Batak is a native tribe from the Province of North Sumatra, Indonesia. They have unique culture and customs that they still actively practice up until now. It is such an interesting experience to feel the life of Batak people.
There we can see a brand new perspective about this life. In North Sumatra, there are few villages that are intentionally kept to preserve Batak culture. One of the best one is Jangga Village. So if you want to escape from this modern world to taste the life of ancient culture, try packing your bag and voyage to Jangga Village.
A traditional village is, without doubt, not easy to reach. Same goes with Jangga Village. This village is located on the side of Mount Simanuk-manuk. To reach this place, first you need to come to Medan City. Medan can be accessed with plenty choices of flight, both domestic and international. From Medan, take a bus that goes to Parapat. It will take about 4-6 hours.
From Parapat, you need to rent a car and hire a driver to take you to the village. Because there are no public transport that reach the mountain. The trip surely will not be smooth. But you could really enjoy the view and the fresh air.
Mostly tourists come to Medan to visit Lake Toba and Samosir Island. If you are also like this, then you can visit Jangga Village more easily. The village is only 24 km away from the famous lake. Around Toba, there would be plenty of travel agencies that could take you to Jangga Village.
To get the ultimate experience of Batak life, it is most recommended to stay in the village. There is no hotel, of course. But local people usually open up their house for tourist who wish to stay in. Ask your travel agent to get you which house is willing to accept you. Do not forget to always mind your manner and follow the house rule.
If you do wish to spend the night on a more modern environment, the best choice you may have is by getting a hotel in Parapat or around Lake Toba. It will not be difficult to find some because those places are quite oftenly visited by tourists, both domestic and international.
The Ancient Belief
In modern days, Batak people mostly embrace Abrahamic religion like Christian, Catholic, and Islam. But apart from that, they also have their own ancient belief that they use as life principle. They hold on it very tightly as they believe it is the only way to keep their life stay on the right track. This set of principal not only give them rules about what to do and not to do. But, it also give them a great perspective about this life.
Learning the Batak ancient principles may open up your eyes to an angle you have never seen before. It could teach you things you never learned before. For example, Jangga people believe that there are three kinds of human soul, which are:
Tondi is the most basic kind of soul that everyone has since they were still on their mother’s womb. It is what gives life to each person. When tondi leaves its human body temporarily, that person will fall sick. But if it leaves for good, then that person is dead.
Sahala is a kind of additional soul that give more strength to a human’s soul. Not everyone has it. And the strengths are also vary between one and another. When a person has a high social status and get lots of respect from people, his Sahala is high. It could get lower when people start to lose respect to him.
Begu is the kind of soul that depicts the human’s behavior. There are bad Begu and kind Begu, in which each person should control.
The Burial Ceremony
Just like any other primitive tribe, Batak also have several rituals and ceremonies. But from all those customs, the most interesting and famous one is the burial ceremony. The proccess of funeral in Jangga Village is very complex. It is also expensive, even more expensive than a wedding ceremony. The more notable the person who passed away, the more complex and more expensive it will be.
It all start by putting the deceased body on a reversed mat so the body’s head is laid on the foot of the mat, vice versa. This ritual means to make the deceased soul to understand that from that moment, their world is separated. Other rituals are also performed for this purpose. After the ritual has finished, the dead body can then be put inside a coffin.
The coffin is made out of wood and carved. The richer you are, the more complex and detailed the carvings would be. The coffin is then taken to the special place nearby the house. But in order to do that, the coffin must be taken in circling and confusing road in hope that the dead soul may never find its way back home.
After several years, the coffin is taken back and opened. The skeleton of the dead person is then taken out, cleaned up, and be mourned again for the last time. Last, it then is kept back in the coffin and the coffin is kept on a communal bone house permanently. This ceremony is called reburial.
Ulos is a piece of traditional woven cloth from Batak. The cloth is manually woven by Batak women. There are several kinds of Ulos clothes. According to Batak culture, Ulos is more than just ordinary clothes for daily use. Each type has its own meaning, intention, and even status. Particular kind of Ulos must be used on specific ceremonies such as birth, wedding, and funeral. To understand a glimpse about it, here are some kinds of important Ulos in Jangga Village:
- Ulos Ragidup
This kind of Ulos is the most difficult to make. Thus, it has the highest status and most important meaning. The cloth consists of three parts. Two parts are woven all in once while the other one is specially woven with complex detailed pattern. This part would look like a live painting. Therefore, the cloth was taken as the symbol of life and prayer for happiness of a lifetime.
- Ulos Ragihotang
Ulos Ragihotang’s status is one level below Ulos Ragidup. It is a little bit similar to Ulos Ragidup, but the detailed pattern is less complex. This cloth is mostly associated with job and responsibilities. It is mostly used in funeral to wrap the deceased body. This means that the person’s job is the world has ended.
- Ulos Sibolang
Ulos Sibolang is a mean of respect. The cloth is given by a parent for their son-in-law on a wedding day as a sign of welcome. When a man passes away, the widow is usually given this kind of Ulos too as a gift for being a good wife for all that man’s life.
Even so, for tourists like you, you can buy them regardlessly. It is perfectly fine for tourists to use the Ulos cloth in modern way. Some use them as scarf, some makes them into skirt, and many more. You can also get an Ulos table cloth.
Village is well known for having more various kinds of Ulos cloth than other Batak villages. So it would be a waste for not buying one while you are there. Mostly locals would feel proud and happy when tourists buy the cloth they weave.
Jangga people sometimes perform a dramatic dance called Tortor. This interesting dance is famous in Indonesia for having unique and attractive choreography. But for the local people of Jangga, Tortor is way more than just an entertainment show. It is a sacred ritual that is usually done during important ceremonies such as wedding, naming the newborn child, entering new house, etc.
Batak has many unique things, from their clothes, customs, ceremonies, culinary (Medan), houses, and even their art. Visiting them might feel like entering a whole new world, where everything is so different. It will never get dull or boring. Plus, the people are so nice and friendly. Thus we could feel more welcomed, comfortable, and warm.