BATAK RELIGION. The Batak societies, located around Lake Toba in North Sumatra, are among the more than three hundred ethnic minorities of Indonesia. Batak religion, like Batak culture as a whole, is ethnically diverse, syncretic, changing, and bound at once to both village social organizational patterns and the monotheistic national culture of Indonesia. Like many religious traditions of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines, Batak myths and rituals focus on the yearly cycle of rice cultivation activities and the local kinship system. Batak religions tie these two realms to a larger cosmological order, which is then represented in various religious art forms (traditional house architecture, village spatial layout, and wood sculpture) and ritual activities (dances, oratory, and gift-giving ceremonies). Batak kinship revolves around marriage alliances that link together lineages of patrilineal clans, called marga. This marriage system, which involves ritually superior and “holy” wife-providing lineages and their ritually subordinate, “mundane” wife-receiving lineages, is much celebrated in the indigenous Batak religions. Many village rites of passage, for instance, are largely occasions for eulogizing this asymmetrical marriage alliance system through hours of ritual oratory. Beyond these very localized ethnic patterns, however, Batak religious life extends outward into the world religions: the large majority of homeland Batak and virtually all migrants to cities in Sumatra and Java are Muslim or Christian.
The Toba Batak, the followers of Parmalim (a local religion), have tried their best to preserve this local religion throughout the long oppression years by the Dutch and Christian missionary. The Parmalim practitioners did this up to recent times, in the midst of current ideas and assumptions about the civil-state religion based on ‘monotheistic’ belief. In this article, the author discusses the use of the concept ‘religious rationalization’ to refer to what the Parmalim followers have done in reconstructing their beliefs and religious practices. The author first examines the concept of ‘religious rationalization’ among anthropologists. He examines further the recent phenomenon of the civil-state religion, the Indonesian government’s policies, its implications on the socio-religious-political situation among the Toba Batak, in particular among the Parmalim community, and the various existing interpretations.
Tulisan ini merupakan ringkasan dari paper M.A saya berjudul ‘Parmalim, A Local Toba-Batak Religion within the Indonesian “Civic” Religious Discourse: An Interpretation of the Process of Religious Rationalization’ (University of Washington, Seattle USA 1994). Naskah tersebut disajikan dalam Sesi tentang ‘Kesukubangsaan dan Negara’ dalam Seminar ‘Menjelang Abad ke-21: Antropologi Indonesia menghadapi Krisis Budaya’, 6-8 Mei 1999, Pusat Studi Jepang, Kampus Universitas Indonesia, Depok.