The term Batak was first used by Malay settlers to describe any non-Muslim in this part of Sumatra. (In fact a Batak, upon conversion to Islam, was no longer considered a Batak by the Malay, but ethnically Malay.) There are actually six distinct Batak tribes in this area: Angkola/Sipirok, Karo, Mandailing, Pakpak/Dairi, Simalungun and Toba. Although these six groups have many things in common, there are differences in their languages, histories and traditions. While some of this page applies equally to the other tribes, it reflects time I have spent to date among the Karo only. Of the Batak tribes, the Karo have resisted change from external influences and retained their traditions more than any of the others. This has not been easy though – forces of change have historically been brought to bear by contact with Indian-based trading cultures, Dutch colonialists, Christian missionaries, war-time Japanese military occupants and, most recently, by Indonesian government policies. One effect of these influences is that most Karo today practice either Christianity or Islam – many of them alongside their traditional beliefs. Thus, despite their religious conversion, one still sees many remnants of their Animist heritage.
The Batak are well known for the richness of their architecture. Some of their huge, communal longhouses, none of which are built any more, have stood erect for up to three hundred years. Most of the ones still standing, though literally on their last legs, are still inhabited today. As many as twelve families may live in one of these houses, although eight is the norm. They were built from natural materials – mainly wood and bamboo – using no nails, spikes or screws, but simply held together with fiber from ijuk palm, which is also the principle source of their thatched roof.
Traditional Batak religion has all but disappeared today, but numerous works on the subject give a good idea of it. The religious beliefs of the Batak of Sumatra prior to their adoption of Islam or Christianity were shaped by the fusion of two major influences: the Old Megalithic and Hindu influences, which contributed to the formation of the ancient Batak culture.
The Indian influence can be found in the most essential elements of their traditional religious belief, such as the formation of the universe, creation myths, the existence of the souls and its survival after death, shamanist traditions, and others.
The Batak believed that the universe was divided into three levels: the upper-world, called Banua Ginjang, the middle-world, called Banua Tonga, and the under-world, which was called Banua Toru. Cosmic harmony depended upon the cooperation between the three levels. In this, the middle-world, that of humanity, played an essential role as both bridge and regulator between the upper and the lower worlds. The upper-world was the abode of a multitude of gods, while the under-world was inhabited by demons and spirits of the earth and fertility.
The creator of the universe was known as Mulajadi na Bolon. He was assisted by a whole pantheon of lesser gods, distributed among the seven levels of the upper-world. His children constitute a sacred triad, which consisted of Batara Guru, Soripada, and Mangala Bulan. These three divinities were venerated by the Batak as a triform unity under different names: Debata Sitolu Sada (“the three devatas in one”) or Debata na Tolu (“the three gods”). In the order of presidence in the Batak pantheon, they come immediately after the supreme god Mulajadi na Bolon.
Other important deities were Debata Idup (the “living god”) and Pane na Bolon, who ruled the middle-world. A host of lesser divinities occupy the seven different levels of the upper-world. These too are more or less related to the Indian divinities. Among those divinities are, for instance, Boraspati ni Nato and Boru Saniang Naga. At a lower level exist a multitude of spirits who inhabit lakes, streams, and mountains. In traditional Batak animism, still alive to some extend today, all were venerated simultaneously; the supreme god, the lesser gods, the nature spirits, and the Begu or souls of the ancestors.
BUT THEN TIMES CHANGED .THE WORLD WONDERER SAILED AND LOOKING FOR NEW EMPTY LAND.
THE EUROPEAN SAILOR WONDERER EXPLORER………….WERE COMING RAPIDLY TO OPEN NEW CHAPTER IN BATAK PEOPLE……..THE CHINESE MERCHANTS AND THE INDIAN .THE ARAB .YOU NAME IT JUST ABOUT EVERY ONE CAME TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE NEW EMPTY LAND.MOST OF ALL THEY LIKE IS THE LAND CROPS FROM BATAK LAND.FORGET ABOUT THE NATIVE.NOTHING MUCH TO DO WITH BATAK PEOPLE.THEY WERE STILL NOMADE AND NAKED HUMAN.
THEN THE DUTCH INTRODUCED HARDSHIP CHEAP LABOURER TO OPEN NEW LINK ROAD.AND THE DUTCH USED TO IMPORT WORKERS FROM JAVA.
RULER WITH STRONG LAW
CHRISTIAN RELIGION STARTED TAKING PLACE.
BRIBES WITH NEW TEXTILES FROM EUROPE ETC.
MOST OF ALL THEY HAVE TO KILL OR DESTROYED ALL PARMALIM /ANIMIST BELIEVER IN BATAK NATIVE PEOPLE.SO FROM THIS TIME NATIVE BATAK ANIMIST CULTURE IS LYING LOW PROFILE.
WE CAN STILL FIND THEM IN SAMOSIR AND TOBA/KARO DAIRI PAKPAK SIMALUNGUN.BUT VERY SMALL FOLLOWER.
CAN YOU COUNT HOW MUCH MONEY DONATED FROM EUROPEAN CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY IN BATAK LAND?BILLION DOLLARS.SO THIS IS NOT A RELIGION ANY MORE ITS MORE BIGGER THAN THAT.ITS A BIG BUSINESS. EQ.NOMENSEN UNIVERSITY.HOSPITAL.SCHOOL? BUT
PARMALIM HASNT GOT THE IDEA HOW TO ESTABLISH BIG BUSINESS LIKE CHRISTIAN DO.
IF YOU LIKE TO ESTABLISH PARMALIM ORGAANISATION YOU HAVE TO LEARN FROM THE NEW CHRISTIAN KNOWLEGE.NEVER TOO LATE.PLEASE DONT LET PARMALIM DISAPPEAR FROM THE EARTH BECAUSE ITS A HERITAGE FOR OUR BATAK PEOPLE.
DONT FORGET THIS ==========>
Before the arrival of Christianity, the Bataks were animists. A religious ritual is still observed by a small group of followers and can be seen at Laguboti, in Balige in the region of Toba Samosir. Batak traditional houses and relics are still carefully preserved in the Siallagan village in Ambarita. On the islands of Nias and Mentawai isolated communities still retain ancient customs and megalithic way of life. Scattered across Sumatra are thousand of years old relics from the island’s earliest settklers, such as those found at Goa Sengering and on the shores of Lake Kerinci, West Sumatra. In Pasemah, at the foot of Mount Dempo, South Sumatra, mysterious megalithic statues and inscribed stone carvings are estimared to be 2000-3000 years old.
Situated on the banks of the Batanghari River, Muara Jambi Temple is considered as one of the most important Buddhist sites in Sumatra.
On the 15th-16th of the fifth month of the Chinese calender, the Chinese community in Bagansiapi-api, Riau, burn paper boats decorated with the paper statues of Raisun Ong Ya together with thousands of joss sticks during Bakar Tongkang, a thnaksgiving ceremony dedicated to the gods Ki Ong Ya and Taisun Ong Ya.