Adat Pantuns 

The Malays have an old adage: Hidup dikandung adat, mati dikandung tanah. In life we are contained in adats (customs), in death we are contained in the earth.
As we have tried to show earlier the pantun has special oral qualities dear to the Malays. It lends itself to numerous functions. As social rules and proverbs need to be compacted in a small form, the pantun again, already known to many, offers a special space into which adapt laws fit well. Arranged in a fine format it is easily committed to memory and easily reproduced when needed. Over the centuries it has become one of the main forms where the adat laws are stored, and also a favourite with those who must remember hundreds of them. These verses later came to be known as pantun adat.
The verses tend to cover a large area of human activities, including strategies and challenges of making a living, social decorum, religion, rights and responsibilities of a citizen, concepts of the divine etc. The first pantun relates the need for a flexible and comonsensical approach when confronting a hill, the posture of that must be chosen while going up and down hills, literally and metaphorically, and the second gives guidance on the type of earth to be planted.

Tasindorong jajak manurun, 
Tatukiak jajak mandaki.
Adat jo syarak kok tasusun,
Bumi sanang padi manjadi.

Sasukek duo boleh taie
Dicupak mako digantang
Nan lunak ditanam baniah
Nan kareh di buek ladang.

Dealing with an aspect of social heirachy and responsibility of the various chiefs the following pantun notes how when each member plays his part and function, then the community may become `elok,’ harmonious. 

Elok nagari dek penghulu, 
Rancak tapian dek nan mudo,
Kalau akan memegang hulu,
Pandai mamaliharo puntiang jo mato.

The adat proverbs cover a whole range of spheres that we do not have space for. But it suffices to say that the pantun has been a successful medium for the innumerable themes and functions of the adat, from advice to the young in human relationship, to care of the old, to the division of property after the death of parents and the like. And they still speak with versatility, on the one hand, and on the other help to mythify regulations and the adat itself. They have become what is called “hadis Melayu”, traditions (like those of the Prophet) of the Malays.

The Pantun as Intellectual Symbol

As the pantuns are full of rumination on life, laws and regulations, they are in fact the unwritten books of the knowledge. He or she who masters the laws, in the form of the pantun or otherwise, is also the master of communal knowledge, and as knowledge is power; the knowledgeable person is likewise powerful. The knowledgeable is usually the elder, the reference point, the chief or teacher. Idris Hakimy, a noted writer on the adat, for example, remembers several hundred pepatah, berbilangan and pantuns. Researchers and chiefs consult him for his proverbs and his more contemporary approach to the adat.

For some, the pantun may provide a path into the upper echelons of a society. One who knows no pantun is very rare member of society indeed, and may even be categorised as desiring to avoid the main route to social exchange and a sophisticated group. To enter into it is also to be raised in the status. The pantun expert is highly respected in Malaysia and Indonesia. Tan Sri Aziz Tapa of Melaka, a long time Member of Parliament is respected all round, by politicians as well as scholars, by Chinese traders and Indian civil servants. He is in possession of the finest of the Malay literary arts and thus often consulted and invited to preside over meetings and to give inaugural speeches.

Elders at meetings and inaugural ceremonies - at installations of chiefs, at marriage ceremonies, and among the Bataks and Pernakans of Melaka, even at wakes often use Pantuns. In the Rokan district of Riau there is an upah-upah ceremony to express gratitude to God that a catastrophe is avoided, or it may take the form of a prayer - for a healthy life, an honest and harmonious relationship between husband and wife, etc.

Gadih munyosah di ateh akik
Bujang munyomua dipaneh ai,
Jauhkan ongkau dai punyakik
Nak jangan tuhalang poi mencai.

Munokuik kijang dalam imbo
Dukuik dibuek dai tanuk uso,
Takuiklah ongkau kupado doso
Momohongi bini/laki jangan di cubo.

Ku hutan muncai otan
Kuladang munanam padi,
Olah dibuek puholatan
Munjadi ongkaow laki bini.
(Al-Azhar 1985)

Among the Talang Mamak (an aboriginal community in Riau) who have not become Muslims the oath of marriage or divorce too is taken in the poetic pantun form, thus, 

Jati si kumbang jati 
Daun lirik talian naga,
Patah tumbuh hilang berganti
Aku mendirikan adat pusaka.

Apit dinding berapit
Akan mengapit serunjunya,
Kalau baik ambillah kapit
Apakan bisa sembarang gunanya.

Sedang mengkudu lagi berpawal 
Kunun pula cempedak muda,
Lagi penghulu lagi bergawal
Kunun pula budak muda-muda.

Hanyut kaca dari hulu 
Hanyut guntang-guntang,
Apa daya tenggang pengulu
Aku menyerahkan budak berutang.

Tang si kuntang-kuntang 
Kedidi pandak kaki,
Aku menyerahkan budak berutang
Apa teriba dalam hati.

Apa tebe dilunda-lunda
Akan pelemang sauh bekal,
Sepantun manau dua sejunjungan
Tidak tau hujung dan pangkal.

Adi-adi andai-andai
Angkarang mudik perigi,
Cerdik-cerdi pandai-pandai
Emas dikandung jangan pergi.

Here the pantun takes over the function of religious rituals. On the other hand, among the Toba Batak, however, the closing of a marriage ceremony is concluded with pantuns. They are spoken by hula-hula or nobles. 

Pantun as Mantera

The mantera, curing incantation, perhaps came into being earlier than the pantun, for it was most probably one of the earliest of literary forms, and also as a mode of relating man to the supernatural powers that control over human beings and their health. The poetic pantun words were of supplication and of request that they be helped in their physical needs. 

In another mantera the hunter is gathering his spiritual power in an attempt to neutralise spirits that dwell in the bodies of animals or trees. In the following the hunter declares that he is lifting the evil spirit of the deer so that he may easily overcome the animal:

Sirih lontar pinang lontar
Terletak di atas penjuru,
Hantu buta jembalang buta
Aku mengangkat jembalang rusa.
(Skeat 1965).

Some mantera verses are in fact full-fledged pantuns, but others are composite, with other necessary non-poetic elements included. When pantuns are used on such occasions they exhibit little difference from other pantuns. The following mantera for snaring the mousedeer was collected by Skeat in the last decades of last century, in Selangor: 

Sirih unta pinang unta.
Kerakap memanjat puar,
Pesan pada jembalang rimba
Kutu hutan suruh keluar.

Suruh keluar anak beranak
Suruh keluar bercucu.
(Skeat 1965).

The first quatrain is a full-fledged pantun, while the next two lines are added on to enhance the mantera, and spoken in a voice of a time-tested hunter. Besides overpowering animals and spirits the mantera also helps to drive away the source/cause of illnesses - stomach aches, in the case below. 

Lotong kekah ijuk tali
Aku menawar kembung segah
Kentut jadi.

Malam senak mudik ke limbung
Singgah mari rumah mak encik,
Menawar senak dengan kembung
Lantas turun ke kaki.

Turun bisa
Naik tawar
Aku menawar bisa perut.
(Hasan Junus and Edi Ruslan 1993).

The fantastic or surrealistic is more discernible in these mantera-charged lines, though the pantun itself often elects to include these elements as a show of metaphorical talent and prowess, not least to its adversaries. Here they are used to provide a link to the supernatural. However, it must be noted that that there is a great sense of respect and propriety in all the lines, as a kind of necessary decorum. 

Pantun in Narratives.

The pantun is exceptionally important in the narratives and art of narration. It seems to be very old and go back to oral tales like the Hikayat Malim Deman, Hikayat Malim Dewa and Anggun Cik Tunggal. On the other hand it is also found in oral stories newly collected, but have roots in the distant past, like those collected by Mustafa Mohd Isa, 1987. In Riau too this verse form is generally scattered throughout the many stories of the Nyanyi Panjang (long narrative songs) of the Aslian groups of Riau (Tenas Effendi 1997), Awang Belanga in Perlis (Mustafa Mohd Isa 1983) kaba in Minangkabau (Suryadi 1994) and kokoba in Kampar (Derks 1993), and finally even in the modern “kaba,” that makes use of contemproary situations and settings. In the story of the Lubuk Sikaping People (Suryadi 1993), for example, we find this narrative poem, 

Dari Alai mudiak ka Ampang
Ka pulang ari la gak sanjo,
Ambo bapangkek kato urang 
Dek ambo ado nan taraso.
(Suryadi 1993).

In the oral stories the pantuns are to be found at strategic points in the tale itself, i.e. at the beginning, change of episodes, end of story, dialogue between characters and while the narrator is describing a character or an event. As an example we see these opening lines of the Nyanyi Panjang in the story of Bujang Tandomang. The narrator greets his audience and announces that he would open with the verses of the pantun, and implores that if he does err he should be corrected. Finally, in the last verse he names the title of the story to be told that evening.

Indang donai

Buah lakom di dalam somak
Padi seumpun ditimpo bonto,
Salamualaikum kepado sanak
Kami bepantun membukak ceito.

Indang donai

Padi seumpun ditimpo bonto
Kalau patah tolong togakkan,
Kami bepantun membukak ceito
Kalau salah tolong simakkan.

Indang donai

Pasang pelito di topi-topi
Pelito dipasang betali-tali,
Konang ceito di dalam ati
Citonyo Datuk Domang Serial.
(Tenas Efendi 1997).

The strategic use of the poem in the stories is also seen in Aceh, where it is included also in the opening lines of a hikayat or poetic narrative, as a khuteubah (sermon), or to announce the change of episode, as in the following excerpt of Hikayat Pocut Muhammad. The narrator informs that he has come to the end of the episode and now wants to shift to the story /episode of the Banta Muda.

Aneuk siwaih jipho u blang Anak rajawali ke sawah terbang 
Daruet canggan susah raya Belalang jangkung susah hatinya
Bah lon peuduek si’at ohnam Kisah saya ini cukuplah sekian
Lon kurangan Banta Muda. Saya alihkan cerita Banta Muda.

(Drewes in Imran, 1979:70)

In order to relate to the audience the narrator often changes gear in the middle of the narration and bursts into pantuns, which also often introduce more humour, emotions and teasing, in an act of reaching out to the different sectors of the audience. This is teasing in Dendang Pauh of the Minagkabau. The following line praises the host who has kindly invited the troupe,

Dari Alai taruih ka Jati
Ka baruah jalan ulak karang
Luriuh masuak ka jambatan,
Tando baralek paramisi.
Jauah jo ampia kawan datang
Karano budi basangkuitan.

These words praise the audience,

Rang tabiang ka lubuak bayo
Mambaok nyiru ka tapian,
Akie jo buyuang tibo pulo
Karano bodi basangkuitan.

Finally the end of the story is likewise neatly sealed with a pantun or two, as illustrated by this rhyme,

Cobalah siriah kuniang gagang
Nyo makan anak panyalinan,
Balun tairik labiah panjang
Bia jo saluang panyampaian.

(Suryadi 1991)

In the nazam and the syair, the monotonous four-line monorhymes are often broken up by the introduction of the pantuns, which again are awaited for their promise of humour, romance and play, which the other forms seldom offer in such a quantity. It is as though a new episode, structure or dashing character is introduced after a long while. It presents a welcome change of rhythm, order and ambience.

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Laman web ini disedia dan diselenggarakan oleh :
Sekretariat Pantun Antarabangsa, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Pulau Pinang.