Royal family live near ancient shrine

Some 10 kilometers from Padangroco temple are rumah gadang (palatial house), a mausoleum, and the ancient Siguntur mosque.

These ancient sites are weathered and aged, which is apparent from the condition of rumah gadang that initially had eight major rooms compared to the current five rooms. A family that lives near by are believed to be the royal descendants of King Adityawarman.

The royal family consists of Tuan Acik Eni Khulifni, who married a Javanese man named Mas Feriyanto, a teacher of a local elementary school, and Tuan Acik Mariam -- an old lady a generation older than Eni.

"Efforts to maintain these historical sites are no ordinary task for us because we have inherited it from our ancestors," Eni said.

Feriyanto added that they are badly in need of financial aid from the local and central government to continue maintaining the buildings.

Even though they live modestly, these ladies are treated as important figures and are respected by villagers, who address them as Hamba Saiyo (Your Highness).

West Sumatra adopts the matriarchal system.

Since Eni and Mariam are seen as noble women, they observe several taboos, such as climbing trees.

"If we break the taboo, the tree will die and finally fall to the ground," Eni said, adding that the meaning of such restrictions was that royal descendants are supposed to live a prosperous life and that any kind of hard work would only make them suffer. "I neither believe in it nor reject it," she said.

-- Tiarma Siboro and Muninggar Sri Saraswati, Sat, 11/30/2002