another Batak from anenglish man part2

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The Trans-Sumatra Trade and the Ethnicization ofthe ‘Batak’391the marga. The marga do not play a very important role in Simalungun, andthere is an absence of any tradition of common marga territory, property, orceremonies (Tarigan 1972:47; Joustra 1910:184). These features of Karo andSimalungun society appear to be much more in keeping with the nature ofrapidly evolving frontier societies where long-standing traditions have lessrelevance than developments in the more recent past. With less venerabletraditions to consider, such societies were more likely to experiment and toadopt new forms and ideas. A continuing important source for such innova-tion among the Batak, particularly in the newly settled communities, was theIndian subcontinent.Indian influence and Batak identityThe Tamils were a formative influence on Batak society. Although a ninth-century inscription on the Malay Peninsula mentions the presence at Takuapaof members of the Manikkiramam, a Tamil merchant guild, it was only afterthe successful Cola invasion of Srivijayan territories in 1024-5, perhaps at thebehest of Tamil traders, that there was a noticeable increase in Tamil economicactivity in the region (Nilakanta Sastri 1949:25-30; Miksic 1998:120-1). In the1088 Lobu Tua inscription described above, mention is made of local armedmen, oarsmen, agents, and merchants serving the Tamil guild. Through dailyintercourse between the Tamils and the local inhabitants in this thriving set-tlement, ideas would have been exchanged (Subbarayalu 1998:31-3). Anotherdirect consequence of the Cola invasion was the emergence of Kota Cina.Edwards McKinnon, the foremost expert on this historical site, has statedunequivocally: ‘I now see Kota Cina as a predominantly Tamil trading set-tlement established by a community of merchants such as the Ainnurruvar[also known as the Ayyavole] who left an inscription at Lobu Tua’ (EdwardsMcKinnon 1987:87).In response to the rise of Kota Cina, there was a movement of some ofthe Tamil population from Barus towards the east coast. Edwards McKinnonfound that the Sembiring marga of the Karo established itself at strategicpoints along the routes leading from the west to the east coasts, and thattwo of the villages, Deli Tua and Hamparan Perak, were located within easyreach of Kota Cina (Edwards McKinnon 1987:90-1). The Sembiring marga isbelieved to have had direct ties with Tamil traders. The name ‘Sembiring’,meaning ‘the black one’, is often cited as a major clue. The names of certainsub-marga – Colia, Berahmana, Pandia, Meliala, Depari, Muham, Pelawi andTekan – are clearly of south Indian origin (Edwards McKinnon 1987:85-6;Parkin 1978:82, 94 fn 47; Singarimbun 1975:78-80; J.H. Neumann 1926:16-7).In further support of a southern Indian origin of the Sembiring marga, some
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392Leonard Y. Andayascholars have cited a mode of disposing of the dead believed to have beenborrowed from the Tamils. This practice involves secondary cremation andsetting the ashes adrift (the pekualuh ceremony) and is found only in the Dairilands in the west and among the Karo (N. Siahaan 1964:114-5; Parkin 1978:94,fn 47; Singarimbun 1975:75). There may also have been some Tamil influenceon Karo ideas on village structure. Urung, the Karo term for a village federa-tion, is believed to refer to a form of organization found in medieval Tamilsociety (Edwards McKinnon 1996:93).Another source of Indian ideas, particularly in the realm of magic andreligion, were the Indianized Malayu communities. Their influence is espe-cially evident in the Padang Lawas complex, perhaps the second-largestarchaeological site in Indonesia, encompassing an area with a radius of fif-teen kilometres. Judging from inscriptions found here, Padang Lawas playedan important role in the region from the mid-eleventh to the end of the fif-teenth century. Between 1935and 1938 Schnitger found some twenty templeshere, as well as a Heruka figure. From the inscriptions and an analysis of thestatuary, he concluded that the devotees were adherents of Vajrayana TantricBuddhism, Sivaism, and a syncretic Siva-Buddhism. In one of the templesfound at Parmutung, Schnitger identified what he believed to be an imageof a queen of Panai who founded the temple and who was consecrated as aBhairavi (Schnitger 1964:93-4; Parkin 1978:84).Many authors believe that the presence of Tantrism in the Padang Lawascomplex was due to Indian influence from Malayu/Minangkabau36via eastJava. In support of this argument, they cite the famous fourteenth-centuryAdityavarman statue in the form of the god Bhairava, one of the importantdeities in Kalacakra or Left-Handed Tantric Buddhism, found at Rambahanon the Batang Hari. The inspiration for this statue can be traced directly tothe Singasari court of east Java, where Adityavarman spent some years andleft an inscription in 1343. The model was a similar statue dated 1292 of theBhairava seated on a dais surrounded by skulls and wearing a crown, ear-rings, and a necklace of skulls (Parkin 1978:254-64; Heine-Geldern 1972:326;De Casparis 1985:246; Fontein 1990:162-3). Tantric influence appears to havecontinued under Adityavarman’s son, Anangavarman, who identified him-self as Heruka, a demon figure. At Kampung Lubuk Layang in Rao, in thePasaman district, a headless weatherworn statue broken in two was founddisplaying Hindu, possibly Tantric, elements similar to the guardian statues36Although Adityavarman is generally regarded as the first Minangkabau ruler, he began hiscareer as ruler of Malayu. Once he established his base in the Minangkabau homeland, he calledhimself Kanakamedinindra, or ‘Lord of the Gold Land’ – a reference to the island of Sumatra.This shows that he sought to be remembered as the heir of the Srivijayan rulers who firstreigned in Palembang and later moved to Jambi, where the kingdom became known as Malayu.Adityavarman never mentions the name ‘Minangkabau’ in his inscriptions (Satyawati 1977:9).
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The Trans-Sumatra Trade and the Ethnicization of the ‘Batak’393in Padang Lawas (Satyawati 1977:2, 6; Bronson et al. 1973:19).There is also support for the argument that Indian influence may havereached Padang Lawas from the north. Parkin, for example, argues thatmany Sivaite ideas were brought by Indians themselves through commun-ities such as those found in Lobu Tua and Kota Cina.37A team of archaeolo-gists visiting the site in 1973 concluded that it had no clear relationship withJava (Bronson et al. 1973:19, 61, 64, 77; Satyawati 1977:2). Their preliminaryfindings would suggest that the Padang Lawas complex was a result ofIndian influence coming from the port cities in northern Sumatra rather thanfrom Java and southern Sumatra. A third possibility is that Padang Lawasreceived Indianized ideas from both directions and formed a cultural frontierbetween the Minangkabau and the Batak.Religion and the high priests in the service of tradeWhatever the ultimate source of Indian religious inspiration in PadangLawas, the evidence suggests that Indian magico-religious ideas wereeagerly sought by the Batak in order to strengthen their belief systems inthe ongoing struggle to improve their spiritual and material well-being. Theindigenous Batak religion, known as Perbegu or Pemena38, was not sup-planted by religious concepts from India, but came to co-exist with them.It was therefore possible for the Batak to retain their own beliefs while alsoadopting Mahayana Buddhist, Sivaite, and Tantric rituals.Parkin explains that Perbegu can be viewed as ‘a cult of the human soul,which in a living person is known as “tondi” and for a dead person is gener-ally called “begu”‘ (Parkin 1978:6).39Tondi is sometimes translated as ‘soul stuffand is found in smaller quantities in animals and plants. It is present in everypart of the human being, including the hair, fingernails, sweat, tears, urine,excrement, shadow, and even in the name of a person. The most powerfultondiresides in the placenta and the amniotic fluid at birth, and hence greatcare is taken to dispose of these with the utmost secrecy. Ritual cannibalism37Three more recent works which include a detailed discussion of the impact of Indian ideason Batak indigenous religion are Parkin 1978, Pedersen 1967, and Rae 1994. In the present essayI have simply focused on Tantrism as an important part of Indian religious ideas that appearsto have been particularly relevant in the southward expansion of Batak society towards theMinangkabau lands.38The old religion is referred to by Christian Batak as Perbegu, or worship of ancestral spirits.Because of the perceived derogatory nature of this name, adherents prefer the term Pemena,meaning ‘the First [Religion]’.39The word varies from one Batak language to the other. For example, tondi is Toba, tendiKaro, and tenduy Simalungun. In the following discussion the Toba terms are used.
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394Leonard Y. Andayaprovided the opportunity to strengthen one’s tondi at the expense of the victimby consuming those parts of the body that are potent with tondi, such as theblood, heart, palms of the hands, and soles of the feet.40When a person dies,the tondi becomes begu (ancestral spirit).41The most powerful begu, and hencethe one subject to the most frequent appeals, is the sombaon, the spirit of anancestor who founded great communities and had at least seven generationsof descendants (Pedersen 1967:19-26; Rae 1994:18-20).42Through public feastsat which homage is paid, a begu is transformed into a sumangot, then a sombaon(Sherman 1990:82).43The ultimate test of potency was the possession of sahala,which can be succinctly translated as ‘manifestation of supernatural power’.44Sahala is manifested in successful economic and other ventures, numerousprogeny, influential relatives, skill in oratory, or bravery in battle. Respect{hasangapon) accompanies one possessed of sahala, while to refuse to obey andvenerate such a person is to court disaster (Castles 1972:13-4).From early times religion was closely linked to trade among the Batak.Religious edifices were erected along trade routes to protect the trader fromadverse human and natural forces and thus assure the economic success ofhis venture. Edwards McKinnon observed that from Padang Lawas south-ward was a line of candi or temples marking a route from Tapanuli down tothe Minangkabau lands. More candi were found along rivers that were usedto gain access to the east coast. The Padang Lawas or Panai complex arosedue to its strategic location at the crossroads of several riverine and overlandroutes.45The ancient kingdom of Panai, sufficiently important to have war-ranted an attack by Cola forces in 1025, benefited from its links to the inte-rior areas through the important trans-insular portage in the Panai-Barumunriver valley (Edwards McKinnon 1984,1:31-3, 330;Miksic 1979:97).40Early Western observers with little or no knowledge of Batak beliefs attributed the prefer-ence for these particular parts of the human body simply to a matter of individual taste.41Joustra, however, subscribed to the view of others, who argue that the last breath of a per-son becomes the begu. This is based on the belief that the breath cannot be destroyed, that whatis spoken is immortal because it is the wind (Joustra 1902:416).42Warneck (1906) describes sombaon as the highest stage that the spirit of the dead canattain.43Sombaon is a general term for earth spirits or deities; Ypes believed that it referred also tothe dwelling-places of these beings (Ypes 1932:196).44Sahala is in essence the same as the idea of mana in Pacific Island societies. These com-munities share a common Austronesian past, and the concept is one which can be traced to theAustronesian language. For a discussion of mana, see Shore 1989:137-43.45Jacq-Hergoualc’h also noted the numerous temples in South Kedah, an area long associ-ated with Indian traders. These religious edifices were located at the ports and along the riversleading to the ports. He believes they were erected by a merchant or group of merchants seekingthe favour of the gods. He also noted the similarity in architectural styles between the templesin South Kedah and those of Padang Lawas, which he attributes to the use of an Indian model(Jacq-Hergoualc’h 1992:299, 304-5, 309).
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The Trans-Sumatra Trade and the Ethnicization ofthe ‘Batak’395At the Padang Lawas site, as well as in the Tamil settlements at Lobu Tuaand Kota Cina, temples were prominent. With the withdrawal of the Tamilpopulation and/or its absorption into the Batak community, perhaps afterthe demise ofKota Cina in the fourteenth century, the candi were replaced bytombs erected in honour of important Batak ancestors (sombaon). Westenbergnoted in 1891 that ‘Malay’ (most likely Batak, who moved easily between twoworlds; perhaps more properly called ‘Malayu Batak’) horse traders weregoing to the Karo plateau from the east coast to make offerings at the tombsof the Sibayak [lords] of Kabanjahe and Barusjahe. On the outward journeybetel was offered, but on the homebound journey, after successful transac-tions, a goat or a white chicken was sacrificed (Westenberg 1892:227). Theseancestral tombs proved popular sites of spiritual power.The religious institution that had the greatest economic impact on theBatak was that of the high priests.46Though it originated in the Toba lands,itspread rapidly to the new areas where Toba migrants had settled. Situmorangsuggests that the Toba Batak believed in a sahala-harajaon, or ‘spiritual powerof governing’, which derived from the gods and was transmitted patriline-ally through the original founders ofthe three major Toba marga – the Borbor,the Lontung, and the Sumba.47It was this sahala-hamjaon which legitimizedthe rule of high priests bearing the title Jongi Manaor among the Borbor,Ompu Palti Raja among the Lontung, and Sisingamangaraja (preceded bySorimangaraja) among the Sumba (Situmorang 1987:221-4).48Although theywere equal in stature within their respective marga, the Sisingamangarajawas the best known to Europeans. The Ompu Palti Raja, unlike theSisingamangaraja, did not claim a divine origin, or authority beyond his ownjurisdiction among the Lontung. The Jongi Manaor’s pretensions were alsofar more modest than those of the Sisingamangaraja; he claimed to have hisown areas, independent of either of the other two high priests (Situmorang46I have opted for the term ‘high priest’, rather than the more commonly used ‘priest-king’.’High priest1appears more appropriate to the function of these figures in Batak society andaccords with Kozok’s belief that only the last Singamangaraja, the twelfth (1875-1907), referredto himself as king. In his letters he claimed to be ‘Ruler of the Batak Clans’ and even ‘Ruler ofSumatra’ (Kozok 2000b:274-6).47According to Keuning, Borbor initially formed part of Lontung. As a result of expansioninto areas both of the Lontung and the Sumba, the Borbor came to be regarded as a separate,major marga (Keuning 1948:16).48In a more recent work, Situmorang asserts that Sorimangaraja was the title of the highpriests prior to the creation of the Sisingamangaraja institution in the sixteenth century (Situ-morang 1993:218). This date, which is widely cited in the literature, has been arrived at by thequestionable method of counting backward assuming a certain number of years per sundut orgeneration. Oral traditions (including those surrounding the origins of the Sisingamangaraja)tend to telescope years and often refer to events which occurred far earlier. The Sorimangarajamay have preceded the Sisingamangaraja, but when that occurred cannot be determined withany certainty.
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396Leonard Y. Andaya1993:77-8). The high priests’ success in promoting trade and agriculture wasan important measure of their sahala.There is a fair amount of literature on the Sisingamangaraja, but little onthe Jongi Manaor or the Ompu Palti Raja. One can assume, however, thatmany of the distinctive features attributed to the Sisingamangaraja wouldhave been ascribed to the other two categories of high priest. One of the mostextensive accounts of the origins of the first Sisingamangaraja comes from aBatak text collected by CM. Pleyte. In this legend the deity Batara Guru causesa jambu fruit to fall to the ground. It is found and eaten by the wife of the chiefof the village of Bakkara, and she becomes pregnant. After three years passwith the baby still unborn, a spirit informs the mother that another four yearswill elapse before the birth can occur. She will know when it is time becausethere will be earthquakes, lightning and a heavy rainstorm, spirits will fill thevillage square, and tigers and panthers will tear at one another. These thingsoccur, and the Sisingamangaraja is born with a black, hairy tongue. The after-birth is buried under the house, but lightning strikes at that very spot andtransports the afterbirth to heaven.49Batara Guru’s messenger then bringsto the child manuscripts with astrological charts for augury purposes andmatters concerning planting and weaving, the calendar, the laws, and a hand-book of spells. The Sisingamangaraja confirms his supernatural origins byopenly declaring, ‘I am a descendant of the gods’ (Pleyte 1903:3, 6-7,15,17).50Other legends were later added to reaffirm the Sisingamangaraja’s supernatu-ral attributes. In 1870 C. de Haan was told that the Sisingamangaraja could goseven months without food and three months without sleep because the godssupplied his every need (C. de Haan 1875:30).The divine origins of the Sisingamangaraja made him an ideal inter-mediary between the gods and the human community. He could makepeace, create laws, and expose both truth and lies – qualities that madehim unsurpassed in settling disputes. If a war continued unabated, he senta staff as a sign that a ceasefire should be declared and the parties submitto his mediation (Tideman 1936:25-6; Meerwaldt 1899:530). He intervenedin disputes not only among the Batak, but also between the Batak and theoutside world (Cummings 1994:63-4). Early European observers believedthat these high priests exercised very little authority because there were novisible signs of political power. Heine-Geldern, for example, acknowledgedthat the Sisingamangaraja was effective in settling quarrels and mediating49As mentioned previously, the afterbirth is regarded as one of the most important sourcesof a person’s tondi. The story of the removal of the afterbirth to the heavens emphasizes theSisingamangaraja’s divine origins.50There are variations on the story, but the general outline is the same. For a very detailedaccount of the miraculous birth and life of the first Sisingamangaraja, see Tobing 1967:23-47.
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The Trans-Sumatra Trade and the Ethnicization ofthe ‘Batak’397peace between warring parties, but concluded, ‘otherwise his political powerwas weak’ (Heine-Geldern 1953:376). What he failed to realize was that theSisingamangaraja and the other high priest figures exercised effective controlnot so much through the use of force as through the threat of supernaturalsanctions implied in their words, letters, and widely recognized spiritualpowers (Drakard 1999; L. Andaya 2000).51Although precolonial Batak society has been characterized by Castles asbeing ‘stateless’, there was a hierarchy of institutions under these high priestswhich provided a form of supra-village unity. The basic social unit was thehuta, or village, with a varying number of huta forming a horja, and a numberof horja constituting a bins.52Religious leadership was provided by the par-baringin, with the chief official of the bius (known variously as raja bius, rajaoloan, or raja na ualu) being chosen by the heads of the horja.53At the apex ofthis hierarchy stood the Sisingamangaraja, who instituted bius markets andlegitimized officials through letters of appointment. Among the responsibili-ties of the bius was the hosting of the ‘large market’ {onan na godang or onanbius), where the ‘great council’ (rapot bolon) mediated disputes and madebinding decisions on important public issues (Kubitscheck 1997:193; Sangti1977:303; N. Siahaan 1964:112; Castles 1975:74; Tobing 1967:17-8; Situmorang1993:40-4, 100-2).54Situmorang traces the origins of the bius to the need for management of theirrigation system, and hence the organization of agriculture and the imple-mentation of laws. The bius is usually described as a ‘sacrifice community’because the culmination of its activities is the annual agricultural ritual andsacrifice, at which the parbaringin officiated. In addition to ensuring the fertil-ity of the crops, this sacrifice provides an occasion for community integrationand renewal of commitment to its customs and traditions. Perhaps the mostimportant agricultural function of the bius was the promotion through the51Heine-Geldern points out, however, that the Sisingamangarajas had employed force in thepast. The first had led a war against the Lotung marga, another against the Padris, and a thirdagainst the Dutch (Heine-Geldern 1953:374). However, these rulers were obeyed not so much fortheir military as for their spiritual prowess.52Sangti says that some twenty huta would then form a horja, and seven horja would make upa bius (Sangti 1977:293-4). However, most other commentators give varying figures.53Situmorang further divides the bius into three categories, with the most developed beingthe bius under the parbaringin. He characterizes the others as ‘developing’ and ‘backward’ bius(Situmorang 1993:42-3).54So great was the reverence for the Sisingamangaraja institution that even after the lastSisingamangaraja had disappeared in the nineteenth century, the Batak continued to respondto rumours of his continued presence. In the 1920s a man emerged in Karoland who claimedthat the Sisingamangaraja had commanded everyone to slaughter a white chicken. The responsewas immediate and widespread, causing an unprecedented rise in the price of white chick-ens. In Angkola, people began to eat a certain type of fish because it was rumoured that theSisingamangaraja had ordered it to ward off evil (Castles 1975:74).
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398Leonard Y. Andayayear of feasts and rituals devoted to the rice-growing cycle and the appease-ment of spirits (Korn 1953:36,126; Sherman 1990:80-5).55The network of binsorganizations throughout the land provided a supra-village structure basedon a blend of economic, political and religious authority.The Sisingamangaraja was revered for his powers in ensuring the mate-rial welfare of the people through the promotion of agriculture, creatingharmony among the Batak groups through mediation, and maintenanceof the marketplace. In agriculture he was credited with the ability to bringrains, locate wells, maintain the irrigation system, enforce the acceptanceof his allocation of rice lands, and ensure the efficacy of agricultural rituals(Tideman 1936:25-6; Meerwaldt 1899:530; Situmorang 1993:42-3). The youngSisingamangaraja was said to have been capable of causing rice plants togrow with their stalks in the ground and their roots in the air. His controlover the growth of rice and various types of ubi or root crops and his abil-ity to cause rain and to locate well water were attributes expected of onewith direct links to the agricultural deities. Before the rice-planting seasonbegan, the Sisingamangaraja conducted rituals invoking the ancestral spiritsto ensure a good harvest and hence prosperity for their descendants. In Tobaproper – though apparently not in Silindung56- his appointed officials, theparbaringin, presided over the sacrifices in the important agricultural rites.Although there is very little information about the other two high priests,the Ompu Palti Raja andthe Jonggi Manaor, nineteenth- and twentieth-cen-tury sources indicate that they continued to be highly revered for their abilityto summon rain and control rice growth (Hirosue 1994:20, 22; James 1902:137; Van Dijk 1895:300-1). Conducting the agricultural ritual was consideredan essential task of the parbaringin to assure the ongoing prosperity of theinhabitants, the animals, and the crops. As late as 1938 the Dutch receiveddelegations of parbaringin seeking the revocation of a colonial measure intro-duced earlier in the century which forbade the performance of this ritual. Itwas this prohibition, they asserted, which had resulted in problems in theircommunity (Korn 1953:32-3).The esteem and respect for high priests among the Batak may haveincreased even further when rice became an important Batak export com-modity. The rise of the pepper trade in the fifteenth century led to anincreasing demand for rice by communities engaged in pepper productionin Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula. It may have been around this time thatthe Batak intensified rice planting in existing fields tomeet this need. Rice is55Sherman, studying the ritual functions of the bius, concluded that it might be compared toancestral cults of the earth found elsewhere in Southeast Asia (Sherman 1990:82).5 6The Silindung constitute one of the major marga in the Toba area, which ma y account for theirability to remain outside the Sisingamangaraja sphere of influence (Ginting forthcoming:291).


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