The buffalo's horn

by Marcel Thee

Ich und die Technik (Ausgabe IV/2015)


A water buffalo. Illustration: Stephanie F. Scholz

The Minangkabau, an ethnic group in the west of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, ascribes great significance to the buffalo. Their name is composed of the words "minang" ("victory") and "kabau" ("buffalo"). The architecture, the clothes, the traditions - in everything the Minangkabau pay homage to the physiognomy of the buffalo. This is most noticeable in their traditional houses, the "rumah gadang", whose upwardly curved pagoda-like roofs recall the pointed horns of the buffalo.

The "legend of the victorious buffalo" goes back to the time of the kingdom of Pagaruyung, which was founded in the early 14th century on West Sumatra. When the Javanese kingdom of Majapahit wanted to invade, the king of Pagaruyung suggested that the opponents let two buffaloes fight against each other in order to avert a bloodbath. The invaders chose a sturdily built one, the empire of Pagaruyung a young buffalo that had just been weaned from milk and had a metal tip on its snout. The buffalo of Majapahit was very aggressive, but quickly succumbed to his small rival. It saw its mother in his opponent, followed his suckling instincts and, perforated his opponent, searching in vain for an udder. The inhabitants of Pa- garuyung stood up enthusiastically and shouted according to the legend for days: "Manang kabau!"

Translated by Jess Smee

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