The Philosophy of Crocodile Bread in A Marriage Tradition of Betawi People

Friend of culture, for single men who want to marry a virgin girl from a Betawi family, it is obligatory to include a pair of 'roti buaya' when giving them. The form of bread that replicates the shape of the reptile animal is a Betawi culture that is still passed down from generation to generation. In the past, the atmosphere in almost all areas of Jakarta was still filled with forests and swamps. The geographical condition of Jakarta is surrounded by 13 rivers and times that have helped shape the culture of the Betawi people. And at that time, crocodiles were one of the animals often encountered by Betawi residents. For the Betawi people, crocodiles are also a legendary story. The Betawi people in the past believed that there were a pair of white crocodiles, a male and a female, named Ki Srintil and Ni Srintil respectively. The two white crocodiles are believed to be guards for several rivers or rivers that surround Jakarta, such as the Lebak Bulus River, Cideng River, and Gunung Sahari River. Another belief that emerged at that time was that the presence of crocodiles was considered the guardian of the springs. It was the legend that inspired the reptile to be replicated into one of the items in the tradition of delivering proposals. Usually, the shape of the crocodile bread is between 50-70 cm, depending on the economic capacity of the groom. The two crocodile pieces of bread that were delivered to the bride's family were of different sizes. The difference is to indicate gender, where the size of the crocodile bread to be large is symbolized by the prospective groom while the smaller size is the prospective bride.

More than the legend, the delivery of crocodile bread in the Betawi wedding tradition has deep philosophical meanings and other facts that may not be widely known. Want to know more? The following is brief information compiled from various sources.

First, part of preserving the traditions that emerged from folklore. The meaning of bread is a means for the Betawi people to preserve traditions through marriage. Through the bread, crocodiles are interpreted as a source of life as well as a form of concern for the Betawi people for the surrounding environment. A pair of crocodile bread is interpreted as two people who will build a new family as well as become the successor of life. Another meaning of the crocodile bread is that the Betawi people are very respectful of etiquette, not only to other people but also to the surrounding environment. In the past, the Betawi people believed that every place had a guardian.

Second, a symbol of readiness to let go of singleness as well as patience. The two crocodile pieces of bread are a symbol that the bride and groom are ready to become husband and wife. While the symbol of patience is taken from the behavior of crocodiles who are always patiently waiting for their prey. Another philosophical meaning is that uniting two human characters is not easy. That is why a husband and wife must be able to understand each other and be patient in living a married life. 

Third, a symbol of loyalty and protection. Another meaning of the offering of crocodile bread also comes from the behavior of a male crocodile who throughout his life only married one female. The behavior of male crocodiles when the female lays eggs will be very protective against the threat of other predators.

Fourth, it was not originally made in the form of bread. Long before bread-making tools appeared, the Betawi people made crocodile bread from woven coconut leaves and wood. And since the emergence of the bread-making industry which is thought to have occurred in the 17-18th century, the replica of the crocodile-making material was turned into bread.

Fifth, the offering of crocodile bread was originally not meant to be eaten. At that time, crocodile bread was not to be eaten, and the harder the bread, the more durable it would be. After the offering is complete, the crocodile bread will be placed in the middle of the wedding reception room. When the reception is over, the bread will be tucked away on top of the wardrobe in the bridal suite. The condition was deliberately left, to be eaten by microscopic animals. It is a symbol that hopefully the age of marriage can last until death does them part. But in development, many people consider that bread is a waste if it is not eaten. And in Islam, something that is redundant is not liked by Allah and His Messenger. That's why the ingredients for making crocodile bread have also changed from what usually tastes bland to now tastes sweet and can be eaten. Traditions have also changed. The bride and groom no longer brought the crocodile bread to the main room. After the ijab-qabul procession, the crocodile bread was cut into pieces to be distributed to guests and neighbors, especially girls who were virgins. Why girls? The language of the Betawi people is 'sawab' or 'sawaban' which means to get married quickly.

Bujaka - Aplikasi Budaya Jakarta

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