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Mei '06

The Batak People: Sumatra, Indonesia


Located in the mountainous highlands of northern Sumatra, the Batak are one of the largest indigenous groups in Indonesia. They are divided into six groups, the Toba, Pak Pak/Dairi, Karo, Angkola, Mandailing, and Simalungun, and have an estimated total population of 3 million.

The traditional communal houses of the Batak have three levels, which correspond to the three levels of their universe: the upper world, the middle world, and the lower world. The high roof represents the upper world, the realm of the gods. The living level (elevated above the ground on pillars) is symbolic of the middle world where humans dwell. The space for animals below the living level represents the lower world, believed to be the home of a mythological dragon. The main decorative elements of communal houses are large, carved animal heads. These sculptures, positioned at the ends of side beams, function as protective devices that have the ability to release positive energy as well as protect the inhabitants from disease or evil.

The most powerful members of a Batak community are ritual specialists, known as datu. They are experts in religion, and are most often members of the village’s founding family. These specialists, who are exclusively male, are able to cure the sick, contact the spirits of the dead, and predict auspicious days for particular events.

A datu’s most important possession is his ritual staff, made of special wood that symbolizes the tree of life. Since a specialist is required to create his own staff, they vary widely in style and form. The simplest type of ritual staff, tungkot malehat (”smooth staff”), has a single wooden or metal figure attached to the top end of the shaft. Specialists “animate” or activate the power of the figures by filling them with a magical potion, known as pupuk. This substance is considered to be extremely powerful and can be stored only in certain types of containers such as the hollow horns of water buffalo wooden vessels, or Chinese trade ceramics.

The Toba Batak, located in the center of the region, are known for their hand-woven textiles. Made exclusively by women, these cloths are used as traditional clothing and ritual gifts of exchange. One important type of cloth, the ulos ragidup is traditionally used at wedding ceremonies. On the day of the wedding, the father of the bride presents this cloth to the mother of the bridegroom. This symbolic act unites the two families and ensures the fertility of the couple. It is then passed down from one generation to the next as an heirloom, along with jewelry and other household objects.

The Toba Batak also create carved wooden puppets known as si galegale. These puppets) are used during funerary ceremonies for wealthy men who have no male descendants to perform their mortuary rites. The puppets are carved in the likeness of the deceased individual, dressed in clothing, and given a complex system of internal strings that are controlled by a puppeteer. After dancing amidst the mourners, the puppets are stripped of their clothing and thrown over the village walls, marking the conclusion of the ceremony.

Sumber : Planet Mole


Ada 2 tanggapan untuk artikel “The Batak People: Sumatra, Indonesia”

  1. Tanggapan Togar Silaban:

    As most of Batak do not use “datu” anymore as powerfull community member, such article does not reflect real condition of Batak community nowadays. Long time ago datu was powerfull, but, since Christianity comes to Tapanuli, datu is no longer important part of Batak life.
    The article is pbublished in a “tourism domain site”, so, the article focuses on something interresting for Western people. It is understood that most Western people looking for magical subjects in Indonesia including Batak.
    I have never seen any funeral process using sigale-gale.
    Only very few cases Batak includes sigale-gale in funeral process. Some Batak may practice “Parmalim” in which sigale-gale perhaps is practiced. So, it is now part of ancient culture of Batak. Therefore, the article should mention that it was the past of Batak. Otherwise, foreigners may have misunderstanding and misleading about Batak.

  2. Tanggapan Maridup Hutauruk:

    the beauty of ancient Batak culture will be nomore within Batak people as it had been contaminated eversince outsider (western people; no matter traders, Dutch, even evangelist/religions) came to Batak land. thousands of ancient manuscripts are nomore available in the hands of Batak people. So, Batak is now cut off from its real culture. Do you realize civil war leader like Padri’s become ‘hero’? Right or wrong, we (Batak) is on the way to be demolised. Please wake up and spend your time and mind to Bonapasogit, then you have the right to have your title as ‘Batak’.

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