Indonesia has a plethora of cultural traditions, especially for weddings. One tradition that is quite popular in Indonesia is palang pintu, which is usually to be performed at Betawi weddings.
Literally, “palang” means a barrier so that other people cannot enter or pass through a place and “pintu” means a door in general. However, when you put these words together, palang pintu means people who play the role of a barrier. This tradition is a symbol of the test for the groom to receive “approval” from the bride.
There is no definite record that says when palang pintu started or was first invented. According to Perosesi Adat Perkawinan Betawi Buke Palang Pintu (2013), a book written by Bachtiar, it is said that the tradition had been carried out by the most popular Betawi figure Si Pitung when he was about to marry Aisyah, the daughter of Betawi’s champion, Murtadho who was well-known as Jawara Kemayoran – The Champion of Kemayoran.
In order to be able to marry Aisyah, Si Pitung had to break palang pintu by fighting Murtadho using martial arts skills and colliding rhymes. Then, Si Pitung succeeded in defeating Murtadho and finally married Aisyah.
However, based on a book titled Batavia 1740 Menyisir Jejak Betawi (2010) by Windoro Adi, the palang pintu tradition only began to develop in the 1980s, along with the ondel-ondel tradition. This tradition is known to have originated in Central Betawi and Downtown Betawi. Meanwhile, the people of Betawi Pinggiran call this tradition Rebut Dandang.
For the Betawi people, the tradition symbolises how the parents have to protect their daughter before being proposed to by a man. On the other hand, for the men, palang pintu is carried out to show their sincerity in building a household with the woman of their choice.
The palang pintu show is conducted before the wedding ceremony when the groom’s entourage is about to enter the bride’s house. This is done by two people who are chosen as “champions” from each side. When the groom and his champion arrive at the location, they will be prevented from entering by the champion from the bride’s side.
In the beginning, there will be an opening dialogue and pantun – reciprocal rhymes. The intonation of both champions will rise gradually and make the situation become more serious. Even though they are acting as if they are about to fight, the pantun that are spoken are often full of jokes. After that, there will be a pencak silat fight between the champions.
The pencak silat fight contains the meaning that a man, as the head of the family, must be able to protect his family from distress and danger, while pantun has the meaning that a man must be able to entertain his family so that they are always happy.
The champion of the groom will always win this fight. By defeating another champion, it means that the groom has broken down the barrier put in place by the people. That means the groom can enter the bride’s house.
Next, the groom will be asked to recite verses from the Koran. The purpose of reciting the verses is to measure the man’s ability to be a good imam – leader – to understand religious knowledge, and to be able to guide his family towards the path of goodness.
Besides all of these activities, palang pintu comes with goods from the groom’s side, such as roti buaya, a dowry, clothing, and accessories. Apart from that, there are also ondel-ondel dance shows and kembang kelapa accompanying the groom’s entourage.
If you are a Betawi or want to marry a Betawi, palang pintu definitely should be a part of your wedding proposal. This is a fantastic wedding tradition.