Palang pintu, a unique Betawi culture prior to a wedding to test how good of a man the groom-to-be is...
When a lovebird is going to tie the knot, the Betawi people, the origin tribe of Jakarta, hosts a unique celebration that combines social life, local culture, literature and religious matters. It is Palang Pintu, a Betawi ritual that is held to respect the bride’s family on the wedding day. “Palang” is an Indonesian term for a door bar, while “pintu” means the door. So Palang Pintu is a tradition to barricade the door, preventing someone from entering the residence of the bride-to-be.
In the old days, Palang Pintu is a ritual to test how strong or how good the groom-to-be is in martial art, especially Pencak Silat. The groom-to-be has to perform a martial art technique to ensure the bride’s family that he is capable of protecting his wife and his future family. The groom-to-be is also expected to have a good capability in reading and reciting the Koran to prove he can be a religious leader in the family.
But as time passed, not so many men in Jakarta can do Pencak Silat or recite the Koran as good as in the old days. Most couples now hire a Betawi cultural ensemble from a Betawi cultural center to represent them in the Palang Pintu ritual. This group, which consists of several Betawi artists, will perform Pencak Silat as a part of the ritual before the wedding ceremony is held.
Dimas Andika, a Betawi man in Jakarta, hired a group of Betawi cultural performer for his Palang Pintu ritual when he tied the knot with a Javanese woman back in 2015. Dimas hosted the Palang Pintu prior to his vow ceremony (akad nikah), while the Javanese-style ceremony was held on the reception day. For Dimas, the Palang Pintu ritual was important to show his guests that the Betawi culture is exceptionally remarkable. That is why he hired Sanggar Si Pitung, a Betawi cultural group who always wins the Palang Pintu competition in Jakarta.
Similar to Dimas, Dzulfikri Putra Malawi, was so pleased when he finally held the Palang Pintu ritual on his wedding in 2015. He also hired a Betawi cultural group to perform the tradition. According to him, not many Betawi people hold this ritual on their wedding day anymore, so it was crucial for him to present this Betawi tradition prior to his wedding ceremony.
Before the Palang Pintu begins, the family of the groom-to-be will parade to the bride-to-be’s home accompanied by marawis (a Betawi traditional percussion ensemble) playing Arabic songs. Entering the bride’s front yard, the troupe will be intercepted by the bride’s family and the groom-to-be will then be challenged by a local champion. This challenge is the Palang Pintu ritual that the groom should pass before he marries his loved one.
The Palang Pintu ritual begins by a pantun (a rhyming quatrain) jam from the groom and the bride’s side. The families will take turns to recite their poem until finally the bride’s family requests the groom-to- be to show his ability in Pencak Silat. The groom-to-be must accept the challenge to assure the whole family that he is a good man and is capable of protecting his future wife and children.
A representative from each of the groom and bride will then perform various movements of Pencak Silat. Wearing a Betawi traditional attire that consists of a long-sleeve shirt (baju koko), a sarong, and a Muslim cap, they usually perform some movements of Pencak Silat with bare hands or use the traditional Betawi machete.
The groom’s representative is always staged to be the winner of the Palang Pintu ritual as there would be no wedding if the groom loses. However, the challenge doesn’t stop there. The groom-to-be will have to go through the next challenge to show his ability in reciting the Koran.
Once all the challenges are done, the bride’s family will express their happiness for having a good man – and hopefully religious too – to protect their daughter, just like what they have always wished for. The bride’s family will recite another pantun to welcome the groom’s family at the beginning of the ceremony. The groom’s family will enter the bride’s home afterwards with marawis music playing in the background. They will continue the wedding ceremony inside the bride’s home which is usually held in an Islamic ceremony.
The philosophical meaning of Palang Pintu is actually to always be prepared if you are going to make an important decision in your life. Not only is Palang Pintu performed at a wedding ceremony, this Betawi ritual is also often performed to welcome guests of honor at other special occasions like circumcision celebrations and government events.
Contributor : Edna Tarigan
Magazine issue > Capital Corner