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  • Denisa Mayari

Salim: Honoring the Hands that Guided Us

In the vibrant and diverse mosaic of Indonesian culture, a time-honored tradition known as salim weaves a captivating tale of respect and honor. Imagine a scene where generations intertwine, and a young person approaches an elder with a profound sense of reverence. With gentle hands, they cradle the elder's weathered palm, their fingertips tracing the lines of a life well-lived. In a gesture of deep respect, their lips delicately meet the back of the elder's hand or press the elder's hand against their forehead or cheek. This act, rooted in tradition, carries the weight of generations and whispers stories of the past.

Salim serves as an unbreakable thread that connects the diverse regions, ethnic groups, and religious communities within Indonesia. While seemingly most prominent in Javanese culture, it resonates beyond these boundaries, resonating with the hearts of Indonesians from all walks of life. In Indonesian families, the veneration of elders is an art form—an unspoken language where the wisdom of the past melds seamlessly with the aspirations of the future.

Indonesian families hold a profound appreciation for the wisdom and experience of their elders. In every household, the virtue of respecting and obeying parents and grandparents is instilled from an early age. The concept of berbakti, or "piety to elders," is highly cherished, emphasizing the cultural importance of maintaining harmonious relationships and showing gratitude for the invaluable role played by elders within the family structure.

While salim is deeply ingrained in Indonesian culture, its prevalence is not commonly observed in Western countries. In Western cultural contexts, hand-kissing is often associated with romantic gestures rather than a sign of respect for elders. The divergence in perceptions of hand-kissing highlights the unique nature of salim within Indonesian society.

In the intricate weave of Southeast Asian customs and traditions, salim uncovers a shared affinity with comparable observances found in the surrounding countries. In the Philippines, for instance, the reverential acts of pagmamano and salim are more like a pair of twins than neighbors, their steps entwined in a delicate rhythm of respect. Through pagmamano, the Filipino people pay homage to their elders, gently pressing their hands against their foreheads—a gesture that speaks of honor, gratitude, and a profound appreciation for the wisdom that comes with age.

Salim and pagmamano are but two examples of the shared customs and values that permeate the Southeast Asian region. Across the diverse landscapes of our neighboring countries: Malaysia, and Brunei, the act of honoring and venerating elders through identical gestures unites these nations as a resolute thread. It echoes a profound conviction in the significance of intergenerational harmony, unwavering filial piety, and the preservation of our treasured cultural heritage. Salim stands as an enduring testament to the profound reverence we hold for our esteemed elders, who have gracefully shaped our lives with their wisdom and guidance.

It is a cherished ritual that kindles a deep sense of gratitude and respect, resonating within the depths of our being. Within the gentle essence of salim, we find solace and a profound sense of belonging, nurturing the bonds of love and unity that unite our families and communities. This sacred practice serves as a powerful reminder, echoing the deep-seated role our elders play in weaving the interconnected threads of our lives and connecting us to our ancestral roots. In its presence, we are immersed in the timeless values and treasured customs that have sculpted the vibrant landscape of Southeast Asian societies. It imparts upon us a profound understanding of the paramount importance we attribute to intergenerational harmony, the cherished virtue of filial piety, and the unwavering commitment to safeguarding our rich cultural heritage.

Through salim, we embrace the profound wisdom and teachings that have been handed down through generations, weaving a strong and unifying bond that binds us as one united and steadfast community. Salim stands as a testament to the deep reverence we hold for our elders. It paints a vivid representation of respect and honor, where the simple act of kissing an elder's hand or pressing it against one's forehead or cheek carries the weight of generations. Through salim, we express our deep respect for the invaluable wisdom, guidance, and affection passed down to us by our ancestors while also intertwining the various elements that constitute our collective cultural legacy.


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