Gayo people

(Redirected from Gayonese people)

The Gayo people are an ethnic group living in the highlands of Aceh Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. The Gayo tribe has a population of 336,856 and they live predominantly in the mountains. Most Gayo live in three regencies in Aceh namely Bener Meriah, Central Aceh, and Gayo Lues. Some of them live in several districts in other regencies, such as Serbejadi District, Simpang Jernih District, and Peunaron District in East Aceh Regency and Beutong District in Nagan Raya Regency. Other than that, the Gayo population also covers Southeast Aceh Regency and Aceh Tamiang Regency.[2] Their homeland lies in the Barisan Mountains which has elevations of over 12,000 feet and extends more than one thousand miles. The Gayonese language has four dialects: Lut, Serbejadi-Lukup, Lut and Luwes. Their language does not have a writing system, but folk tales, stories and poetry are passed down in oral tradition. The traditional house of the Gayo is called Umah.

Gayo people
Urang Gayo
Gayo Wedding.JPG
A Gayonese couple in traditional attire.
Total population
Regions with significant populations
 Indonesia (Aceh)
Gayo, Indonesian


In the 11th century, the Linge Kingdom was established by the Gayo people[3] during the reign of Sultan Makhdum Johan Berdaulat Mahmud Syah from the Perlak Sultanate, as it was told by two rulers who were ruling during the Dutch East Indies era; namely Raja Uyem and his son Raja Ranta, who is Raja Cik Bebesen, and also Zainuddin from the rulers of Kejurun Bukit. Raja Linge I is said to have four children. The eldest was his daughter, Empu Beru or Datu Beru, and the remaining are Sebayak Lingga (Ali Syah), Meurah Johan (Johan Syah) and Meurah Lingga (Malamsyah). Sebayak Lingga wandered off to Karo land and founded a country there and he was known as Raja Lingga Sibayak. Meurah Johan ventured on to Aceh Besar and established his kingdom by the name of Lam Krak or Lam Oeii or also known as Lamuri or Lamuri Sultanate. This would mean that the Lamuri Sultanate was founded by Meurah Johan, while Meurah Lingga who was living in Linge, Gayo and the rest became kings of Linge for generations. Meurah Silu migrated to Pasai and became an officer to the Pasai Sultanate there. Meurah Mege himself was buried with Ni Rayang at the slopes of Keramil Paluh in Linge, Central Aceh, which until today it can still be found and are considered sacred by the locals. The cause of migrating was unknown. However, according to history, Raja Linge favoured his youngest son, Meurah Mege, causing the rest of his children to prefer to wander away.[4]

Linga dynastyEdit

No documentation were recorded on the rulers of Sebayak Lingga Karo. During the era of Dutch East Indies, the monarchy was appointed again but for two eras only.

  • Raja Sendi Sibayak Lingga, as chosen by the Dutch East Indies.
  • Raja Kalilong Sibayak Lingga.

Dutch colonizationEdit

Gayo villagers at the fort of Likat killed by the Korps Marechaussee te voet during the Gayo, Alas, and Batak campaign led by Gotfried Coenraad Ernst van Daalen in 1904 (Photographed by Henricus Marinus Neeb).

After initial Dutch resistance, which many Gayonese and Dutch were killed, the Dutch occupied the area during 1904–1942.[5] During this time, the Gayonese developed a thriving cash crop economy in vegetables and coffee. Since the Dutch colonization, the Gayonese have gained access to higher levels of education, and participated to some degree in the Islamization and modernization of their homeland.[6]


Although it is not the practice of majority of Gayo society to have their surnames included, however there are a small group of them that still have their surnames attached to their given name especially those that are from Bebesen region.[7] The purpose of the surname is only for them be identify and to be able to trace the individual's family lineage, thus it is not regarded as of great importance for the Gayo people.[8]



The Gayonese are Sunni Muslims but practise a local form of Islam. Traces of ancient pre-Islamic traditions are still extant. In ancient times, the Gayonese believed in good and bad spirits and in holy men, both dead and alive. They would regularly give ritual offerings and sacrifices to the spirits, to holy men, and to their ancestors.[6]

Conversion to Islam among the Gayo took multiple routes. From West Sumatra, Muslim merchants spread the religion to the highlands.[9] From Aceh, the Aceh Sultanate Islamized the region. According to one Acehnese chronicle, the ruler employed holy war to justify the campaigns in the area.[10] However, the expeditions were based on pre-Islamic raids on the area which were rebranded in religious terms after the conversion of Aceh. Economic reasons behind the raids still loomed large for Aceh.[11]

Traditional dance and artsEdit

Didong dancing by Gayonese men.
Saman dance performed by Gayonese men.
Guel dance.
  • Didong[12]
  • Didong Alo
  • Didong Sesuk
  • Didong Niet
  • Saman dance[13]
  • Bines dance[14]
  • Guel dance[15]
  • Munalo dance
  • Sining dance[16]
  • Turun ku Aih Aunen dance
  • Resam Berume dance[17]
  • Tuah Kukur
  • Melengkan
  • Dabus[18]

Traditional cuisineEdit

Traditional clothEdit


  1. ^ Aris Ananta; Evi Nurvidya Arifin; M Sairi Hasbullah; Nur Budi Handayani; Agus Pramono (2015). Demography of Indonesia's Ethnicity. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. p. 120. ISBN 978-981-4519-87-8.
  2. ^ Muhammad Junus Melalatoa (2006). Memahami Aceh Sebuah Perspektif Budaya dalam Aceh. Aceh Kembali ke Masa Depan anthology, IKJ Press. p. 14. ISBN 979-3778-27-X.
  3. ^ Minahan, James B. (2016). Encyclopedia of Stateless Nations: Ethnic and National Groups around the World, 2nd Edition. ABC-CLIO. pp. 159–160. ISBN 978-1-61069-954-9.
  4. ^ Muhammad Junus Djamil (1959). Gadjah Putih. Lembaga Kebudayaan Atjeh. OCLC 762157637.
  5. ^ M.H. Gayo (1983). Perang Gayo-Alas Melawan Kolonial Belanda. Balai Pustaka. OCLC 568161081.
  6. ^ a b "Gayo in Indonesia". Joshua Project. Retrieved 2016-08-27.
  7. ^ Yoga Mulyana (11 November 2021). Sarnapi (ed.). "Mengenal Suku Gayo, Salah Satu Etnis Tertua di Nusantara, Ini.Keunikannya". Jurnal Soreang. Retrieved 2022-08-02.
  8. ^ Fitria Ratnawati, S.Pd., Gr. (2021). Gayo Sang Pemikat. Guepedia. p. 10. ISBN 978-6-2330-9344-6.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ Barter, S. (2016). "Empirical Foundations, Aceh". Civilian Strategy in Civil War: Insights from Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines. Springer. ISBN 978-1-137-40299-8.
  10. ^ Federspiel, Howard M. (2007). Sultans, Shamans, and Saints: Islam and Muslims in Southeast Asia. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 35–36. ISBN 978-0-8248-6452-1.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  11. ^ Turner, Bryan (2014). Routledge handbook of religions in Asia. Routledge. p. 118. ISBN 978-1-138-31267-8. OCLC 1104294731.
  12. ^ Dean Cycon (2007). Javatrekker: Dispatches from the World of Fair Trade Coffee. Chelsea Green Publishing. ISBN 978-1-933392-70-7.
  13. ^ Arndt Graf; Susanne Schroter; Edwin Wieringa (2010). Aceh: History, Politics and Culture. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. ISBN 978-981-4279-12-3.
  14. ^ Darby Greenfield (1976). Indonesia: Java and Sumatra. Oleander Press. ISBN 978-0-902675-46-9.
  15. ^ a b John Richard Bowen (1993). Muslims Through Discourse: Religion and Ritual in Gayo Society. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-02870-2.
  16. ^ Muhammad Junus Melalatoa (1982). Kebudayaan Gayo. Balai Pustaka. OCLC 557829873.
  17. ^ M. Affan Hasan, Thantawy R. & Kamaluddin M. (1980). Kesenian Gayo dan perkembangannya. Balai Pustaka. OCLC 7410608.
  18. ^ Margaret J. Kartomi (2012). Musical Journeys in Sumatra. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-03671-2.
  19. ^ a b Domenyk Eades (2005). A Grammar of Gayo: A Language of Aceh, Sumatra. Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University. ISBN 0-85883-553-3.
  20. ^ TimDapur Demedia (2008). Masakan Aceh. DeMedia. ISBN 978-979-1471-37-4.

Further readingEdit

  • Bowen, J. R., Sumatran Politics and Poetics: Gayo History, 1900–1989, Yale University Press, 1991 ISBN 978-0-300-04708-0
  • Bowen, J. R., Muslims Through Discourse: Religion and Ritual in Gayo Society, Princeton University Press, 1993 ISBN 0-691-02870-2