Rumah Gadang (Big House) is a traditional house of the Minang Kabau people. Most Minang Kabau people used to live in Rumah Gadang with their families. It was caused by the matrilineal pattern of the tribe line. It is the only matrilineal pattern in Indonesia. But nowadays Rumah Gadang rarely to be occupied. People tend to build modern house. It might be caused by the changing of the era.
Actually there is no valid information when this big house firstly built. But the Creator / Architect of the big house is Tantejo Gurhano. His burial is in Pariangan, Batusangkar; the original and the source of Minang Kabau culture. This village is considered the early village around Minang Kabau area.
In Pagarruyung (still in Batusangkar area) there is a very big house that we can call Pagarruyung Palace. This Palace is a symbol of the successful and the glory of pagarruyung kingdom in the 13th century. But the palace which we can visit now was rebuilt in 1976.
Usually Rumah Gadang has three small buildings in front of it. People call them ‘Rangkiang’. The name of each building are 1) Sitinjau Laut, 2) Sibayan-Bayan, and 3) Sitangka Lapa. Each building has different function but how ever the main function of it is to save the rice field. The philosophy of the Rangkiang is first: the rice saved in Sitinjau Laut is to serve the guests / visitors who come to the area. Second, to feed all family. The third, to eat in crisis.
People also use Rumah Gadang to conduct a meeting if a family or a tribe has problem to be solved, the family or the tribe leader will be invited to attend the meeting to make a decision or a good solution. It seems that the process of democracy has been running well in this area since years ago. Besides that Rumah Gadang is also used to conduct a wedding party or any ceremonial party. Then when one of the tribe leader dead, people will look for another person to be the leader by inviting many people to Rumah Gadang. The construction of Rumah Gadang is unique enough. No nail, and foundation is not kept into the earth. In other words, the foundation is built on the surface of the land after putting several stones on it. If the earthquake quake the big house, it will move slowely and flexible as it can. As one of the story shows that a big house felt down or destroyed by the earth quake. Most of the material was made of wood. So, the first enemy of Rumah Gadang is only fire.
Today we still be able to see and observe several Rumah Gadang around Minang Kabau area. But what we do expect every much is to preserve the old building. There are many stories about Rumah Gadang to write, it will be reported as complete as possible next time. I will send you any kinds of West Sumatra Culture later.