Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Rawa or Rao

Rawa or Rao is a term given to a Malay community living in the Malay Peninsula, now the West Malaysia. It is common for the Rawa to identify themselves as Oghang Rawo or Oghang Rao or even Rao.

Rao is the frontier country between Minangkabau and Mandailing. The Rao or "orang Rawa" as they are known in the Peninsula and in East Sumatra. The "Tamoosai Rawas" were Rawa from Tambusai, while Rawa Ulu (or up country Rawas) were probably Mandailing, whose homeland was to the north of Rao.

Batu Bara, formerly known as Pagar Ruyung. The seat of govt which governed a substantive area, including the present Negeri Sembilan. Geographically now the Rao used to be somewhere between Bukit Tinggi and Padang.

Rao or Rawa originated from Kecamatan (Daerah Kecil or sub-district) Rao, Mapat Tunggul, Kabupaten (Daerah or Regency/district) Pasaman , Propinsi(Negeri or Province) Sumatera Barat, Indonesia.

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Pasaman, West Sumatra

Pasaman is a regency (kabupaten) of West Sumatra, Indonesia. It has an area of 3,947.63 km² and a population of approximately 243,000 people. The capital is Lubuk Sikaping.

The regency is divided into 12 subdistricts (kecamatan): Tigo Nagari, Bonjol, Simpang Alahan Mati, Lubuk Sikaping(capital), Ii Koto, Panti, Padang Gelugur, Rao, Rao Utara, Rao Selatan, Mapat Tunggul, and Mapat Tunggul Selatan.

The town of Bonjol, birthplace of Tuanku Imam Bonjol, is notable for being the area where the Trans-Sumatran Highway crosses the equator.

(ref: official website http://www.pasamankab.go.id/index.php/profil.html)

Rawa dialect
The Rawa people are sub-ethnic from the Malay race who speaks with a slight different dialect from the standard Bahasa Melayu (Malay Peninsula Standard), similar to the other variations of Bahasa Melayu dialects around Malaysia. The Rawa dialect is well preseved in Gopeng for many of its Malay residents is very concern for conserving the Rawa dialect. The Rawa people speaks Malay with a certain words and dialect resembles the Negeri Sembilan Malay Minangkabau community. Many would generally presumed that the Rawa people is the Jawa, apparently these two community are essentially different, culturally. The Rawa people and the Rawa dialect are thriving in almost every Malay settlements in Gopeng, very genuine and deep Rawa dialect could be found in kampongs located merely outside the Gopeng town area.

Rao in Malaysia

With the onslaught from the Dutch, they dispersed away to all the Malay diaspora, up to Patani.

The population spread around Perak, several parts in Penang, Selangor and Pahang. Gopeng, a small town in Perak is a well known town for its Rawa community who is still preserving most of its tradition and dialect for centuries, way before the formation of Malaysia.

Gopeng is well known nationwide for its Rawa community which is believed to be the center of the Rawa in Malaysia. There are a significant number of Rawa descendants reside in Gopeng. From Kampung Gunung Mesah Hulu and Kampung Gunung Mesah Hilir to Kampong Rawa, Kampung Jelintoh to Kota Baru Estate, the Rawa people resides here for centuries, long before the tin mines were established. Gopeng is actually the name of the town center, not the entire area. Earlier settlements such as Sungai Itik, Jahang, Kampong Pulai, Gunong Mesah, Gunong Panjang, Culik and dozens of other settlements were opened by Rawa and Mandailing settlers centuries earlier.

Initial migrants in 5th century were farmers. The liberal commercial climate in Malaya at 15th century encourage more Rao or Rawa traders to Malaya.

The discovery of gold in 17th century, and tin in 18th century saw the mass flow of migrants to Malaya through the strait settlement(Singapore, Malacca, & Penang)

Further mass migration flow to Malaya started after Perang Padri or Padri War(1816-1833)in Sumatra during the Dutch rule. The majority of them were from the royal families, religious teachers,and soldiers, generals etc. Some families came to Malaya about 40 years after Tuanku Imam Perang Bonjol has been defeated by the Dutch in 1838, i.e about 1878. The war with the Dutch began in 1821 was called Padre War ( Perang Paderi ).

Negeri Sembilan

Travel to Seri Menanti in 1773 & along Sungai Ujong (Seremban) in 1848. The Rao soldiers crossed over the Malacca Strait in their long sampan to quell a rebellion in Sri Menanti.The Yang Di Pertuan had just died and the 'warlords' of that time could not receive well the dictate of the Monarch in Pagar Ruyong that his young prince 'imported' from across the sea ,take over the vacant throne . Sutan Amir Kaharudin Budiman was one of the 40 warriors on the long boat. They ,with the help of local loyalists ,managed to quell the budding rebellion and installed the young prince from Pagar Ruyong as the Yang Di Pertuan

Negeri Pahang

Travel alomg Sungai Hulu Pahang (Bera, Hulu Pahang, Kuata Lipis, Raub, Bentong) around 1857-1863. Among them were Tengku Khairul Alam, Pakeh Khalifah Saka, Tujuan Saka etc.

The chieftains managed to convince the Yang Di Pertuan of Sri Menanti to lend his efficient fighting men from Rao for Pahang's need. The young men of Rao again were successful in routing the rebellious chieftains and brought 'peace' to Pahang .The Sultan was happy with these 'imported' mercenaries but hesitated to let them all settle near the Royal Capital. Instead he dispersed them a safe distance away and gave big parcels of jungle tracts to these warriors in what is now known as present day Raub. Sutan Amir Kaharudin settled down for awhile in Raub ,marrying a local there and had two beautiful daughters ,Siti Zaleha aka Tok Jeleha [ who later married into Pahang Royalty ,a Tengku Khairul Alam ] ,and Siti Hajar .

Negeri Selangor
Travel alomg Sungai Klang (Hulu Langat, Hulu Selangor) and Sungai Selangor (Kalumpang, Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, Gombak) around 1867- 1873. Tengku Kudin hired Rao mercenaries from Raub to fight in Selangor.

Negeri Perak
Travel along Sungai Perak, Sungal Bidor dan Sungai Bernam (Teluk Intan, Kuala Kangsar, Larut, Kinta, Gopeng, Tapah, Kampar) around 1875-76. One of them is Datuk Sakti Putih . A few kampongs dotted along the Gopeng-Kampar trunk road where the Rao descendants reside since the turn of the 20th century...they were the people who were attracted to the bustling tin mines then (Kinta Valley, the tin mine centre of the world in its heyday) and also the lucrative rubber plantations. They set up their residential kampongs like Kg Lawan Kuda, Kg Pulai, Kg Gunung Mesah Ulu dan Hilir, Kg Gunong Panjang and Kg Sg Itek. Right up to the Selangor border,there were a few Rao settlements in Bidor, Tapah, Telok Intan, Tg Malim and Kalumpang (Selangor). Northwards they had settlements in Padang Rengas, Selama

Negeri Kelantan
The Rao come to Kelantan from Pahang, mainly to Pasir Mas district, led by Sutan Amir Kaharuddin Budiman.
Much later in his life , his adventuring spirit lead him up the Sungei Pahang ,through Nenggiri tributaries and moved down with the current into the mighty Sungei Kelantan . Sutan Amir Kaharudin must have travelled back and forth from Kampong Chetok ,Pasir Mas to Rawoob ,Pahang using the Sungai Pahang-Nenggiri- Sungai Kelantan river path to 'oversee' both branches of his now expended family. In Kampong Chetok he no longer was known by the 'foreign' royal honorific 'Sutan' but rather as a 'Lebai' : Lebai Diman or Mandor Diman

Penang State
Penang Island (Leboh Acheh & Kg Rawa). They were businessman who thrived on trades between middle east (haj sheiks) and South east asia. They also involve themselves in publishing and printing activities.

Rawa cuisine

Famous cuisine associated with the Rawa is Kelamai, Gulei Lomak Nangko (Gulai Nangka) and Rondang Atok (Rendang Tok) are still available in Gopeng particularly during wedding ceremonies and festive seasons.

The Kelamai and Gulai Nangka has become the signature cuisine of the Rawa community in which they mastered every inch of its details and procedures. Many tourist who joined the Gopeng Homestay Program in Gopeng will experiencing these wonderful cuisine. The Kelamai or pronounce as Kelamei is a sweet dark brown delicacy similar to the Lemang. It is cooked for hours inside a specifically chosen bamboo under very tedious supervision. Not to mention the complicated pre cook procedures of preparing the dowh.

Among the best known tradition of the Rawa is Adet Berjojak (Adat Berjejak).

The Rawa have a special custom called Berjojak. Every child who reaches the age of one has to undergo this ritual before setting foot on land outside his / her home village. The child’s feet, palms and forehead are smeared with saffron paste and he / she is made to walk on a mat strewn with petals of seven flowers.A medicine man (dukun or bomoh) performs special prayers for the child’s well-being.
The child walks across the mat thrice and is then bathed in water with a slice of lime in it. Finally, the child is fed with some chicken in coconut milk (santan).

The Rawa War of 1848

Thomas Braddell in his note on the history of Negeri Sembilan enclosed with SS Despatch to the CO dated 29th December 1874, reveals the involvement of the Rawa (Rao) and Mandailing in the Rawa War of 1848. The latter were in Sungai Ujong (Seremban today) following the wake of the Padri War (1816-1833).

" The Rawa disturbances in 1848 are of sufficient importance to justify a few words giving an account of another and a most serious misfortune to the Sungai Ujong mine.

" The Rawa are an adventurous people with a strong turn for trade, living to the north east of the Pagarooyong (Menangkabowe) district, in the middle of Sumatra. They have long been in the habit of trading to the Peninsula, and have established Colonies in several places, the most important of which was at Pahang, where they almost monopolized the trade. The superiority of these people over the ordinary Malay give rise to jealousies which require them to be on their guard, and to combine for mutual protection, so that when any of the tribe are injured the rest are bound to assist in protecting them, a feature in their character which adds to the dislike of them entertained by the Malays; but being like the Chinese, good colonists, they are allowed to remain in the Malay countries.

" Causes of. - A number of the tribe had settled in Sungei Ujong, and were getting the chief portion of the local trade in their hands where three of them were put to death by the Klana for an alleged offence. The justice of the execution was denied by the trio, and they determined to exact vengeance. Assistance was sent for to Pahang, their head quarters, and open war was declared. This was said to have been the pretext for the war, but the truth probably was, that the many differences and jealousies between the two races had brought matters to such a state that it required very little to bring on a war.

" Result of. - The Rawa proved their individual superiority over the Malays during the war. But being few in numbers and distant from their resources they were at last obliged to retire; and they have not since been allowed to return to the country. The Rawas who are now in Sungei Ujong are said to be Tamoosai Rawas, and do not mix with the others, Rawa Ulu (or up country Rawas); in fact the Tamoosais sided with the Klana."

Here in this passage we have the first mention of the presence of the "Tamoosai" in the Peninsula in the second quarter of the 19th century. There were probably two groups of people from Rao - the Mandailings and the Rao. Rao is the frontier country between Minangkabau and Mandailing. The Rao or "orang Rawa" as they are known in the Peninsula and in East Sumatra. The "Tamoosai Rawas" were Rawa from Tambusai, while Rawa Ulu (or up country Rawas) were probably Mandailing, whose homeland was to the north of Rao. Of course, this does not discount the Tambusai's presence, a distinct group in themselves.

The Mandailing involvement in the "Sungei Ujong" affair was confirmed by J.C. Pasqual who wrote about the episode in 1930s based on an account from "Raja Allang ibni Raja Brayun, who was a Forest ranger of the Ulu Langat district in the late 'eighties (1880's)". He implied that the Mandailings were not on the side of Dato' Klana but against him.

" At this time Raja Brayun, a Mendeleng from Sumatra, invaded Sungei Ujong and attacked Datoh Klana Sendeng, because a friend of Raja Brayun was murdered and Datoh Klana Sendeng refused to pay the blood money of $400 according to 'adat' Malayu. On the side of Raja Brayun there was Panglima Garang and Panglima Si Gara, both 'invulnerable' and fierce warriors, besides 500 fighting men. But he was defeated although he had bribed one of Datoh Klana Sendeng's men with $3,000 to burn the granaries and blow up a powder magazine. Raja Brayun then retired to Recko, a village on the Langat river a short distance upstream from Kajang, and invited Raja Abdulsamad to live with him. He built a stockade at Recko and had a large force of fighting men who lived by robbery and raiding Sakais to sell them into slavery."

Mandailings as well as Rawas raided Orang Asli and sold them into slavery. This is not to say that historically all Mandailings and Rawas were a party to this. Other Mandailings were also noted in British records as having employed Orang Asli.

(source: http://www.mandailing.org/Eng/rawawar.html)

Famous Rawa/Rao from Malaysia

• Minister of Rural and Regional Development Datuk Seri Aziz Shamsuddin (of Gopeng);
• Reality show Akademi Fantasia’s second season champion Ahmad Zahid Baharuddin (of Teluk Intan);
• Malaysia’s most celebrated cartoonist Datuk Mohamad Noor Khalid or Lat (of Gopeng);
• Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz (of Kuala Kangsar);
• Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz (of Selama in Taiping);
• Malaysia’s Roy Orbison M. Shariff (of Ipoh);
• Former Chief Secretary to the Cabinet Tan Sri Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid (of Tapah);
• Actor-comedian Zami Ismail (of Tapah);
• Actor-comedian Opie Zami (son of Zami);
• Hip-hop siblings Norman, Yusry and Edry Halim or KRU (of Gopeng);
• Islamic Party (PAS) founder Dr Burhanuddin Helmy (of Gopeng);
• Actor-comedian Shamsul Azhar Alaiddin (Shamsul Ghau Ghau) (of Selama);
• Malaysia’s first man in Hollywood the late Ibrahim Pendek (of Taiping);
• Journalists Wahti Mahidin and Jad Mahidin of Tell Magazine (of Parit);
• World War II hero Colonel Yeop Mahidin (father of Wahti and Jad) (of Parit).
* Datuk Abdul Wahab Majid is among the five individuals who founded the Malaysian National News Agency or Bernama(of Kampong Dong, Raub)
* Mat Kilau, warrior from Pahang(of Jerantut, Pahang)
* Rashid Mydin, Malay leader of Communist Party of Malaya(CPM)(of Gopeng)
* Tun Ghazali Shafei, Cabinet Minister( of Kuala Lipis,Pahang)
* Tun Dr Siti Hasmah , Wife of 4th Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir(of Klang, Selangor)
* Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad [Principal Private Secretary to Tun Razak, cabinet minister, ISA detainee,for being a 'communist'??](of Kok Lanas, Kelantan)
* Dato' Hussamuddin Hj. Yaacub of Kumpilan Karangkraf( of Kota Bharu) ,
* The late Tuan Haji Yusoff Rawa, former President of PAS (of Lebuh Acheh, Pulau Pinang)
* Dr Hj Nik Isahak Wan Abdullah, Specialist in cardiology, Sime Darby Medical Centre(of Pasir Mas, Kelantan)

Related articles & references:
1. Down Memory Lane' Of Bernama's Surviving Founder, by Melati Mohd Ariff, BERNAMA dated 18-5-2009,http://www.google.com.my/search?client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-US%3Aofficial&channel=s&hl=en&source=hp&q=Batubara&meta=&btnG=Google+Search
2. http://zuljs.blogspot.com/(Rawa in Penang)
3. http://sekondakhati.blogspot.com/search/label/Senarai%20Legasi%20Rao
4. http://drnikisahak.blogspot.com/2009/02/pearls-gem-raos-from-kelantan.html(Rao in Pahang & kelantan)
5. www.jaro.com.my


  1. I am delighted to read this article as I am a descendant of Pakeh Khalifah Saka, Tujuan Saka born and bread in Kampong Kuala Gali, Dong, Raub, Pahang.My Late father Dato' Abdul Rahman bin Ismail was Deputy Menteri Besar of Pahang 1976 - 1979.My grand father Ismail bin Hj Zainuddin retired Forest Ranger used to served in Kampar and Gopeng before settling down in Kampong Temau, Raub.I am five generation down from Pakeh Khalifah Saka & Tujuan Saka.YH Dato'Abdul Wahab Majid (co founder of BERNAMA)& Abdullah Majid former Press Sec to Tun Razak later Deputy Minister of Labour are my uncles. Good to consider forming an association to assist in the development of Rao descendants in relation to Nation building. (e-mail: kamarulbaharin@gmail.com )

  2. It is good to know our root and take pride of our ancestry, who you are. To form the clan house or society to assist the fellow clan man is the right of association within the basis human right promoted by UN. The association can also promote the culture and linguistic history of the clan.

    Diversity is beautiful, you can see the differences from others and value your own heritage, as well as other culture.

    If we do not protect our heritage; time will erase all the traces.....and we left nothing to our future generation....