Betawi people

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For other uses, see Betawi (disambiguation).
Betawi people
Betawi wedding costume demonstrate both Middle Eastern (groom) and Chinese (bride) influences.
Total population
(5 million (2000 census))
Regions with significant populations
Jakarta: 2.3 million
Betawi, Indonesian
Sunni Islam (predominantly), Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Sundanese, Javanese, Balinese, Malay, Tionghoa, Ambonese, Cocos Malays

Betawi people (Orang Betawi in Indonesian meaning "people of Batavia") are the descendants of the people living around Batavia (the colonial name for Jakarta) from around the 17th century.[1] The Betawis are a creole ethnic group that came from various parts of Indonesia, such as Malays, Sundanese, Javanese, Balinese, Minangkabau, Bugis, Makassarese, and Ambonese, also include foreign ethnic groups such as Mardijker, Portuguese, Dutch, Arabs, Chinese and Indian, who was originally brought to or attracted to Batavia to meet labour needs. They have a culture and language distinct from the surrounding Sundanese and Javanese. The Betawis are known for their traditions in music and food.[2]


The name "Betawi" is derived from Batavia, the old colonial name of Jakarta. In neighboring Javanese and Sundanese languages, the term "Betawi" did originally do refer to colonial Batavia. Thus the term orang Betawi refer to "people of Batavia" or "Batavians", which originally consists of diverse ethnic groups and various demographic make up of the coastal Dutch colony; either within the 17th century fortified city of Old Batavia (now Kota area) or surrounding villages.


Distribution map of languages spoken in Java, Madura, and Bali. Betawi language spoken in and around modern Jakarta (blue) is traditionally registered as Malay.

The Betawi language is a Malay-based creole language. It was the only Malay-based dialect spoken in northern coast of Java; other northern Java coastal areas are overwhelmingly dominated by Javanese dialects, while some parts are speaking Madurase and Sundanese. Betawi vocabulary has large amount of Hokkien Chinese, Arabic, and Dutch loanwords. Today the Betawi language is a popular informal language in Indonesia and used as the base of Indonesian accent.


Most of the Betawi people embraced Islam, but there also who profess the Christian faith; Protestants and Catholics but only a little. Among the Betawi ethnic Christians, some have claimed that they are the descendants of a mix between the local population with the Portuguese. This is reasonable because at the beginning of the 16th century, Surawisesa, king Pajajaran entered into an agreement with the Portuguese that allow the Portuguese built a fort and a warehouse in the port of Sunda Kalapa thus forming the Portuguese community in the Sunda Kalapa. The Portuguese community is still there and settled in the area of Kampung Tugu, North Jakarta.


Ondel-Ondel Betawi


Topeng Betawi dance troupe during colonial Dutch East Indies.

The artform of the Betawi people demonstrate the influences experienced by them throughout their history. The Ondel-ondel large bamboo masked-puppet is similar to Chinese, Balinese and Sundanese artform of masked dance. The dances costumes shows Chinese and European influences, while the movements such as Yapong dance is derived from Sundanese Jaipongan dance with a hint of Chinese style. Another dance is Topeng Betawi dance.


Gambang Kromong.

The Gambang kromong and Tanjidor, as well as Keroncong Kemayoran music is derived from the kroncong music of Portuguese Mardijker people of Tugu area, North Jakarta.

Martial arts[edit]

Silat Betawi demonstration in Jakarta

Silat Betawi is a popular martial art of Betawi people. Betawi martial art was rooted in Betawi culture of jagoan (lit. "tough guy" or "local hero") that during colonial times often went against colonial authority; despised by the Dutch as thugs and bandits, but highly respected by local pribumis as native's champion. In Betawi dialect, their style of pencak silat is called maen pukulan (lit. playing strike) which related to Sundanese maen po. Notable schools among other are Beksi and Cingkrik. Beksi is one of the most commonly practiced forms of silat in Greater Jakarta, and is distinguishable from other Betawi silat styles by its close-distance combat style and lack of offensive leg action.[3]

Wedding ceremony[edit]

During a Betawi wedding ceremony, there is a palang pintu (lit. door's bar) tradition of silat Betawi demonstration. It was a choreographed mock fighting between groom's entourage with bride's jagoan kampung (local champion). The fight is naturally won by groom's entourage as the village champs welcomes him to bride's home. The traditional wedding dress of Betawi displays Chinese influence in bride's costume and Arabian influences in groom's costume. Betawi people borrowed Chinese culture of firecrackers during wedding, circumcisions or any celebrative events. The tradition of bringing roti buaya (crocodile bread) during wedding is probably a European custom.


Main article: Betawi cuisine

As a thriving port city, the cuisine of Betawi is eclectic as it reflects the foreign culinary traditions that has been influenced the inhabitant of Jakarta for centuries. Betawi cuisine is heavily influenced by Peranakan Cuisine of Chinese Indonesian, Malay cuisine, neighboring Sundanese and Javanese cuisine, to some extent Indian, Arabic and European cuisines.[4] Betawi people have several popular cuisines, such as soto betawi, soto kaki, nasi uduk, kerak telor, nasi ulam, asinan, ketoprak, rujak, semur jengkol, sayur asem, gabus pucung, and gado-gado Betawi.


Traditionally Betawi people are not an urban dweller living in gedong (European-style building) or two-storied Chinese rumah toko (shophouse) clustered in and around Batavia city walls. They are living in kampungs around the city filled with orchards. As Jakarta become more and more densely populated, so does Betawi traditional villages that mostly now turned into a densely packed urban village with humble houses tucked in between high rise buildings and main roads. Some of more authentic Betawi village survived only in the outskirt of the city, such as in Setu Babakan, Jagakarta, South Jakarta bordering with Depok area, West Java. Traditional Betawi houses can be found in Betawi traditional kampung (villages) in Condet and Setu Babakan area, East and South Jakarta.[2]

Betawi houses are typically one of three styles: rumah bapang (or rumah kebaya), rumah gudang (warehouse style), and Javanese-influenced rumah joglo. Most betawi houses have a gabled roof, with the exception the joglo house, which has a high pointed roof. Betawi architecture has a specific ornamentation called gigi balang ("grasshopper teeth") which are a row of wooden shingles applied on the roof fascia. Another distinctive characteristics of Betawi house is a langkan, a framed open front terrace where Betawi family receive their guests. The large front terrace is used as an outdoor living space.[2]

Notable Betawi people[edit]

Iko Uwais, a popular martial art actor.


  1. ^ No Money, No Honey: A study of street traders and prostitutes in Jakarta by Alison Murray. Oxford University Press, 1992. Glossary page xi
  2. ^ a b c Indah Setiawati (24 June 2012). "Betawi house hunt". The Jakarta Post. Jakarta. 
  3. ^ Nathalie Abigail Budiman (1 August 2015). "Betawi pencak silat adapts to modern times". The Jakarta Post. Jakarta. Retrieved 10 August 2015. 
  4. ^ Indah Setiawati (8 November 2013). "Weekly 5: A crash course in Betawi cuisine". The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 5 August 2016. 


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