Get To Know The Amazing History And Significance Of Ketupat


Cheng Sim •  May 10, 2021

This is a translation of an article written by Sastri. You can also read this article in Bahasa Indonesia

Visit any country and you're likely to spot different Eid specialties during Hari Raya Aidilfitri. In Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia, one of the must-have food for Hari Raya Aidilfitri is ketupat, which is often enjoyed with rendang, kuah kacang (peanut sauce) and chicken opor. It may be a festive favourite, but do you know the history and significance of ketupat?

According to Historia.id, ketupat has been a long-time staple in several regions in Indonesia and it is evident through the number of local dishes that often accompanied by ketupat. Some of which includes kupat tahu (Sundanese), kupat glabed (Tegal), coto Makassar, ketupat sayur (Padang), laksa (Kota Cibinong), doclang (Cirebon) as well as gado-gado and chicken satay!

According to Dutch historian H. J. de Graaf in the Malay Annal, ketupat is a symbol of Hari Raya celebration since the reign of Demak Sultanate led by Raden Patah in the early 15th century. De Graaf wrote that the use of coconut leaves in the ketupat, represents the cultural identity of the coastal areas, thanks to the abundance of coconut trees surrounding the area. The shade of yellow was interpreted by de Graff as a way for the Javanese coastal community to distinguish themselves from the colour green represented by the Middle East and red from East Asia.

Raden Mas Sahid, one of the nine saints of Javanese Islam (Wali Sanga) also known by his nickname Sunan Kalijaga, introduced the ketupat as a symbol of the Bakda Kupat and it is widely consumed on the 8th day of Syawal.

Fadly Rahman, a historian from Padjadjaran University in Bandung, confirmed this fact. According to Kompas.com, the appearance of ketupat were seen during the wide spread of Islam, which happened around the 15th and 16th century. Fadly added that Sunan Kalijaga has made ketupat a part of the Javanese culture as well as its philosophy that are embedded with Islamic values. Ketupat is also referred to as kupat by the Javanese and Sundanese people, which means admitting one's mistakes.

Apart from the wide usage of coconut and rice as the main food source by the people of that era, ketupat is evident during the Hindu-Buddhist period. Till this day, you can see tipat or ketupat being used in the rituals of worship in Bali, Indonesia.

We hope by getting to know the history and significance of ketupat, it'll help to grow your appreciation for this must-have staple for Hari Raya Aidilfitri!