Sumatra Island is famous for its Batak tribe. These people live in the north and central part of the island. In fact, their numbers reach more than 4 million people. What a vast ethnic group! The name Batak came from Malay settlers in Sumatra. They described non-Muslim people in Sumatra. Today, it represents a group of people (tribe) in Sumatra. There are different Batak tribes, in fact. These include Mandailing, Dairi, Karo, Toba, and much more. You can learn it from some sources like internet or books.
Exploring Batak Tribe and their Traditions
As mentioned earlier, there are different types of Batak tribe. Even though they share some common things, they have unique characteristics. These include cultures, histories, and languages. The most natural one is Batak Karo. It’s because they retain their cultures significantly. Not to mention they resist changes from outer influences. For them, it’s difficult to refuse changes from outside world. There were many influences from Dutch colonialists, Japan, and others. In fact, Indonesian government isn’t quite suitable for them. Both Islam and Christianity have a good impact on their culture. Though, you can find Animist remnants in Karo.
Batak tribe is famous for their traditions. For example, there are longhouses. These have been around for more than 300 years. Batak people constructed the house from natural materials. These include bamboo, wood, spikes, nails, etc. There’s also ijuk palm. In fact, some local people still live in these houses. A longhouse contains up to 12 families. There’s a unique thing about longhouses. It has the precise length that runs north to south. No one can explain it. Some people believe that it’s for providing the best protection against sun rays.
Modern people in Sumatra aren’t likely to live in longhouses. It’s because they want to enjoy a comfortable like in modern houses. Apart from the traditional houses, Batak tribe also has some clans. They consist of a big number of groups. They call it margas. In Batak Karo, there are 5 clans. They are Perangin-Angin, Karo-Karo, Ginting, Tarigan, and Sembiring. In fact, each of them has sub-groups. Marrying to a person in the same clan is prohibited. They consider it as a taboo.
Batak Tribe – Then and Now
In the past, Batak only relied on their traditions. Since Islam and Christianity entered Batak tribe, such traditions start disappearing over time. Their music tradition remains, though. Almost all people in Karo are able to play the guitar. Thanks to the younger generation. They keep Batak musical traditions intact. They may sing Karonese song on some occasions. The songs are about Batak legend and history. Some of the songs are also about spirits of nature.
Today, Batak tribe becomes a significant attraction in Sumatra. Historians are interested in Batak’s past lifestyle. The former religious belief system was animism. There were also some traditional rituals. Batak tribe was famous for its magic techniques. Even singers were considered as the media of spirits. Overall, Batak tribe is quite interesting. It’s one of the largest ethnic groups in Indonesia. Meeting Batak people is worth a try. Would you?