnant woman reclining); (5) Tagog anjing (sitting dog attitude).

The second manuscript Warugan Lemah discusses depth site selection from what is permitted to what is forbidden by ancestral rules. This manuscript specifically provides guidance to the Sundanese people on how to determine the location of their homes. Errors that occur can be caused by the wrong position of the house facing it (imah nu salah ngujurna). As a result, homeowners can get ‘malaweung’ disease, a form of daydreaming that eventually becomes ngalanglayung (a mild illness that is difficult to heal). To treat it, a traditional ceremony must be carried out according to ancestral rules (Nuryanto et al. 2021).

Gunawan (2010) mentions that the Warugan Lemah script was written or copied before the 17th century, or even before the collapse of the Pakwan Pajajaran Kingdom (ca. 1578 CE). Warugan Lemah comes from two words warugan and lemah. Warugan is a formation of the word waruga in the old Javanese language meaning ‘type of building’ (Zoetmulder and Robson 2006), while in Sundanese it means body and the suffix an forms a noun, as found in the Sundanese word caritaan, cariosan,. Wwhile the word lemah means land. Thus, Warugan Lemah can mean the ‘form of the land’, and the manuscript contents explain the pattern of land and residential areas, their good and bad influences, along with the means and spells to purify them (Gunawan 2010).

Warugan Lemah can be said to be the feng shui of the Sundanese people, which is a guide in constructing buildings, especially houses. The manuscript is made of palm leaves measuring 28.5 x 28 cm, containing four lines of writing on each lempir (‘sheet’). The script used is old Sundanese, the same as written in other old Sundanese manuscripts. The text in the Warugan Lemah script is unique because it contains knowledge of the Sundanese people about settlement patterns in the past. A more detailed, complete and systematic description hints that the past Sundanese people had their own conception of their settlement patterns (Gunawan 2010).

The values contained in the Warugan Lemah manuscript refer to mala ning lemah, meaning thinking to avoid the evils of choosing a building site with the aim of safety. There are several location classifications that should be avoided, as listed in the sentence below:

— mala ning lemah ngara(n)na: sodong sarongge, cadas gantung, mu(ng)kal pategang, lebak, rancak, kebakan badak, catang nu(ng)gang, catang nonggeng,  garunggungan, garenggengan, lemah sahar, dangdang wariyan, hunyur, lemah laki, pitunahan celeng, kalo(m)beran, jaryan, seuma, sawatek lemah kasingsal —

Based on the contents of the text, the soils included in the dirty category are sodong (a location on the edge of a cliff), sarongge (a haunted place for evil creatures), cadas gantung (dependent rock), mungkal pategang (land surrounded by chunks of rock), lebak (surface of the cliff floor), rancak (land enclosed by large rocks), kebakan badak (rhinoceros puddle pond), catang nunggang (collapsed logs), catang nonggeng (located on a steep slope), garunggungan (small hill), garenggengan (muddy soil), lemah sahar (land where there was murder), dangdang wariyan (land that is flooded with water), hunyur (ant hill), lemah laki (barren land), pitunahan celeng (a place where pigs roam), kolomberan (puddled water), jariyan (garbage disposal), seuma (grave), sawatek lemah kasingsal (waste land).

Gunawan (2010) explains, that the types of soil above are not suitable for habitation, because they are home to terrible creatures, such as raksasa, durgi, durga, kala, and buta. Location selection is very important. If it is not possible to find another location, then there are certain customary rules to neutralise bad influences, such as landclearing rituals (seba laksa/ngaruwat).

Building on location that has good value and is suitable for building a house according to the contents of the Warugan Lemah script (Gunawan 2010) can bring galudra ngupuk (bringing wealth), pancuran emas (the owner will be rich and many wives), satria lalaku (never lack wealth and honour), kancah nangkub (healthy and prosperous), gajah palisungan (acquire a lot of wealth) and bulan purnama (life is full of fun and prosperity). The location that must be avoided the most is on the jalan ngolecer or nyunduk sate, which is the location of the house right at the end of the crossroads. A position like this will wreak havoc on the occupants of the house, such as getting sick easily, having bad luck, and having a hard life.

Thus, the values contained in the Sanghyang Siksakandang Karesyan and Warugan Lemah scripts are aimed at safety in order to avoid danger. The Sundanese people of the past already had rules in planning and designing their homes according to the orders of their ancestors.

3. Discussion

3.1. Basic Concepts of Traditional Building

The basic concept of traditional Sundanese architecture refers to the ancestral rules that have been established in Pikukuh Karuhun. This rule must be implemented and must not be violated because it will be fatal in the form of kabendon or kawalat (ancestor’s wrath). The main source of Pikukuh Karuhun is Sunda Wiwitan. In addition, some rules are in the form of ancestral sayings listed in the ancient manuscripts, whether related to architecture or not.

The term used in this paper is traditional, not vernacular, as they are very different. Indeed, there is still a debate between traditional and vernacular understanding. Even so, Rapoport’s (1969) terminology states the word ‘traditional’ refers to the customary consensus that exists in a society and can be used as a reference compared to ‘vernacular’ which has a broad meaning. This explanation is reinforced by the statement of Nuryanto et al. (2021), that the difference between traditional and vernacular is pakem, namely rules or provisions that come from ancestors that must be obeyed.

Traditional architecture is part of vernacular architecture that is passed down from generation to generation. Studying traditional buildings means studying community traditions that are more than just physical building traditions (Rapoport 1969). Thus, it can be said that every traditional architecture is a vernacular group, but not all vernacular architecture can be called traditional, because of the ancestral standards, even though they are both made without an architect.

The basic concepts of the traditional Sundanese village and house architecture are generally the same, such as the conception of space and place, gender segregation spatial boundaries, time and orientation, symbolic classification and decoration or craftsmanship.

The first concept is about space. Sundanese people recognise two types of space: (1) Nu ngawujud, meaning a real space with a visible, sensory or tangible dimension. Examples of these spaces are: traditional ceremonial grounds, residential areas and spaces in the house; (2) Teu ngawujud, meaning spaces that cannot be seen with the senses, are not real or formless (intangible), but can be felt through rasa in the form of feelings that penetrate human logic. This type of space is inhabited by supernatural powers, such as ritual rooms, sacred spaces and graves. The boundaries of this space are physical, such as fences, walls, floors, and curtains. Teu ngawujud space forms an invisible boundary (Nuryanto et al. 2021).

The second is about place, which is interpreted by the Sundanese as tempat or patempatan which means a place to live (netep/cicing). The concept of place was born from the conception of nu ngawujud space which has physical boundaries. The form of a place in this context is a village (kampung) and a house (imah) as a shelter from various threats. Place is also interpreted differently, such as a container to store something and pangkeng to express a place to rest. Containers and pangkeng are physical places for human physical needs (Nuryanto et al. 2021).

The third is about gender segregation. Sundanese people recognise gender with the term ‘kawanitaan’ which is interpreted as the division of tasks between men and women. The inside of the house is taken care of by the women, while the outside is the responsibility of the men. Gender in Sundanese society is black and white, there is no room for emancipation or equality between the two. The way men position women in the house means protecting and respecting women. In the house is a special area in the form of pawon and goah, a space only for women (Nuryanto et al. 2021).

Fourth about the concept of spatial boundaries. This is related to paradoxical binary oppositions, such as lemahcai, luhur-handap, wadah-eusi and kaca-kaca. Among the four, kaca-kaca is the concept of spatial boundaries. Salura (2008) states that kaca-kaca is the boundary of territory, including the boundary between the height of the place, differences in the material of the place, and objects placed in certain places as symbols of two different directions. The spaces in Sundanese villages and houses are arranged in three parts: hareup (‘front’), tengah (‘middle’), and tukang (‘back’). In the village layout, between the three spaces, the middle is the pancer (centre) in the form of a traditional ceremony field. The kaca-kaca in the field is usually in the form of differences in ground height (contours). The kacakaca in the layout of the house is made of bamboo, namely the bilik (‘bamboo wall’).

The fifth is about time and orientation. Sundanese people understand time as mangsa or waktos which indicates the periods or era. They understand time in four meanings: sacred, safe, lucky and unlucky. The time measuring instrument used by the Sundanese people of the past is called the lingga (‘stone’) which is based on the trajectory of the sun. From here it is known the calculation for poe (‘day’), wuku (‘week’), warsa (‘year’) and so on. Sundanese believe that there are certain times that are considered to have special value. Tuesday and Friday nights are sacred, because they offer offerings to their ancestors. To find out the good and bad times, they used a tool called kolenjer made of bark. Kolenjer is full of symbols and codes that indicate the direction of a person journey (ringkang), value (naptu) and days (poe) to be safe (Nuryanto et al. 2021).

The orientation of the building determines the placement of the building mass on the site. This orientation has a cosmic-spiritual (sacred) value. As previously discussed, Sundanese people in the ancient Sunda Kingdom and now (Baduy) believe that the South direction is sacred. The roof ridge of the house is on the southnorth axis (Garna 1984). The traditional leader (Pu’un) house is located in the south, because it is considered representative of the ancestors (sacred).

The sixth concept is about symbolic classification. Needham (1979), explains that the Sundanese people call this symbolic classification related to their belief system about sasakalabuana (the origin of the universe). Permana (2006) divides the symbolic classification of the Sundanese peoples into four parts: (1) There are three classifications on the vertical axis: luhur, handap and tengah as the centre. On the horizontal axis are hareup, tukang and siger tengah as the centre; (2) Four cClassification: kaler-kidul-kulon-wetan; (3) Five classifications: kalerkidul-kulon-wetan-pancer or puseur; (4) The so called seven classification relates to the number of layers of the universe (seven layers up and seven layers down). This symbolic classification symbolises the structure of the human body and layers of supernatural powers. These four symbolic classifications are used in spatial planning and form, both of the village and the house.

The seventh concept is about craftsmanship, ornaments or decorations used in architectural forms, especially Sundanese houses. This craftsmanship is related to the belief system. The variety of ornaments or decorations in Sundanese houses is limited when compared to Balinese, Javanese, Batak, and Toraja houses. The variety of ornaments in Sundanese houses can be seen on the roof in the form of capit gunting and cabik. Sumardjo (2013) mentions capit gunting (sign X or V) as a paradoxical dualism between men and women. It means, that there are differences in character and division of tasks between men and women that are opposite to each other: (1) men work outside the home to earn a living, while women take care of the house, children, and husband in the house; (2) men are strong (protect), while women are weak (protected); (3) men have a tough character (firm), while women are soft (calm). Cabik (sign O) indicates a unity between speech and action (Nuryanto 2020). It means that every word is true is not lying but honest with everyone. Both of these ornaments are at the end or top of the roof ridge.

3.2. Manifestation of the Sunda Wiwitan ritual and ancient Sundanese manuscript values in the architecture of traditional buildings

The architecture of the imah panggung of the Sundanese people, especially the Baduy village is based on the noble values of their ancestors. Local wisdom is seen in every behaviour of daily life, including in the architecture of the house. For them, the house is not only physical, but a soul for each owner. This means that there is a strong emotional connection between the Sundanese and the house. The Sundanese can never be away from home wherever they go, they know they will definitely return to their home. This is expressed in the saying bali geusan ngajadi, meaning ‘home is a place to return to’. What is called soul in the sentence above is an emotional connection, so an empty house (without owner/ abandoned) is the same as losing emotional ties. The house is a symbol of harmonisation, balance and social equality in the structure of society. Therefore, the shapes of the houses are the same, nothing is luxurious or looks exclusive. According to Sundanese, differences will lead to disharmony and imbalance, thereby destroying the social order of life.

The manifestation of the Sunda Wiwitan ritual values and ancient Sundanese manuscripts can be seen in the Baduy community as a prototype of a traditional Sundanese village in Indonesia which is hundreds of years old. Baduy are considered as the pancer (centre of the world) which is managed by Batara who was created by Ambu Luhur. If a person dies and is buried, this practice is not merely to bury the body but is considered a way to convey that person to Ambu Luhur through Ambu Handap, who controls the land (Garna 1984).

The grave is where the spirit of the dead maintain their body while facing Ambu Handap. When the spirit has faced Ambu Luhur in Buana Nyungcung, the body and spirit have disappeared from the ground. Ambu Handap is the ruler of the land or the earth which is very taboo. Hoeing the land is considered pamali, because it is considered an act of buyut (taboo), the same as turning Ambu Handap (earth) upside down. The use of building materials from bricks and tiles is the same as burying oneself alive, because tiles come from the ground, from dead bodies (Danasasmita and Djatisunda 1986).

Ambu Luhur and Ambu Handap are cosmological concepts originating from the Sunda Wiwitan and old Sundanese manuscripts about the universe. Ambu Luhur is sacred and Ambu Handap is profane or dirty, while between the two is Ambu Tengah as the central point of balance. Based on the results of this research, there are three main points of manifestation of the ritual values of Sunda Wiwitan and old Sundanese manuscripts in the architecture of the imah panggung.

First: Manifestation of the concept of the imah panggung as a symbol of tangtungan jelema, namely the human body which consists of three parts: (1) Hulu means the head which is embodied in the form of a roof (suhunan) as a symbol of Buana Nyungcung, the burial place of the Purified Essence; (2) Awak means the body is implemented in the form of a wall (pangadeg) and as a symbol of Buana Panca Tengah where humans and other living creatures live; (3) Suku means the foot which is manifested in the form of a foundation (umpak or tatapakan), a symbol of Buana Larang where spirits (Nuryanto 2020).

Panggung (see Figure 7) comes from the words pang and agung (Sundanese language), meaning the one who is seated at the highest or the top. So, imah panggung means a house whose floor is higher than the ground. For the Sundanese people who are very firm in carrying out their ancestral traditions, imah panggung is a non-negotiable choice, because it has become pikukuh (ancestral provisions). Breaking the pikukuh is the same as fighting the ancestors and will be kabendon or the wrath of the ancestors (Nuryanto 2022). While the word tangtungan comes from the word nangtung or tangtung, which means to stand upright. The word jelema means the human body which consists of two dimensions, namely the shell or body and eusi or soul. Making a house is to preparing a cangkang to accommodate eusi, which is to provide a place for Dewi Sri (rice goddess) as the real ‘owner of the house’.

Second: Manifestation of the cosmological concept of vertical space about Buana Tilu, the Buana Nyungcung (Upper World), Buana Panca Tengah (Middle World), and Buana Larang (Underworld). The floor and pillars of the house should not be attached directly to the ground (Underworld), because soil is synonymous with death. The pole must be given a base that serves to separate it from the ground in the form of a stone called an umpak or tatapakan (Garna 1984). According to Adimihardja (1992) the form of imah panggung has both technical and symbolic functions. The technical functions are: (1) Do not disturb the water absorption field; (2) The pit becomes a space conditioning medium by means of cross-flowing air, either for warmth (at night) or coolness (during the day); (3) The pit is also used to store firewood supplies and poultry cages. The symbolic function of the imah panggung is to describe the belief system about the Buana Tilu concept.
The manifestation of the concept of “Buana Tilu” can be seen in the form of imah panggung: roof (upper), walls and floors (middle), and foundation (under) (see Figure 7).

Third: Manifestation of the concept of horizontal spatial organisation originating from the concept of Buana Tilu, meaning that spatial arrangements are grouped based on three orientations: tepas imah, tengah imah, and pawon (see fig. 8). The division of these three spaces is closely related to gender, especially regarding the position of women, both cosmically and socially. The space for women and men is clear, showing the division of work activities and the personal nature of the space (public, private, service). Tepas imah, which means “outside” and “profane” is the front room. Tengah imah is the “outsidein” or “sacred-profane” space, which is the meeting place for Buana Nyungcung (Upper World) and Buana Larang (Underworld). The pawon is a space whose position at the back means “sacred” and “female”, because of the goah as a transformation of the body of Nyai Pohaci Sanghyang Sri or Dewi Padi (rice goddes). Goah can only be entered by women, because men are prohibited by custom. Woman means “beginning of life” (to give birth), and man means “outside”, adult, and “death” (Sumardjo 2003). Men are also prohibited from cooking, because it is considered not their job, men work outside the home (Nuryanto, 2021).

Fourth: Manifestation of the concept of the shape of the roof of the house which is inspired by human behavior and animal behavior. There are six types of roofs (Garna 1984), namely: (1) Sulah nyanda, meaning the roof resembles a pregnant woman sitting back; (2) Jolopong, meaning a roof that looks like a person sleeping on their back; (3) Badak heuay, meaning a roof that resembles the attitude of a yawning rhino; (4) Julang ngapak, meaning a roof that looks like a bird’s wing in flight; (5) Tagog anjing, meaning a roof similar to the attitude of a sitting dog; (6) Parahu kumureb, meaning that the roof that resembles a boat is being overturned.

Fifth: Manifestation in the process of building a house (ngadegkeun imah), which consists of three steps, namely: memehna (before), salila (during), and sanggeusna (after completion). Memehna begins by looking for land that matches the criteria in the Warugan Lemah manuscript. Salila is the core stage which includes the process of installing the foundation (umpak) to roof construction (suhunan). While sanggeusna as the end of the entire procession which is marked by the implementation of a ritual ceremony (ngaruwat imah). There is a ban on leaving the village after forty days the house has been built. If it is violated, it will have fatal consequences in the form of sial (unlucky fate), susah (miserable life), seret (the luck is not smooth). Those who violate must be cleaned through the panyapuan ritual (Nuryanto 2022).

3.3. Efforts to Preserve Intangible Cultural Heritage in Indonesia

Regulation of the Minister of Education and Culture of the Republic of Indonesia number 106 of 2013 concerning intangible cultural heritage states that oral rites and traditions are part of the intangible cultural heritage that is protected by the state. This is reinforced by the Presidential Regulation of the Republic of Indonesia number 78 of 2007 based on the international convention in Paris-France dated October 17, 2003 which approved the protection of intangible cultural heritage (Perpres 2007 and Permendikbud RI, 2013). From these two provisions, it is concluded that the values of the Sunda Wiwitan ritual and the old Sundanese manuscript are part of the intangible cultural heritage that must be protected.

The Banten Provincial Government through the Cultural Affairs Department of Education and Culture (Dindikbud) of Banten Province has officially proposed 30 of “Warisan Budaya Tak Benda” (WBTB) or intangible cultural heritage. This proposal was submitted to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Technology of the Republic of Indonesia in Jakarta. This is a follow-up to the results of the Technical Meeting for the Preservation of Cultural Values at the Ministry of Education and Culture on 23-25 February 2022 at the Jayakarta Hotel, Bandung with other stakeholders (Dindikbud Banten 2022).

Presidential regulations, ministerial regulations, and government policies at the provincial, city and regency levels are an effort to protect the intangible cultural heritage from being lost. The government must select all the potentials that exist in each region so that their existence is protected. Therefore, there are six regulations and laws to protect WBTB: (1) Law number 5 of 1992 concerning Cultural Conservation Objects; (2) Presidential Decree number 78 of 2007 concerning the Convention for the Protection of the Intangible Cultural Heritage; (3) Law number 11 of 2010 concerning Cultural Conservation; (4) Permendikbud RI number 106 of 2013 concerning the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Indonesia; (5) PUPR Ministerial Decree number 19 of 2021 concerning Technical Guidelines for the Implementation of Cultural Conservation Buildings; (6) PP number 1 of 2022 concerning National Registration and Preservation of Cultural Conservation. The six most important regulations and laws above are their implementation.

The government’s, especially in Banten Province and Lebak Regency, is very serious about protecting WBTB. In addition, the presence of the Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara” (AMAN) or Alliance of Indigenous Peoples of the Archipelago. Since 1999 has become the only independent institution that protects cultural values and traditions in Indonesia. There are four elements of ancestral heritage (Dalidjo 2021) which AMAN highly respects: (1) cultural identity; (2) value and knowledge system; (3) customary territory or living space; (4) customary law and customary institutions. Protection of the four non-objects in several regions in Indonesia, including Baduy by AMAN, has been carried out by each region. This means that they make efforts to preserve independently, because the government has not been able to provide assistance to care for it.

4. Conclusions

Many findings were obtained, but there are three main values as the basic concept of Sundanese traditional architecture as the embodiment of Sunda Wiwitan ritual values and old Sundanese texts, namely:

1] The cosmological conception in the form of three world classification values, namely Buana Tilu: Buana Nyungcung, Buana Panca Tengah, Buana Larang; Principles of Rohangan Tilu: Tepas Imah, Middle Imah, Pawon; and the Principles of Ngadegkeun Wangunan: Memehna, Salila, Sanggeusna;
2] Conception of the basic form of the traditional building, namely Tangtungan Jelema as symbol of the human body: hulu (‘head’), awak (‘body’) and suku (‘foot’);
3] The concept of choosing the location of the building is Warugan Lemah which comes from the old Sundanese manuscript so that the occupants are safe and protected from disaster.

In closing, the embodiment of Sunda Wiwitan ritual values and Sundanese manuscript texts all converge on ancestral customary rules (pikukuh karuhun) which are embodied in the architecture of the imah panggung (‘stilt house’) of the Sundanese people, especially in Baduy Tangtu.


This research would not have been possible without the motivation, support, and assistance from various parties. Therefore, I would like to express my gratitude and deep appreciation, especially to Pu’un, Jaro, and the Baduy Tangtu community. I would also like to thank the regional heads at the provincial, district, sub-district and village levels in Banten. As well as the rector of UPI and the leadership at the Department of Architectural Engineering-DPTA.