Cultural forms in Madura are generally speaking similar to those of
Java and, looked at from a wider viewpoint, belong to the Java - Bali - Madura - Sunda family. Madurese culture, however, has its own shades
and tones, undoubtedly conditioned in part by the harsh landscape
and climate. Immediately apparent are the differences in language
and mental attitude between the Madurese and, say, the Javanese. The
people of Madura are well known for their straightforwardness and
direct approach, particularly evident in their manner of speech. Often
considered rough and un-refined by outsiders, a different picture
emerges as soon as one goes a little deeper. It might be fairer to
say that the Madurese are hot-blooded and quick to excite.
is perhaps partly a reflection of the sometimes dry, arid conditions
and parched landscape. The result is that the people of Madura have
learned to be quick-witted, industrious, adaptable and, all in all,
charming. A Madurese can be the most loyal friend when approached
with politeness; but cross him and watch out! Since Madura shares
approximately the same cultural influences and general historical
background as neighbouring Java, religion and general way of life
are not so different. In centuries past the Madurese have frequently
allied themselves with the Javanese in order to ward off a common
enemy. On occasions the two races have fought. In any event, there
has always been a continuing communication across the narrow Straits
of Madura, and today a large percentage mainland East Java's population,
especially those living along the north east coast and other low-lying
areas, claim Madurese descent.
The predominant religion is Islam, brought first to the island in
the 15th and 16th centuries by disciples of the Wali Songo, or 'Nine
Saints of Islam', and notably the followers of Sunan Giri from Gresik.
The new religion affected cultural forms, particularly noticeable
in the architectural styles. As important anchorage points on the
international trade route linking Europe with the Far East, the ports
of East Java, and hence Madura, were open to artistic traditions from
every corner of the civilised world; from regions as far apart as
Egypt, India, China, Persia and, later, Europe.