Tengkuluk And Tudung Lingkup

The habit of wearing a kurung dress and a head dress is a form of obedience in performing the religion of Islam, namely covering the genitalia for the women in Jambi. There are two kinds of head dress used by the women in Jambi, namely tengkuluk and tudung lingkup. Each has a certain meaning and philosophy that shows the status and positions of women in Jambi society.

Tengkuluk Jambi or often called “Kuluk Jambi” is a head dress of Jambi women which is usually worn for daily activities, ranging from domestic activities, traveling, to the events of traditional ceremonies. While tudung lingkup functions more as a veil to cover the female genitalia from the hair to the chest, worn when they are outside of the house, as well as for protection from the heat of the sun. 


According to some sources, the culture of wearing tengkuluk in Jambi is inseparable from the Dongson culture, that is the culture that originated in Vietnam during the Han Dynasty in the Bronze Age. The culture gave its influence up to South East Asia, including Indonesia. The traditional dress of Dongson society has many similarities with the dress code in Jambi Province.

Meanwhile, according to Jambi Cultural Observer, Junaidi T Noor, based on history, Tengkuluk was taken from the statue of a woman wearing a head dress in Lahat, South Sumatera during the period before the Century, precisely at the time of the Old Malay. In 1452 AD, the influence of Islam began to appear in the order of the society in Jambi, with the philosophy of ”Tiga Tungku Sajarangan” (loosely translated as three elements in unity), namely Adat Bersendi Syara’, Syara’ Bersendi pada Kitabullah, (loosely translated as “Custom is based on Religion, Religion is based on the Quran”). The principle of the philosophy shows and explains that since Islam became the basis of the government of the Sultanate of Jambi, the people had no longer contradict religion and customs (Aswar, Sativa Sutan, 2010:7).

The uniqueness of tengkuluk Jambi lies on how it is worn, without any use of pins and needles to hold it in place, but only relies on the skill to bind and insert the cloth. Another feature is that it can be combined with various types of clothing. In addition, all types of cloth may be used as tengkuluk, ranging from batik, songket, to pashmina.

The way and style of each tengkuluk has a different meaning, in fact there is even rules on the strand of the remaining cloth. When it is placed on the left side, then the woman who wears it is single, and if the woman is married, the strand should be on the right side.

Places of Origin of Tengkuluk

The Province of Jambi is divided into eleven government regions of districts and cities, or also known as Sepucuk Jambi Sembilan Lurah, where each district or city has a different tradition on the use of tengkuluk, among others:

  1. City of Jambi
  2. District of Batanghari
  3. District of Muaro Jambi
  4. District of Merangin
  5. District of Bungo
  6. District of West Tanjung Jabung
  7. District of East Tanjung Jabung
  8. District of Tebo
  9. District of Kerinci/ the City of Sungai Penuh
  10. District of Sarolangun 

The use of Tengkuluk According to Age

In addition to distinguish the women’s social status and marital status, tengkuluk Jambi may also be used according to the age of the wearer, namely:

  • Tengkuluk for teenagers
  • Tengkuluk for adult women
  • Tengkuluk that may be worn by both teenagers as well as adult women

Caption: An example of kuluk for unmarried women

Caption: An example of kuluk for unmarried women

The Meaning of Tengkuluk in Each District and City

Tengkuluk in the Province of Jambi has various forms and each has its own meaning and function.

  1. City of Jambi

Tengkuluk Duo Kain is a simple and regular head dress worn by women from across the Batanghari river when they are outside of the house.

  1. Batanghari

Tengkuluk Daun Sirih Muaro Jambi is usually worn for indoor daily activities, visiting friends, as well as to the market. This tengkuluk reflects gentleness and the beautiful courtliness of the wearer.

  1. Muaro Jambi

Tengkuluk Satu is worn in traditional ceremonies, and reflects the decision making procedure that always relies on “bulat air dek pembuluh, bulat kato dimufakat. Kok bulatlah boleh digulingkan, kok pipihlah boleh dilayangkan.” (loosely translated means deliberation for consensus).

  1. West Tanjung Jabung

Tengkuluk Daun Putat commonly worn in traditional ceremonies and weddings, but nowadays many women have worn it for daily activities. The meaning of this tengkuluk is precision and accuracy in taking actions.

  1. East Tanjung Jabung

Tengkuluk Daun Pedada is used for traditional ceremonies and weddings, and reflects the hospitality of a woman.

  1. Tebo

Tutup Kepala Berselang Suku Melayu Jambi generally worn using a red scarf which symbolizes courage in speaking.

  1. Bungo

Tengkuluk Melati Terurai commonly used by the wives of traditional authorities in traditional ceremonies. This tengkuluk symbolizes the ideals of a traditional authority’s wife in social life, who also plays the role of a protector.

  1. Merangin

Tengkuluk Tegedeng is worn in every tradition of greeting the guests. The number of loops in this tengkuluk signifies the wealth of the person who wears it. Five loops of the scarf signifies that the person has wealth, while three loops signifies that the wearer is an ordinary person.

  1. Kerinci/ City of Sungai Penuh

Tengkuluk Berumbai Jatuh is usually worn by the wives of the traditional authorities. This tengkuluk reflects knowledge and wisdom of a mother in managing the family and the household.

  1. Sarolangun

Tutup Kepala Simpul Cempaka is worn by unmarried women in traditional ceremonies, partoes, dances, and other official events.

Tudung Lingkup

Etymologically, tudung lingkup means the cloth that covers the head and face of a woman, even there are those who interpret it as a veil. The correct use of tudung lingkup indirectly implies to the age and the marital status of a woman. Although currently it is rarely encountered in Jambi for a woman to wear tudung lingkup out of the house or to travel, but the tradition once existed and practiced by the ancestors of the people of Jambi.

Since the main function of tudung lingkup is to cover the head and face, the cloth commonly used for tudung lingkup is sarong and at times a long cloth. Different than tengkuluk which still highlights various beautiful aspects of the loops of cloth on the head, the use of tudung lingkup is much more simple, practical, and quick, since it is not necessary to arrange the position of the cloth, or to make certain knots and loops. Typically tudung lingkup is worn more for daily non formal activities outside of the house.

At the beginning of the 20th Century, it was a habit in several regions in Jambi, for an unmarried woman to cover her genitalia closely whenever she left the house, and only left the palms of her hands and foot uncovered. This habis was sometimes used by the girl to be able to go out without being recognized by anyone, but often people would easily recognize the figure behind the veiled cloth that she had worn. In every occasion of gathering that involved young people, the girls used to exchange sarongs to trick or just mock the boys that tried to approach them.

For tudung lingkup worn by an unmarried woman, the fabric is placed on the head and arranged as if to wear a hood. One of the hand holds the remain of the cloth and passes it over the face to cover the nose, mouth, and chest of the wearer, so that only her eyes are visible (as in wearing a veil). While the other hand, even though it is free to move, should be inside the cloth, so others won’t see it. The rest of the cloth used to cover the face can be directed from left to right or otherwise.

For tudung lingkup worn by a married woman, the fabric is placed on the head and arranged as if to wear a hood. One of the hand holds the remain of the cloth and passes it over the face with eyes and nose of the wearer are left visible. While the outskirt of the fabric that touches the face is clamped with the lips or mouth to keep the rest of the fabric from falling, which will cause the whole face and neck of the wearer are visible. The left hand of the wearer is inside the cloth so it is not visible to others. .

For tudung lingkup worn by an elderly woman, the fabric is placed on the head and arranged as if to wear a hood. One of the hand holds the remain of the cloth and passes it over to the shoulder, from the right side to the left, or otherwise, or the rest of the cloth is clamped with the armpit to hold the rest of the fabric from falling, which will cause the chest of the wearer to be visible to others. The whole face of the wearer is visible, while both hands are free to move without being hidden inside the fabric.