May 24, 2024 | Allison Robertson

The Baduy People of Indonesia

An Island Forest Utopia with Strict Rules

The Baduy people are an indigenous tribe living deep in the forest of Indonesia, and have chosen to remain strictly isolated from civilization.

From money and technology to school and haircuts, the Baduy are a tribe so rooted in their traditional ways that any form of modern life is strictly forbidden.

Baduy People Split2

Who are they?

The Baduy people are an indigenous Sundanese ethnic group native to the southeastern part of Banten, specifically Lebak Regency, Banten, Indonesia.

Baduy People in traditional clothesTourism office of Banten province, Wikimedia Commons

What are their cultural names?

The Baduy people sometimes prefer to be called Urang Kanekes ("Kanekes people") or Urang Cibeo (l"Cibeo people") instead, as these are the names of their cultural regions or villages.

Two Baduy Luar Women, IndonesiaNandoanando, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

How is their tribe organized?

The Baduy tribe consists of two groups: the Inner Baduy and the Outer Baduy. The main difference between the two is seen in the way they implement traditional rules.

Baduy Dalam tribe children in traditional clothesFitri Penyalai, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

What is the difference between the two groups?

The Inner Baduy still upholds the tradition and applies the rules well. While the Outer Baduy has been subjected to outside cultures.

Baduy people in their houseDdsyarifudin, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Where do they live?

The Baduy region is centered at the foothills of the Kendeng mountains, in the hilly forested areas, spread out over an area of around 5, 136.58 hectares.

Outer Baduy Tribe villageFitri Penyalai, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

What is their population?

Altogether, the Baduy population is about 11,800. The Inner Baduy account for 400 people consisting of 40 families, and the Outer Baduy make up the rest of the population.

Baduy people at eventLealdo ar, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Where does the Inner Baduy live?

The Inner Baduy live in three villages deep in the forest—Cibeo, Cikertawana, and Cikeusik in Tanah Larangan (forbidden territory)—where no stranger is permitted to spend the night

Inner BaduyKuncoro Widyo Rumpoko, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Where does the Outer Baduy live?

The Outer Baduy live in 22 villages on the outskirts of the forest, acting as a barrier to stop visitors from contacting the Inner Baduy.

baduy people in traditional clothesinfiksjurnal, Shutterstock

What language do they speak?

The Baduy people communicate in their native language, which is a dialect of Sundanese.

The Inner Baduy do not communicate with anyone outside of their village. The Outer Baduy tend to speak proper Sundanese and sometimes Indonesian.

Baduy peopleEquator Adventure, Flickr

What do they wear?

The Baduy people can be easily distinguished by their clothing. The two groups wear different colors, and have different rules about material and accessories.

Baduy people in different traditional clothesAngga Budhiyanto, Shutterstock

What do the Inner Baduy wear?

The Inner Baduy wear two specific colors—white and dark blue—and often wear a white headband.

Their clothes are not buttoned or collared, and they are not allowed footwear of any kind. No modern clothing is allowed—only handwoven fabrics.

Inner Baduy people wearing white headbandCAHYADI SUGI, Shutterstock

What do the Outer Baduy wear?

Traditionally, they were only allowed to wear blue-black colors and were forbidden to wear pants.

However, modernization has infiltrated some villages, and some Outer Baduy now wear colorful sarongs and modern clothing.

Man wearing blue headband form outer villageLearnmoreandmore, Shutterstock

What do they eat?

The Baduy people are traditionally hunter-gatherers and farmers. Though few large animals are hunted. They rely mostly on rice, fish, and fruits and vegetables.

Meat is eaten in some of the Outer Baduy villages, but raising animals is forbidden.

Baduy villageLearnmoreandmore, Shutterstock

Do they use animals for anything else?

The Baduy people are forbidden from using cows or buffaloes to cultivate land. They also strictly forbid dogs from entering their area of residence, in an effort to preserve nature.

They raise chickens, but only slaughter them during traditional ceremonies.

Baduy village people collecting harvestLearnmoreandmore, Shutterstock

What are their villages like?

Baduy villages are built in and around the trees with the houses close together. They are always built face-to-face and always face north or south.

In addition to houses, there are other buildings called Leuit, which are used as rice barns.

Baduy people villageNATASHA LOIS, Pexels

How is the house divided?

The houses each have three rooms, all with different functions.

The front serves as a place to receive guests and weaving activity for women. The middle part is family room and for sleep. While the back is used for storing harvests.

Baduy village, woman Spinning cottonIrhanz, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

What are their structures made of?

Baduy houses and buildings are made of wood and bamboo, without nails. They stand firmly supported by wooden locks, and have palm fiber or coconut leaf roofs.

These structures are built to withstand earthquakes—which have hit the area many times.

The Baduy tribe village and houseKuncoro Widyo Rumpoko, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Can they use tools?

The Inner Baduy strictly prohibit any and all modern tools. But, of course, the Outer Baduy permits the use of modern tools, such as saws, hammers, nails, etc.

Baduy man workingwisely, Shutterstock

Are their houses furnished?

The Inner Baduy do not use household furniture such as bedding, or kitchen accessories like plates, utensils and cups. They are strict about no glass and no metal.

All materials used are taken from nature—such as bamboo for bowls and cups.

The Outer Baduy allows modern home furnishings, such as mattress, pillows, plastic or glass plates and cups, etc.

Baduy Village HouseJahlilMA, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Are they allowed technology?

As you may have guessed by now, the Inner Baduy strictly prohibit any and all forms of technology, while the Outer Baduy are familiar with electronic devices.

Baduy man speaking on the  phone at his houseHusni, Shutterstock

How is wealth determined?

Unlike modern society, the wealth of the Inner Baduy is not seen from the shape and size of the house.

The entire Inner Baduy community has houses of the same shape and size. Their wealth is determined by ownership objects like pottery. The more pottery that is owned, the higher the degree of the person.

Baduy tribe man white headbandHelza Nitrisia, Shutterstock

How do they make a living?

The main livelihood of the Baduy people is rice farming. They may also trade or sell fruits and honey gathered from the lush jungle forest.

But—money is another taboo.

potteryinfiksjurnal, Shutterstock

Do they allow money?

The Inner Baduy are strictly forbidden from even touching money, let alone earning it or using it. No money of any currency is permitted in their villages.

The Outer Baduy are becoming more and more involved with modern amenities—money included—and they will sell handcrafted products and crops to earn a small income.

Crafts of the Outer Baduy TribeFitri Penyalai, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

What are their other main taboos?

In general, both Baduy groups are required to follow strict rules, and are forbidden to end another person’s life, loot, lie, commit adultery, and get tipsy.

All of those are fairly common in more cultures, but the Baduy have other taboos that are rather intriguing to the outside world.

Baduy CultureElizabeth Odelia, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Other Taboos

The Baduy people are also not allowed to eat food after the sun has gone down, take any form of conveyance, wear flowers or perfumes, accept gold of silver, and cut their hair.

These traditional rules are mostly upheld by the Inner Baduy.

Baduy people's approach to eatingSt Enzadi, Shutterstock

Are they allowed hygiene products?

The Inner Baduy strictly prohibits the use of any hygiene products, like soap, shampoo or toothpaste.

The Outer Baduy are more relaxed about these items.

Baduy childrenmonjnrtyc, Shutterstock

What is marriage like?

Most of the Baduy people still uphold traditional marriage practices. A girl becomes eligible for marriage when she reaches age 14.

Marriages are arranged by the man’s parents, who are free to choose a woman within the tribe to be their daughter-in-law.

Baduy women weavingDhodi Syailendra, Shutterstock

Can one group marry into the other group?

Some Inner Baduy tribe members have joined the Outer Baduy by requesting inter-group marriage. However, it must be agreed upon by all parents of both the man and woman.

Baduy   WomanSBudiMasdar, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Do they go to school?

School is another thing within the Baduy communities that is strictly forbidden.

Modern education of any form is rejected as it is seen as a violation of tradition. In fact, group leaders specifically rejected proposals from the Indonesian government to build schools in their villages.

People of Baduy tribe , men and childrenHelza Nitrisia, Shutterstock

Do they teach themselves?

No. Most people in the Inner Baduy group are completely illiterate and can only communicate in their native language.

They learn basic life skills pertinent to their environment.

Children form Baduy  tribeEquator Adventure, Flickr

What are their traditional gender roles?

Every Baduy woman is required to be able to weave. Soft textured fabric is used for materials to make clothes, and rough materials are chosen for headbands or belts.

Handmade clothing is widely used in trading.

Baduy women in their traditional dresses weaving clothesLearnmoreandmore, Shutterstock

What else do they make?

Aside from clothing, the Baduy also make bags from the bark of a tree called “koja” or “jarog”. This bag is used to store all kinds of materials needed when on the move or on the go.

Koja bag is a tradisional handmade bad from Baduy tribewisely, Shutterstock

What is their belief system?

The Baduy people believe that they are descendants from one of seven gods sent to Earth, and have been tasked with maintaining world harmony.

This belief is called Sunda Wiwitan, which also includes worshipping ancestors as a form of respect.

Man Of BaduyPaul Hessels, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

What traditional rituals do they partake in?

The Baduy have a tradition of fasting for three months in a row, called Kawulu. When the Inner Baduy is doing the Kawulu, the Outer Baduy group is prohibited from visiting the Inner Baduy.

This ritual is a sacred activity that cannot be disturbed by outsiders. They will spend this time praying for harmony and an abundant harvest.

Baduy villageET Hadi Saputra, Flickr

Are there any conflicts between the two groups?

Although the two groups are vastly different, there is no conflict.

The Outer Baduy are extremely respectful of the traditional rules that the Inner Baduy follow, as they are aware that their ways are the true traditional lifestyle of their ancestors.

Baduy peopleDhodi Syailendra, Shutterstock

How does their community benefit from such strict living conditions?

The Baduy people are said to be very happy.

In specific to the Inner Baduy, their land is said to be exceptionally clean as it is free from trash and noise. The children are happy to be as they are, and the natural environment thrives from minimal intrusion.

They know about the outside world, but still prefer to stay hidden in their inner forest utopia.

Baduy tribe man form inner groupSoePhoto, Shutterstock

Final Thoughts

The Baduy people of Indonesia live a very intriguing life, with two groups living vastly different lifestyles only steps apart.

Their strong commitment to preserving their traditional way of life and natural living environment should be respected as a sanctuary from the modern world.

Baduy woman in her houseLearnmoreandmore, Shutterstock

Sources:  1, 2


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