Kampung Naga, simple village guardian of traditions and ancestral culture

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Kampung Naga is in the valley surrounded by hills, river, and rice fields. (photo: IO/Haris)

IO – Located in Neglasari Village, West Java, Kampung Naga is easy to reach because of its location on the edge of a highway connecting the city of Garut with the City of Tasikmalaya. Naga Village is approximately 30 kilometers from downtown Tasikmalaya, and approximately 26 kilometers from downtown Garut. To reach the village itself, from the gate we have to descend 439 steps before passing a stone path between a clear river and charming rice fields.

This village is in a valley surrounded by hills and rice fields that are not only beautiful but also fertile, nestled between two forests; the first is often referred to as a sacred forest in which there is ancestral tomb of Kampung Naga community that can still be visited by the villagers, still allowing residents to take firewood. This forest borders the village to the south and west. The second forest in the east is forbidden for anyone to enter. In the south, this village is limited by an expanse of rice fields and fish ponds, while the east and north are bounded by Ci Wulan (Wulan River) which is sourced in Mount Cikuray Garut.

According to our guide, “Mang Debi”, the original name of Kampung Naga, comes from “Nagawir” which means “the cliff”, bearing in mind that this village is located in a valley surrounded by cliffs. From the beginning “Kampung Na Gawir” (“village surrounded by cliffs”), is now called Kampung Naga. So the name of this village has nothing to do with snakes or dragons whatsoever.

Two native ladies of Kampung Naga are chatting in the late afternoon (photo: IO/Haris)

There are 109 houses in this village, and this number will not increase due to limited land, while dwellings house only 100 houses, with 100 heads of families, numbering 296 people.

There are similarities in the form and function of houses in the village: all face either north or south, and each house has four rooms inhabited by just one family: a guest room, a bedroom, a kitchen and a barn for harvesting.

The villagers are renowned for honoring and carrying out the mandate or testament of their ancestors, including in the making of their dwellings of which none is permanent. They are strictly forbidden to use cement, so their houses are made of wood and bamboo, with stones as a buffer. For the roof, they use fiber made from a series of coconut leaves; in addition to providing coolness it is also able to survive up to 40 years.

Residents here are prohibited from using electricity, so on a daily basis they only use kerosene lamps. For cooking, they use firewood taken from the forest.

Another taboo is that they are prohibited from using communication tools. They therefore communicate directly with one another, while to call residents together, they will sound a kentongan (made of bamboo and beaten) to collect villagers together on a large plot of land before the mosque.

There are two institutions that are control life in this village. Government Institutions carry out functions such as in other villages, such as RT / RW, village heads and all forms of government administration. The leaders of each of these institutions are directly elected by the local population in a democratic manner.

Another institution is the traditional one led by a Kuncen and Chief of Customs in charge of every ceremonial and religious event. The holder of the position of a kuncen must be male and is a descendant of the previous Kuncen.

The ceremonies they celebrate are primarily Islamic religious holidays. At that time, the men will make a pilgrimage to ancestral graves in the Sacred Grove, wearing traditional clothes and headbands.

After the pilgrimage, they will gather in the mosque; then one of them will ring a kentongan as a sign for women to bring yellow rice and side dishes and vegetables which they will then eat with the extended family after prayers.

Although their traditional ceremonies are usually held to celebrate Islamic holy days, they are not necessarily celebrating in coordination with a national calendar day, because they have taboo days when they are not allowed to hold traditional ceremonies: Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. They will postpone a day of customary celebration if it falls on that day.

Tasikmalaya Regency government actually intended to make Kampung Naga a tourist village, but the villagers rejected this plan, and the local government (Pemda) respected their decision and did not impose its will. Still, the villagers do not forbid anyone from visiting this village.

Living in simplicity that prioritizes togetherness and is fully obedient to ancestors’ will, strongly rejecting all forms of modernization, is not only fascinating to observe, but also a very interesting way to live. If you are interested in not simply visiting, but staying overnight, the first thing you should do is get permission from the Cooperative Office located near the gate. You will not be able to stay the night without permission the day before. However, if you only intend to come to visit without staying, you can come directly anytime, in the afternoon of course – remembering at night this village will be very dark once the sun goes down. Welcome. (Haris Winarto)