Bugis Buzz: Bustling Streets, Hidden Gems & Local Delights

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The history of Bugis can be traced to their original habitat and closely linked to the growth and development of Songkoe region in the southern part of Sulawesi and also the role played by Wajo region in the central part of South Sulawesi. The origin of Bugis states is believed to have been inspired by an oral tradition. The most popular Bugis folklore narrates of three siblings who descended from the sky to where there was a spring. There was difference in opinion between the two brothers as one intended to settle near the spring while the other intended to explore the land. This then led to the migration of the two brothers and the subsequent growth development of their respective followers into the two great separate distinct communities in Wajo and Sawitto. This folklore represents the beginning of the Bugis migration from the original habitat in to various regions within the island of Sulawesi. With the rapid growth and fluctuation of alliances between the small groups, it began a significant time in the history of Bugis as it marked the formation of numerous small scale states. This fluctuation of power struggles and local conflicts among the communities led to the formation of regal authority within the political and social structure of the Bugis states. The consolidation of power into one dominant kingdom marked the golden age of Bugis. This was during the age of the 5 great reigns known as the Wajoq-Rappang Tunippe, Bone, Wajoq, Soppeng and lastly the Makasar kingdom. This era has been noted as the most significant time in Bugis history with regards to its cultural and social development right up to the independence era of Indonesia. At the height of the Bugis kingdom of Bone predominantly, the arrival of the first European navigator namely the Portuguese had significant effects on the Bugis and the surrounding societies at that time in the late 15th century. Although the Portuguese arrival was short lived, the effects of this encounter in the spread of Christian teachings and new forms of European weapons shaped the beginning of a new international era for the Bugis states with further encounters with other European nations. Subsequent interactions with other European traders began to shape the Bugis social structure and methods of resistance against foreign intervention in search of mining and spice trade interests. This era of European intrusion marks the continual decline of Bugis power during the 17th and 18th century with constant warfare between the Bugis states as well as against their common foreign enemies.

History of Bugis

Bugis is the name of one of the indigenous people groups of South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Working off the modern Australian and New Zealander languages, Bugis is actually a corruption of the original word “Vujis.” There are quite a few stories concerning the formation of the Bugis people. Some form of the story concerning the origin of the Bugis can be found in its pre-Islamic history concerning the beginning of the people. Some parts of this story tell of more of the history of the Bugis in general and at one time in the Bugis past, an account of disaster has occurred to the Bugis people and rendered them to nothing hence beginning a renaissance to their previous status of great power. The difference in these disaster stories are generally the types of disasters that fell upon them. Many of these stories also meander into mythic tales relevant to the telling of known history. Some accounts however are much more rooted in myth and the legends of Bugis origins begin to take on a form different from what modern historical accounts and scholars tell. These versions of the Bugis origin are filled with mystic beings, with stories of spirits and mystical battles.

Cultural Significance of Bugis

The Bugis are the most numerous of the three major indigenous groups of South Sulawesi, Indonesia. In contrast to the two governments-in-waiting which have now been recognised by the Republic of Indonesia, the Walaka could have had fluid connotations throughout Bugis history, at some times referring to a diminutive sultanate subject to the paramount power of a great kingdom, and at others a super-centralised people-state, as is more the case in modern Indonesia. The end of the 17th century saw a major change occurring in Bugis history. At that time, the many petty principalities of the Bugis on the west coast of South Sulawesi were under the low overlordship of the former Majapahit kingdom on the east coast. Usually there had been only loose loyalty by the Bugis to the great coastal kingdom, and power and prestige had been the measure of the privilege given by it to the local chiefs who ruled the great influx of foreign traders into the former, ambiguous, had in fact weakened the coastal kingdoms and had strengthened the approbation of the kings. An internal unity was forged, and in an attempt to seek moksa took place an organised exodus to the less-populated south of the island. This cemented the migration of the southward-looking noble class, who had already begun to move their courts to the south coast, that was to radically alter the course of Bugis history.

Exploring Bugis

Exploring Bugis is an exciting experience with the number of interesting activities that you can do ranging from sightseeing to shopping. The main attraction in Bugis would be the Bugis Street market. Before the area was developed into what it is today, Bugis street was known internationally. During the 1950s to 1980s, Bugis Street was famous and synonymous with Singapore’s nightlife. Day or night, the action never stopped. There are all kinds of shop houses, eating houses, entertainment spots as well as homes. But the highlight would be the nightly transgender performance at the Bugis Street. It used to attract throngs of tourists and locals. Today, Bugis Street still has a transgender performance but it is only a mere representation of what it used to be. Apart from the night performance, today’s Bugis Street has an even greater appeal because of the shopping. The lively market is ever teeming with an endless variety of shops, ranging from the traditional to the bizarre. You can get almost anything here from clothes, shoes, accessories, electronic gadgets, and toys. And if you intend to bring some mementos back for friends and relatives, this is the place to get them. The prices are quite reasonable and you can even bargain for a better deal. A note of advice though: do check your purchases before paying up as some shops have a no refund policy. As for food, there are numerous food stalls at Bugis Street selling local delicacies which are really tempting. It is a good place to have your dinner. Come to think of it, it is a real experience dining and haggling over prices in an alfresco environment.

Famous Landmarks in Bugis

· Legends of Bugis Street A story goes that in the days when a pirate might stumble upon a prince, Bugis Street was a haunt for swashbucklers and sailors. Intrepid seafarers from Sulawesi of the Bugis tribe were notorious for striking fear into the hearts of their enemies with their daring exploits and brave conduct. Japanese soldiers were to endure this in a different fashion during the invasion of Singapore. The Bugis people proved invaluable to the defence and the name Bugis Street is said to derive from these soldiers’ rendezvous point. At the historic junction of Queen Street and North Bridge Road, Bugis Street and its happenings are firmly ingrained in the annals of Singapore’s colourful history. Today, Bugis Street recalls its past in the form of a nightly flea market that sells everything from food to fashion. · Kuan Yin Temple This peaceful oasis situated alongside the hustle of Republic Polytechnic and opposite the steamy Mosque Street food market was built in 1884. Chinese craftsmen carried out the incredible feat of assembling the temple without the use of nails! The temple is dedicated to Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy. Her fine image, which stands in the main hall, is said to be made of camphor wood and to have drifted to Singapore ashore from China. With its lily pond and bronze tortoises, this is a place for quiet contemplation. · Sri Krishnan Temple In 1870, the Nattukkottai Chettiar community, an influential banking and trading community, invited 14 Vidwans from India to come to Singapore to propagate Saiva Sidhantha philosophy. At Sungei Ujong, the Vidwans established a Vedic and Religious School near the present Veeramakaliamman Temple. Owing to financial difficulties, the Chettiar community wanted to sell the site to a commercial developer. The Vidwans managed to acquire 11 acres of land in Waterloo Street to build a temple and established a Committee to oversee temple affairs. This temple is a National Monument.

Shopping and Dining in Bugis

A range of shopping options and dining places can be distinguished in Bugis. In Bugis Village, one can treasure numerous produce and articles at a street market respectably. Significant souvenirs in Bugis are diverse and cheap. Some of the antiques in the street market may possess a value and have an enigmatic history behind them. Arab Street is where the vintage and the retro are still well-preserved. From traditional attires to cultural fabrics, one can sense the flow of the Malay and Muslim culture. In textiles, the availability of all sorts of exotic and unique fabrics from all over the world adds elegance to this place. One can even get custom textiles and decorative products here. The Masjid Sultan area has an array of shops selling attires from various Muslim cultures. At Bussorah Street, there are unique gifts, collectibles, dainty knick knacks, and old handicrafts still being sold in the shop. These crafts are rare and valuable to the culture and arts. At Bugis Junction, there are quite a number of specialty shops to browse. The shopping complex has a mix of old and new shops aimed at the young and old. A unique feature is the outdoor shopping just like in a village. It is air-conditioned shops though. Eatery outlets are aplenty with a variety of cuisine to cater to local taste and overseas visitors.

Nightlife in Bugis

At night, Bugis Street is closed to vehicular traffic as the area comes alive: trendy nightspots line the street and itinerant vendors sell barbecued seafood, snacks, and beers to crowds. Behind these buildings is Haji Lane, a small and quaint street. Haji Lane is home to some uniquely crafted furniture shops and boutique clothing stores, as well as several chic wine bars and restaurants, adding to the uniqueness of the area. For those inclined to do something out of the ordinary, the New Seventh Storey Hotel offers the 7th Storey Bar, where you sit at allocated bunk bed tables and are served relatively cheap drinks. At the entrance to the hotel, you may find people selling homemade handicrafts at a flea market of sorts. Bugis is a great place for entertainment. It offers the cultural Bugis Junction, the bustling night and day markets at Bugis Village, and a vibrant street life that is a stone’s throw from Singapore’s CBD. This is a place suitable for the young at heart and those gobbling the vibrancy of Singapore.

Bugis Traditions

The traditions and customs of the Bugis people are one of the fundamental aspects of Bugis culture. These customs can be seen in the traditional ceremonies or events which are still held by many Bugis community. These events were held usually in respecting certain event such as in birth, marriage, or death, or the event for praying to the God. One of the most well-known events is the “Istana Desa” (The Castle of the kingdom). The most important characteristics in the Bugis tradition are consisted in the command system. It is the root of the tradition, involving many aspects of human being and ways of socializing and coming up with formal and informal institutions and norms. The commands to other people, their self, their family, and their society made the basic in leading ways to live the life of the people. The commands are also creating ways to solve problems, make decision, and the ways to do a certain event. These are important fundamentals of the traditional society, which is closely related to the complex hierarchical society.

Bugis Traditional Clothing

The Bugis have a strong tradition about their customs and clothing, although this tradition is waning in the modern era. There are specific ways of dressing depending on one’s gender and status. In Bugis society, the clothing of an individual indicates his/her identity and role within the community. A man’s status is on display to the greatest extent in ceremonial contexts. The most dramatic manifestation of male status is the parade or Pabbicara, designed to enhance, defend, or regain family or personal prestige. This can take place at weddings, circumcisions, or other public celebrations, and involves the wearing of as much valuable clothing as possible. At other ceremonial events it is important to wear the appropriate clothing, which can be quite specific. For example the bodo’s wedding costume for a noble involves a red longi with a sarong skirt, a short waisted jacket and head cloth, while the costume for similar status in the Lakiung could involve a blue laiwang with blue sarong and a long coat. With the exception of special costumes, the basic male dress in Bugis culture is the Baju Burung, a front opening shirt named for the wing shaped overlapping front panels. This is worn with a sarong, usually a more simple affair of a checked or plain pattern cloth than the pabbicara or ceremonial sarongs.

Bugis Traditional Cuisine

This is any tourist’s dream: to be invited right into the heart of the local community. And when that local community is one as steeped in age-old tradition and intriguing culture as the Bugis – it’s an opportunity simply too good to pass up. Eating with the Bugis, it turns out, is a round-the-clock activity. They are well known for their hospitality, and it is an affront to refuse an offer of food or drink. The cuisine is uniquely flavoursome. A meal is structured as a complete entity, soups and fish and meat dishes all consumed concurrently, with rice (the staple food) often pressed into small balls and dipped into the various dishes and sauces. With the exception of buffalo and dog, finding Bugis dishes in Indonesia is not difficult, though some are much more common in South Sulawesi. In the cities, Bugis eat the same dishes as are eaten by other Indonesians; it is only in the remote areas that they still retain a traditional menu.

Bugis Traditional Festivals

Wala Wainunggu, held annually, is a festival that marks the end of the rice harvesting season in the region of Alitta, Seppong, and Madandan, Sawitto. Celebrated in the month of June, July, or August, Wala Wainunggu is a traditional festival to give thanks to the almighty for the blessing of sufficient food and also to seek protection from misfortune. The festival commences with the attraction of male buffalo from the surrounding area to the festival site where they are then slaughtered by the noble and esteemed to read the liver omens (Siri Patiro). This omen reading is a prediction of the welfare of the Bugis people; failure to do so will be an ill omen. Buffalo races and cockfights are usually held as an added attraction to the festival visitors now. The festival normally lasts for 3 days, and the meat from the festival is distributed equally among the people who participated in its preparation. The festival started to dwindle in the 40s during the Japanese colonization, and only a few places in South Sulawesi still celebrate it. In Seppong and Madandan, it is still celebrated yearly, but in Alitta, it is only celebrated once every three years and sometimes once in nine years.