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The Meaning of Minangnese Malam Bainai Tradition


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Photography: AKSA Creative

Bainai, in its literal sense, means "putting on henna or inai", a plant that is used for coloring the nails red. However, the Malam Bainai tradition means much more than that. Malam Bainai or Bainai Night is the last night of being a single woman, therefore it can be said that Bainai Night is a Minangnese version of a bachelorette party.

Initially, Bainai is believed as a way to avoid catastrophes and bad luck from happening to the bride. Even though this believe is no longer popular, Bainai Night still plays an important part in the Minangnese wedding tradition. In this event, the bride-to-be, that is also known as anak daro must put on a traditional attire named baju tokah dan a headwear known as suntiang.

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Just like other wedding traditions, the ritual that came from West Sumatra comprise of several processions. The anak daro will go through a process of mandi-mandi that is similar to Javanese siraman, but the bride is only splattered with water instead of getting completely wet. This water is mixed with leaves of air plant and must only be given to the bride by odd-numbered elderlies. This is because odd numbers are associated with sacred things, such as the 5 prayer times for Moslems. The last splash of water will be given by the parents of the anak daro.

After the mandi-mandi process, anak daro will be walked down by her parents on kain jajakan kuning or a yellow piece of cloth where the bride steps on. The piece of cloth the bride has passed on will be rolled up by two male relatives to symbolize that marriage should only be done once. As the bride-to-be arrived on the aisle, she will be greeted by female elderlies. Bainai Night is also an opportunity for the family and relatives of the bride to share their wisdoms. Therefore, the elder women putting henna on the bride-to-be will share their wisdom while doing so.

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Every nail that will be given henna symbolizes a special meaning as well. When the henna is put on the little finger's nail, the women prayed for the anak daro to be able to go through difficult times the soon-to-be husband cannot. Henna that's given to the index finger's nail symbolizes a prayer that the anak daro will be able make decisions carefully, while putting on henna in the middle finger is a hope that she can share her love equally. Henna on the thumb's nail symbolizes the hope that the soon-to-be wife will respect her future husband and putting henna on the ring finger is to pray that the anak daro will have the ideal household life and eternal love. The number of fingers the henna is put on also symbolizes something special. Only 9 fingers are given the henna, because for the Minangnese people, 10 fingers symbolize perfection and perfection can only be held by God.

Of course, many of Minangnese cultural elements are incorporated to the processions, including the saluang music.

Therefore, the Bainai Night is not only a fun bachelorette party for Minangnese women, but it is also a heartfelt tradition because of the wisdoms and prayers of the families and relatives. Are you ready to go through this procession? Share your experience or thoughts in the comment section below!

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