Minangkabau, the greatest of names in West Sumatra was known by people of old by its other name – the Pariangan Kingdom.  It was established in the middle of the twelve Century, circa 1339 and began around the south-eastern slopes of the volcano, Mount Merapi.  According to locals this information cannot be disputed since the history of Minangkabau nature or mind-set is known as “Tambo”.  Tambo can be defined as that which up to this day has been confirmed and not in any way changed by the Minangkabau people.

Many people nowadays say that “Tambo” of the Minangkabau people contains mainly fiction with perhaps no more than 2% truth while 98% is pure myth.  The name Minangkabau is nowadays wrongly interpreted as that which was derived from the Bull Fighting tradition.  As the story is told it began with a fight between two buffalos.  One was from Swarnadwipa (Java) and the other from Pariangan, Swarnabhumi (Andalas or modern day Sumatra).  At that time the winner was the buffalo from Pariangan, therefore the land was named Minangkabau. “Minang” was interpreted as Menang or Win and “Kabau” is the name for buffalo in the language of West Sumatera.

However, the name of Minangkabau was already in use far longer than the existence of the Pariangan Kingdom, whose king was Adityawarman (1339 – 1376).  It is believed that the name came into existence from the moment the first forefathers stepped onto the land around the slope of Merapi Volcano.

Something that also offers clues as to the origins of the Minangkabau word were found on an ancient inscription of the Sriwijaya Kingdom which states;

Swasti Cri Cakrawarsita 605 Eka Dacicu Klapaksa Wulan Waikasa Dapunta Hiyang Nayik Di Samwau Manalap Siddhayatra Di Saptami Culapaksa Wulan Jyestha Dapunta Hiyang Marlapas Dari Minanga Tamwan Mamawa Yam Wala Dua Laksa Da Nan Ko Ca Dua Ratus Cara Di Samwau danan Jalan Sariwu Tilu Ratus Sapulu Dua Wanakna Datam Di Matayap Sukha Citta Di Pancami Cukla Pasa Wulan …………..Langhu Mudita Datam Marbuat Wanua ………………Criwijaya Jaya Siddhayatra Subhiksa

 which can roughly be translated as follow;

Congratulation on the leaving of Caka (Saka) year 605 on the date of 11 on the half-moon of Waichaka, the majesty of greatest man rides on a canoe set for the holy mission on the 7 of half bright of the Jyestha moon. The majesty was set from Minang Tamwan brought 20.000 soldiers with boxes 2000 was set with canoes while 1000 walked on the land 302 come to the matayap on the happy day on the 5 of……….. was established the town easily and happily criwijaya had won because of the holy mission

As can be seen, the inscription states clearly about the holy mission starting from Minanga Tamwan to Sriwijaya.  Minanga means Binanga which can be translated as ‘river’, while Tamwan or Temon is the founding, therefore the words “Minanga Tamwan” means the estuary two twin rivers, left Kampar and right Kampar which is well known as the old area called ‘Muara Takus’.

Muara Takus was the central point of the spread of Buddhism Mahayana (730 – 1150).  There have also been some in past that have said the word Minangkabau was derived from the word Pinang(a) Kabu which means “Base Land” or original land.

To conclude even though the bull is an important symbol of the Minangkabau way of life, this West Sumatranese people’s name did not originate from it.  Minang people are fierce, proud and with a colourful history.  As will be seen in later instalments our martial arts also have old and varied origins.  It is important to get some insight into the people and their history to understand the martial evolution so as to gain illumination from those of us who are born pure Minangkabau blood and understand all of the customs and subtle details that are generally not well understood as a non-Minangkabau.

Guru Edwardo Guci St Panduko