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An Asian Attraction of Horn-Styled Architecture

Updated on August 28, 2011

A Unique Asian Architecture

Minangkabau is an ethnic group originated from the Sumatera of Indonesia. The unique culture of this ethnic group has a strong association with buffalo. The architecture of their house is notable with multiple-tiered roofs and each tier of roof has both ends curving upwards to symbolize buffalo horns. Their association with buffalo started with a story shared below.

Once upon a time, a group of hostile strangers came to the village where the people of Minangkabau were staying with a very big and strong buffalo. They challenged the leader of the village to a bull-fighting match. If the village lost in the bull-fighting, they would lose their sovereignty over their homeland. The group of hostile men stated that they gave the villagers five days to get prepared as they would come back five days later for the bull-fighting.

The villagers worried very much as they were certain that they would not be able to find a bull stronger than the buffalo. The headman of the village gathered all the villagers for discussion and brainstorming but no one seemed to have a good idea of what to do. Finally, one wise man put forward a suggestion that gave all a relief as that suggestion appeared to be promising of positive results.

The villagers accepted the suggestion and took steps to execute it without even a single bit of delay. Immediately, they found a calf that was still breast-fed by its mother-buffalo. They then isolated the calf from its mother and make it starve until the day for bull-fighting. At the same time, they fastened a few sharp knives firmly on the calf's head so that these knives served to be like the calf's horns.

When come to the day for bull-fighting, the villagers brought the starved calf to the bull-fighting arena in a cage. When those hostile strangers saw the flimsy calf, they were just unable to held laughing and mocking at the villagers as they felt that the villagers were deadly stupid and ignorant.

At the moment the bull-fighting was to be started, the strangers were just at ease as they had fully convinced themselves that victory would be on their side. Both parties open their cage to release their beast for the fight to start. The buffalo rush impatiently towards the little calf with its head lower and its horns pointed towards the approaching calf. At the critical moment when the big buffalo and the calf were just about to collide with one another, the little calf suddenly stepped sideways and then rushed to the abdomen of the buffalo and desperately looked for nipples. Obviously, the little calf took the big buffalo to be its mother and, hence, tried to look for milk to feed itself. As the calf was moving its head about in search of nipples, the sharp knives fastened on its head hurt the lower part of the buffalo’s abdomen. The intense pain made the buffalo panic. The panic-stricken buffalo then tried to run away from the calf but the calf kept chasing tenaciously after buffalo as it was in desperate hunger for milk.

The strangers were stunned with the unexpected results of the bull-fighting, and the villagers started to shout cheerfully, ‘Minang Kabau ! Minang Kabau…’ It means ‘We have won the bull-fighting against the buffalo’.

Since that event, the villagers called themselves ‘Minangkabau’ to remember the victory of their wisdom over the brutal muscular force of the buffalo. From that time onwards, they developed the unique architectural style of roof with both ends curving upwards to symbolize the two horns of a buffalo.


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