Minggu, 15 Januari 2023

History and Culture of the Gayo Aceh Tribe - Sumatra Island

History and culture of the Gayo Aceh Tribe. The Gayo tribe is one of the ethnic groups that inhabit the Gayo highlands in the central part of Aceh Province. Part of the Gayo tribal area includes the districts of Bener Meriah, Central Aceh and Gayo Lues. Some also live in areas in East Aceh, namely in the Serba Jadi, Peunaron, and Simpang Jernih sub-districts. The Gayo people are Muslim and are known to be devout in their religion.

Gayo Groom Portrait
At the Beginning of the 20th Century
(photo: wikipedia)

The Gayo tribe belongs to the Proto-Malay race originating from India. The arrival of this nation is estimated to have come to Indonesia around 2000 BC. The hallmark of this nation is black skin, small body and curly hair. The Gayo tribe consists of three groups, namely the Gayo Laut community who inhabit the areas of Central Aceh and Bener Meriah, the Gayo Lues who inhabit the Gayo Lues and Southeast Aceh areas and the Gayo Blang who inhabit several sub-districts in Aceh Tamiang.

The word Gayo comes from the word Pegayon which means a clear spring where there are sacred (clean) fish and crabs. That said, in the past, a group of migrants from the Karo Batak tribe came to Blangkejeren by crossing a village called Porang. On their way they encountered a village where there was a lake inhabited by a large crab, then they saw the animal and shouted Gayo Gayo. This is where the area was named Gayo.


The language used is Gayo. This language is related to the language of the Karo Batak people in North Sumatra and belongs to the language group called "Northwest Sumatra-Barrier Islands" from the Austronesian language family. The Gayo language dialect has several variations due to the influence of foreign languages. The Gayo language in Lokop is slightly different from the Gayo language in Gayo Kalul, Gayo Lut, Linge and Gayo Lues. This is due to the influence of the Acehnese language which is more dominant in East Aceh. Meanwhile, the Gayo Kalul language, in Aceh Tamiang, has more or less Malay influence because it is closer to North Sumatra. Then, Gayo Lues was more influenced by the Alas and Karo languages ​​because of more interaction with the two tribes, especially the Gayo community in Southeast Aceh district.

The dialect of the Gayo tribe, according to MJ Melalatoa, the Gayo Lut dialect consists of Gayo Lut and Deret subdialects, while Bukit and Cik are sub-dialects. Likewise, the Gayo Lues dialect consists of the Gayo Lues and Serbejadi subdialects. The Serbejadi subdialect itself includes the Serbejadi and Lukup subdialects (1981:53). Meanwhile Baihaqi Ak., et al said that the number of dialects of the Gayo language corresponds to the distribution of the Gayo tribe earlier (Gayo Lut, Deret, Gayo Lues, Lokop/Serbejadi and Kalul). However, the Gayo Lues, Gayo Lut, Gayo Lukup/Serbejadi and Gayo Deret dialects can be said to be the same or very close together. In Gayo Lut itself there are two dialects there which are called the Bukit and Cik dialects (1981:1).


Only a small portion of the Gayo community still includes the names of their clans, especially those who live in the Bebesen area. This is only to find out the origin/lineage.

The following is a list of clans in the Gayo tribe:


In the 11th century, the Linge Kingdom was founded by the Gayo people during the reign of Sultan Makhdum Johan Berdaulat Mahmud Syah from the Perlak Sultanate. This information is known from the statement of King Uyem and his son Raja Ranta, namely Raja Cik Bebesen and from Zainuddin, namely from the kings of the Bukit, both of whom had reigned as kings in the Dutch colonial era.
King Linge I, is said to have 4 children. The oldest is a woman named Empu Beru or Datu Beru, the others are Sebayak Lingga (Ali Syah), Meurah Johan (Johan Syah) and Meurah Lingga (Malamsyah).

Sebayak Lingga then migrated to the Karo lands and opened a land there where he was known as Raja Lingga Sibayak. Meurah Johan traveled to Aceh Besar and founded his kingdom called Lam Krak or Lam Oeii or known as Lamuri or the Lamuri Sultanate. This means that the Lamuri Sultanate above was founded by Meurah Johan while Meurah Lingga lived in Linge, Gayo, who later became king of Linge for generations. Meurah Silu migrated to the Pasai area and became an employee of the Daya Sultanate in Pasai. Meurah Mege herself was buried at Wih ni Rayang on the Keramil Paluh Slope in the Linge area, Central Aceh. Until now it is still maintained and respected by residents.

The cause of the migration is unknown. However, according to history it is said that Raja Linge loved his youngest Meurah Mege more. Thus making his other children prefer to wander.

Linga Dynasty

Adi Genali Raja Linge I in Gayo

justify;">King of Sebayak Lingga in Tanah Karo. Becomes King of Karo
Raja Meurah Johan (founder of the Lamuri Sultanate)
Meurah Silu son of Meurah Sinabung (founder of the Samudera Pasai Sultanate), and
Raja Linge II alias Marah Lingga in Gayo
Raja Lingga III-XII in Gayo
King Lingga XIII became Amir al-Harb of the Aceh Sultanate. In 1533 a new Johor Kingdom was formed in Malaysia led by Sultan Alauddin Mansyur Syah. King Lingga XIII was appointed to be the cabinet in the new kingdom. His descendants founded the Lingga Sultanate in the Riau archipelago, Lingga Island, whose sovereignty includes Riau (Indonesia), Temasek (Singapore) and a small part of Malaysia.
The kings in Sebayak Lingga Karo are not documented. In the Dutch era, the kings were again appointed, but only for two eras
Raja Sendi Sibayak Lingga (Dutch choice)
Raja Kalilong Sibayak Lingga

Social life

Gayo people live in small communities called kampong. Each village is headed by a gekik. A group of several villages is called a settlement, which is led by a mukim. The traditional government system is in the form of a leadership element called sarak opat, consisting of reje (king), petue (counsel), imem (priest), and rayat (people).

At present several kemukiman are part of the sub-district, with leadership elements consisting of: gecik, gecik deputy, imem, and intellectuals who represent the people.
A village is usually inhabited by several different groups (clans). Members of a split feel that they come from one ancestor, still know each other, and develop permanent relationships in various traditional ceremonies. Lineage is drawn based on patrilineal principles. The marriage system that applies based on tradition is split exogamy, with the custom of staying after marriage which is patrilocal (juelen) or matrilocal (angkap).

The smallest kinship group is called sara ine (nuclear family). The union of several nuclear families is called sara kitchen. In the past several kitchen sara lived together in a long house, so it was called sara umah. Several longhouses merged into one side (clan). At present many nuclear families live in their own homes. In the past the Gayo people mainly developed livelihoods from farming in rice fields and raising livestock, with complicated livelihood customs.

In addition there are residents who garden, catch fish, and gather forest products. They also developed the craft of making ceramics, weaving and weaving. Now the dominant livelihood is gardening, especially Gayo coffee plants. The craft of making ceramics and wickerwork was once threatened with extinction, but with this area being made a tourist destination in Aceh, ceramic crafts have begun to be developed again. Another craft that has also received a lot of attention is the craft of making filigree embroidery with distinctive motifs.


The majority of the Gayo people have their main livelihood as farmers with their main product being coffee. In addition, the Gayo people developed the craft of making ceramics, weaving and weaving as well as the craft of making Gayo filigree embroidery with distinctive motifs. Gayo traditional society adheres to the principle of "sacred mupakat behu dedele" which means glory because of consensus, courage because we are together and "tire song gelngan, bulet song umut, rempak song re, susun song belo" which means united firmly.

Art and culture

Gayo's well-known art forms include the Saman dance and the art of speaking called Didong. In addition to entertainment and recreation, these art forms have ritual, educational, informational functions, as well as a means to maintain balance and the social structure of society. Apart from that, there are also art forms such as the Bines dance, Guel dance, Munalu dance, Sebuku/Pepongoten (the art of wailing in prose), the didong teacher, and melengkan (the art of speech based on custom).

Gayo people own and cultivate a number of cultural values ​​as a reference for behavior to achieve order, discipline, solidarity, mutual cooperation, and diligent (mucourse). The experience of this cultural value is driven by a value called sikemenen, namely competition which embodies a basic value regarding self-esteem (mukemel). These values ​​are embodied in various aspects of life, such as in the fields of economics, art, kinship, and education. The source of these values ​​is the Islamic religion and local customs that are adhered to by all Gayo people.

Art and Dance
Didong Niet
Saman dance
Bines Dance
Guel dance
Mulu dance
Sining Dance
My Turunn Dance Aih Aunen
Resam Berume Dance
Lucky Kukur
Typical food

Sour Jae
glutinous rice pudding
Reference sources :
https://id.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suku_Gayo accessed on 18 February 2016
http://www.wacananusantara.org/suku-gayo/ accessed on 18 February 2016

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