November 30, 2011

Hari Ragat: Vijadesan Cities

Before describing the various settled terrains of the Jangalans, it’s necessary to get acquainted with the Vijadesan idea of a town or city. Unlike the well-defined, stone-enclosed cities you might find in a European-inspired fantasy world, a typical Vijadesan bayan sprawls across the land as a network of villages, waterways, and farmland.

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Vijadesans refer to towns, cities and kingdoms with the same word, bayan. The bayan has no definite borders, but instead is defined by a web of patronage and alliances. Most cities are ruled by a lakan or rajah, who is patron to all the lesser datus in the area. Some cities however have no rajah, but instead are held by a coalition of datus, who have all agreed to settle the area together and run a cooperative community. The territory of a bayan is thus all the land contiguously occupied and used by its residents. 

This dispersed pattern of settlement means that cities can grow very big in terms of area, and yet have a pretty small population. Some coastal and riverside trading cities, however, are very densely populated, with most of the people living near the waterfronts. A few cities center around a stone fort, a kota, which usually figures in the city’s name – for example, Kota Batulao – but effectively includes a much wider area.

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