The ancient architecture of Sungai Penuh’s mosques

Pondok Tinggi Great Mosque’s pointed, pyramidal roof. (Source: Freddy Wally)

Pondok Tinggi Great Mosque 

Records show that the mosque construction started on 1 June 1874. It’s nearly a century and a half old! 

Construction was performed voluntarily by local citizens, with completion in the early 20th Century. It was called the Pondok Tinggi “Great Mosque” by the first Vice President of the Republic of Indonesia, Drs. H. Mohammad Hatta, during his visit in 1953. 

This unique mosque is mostly constructed of wood. Its roof is a three-layered pyramid that tapers up, referencing the traditional Governance of Pondok Tinggi village. Described in the Kerinci dialect as bapucouk satau, barampek jure, batingkat tigae, literally meaning “one peak, four sides, three levels”, it denotes that there is only on God, Allah SWT, represented by the tribal head, the Depati Payung nan Sakaki, who is supported by the four village officials. The five unite the three realms – the realm of Divine Law, the realm of human law, and the daily lives of the people. 

The ventilation cover at Pondok Tinggi Great Mosque, made of wood carved with floral motifs painted in contrasting colors. (Source: Freddy Wally)

The mosque is supported by 36 pillars, divided into three groups. The first group is the four tian panjan sambilea (“nine-length pillars”) or tian tuao (“elder pillars”). They are the “elder” or primary pillars measuring nine depa or fathoms, about 15 m. The second group is the tian panjan limao (“five-length pillars”), eight pillars each five depa in length (about 8 meters). These pillars are aligned just outside the primary pillars. They represent the “pucuk larangan yang delapan”, or the eight major social prohibitions or taboos that will net offenders heavy punishment if violated. The final group is the tian panjan duea (“two-length pillars”), 24 pillars with a length of two depa (about 3.4 meter) each. They symbolize the 24 rulings that make up the framework of Kerinci society, and located right close to the walls. However, now there are only 23 pillars, as one was taken off to make space for the imam or prayer leader’s niche in the wall. 

All of the pillars, walls, doors, ceiling, and beams are made of wood. They are all intricately carved with local motifs such as lotus blossoms, vines, and makara sea serpent. Like the Koto Tuo mosque, it does not have a minaret but a small stage right up the main pillar. 

Last but not least, we will find the old mosque’s bedug prayer drum. It is called the Larangan or “Prohibition”, and it is made of suhin wood. It is no longer used, merely stored in a separate building in front of the mosque for preservation. It used to call out the faithful to prayer as well as summon citizens to meet up in cases of emergency. (Fre)