Since a long time ago, Jakarta and its greater areas (now called the Jabodetabek: Jakarta-Bogor-Depok-Tangerang-Bekasi) was inhabited by Betawi people. The Betawi people, classified as proto-Melayu Betawi, were inhabitans of the northern part area of western Java. They were called proto because their ethnicity was unknown at that time. The proto-Melayu Betawi have lived in the area since at least the 5th Century BC. Such information was obtained after archaeologists conducted traces of past humans in local historic sites in the 1970s (please refer to the books: “Jakarta dari Tepian Air ke Kota Proklamasi” by Sagimun MD, 1988, and “Historical Site of Jakarta” by Adolf Heuken SJ., 1995).
Such information can also be found in a classic poem entitled Syair Bujangga Manik. According to the classic manuscript expert Prof. J. Noordhuyn, the poem was composed at the end of half of 15th century. The manuscript mentioned several names of places around the Jakarta Kota area (the north part/old part of the city), such as Labuan (Kalapa Port), Pabeyaan (around Bahari Museum), Mandi Rancan (Jl. Kakap and its surroundings), Ancol Temyang (possibly Rowa Malaka area). While Ancol, in which Dunia Fantasi is currently located, was called Ancol Kiji.
Based on the poem, those places have been inhabited since a long time ago. Presumably Mandi Rancang was a residential area. Also Babelan, which is a coastal region; initial concentration of the natives was in the coastal area. Chinese traveler, Fa Hsien (414 AD), noted the existence of settlements around Ancol, in which a large number of people made a living from fishing.
In addition, similar information about initial native existence can also be found in Ciela Map (now preserved in Jakarta History Museum). This map was formulated by the local prince Panembong around the end of the 15th century and at the beginning of the 16th century (even though it was found in 1858). The map mentions the Nusa Kalapa, an area which its wetan (eastern part) is adjacent to Cisadane River and its kulon (western part) to Citarum River.
Many argue that the Betawi word comes from Arabic transliteration of Batavia. But, in Betawi texts written in the 18th and 19th centuries, Batavia as a city was written as Batafiya, while Betawi as an ethnicity was Batawi. It was suspected that before the Dutch occupied the city and renamed it Batavia, Betawi had been known for an ethnicity name.
The name Batavia was given by the Dutch to this former location of Jayakarta Palace which it conquered in the 1620s. Previously, in 1619, the place was called Jacatra. Batavia used to be a binnenstad, a city closed to non-residents. It is uncertain whether at that time there was already dissemination of information about the name of the city so that the name reached out to people outside binnenstad. It is also uncertain when Batavia as a city was widely acknowledged by residents of binnenstad and users of the Kalapa port. The Chinese called the port Ch’lopa (Kalapa).
So Batavia was originally called Kalapa City, Sunda Kalapa, Nusa Kalapa, Jayakarta, Batavia, Jakurata, and finally Jakarta as we know it today. Meanwhile, Betawi is the ethnic group that inhabiting the region. Betawi people moved or shifted to other regions to find a place to live.
Initially they inhabited the coastal area, then they moved to to the middle part and the outskirts of Jakarta. Except for their occupations, the Betawi who lived in the coastal and central areas barely have different cultures. Those inhabiting the suburbs and village areas live from agricultures. This is the result of adaptation from living side by side with the Sundanese whose main income mostly from agricultures. Their cultural acculturation comes from the fact that Jakarta is close to Bogor, the center of Sunda’s kingdom Pajajaran. Such culture can be distinguished from those in Jakarta’s coastal and central areas which were influenced by the function of Kalapa port as an international hub that was the center of economic life.
The influence of Malay culture is also quite strong to population in the coastal and central areas, while the influence of Sundanese culture can be felt in the suburbs and villages. But, the four cultures in the sub-regions are bound by the same language, Malay.
The Malay language is distributed to the south (suburbs and villages) through people movements along Ciliwung River. Outskirts and villages are buffer zones that provide basic needs for coastal and central areas. Daily Ciliwung mediates cultural and linguistic relations of the four sub-regions.
Despite its influence in the context of livelihood, Sunda exposes weak impact on language to Betawi people living in suburban and villages. It is because the latter carry out economic activities mostly with people in ilir (north). The existence of Sundanese Pajajaran authorities in Nusa Kalapa, such as Tanjung Jaya and Cinagara (as mentioned in Sundanese manuscripts), mostly served as a tax collector,rather than a cultural agent.
Despite its influence in the context of livelihood, Sunda exposes weak impact on language to Betawi people living in suburbs and villages. It’s because the Betawi carry out economic activities mostly with people in ilir (north). The existence of Sundanese Pajajaran authorities in Nusa Kalapa, such as Tanjung Jaya and Cinagara (as mentioned in Sundanese manuscripts), mostly served as tax collector, rather than as cultural agent.
The term Betawi is not limited to people who live in a certain administrative area, but more of a cultural area. The Betawi cultural area is located in the administratives of DKI Jakarta Province, Banten Province (Tangerang City and Regency, as well as South Tangerang City), West Java Province (Bekasi City and Regency, Depok City, and several sub-districts in Bogor such as Cibinong and Karawang). Betawi culture is still strong in these places, as shown in language, people behavior and life cycles.
Nowadays, Betawi people live in three provinces, the DKI Jakarta Province, Banten Province, and West Java Province. In the future, Betawi’s original settlements may not be resided by Betawi people anymore. This change is due to the increasing changes of areal functions, whereby many of traditional areas have become or turned into modern facilities, and in such process, the traditional culture give ways to the modern elements.
(Yahya Andi Saputra)