Ensaid Panjai: A Symbol of Resilient Dayak Strength and Solidarity Throughout the Age

The longhouses of the Dayak people, also known as “betang” in some regions, are an iconic part of Dayak culture in Kalimantan. However, in the 1970s, during the era of the New Order government in Indonesia, a prohibition was imposed on these longhouses, and several compelling reasons underpinned this ban.

One of the primary rationales for this prohibition was the fact that longhouses served as centers of power and fostered incredibly strong community bonds within Dayak culture. These longhouses were not merely places of residence but also hubs for various social, cultural, and religious activities. This fostered a profound sense of unity and community strength among their inhabitants.

Furthermore, the New Order government was concerned that the longhouses could potentially be used as hiding places or bases for armed groups operating within the forests of Kalimantan. The remote and inaccessible nature of these longhouses made them difficult to control or monitor by the government.

The ban on Dayak longhouses in the 1970s was also part of the government’s broader efforts to modernize and develop the remote regions of Kalimantan. The government aimed to encourage Dayak communities to transition to permanent settlements and abandon their traditional way of life. This included persuading them to leave their longhouses and build more modern-style houses.

As a result of this prohibition, many Dayak longhouses underwent drastic changes or were even demolished by the government. This marked a challenging period in the cultural history of the Dayak people as they had to adapt to the forced changes imposed by the government.

Despite the ban dating back to the 1970s, some Dayak longhouses can still be found today. The Dayak communities have managed to preserve their traditions and culture, even in changing environments. These longhouses remain an essential part of their identity and cultural heritage.

Ensaid Panjai, one of the rare longhouses of the Dayak Dessa, a branch of the Iban people, in Sintang, West Kalimantan, is a symbol of the enduring strength and solidarity of the Dayak people, standing resilient against any challenges throughout the ages. It has remained steadfast even when threatened with eradication since the 1970s.

The Panjai House, also known as the “rumah betang,” is one of the invaluable cultural legacies of the Dayak community, particularly the “Dessa” sub-group, in the village of Ensaid Panjang. This house is not just a place of residence but holds profound philosophical meanings for its inhabitants. The Panjai House encapsulates their way of life and worldview in a profound manner.

The village of Ensaid Panjang covers an area of approximately 175 km2, and the majority of its population relies on rubber tapping as their livelihood. The community residing in the Panjai House in Ensaid Panjang predominantly belongs to the “Dessa” sub-group of the Dayak people. The village is situated about a 1.5-hour drive from the city of Sintang and is accessible via a rocky road.

Despite the availability of electricity and television in Ensaid Panjang, the tradition of the Panjai House is diligently preserved. Besides the Panjai House, the Sebiau River flows, serving various purposes for the residents, including bathing, laundry, and more.

Many young individuals from the Panjai House in Ensaid Panjang pursue their education in larger cities like Sintang, Singkawang, Pontianak, and some even travel to Java. This demonstrates that while upholding their traditions, the community in Ensaid Panjang also embraces the evolving times.

The history of the “Dessa” sub-group of the Dayak people traces its origins to Kapuas Hulu, particularly the “Dessa” River. They moved downstream due to conflicts with Buah Kana, notably Manuk Babari, whose behavior was less than ideal. This serves as an example of how historical factors can influence the migration of a community.

The culture of the “Dessa” Dayak people is incredibly rich, encompassing the Kana culture, Semayan (besampi), and Kanduk culture. The Kana culture consists of songs laden with wisdom and daily life advice. Semayan (besampi) comprises a sequence of words with religious significance, used in healing ceremonies. The Kanduk culture includes folk tales and legends, such as the legend of Sebeji, which revolves around Bukit Kelam.

These three cultures reflect the worldview of the “Dessa” Dayak people and their beliefs regarding three different worlds, each with its unique way of life. The world above the sky is inhabited by Dewata (Petara) and the Buah Kana Human. The world of Humans is Earth, the dwelling place of humans and various forces, both good and evil. The third world is Sebayan, the realm of spirits where the departed souls congregate.

The Panjai House, or betang, in the perspective of the “Dessa” Dayak people, is more than just a place of residence. It represents their life philosophy. The location and architecture of this house hold distinct meanings. The Panjai House faces east, symbolizing life and hard work, while the westward orientation signifies death. Each section of the Panjai House plays a vital role and carries significant meaning in daily life.

The Panjai House boasts a unique design with ulin pillars and ulin floor foundations, jengki-style walls, and a long saddle-shaped roof. Inside, various spaces serve different purposes, including ruai (veranda), telouk (rice-pounding area), padong (family room), bilik (sleeping quarters), kitchen, and sadau (treasure storage).

The Panjai House serves as the communal living space for the “Dessa” Dayak community, and they preserve this tradition consciously, emphasizing harmony and equality in their way of life. The Panjai House stands as a robust symbol of their unique life and their rich ethical and moral values.

In its simplicity, the Panjai House is the true home for the “Dessa” Dayak people, where they lead a life filled with meaning and togetherness. It is a cultural heritage deserving of preservation and respect, representing an integral part of their history and identity.*)

Share your love
Avatar photo
Biblio Pedia
Articles: 211

Newsletter Updates

Enter your email address below and subscribe to our newsletter

Leave a Reply