6 Functions of Traditional Houses and Examples

Functions of Traditional Houses – Sinaumed’s certainly knows that our country, Indonesia, has a variety of cultures which are inherited from our ancestors for centuries. Starting from traditional houses, traditional clothes, traditional dances, traditional weapons, to traditional food, each region has its own characteristics.

This time we will discuss traditional houses that are scattered throughout Indonesia. Yep, the existence of this traditional house is indeed rare nowadays, especially in urban areas. Sinaumed’s can find these traditional houses when he enters rural areas or even certain tourist villages where residents still use traditional houses as befits their residential homes.

If so, what is the function of the traditional house? Does it only function as a residence like the general function of a house? If so, then what makes it different from the house in general?

Of course not, the existence of a traditional house has many functions, one of which is as a place to live. Then, what are the functions of the existence of traditional houses? What traditional houses still adhere to the traditional taste in them? So, so that Sinaumed’s isn’t confused, let’s look at the following review!

6 Functions of the Existence of Traditional Houses

It should be noted that traditional houses in Indonesia are diverse, in line with the cultural diversity of this country. It is natural for each province to find different traditional houses, because the historical background of the province is also different. So, here are 7 functions of the existence of a traditional house.

1. As an Ethnic Identity

Traditional houses are one of the products of a culture that develops in an area, because the design also involves various cultural elements. Yep, the process of building a traditional house is not careless. Our ancestors paid attention to every detail and each of these details had their own various philosophies.

The elements included in the process of building a traditional house are usually influenced by the prevailing customs in the local community, so that indirectly, the traditional house shows the identity of an ethnic group.

2. As a Prevailing Cultural Philosophy

Apart from being influenced by the customs prevailing in the local community, the construction of a traditional house also takes into account the existing cultural philosophy. This philosophy is usually in the form of thoughts about humans, nature, and God. However, there is also a philosophy that describes sacred things in a region.

3. As a Residence (Residential)

So, the function of this third traditional house is the same as that of a house in general. Yep, as a place of residence for the tribal people concerned. However, it should also be noted that not all traditional houses could be designated as residences, because at that time the social system was still in effect, so not all people could live in these traditional houses.

4. As a Place for Traditional Events

The function of the fourth traditional house is as a place for a traditional ceremony to be held. Not only that, traditional houses are also often used as a venue for deliberations attended by community leaders.

The implementation of traditional ceremonies in traditional houses is usually carried out on a large scale, so that people or tourists who are not members of the community are still allowed to watch how the traditional ceremony takes place.

5. As a Trace Record of Past Culture

When Sinaumed’s was walking around and encountered a uniquely shaped wooden house in the middle of the countryside, what made you understand that the house was a form of a traditional house?

Yep, most of the traditional houses in Indonesia use wood as the basic material for their construction and there are various special carvings that show that the house is a traditional house. This is because in the construction process, certain values ​​must be considered in the traditional house.

These certain values ​​are passed down from generation to generation so that of course makes them different from the construction of houses in general.

6. As a Museum

The final function of the existence of a traditional house is that it can be used as a museum! Yep, nowadays many traditional houses have finally been converted into museums that store their ancestral belongings. Of course, this museum may be visited by the general public on condition that visitors may not touch or damage these ancestral items.

Examples of Philosophy and Functions of Traditional Houses in Indonesia

The existence of traditional houses in Indonesia is very diverse. In fact, it is not uncommon for an ethnic group to have more than one traditional house. As previously written, the construction of a traditional house must pay attention to the cultural elements prevailing in the community, so it is only natural that there can be more than one traditional house in an ethnic group.

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So, here are some examples of traditional houses in Indonesia which have their own philosophy and special functions.

1. Baileo Traditional House (Central Maluku)

This Baileo Traditional House is the result of the culture of the Maluku people which is embodied in the form of architecture, namely as a traditional house. The construction of the Baileo traditional house cannot be carried out carelessly, but must adhere to specific rules in Maluku culture, starting from the selection of locations, the selection of materials, architectural forms, to the ornaments used as traditional house decorations.

According to Maluku culture, this Baileo traditional house is seen as an old house or ancestral house because it is considered to have a direct connection with the ancestors, namely as the residence or first residence of a group of people who arrived at that time and were considered the founders of the country.

The Baileo Traditional House has its own name in every region, including in Saparua District, Central Maluku Regency. The Baileo Nolloth traditional house is also called Simaloa Pellamahu which means a traditional house or ceremony place. As the name implies, this Baileo Nolloth traditional house often functions as a traditional ceremony which is still being held today.

The Baileo Nolloth building has 20 wooden pillars positioned side by side to the west and east, with 10 pillars each. 20 Each of these in the Baileo traditional house actually symbolizes the clans that exist in Nolloth, namely:

  • The 10 pillars on the west side represent the Metekohy, Sopacua, Lawalatta, Pasalbessy, Hehamahua, Pemahu, Metekohy and Selanno clans.
  • The 10 pillars on the east side represent the clans Manuputty, Pasalbessy, Metekohy, Patty, Sopacua, Huliselan (king’s pillar), Mattatula, Ningkelwa, Silahooy and Tousalwa.

2. Sasadu Traditional House (North Maluku)

If previously we discussed traditional houses in Central Maluku, this time we will move to the North Maluku section. The Sasadu traditional house (derived from the Sahu language) is closely related to local culture, namely in North Maluku. This traditional house is usually located on the side of the road with the intention that it is easy to reach, especially when it is being used as a gathering place from all over the village.

This Sasadu traditional house is usually built using building materials in the form of sago leaves whose length is calculated according to the number of roof leaves outlined by customary rules. The number of roof leaves will later be related to the length of the annual harvest ceremony to be held.

The Sasadu traditional house is also very easy to move around, even if the owner so wishes. In addition, this traditional house is easy to maintain, that is, if there are elements or components that are damaged or weathered, they can be replaced with new ones.

As with other traditional houses, the Sasadu traditional house also has the main function of being a place for carrying out traditional ceremonies and holding traditional meetings. The traditional ceremonies that are usually held at the Sasadu traditional house are Sa’ai Mango’a and Sa’ai Lamo, which are traditional ceremonies related to the process of swidden agriculture. The implementation of customary deliberations is usually to resolve customary cases, such as adultery (asusila), divorce, land disputes, and others.

This Sasadu traditional house has four entrances which are located in the corner of the building, which is right under the triangular roof of Boru Ma Biki . This door is used as the entrance for various levels of society including traditional stakeholders, while the two entrances which are right in the middle of the building are special doors passed by Kolano/Kolano Ma Jiko and their representatives when holding traditional ceremonies in this sasadu house. The triangular roof of Boru Mak Biki (bird’s tail) is indeed designed to be lower, with the intention that people who pass by it have to bow as a sign of respect.

3. Mbaru Niang Wae Rebo Traditional House (East Nusa Tenggara)

The Mbaru Niang Wae Rebo traditional house is a manifestation of cultural values ​​that are still maintained by the people of Wae Rebo, East Nusa Tenggara. The Mbaru Niang traditional house for the people of Wae Rebo does not only function as a place to live, but is also a part of themselves by making it a place for making village decisions, up to welcoming events with guests.

This traditional house has a room called a tent , which is usually used to carry out daily activities, such as eating, resting, cooking, receiving guests, and so on. This tent room has a diameter of 15 meters.

Then in the family room there is a drum, which is an heirloom that cannot be separated from the integrity of a village. It can also be said that this drum is an heirloom as the identity of the village as well as the owner of the house.

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4. Traditional Houses of the Tolaki and Wolio Tribes (Southeast Sulawesi)

Southeast Sulawesi has many tribes that mutually defend the culture of their regions of origin, including the Tolaki and Wolio tribes. The Tolaki tribe is the largest tribe in Kendari City, while the Wolio tribe is in Bau-Bau City. These two tribes are tribes originating from the largest kingdom in Southeast Sulawesi. The Tolaki tribe comes from the Konawe Kingdom, while the Wolio tribe comes from the Bunton Kingdom.

The traditional houses of the Tolaki tribe are called Laika (derived from the Konawe language) and Raha (derived from the Mekongga language). The building in this house has a large rectangular shape and is made of wood. On the roof there are large columns that are about 20 feet high. In ancient times, this traditional house was often used as a place for a king to hold traditional ceremonies.

The door to the traditional house of the Tolaki tribe is called Otambo , which has a rectangular shape. The front door of this house is analogous to the mouth and the back door of the house is the anus. The existence of the front door of the house is placed slightly to the side, so that outsiders cannot enter the house directly. According to belief, this is to prevent the entry of evil associated with black magic.

The stairs in the traditional Tolaki house usually consist of an odd number, because according to belief, an even number is not good. The existence of an odd number of stairs is called konanggoa , which means it is very good at getting sustenance. They believe that odd numbers are good, because even though they have elements that don’t pair with each other, they can influence each other.

The windows in the Tolaki traditional house have four holes, which are analogous to the two elements of the ear and the two elements of time (an analogy based on the human body). According to local belief, the placement of the window (known as the Balapan ) is placed in the direction of the rising and setting of the sun, as well as to spy on enemies.

Meanwhile, the traditional house of the Wolio tribe is called Banua Tada . The word ” Banua ” means house, while ” tada ” means elbow. Based on the prevailing social status in the local community, the structure of this house is adapted to this social status, namely ” kamali “, “banua tada tare pata pale “, and ” banua tada tare talu pale “.

The structure of ” kamali ” means mahligai, or the residence of the king and his family. Then the structure “banua tada tare pata pale” means the residence of officials or palace employees. Then, the structure “banua tada tare talu pale” is a place for ordinary people to live.

When observed closely, the traditional house of the Wolio tribe seems to consist of a head, body and legs, which is in accordance with the philosophy of the Butonese people. In their belief, the secret hole in the wood will later be given gold, which is analogous to the human navel. Gold can also be interpreted as a symbol of the heart and customs of Buton.

Then on the roof of this traditional house, there are carvings of pineapples and dragons which are symbols of the kingdom and sultanate of Buton. Uniquely, this traditional house is an earthquake resistant house. The roof is made of thatch and hypa-hypa, which must be arranged in an Islamic manner because it symbolizes prayer, namely the right that closes like giving alms.

So, that’s a review of the function of traditional houses and examples of traditional houses in Indonesia which have a special philosophy in their construction. Since traditional houses are the embodiment of culture passed down by our ancestors, we as future generations must continue to preserve them

Book Recommendations & Related Articles


Salhuteru, Marlyn. (2015). Baileo Traditional House in Saparua District, Central Maluku Regency. KAPATA Archeology, Vol 11 (1). 

Hikmansyah. (2016). The Form and Function of the Sasadu House as a Center for Community Activities in Sahu Regency, West Halmahera, North Maluku. National Seminar Proceedings: Sustainable Architecture and Urbanism. 

Louis, Monica. (2015). The Functions and Meanings of Space in the Mbaru Niang Wae Rebo Traditional House. INTRA JOURNAL, Vol 3 (2). 

Franciska, Bonnieta. and Laksmi Kusuma Wardani. (2014). Form, function, and interior meaning of traditional houses of the Tolaki and Wolio tribes in Southeast Sulawesi. INTRA JOURNAL, Vol 2(2). 

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