a nother Batak document




Identification. The Batak subsocieties are closely related, rapidly modernizing ethnic monority groups whose rural home regions are in the rugged highlands and plains near North Sumatra’s Lake Toba. The word “Batak” may have originally been an epithet used by Muslim lowlanders to refer to the mountain peoples in a derogatory way, as “primitives.” Today the term is much less stigmatic and is used in some subsocieties, such as the Toba, as an everyday ethnic designation. Some of the groups along the borders of the Batak regions (e.g., Karo, Mandailing) eschew the label “Batak” in favor of their subsociety designations. Although the Batak societies share close dialects and similar social structural patterns, they never have had any significant political unity. During Dutch colonial times they were loose tribal confederations, with some chiefdom formation in border areas. Ethnic boundaries shift often and ethnic identity is labile. Today, with large numbers of city migrants and greater political power in multiethnic competition, many Batak are reemphasizing their Batak ethnic character, and inventing “ancient Batak village traditions” through their use of the mass media and by staging lavish rituals.

Location. The Batak home regions surround Lake Toba in North Sumatra, spanning the large highland region between the Acehnese and Gayo-Alas peoples to the north and the Minangkabau to the south. The home regions include heavily forested mountains, now crosscut with passable roads, and wide, fertile plains, laid out into rice paddies and grazing land. The Batak farm areas straddle the Bukit Barisan, Sumatra’s main northwest-southeast mountain chain. North Sumatra has a distinct rainy season (September-December) and a pronounced hot, dry period (May-August).

Demography. North Sumatra had a 1989 population of 10,330,091. Most of this population is Batak, with smaller numbers of Javanese, Indonesian-Chinese, Acehnese, and Minangkabau. There is also a large Batak diaspora population in multiethnic cities such as Jakarta, Bandung, and Surabaya. Many Bataks moved to Javanese cities in the 1920s and 1930s for employment as clerks, teachers, and newspaper writers and editors (the Bataks were one of Outer-Island Indonesia’s first deeply literate peoples). This migration pattern has continued, augmented by Bataks from poorer families seeking jobs in the army and transportation.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Batak dialects are Western Austronesian languages closely related to Malay, Javanese, and Tagalog. The Toba, Angkola, and Mandailing dialects are quite similar and mutually intelligible, while Karo, Kairi-Pakpak, and Simelungun are generally not understood outside their home areas. No Batak language is mutually intelligible with the national language, Bahasa Indonesia, although the latter is widely known throughout the Batak home regions. Batak languages have a conversational level and a more esoteric oratory level, used in adat (ancient custorn) ceremonies. Genres of speech here include verse-form verbal duels, mythic chants, dirges, and clan genealogies. Literacy in the Latin alphabet is widespread (introduced in Dutch colonial public schools and mission schools, beginning in the 1850s in Angkola and Mandailing). There was also an old Batak script, a syllabary based on Sanskrit-derived court-writing systems from west or south Sumatra. Little used or even known today, the Batak script was once a runic code for divination and spells, for village priests.

INDONESIA: Batak North Sumatera
Posted in Culture and Fashion on Oct 23, 2008 at 8:04 AM


Batak Maps

Despite the relative inaccessibility of the highlands, the Batak groups have been deeply shaped by influences from neighboring cultures. Many words for Batak political leaders and religious concepts show Indian influence, as do Batak divination and astrological lore. Border areas such as Karo and Mandailing model their traditional political systems on the nearby state societies, Aceh and Minangkabau.
Islam was introduced to the southern Batak lands from Minangkabau in the 1820s, on the eve of the Dutch incursion into the area. By the 1850s, they had established a civil administration in the southern Batak areas, a region they hoped to use as a buffer between Muslim Aceh and Muslim Minangkabau.

Batak Cloth

North Sumatera (Batak)Woven

The Dutch gradually extended their control northward through Toba, encountering armed resistance from the charismatic warrior chief, Sisingamangaraja XII. By 1910 all Batak areas were under Dutch control, schools had been established in Toba, Angkola, and Mandailing, and missionary Christianity was thriving in Toba. By the 1920s, literate Batak had established a cosmopolitan city culture of newspapers and book publishing in Medan and Sibolga; writers were turning their attention to nationalist and anti-Dutch concerns. North Sumatra was occupied by the Japanese from 1942 to 1945. Since the Indonesian national revolution of 1945-1949, the region has remained an economically vital part of the Indonesian state. Owing to population pressure on over-used farmland, out-migration to cities continues.

Batak Dancing

Batak House and Dance

Batak Wedding

Medan Wedding

The Batak people live in the north of Sumatra, in the hilly region of lake Toba. At the beginning of this century the last Batak were placed under the authority of the Netherlands.
Most of them were christianized. The Batak form the largest protestant community of Asia. Nevertheless a lot of old traditions were preserved. More than 4 million people are Batak; it is one of Indonesia’s largest population groups

Batak House

Batak North Sumatera

Batak Wedding

Batak Wedding

Actually Batak is a general name for 6 groups with different cultural and linguistic characteristics, but they believe in a descent of a common ancestor. The house model you’ve just seen, is for instance typical for the Batak. However, all Batak have in common that they live on the growing of rice and have the same wedding system. The Batak are organized in ‘margas’, large family groups. The members of one marga can only marry a person of another marga. Upon her marriage the wife passes over into the husband’s marga.

Batak Dancing


Batak Wedding

Batak Wedding

The Batak Toba and Batak Simalungun people live around Parapat. The Batak people composed of Batak Toba, Simulungun, Pak-Pak, and Karo, are known for their expressiveness, which is often materialized in lively and sentimental love songs. If every person in Bali can carve, every person in Batak can sing of play the guitar.

Batak Cloth

Batak Woven


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