The Uniqueness of Bataknese

Taken by hyas_tina at Tomok, North Sumatera in 2006

Batak ethnic is one of the old ethnics in Indonesia which comes from North Sumatra. The people is called Bataknese. They are known as ‘nomads’.


There are many versions of history of Batak. According to, it says that the King Batak along with the others came from Thailand. They leaved from Thailand to Semenanjung Malaysia (Malaysia Peninsula). Then, they crossed to Sumatera and lived in Sianjur Mula-mula, it is about 8 km from Pangururan, the edge of Lake Toba. Another version says that the King Batak came from India. They passed by Barus or Alas Gayo and roamed to Southern part, then they lived in the edge of Lake Toba. The King Batak lived around 1200 years ago (the beginning of thirtieths century). King Sisingamangaraja XII is the 19th generation of King Batak who died in 1907 and the son is called King Buntal, the 20th generation. According to Tarombo Borbor Marsada Book, there are three sons of King Batak; they are Guru Teteabulan, Raja Isumbaon, and Toga Laut and Bataknese believes that the origin of marga-marga (clans) came from them.

According to, Batak kingdom was formed by a King who lived in Toba Sila-silahi lua’ Balige, luat Balige (Balige town), kampung Parsoluhan (Parsoluhan village). The king named Alang Pardoksi (Pardosi) had divine power. Kingdom of Batak was leaded by Sultan Maharaja Bongsu and he succeeded to make the Batak people got prosperity.


Batak ethnics consist of some sub-ethnics; they live in North Sumatera regions. Most of them live in Tapanuli, Simalungun, Karo, Nias, and Pakpak Dairi. Batak Toba lives in Toba, Silindung, Samosir, and Humbang; Batak Angkola lives in South Tapanuli, Sipirok and Angkola; Batak Mandailing lives in Mandailing, Natal; Batak Simalungun lives around Simalungun regions; Batak Karo lives around Karo regions; Batak Pakpak Dairi lives around Pakpak and Dairi regions. Based on the anthropology lesson, Nias, Alas, Gayo is grouped in sub-batak ethnics. Recently,  there is a new sub-batak ethnics called Batak Pesisir. Ir. Akbar Tanjung, an ex-chairman of Indonesian legislative assembly, is the first chairman of Persatuan Batak Pesisir (Batak Pesisir association). Batak pesisir lives in the east coast of Sumatera namely Asahan, Labuhan Batu, Rantau Prapat, and it also lives in the west coast of Sumatera namely Sibolga and Barus. Sub-batak ethnics were grouped by their region where they live.

The Elements of the Culture

1. Language

In their daily life, Bataknese uses some dialects: (1) Karo dialects  is used by Batak Karo; (2) Pakpak dialects is used by Batak Pakpak Dairi; (3) Simalungun dialects is used by Batak Simalungun; (3)Toba dialects is used by Batak Toba, Angkola, and Mandailing.

2. Society system

Bataknese had known  self-help community long years ago. In Batak Karo,  self-help community is named ‘Raron’ and in Batak Toba, it is called ‘Marsiurupan’. It means that a group of family works together to do something by turns.

3. Technology

Batak people had known simple tools which are used to process the soil such as hoe, plow, and sickle. Bataknese has folk weapons too namely, piso surit (broad-bladed knife), piso gaja dompak (long and wavy double-bladed dagger), hujur (lance), and podang (sword). Besides, there is traditional dress named ‘ulos’ which has many function in Bataknese traditional life.

4. Social organization

a. Marriage

In Bataknese tradition, someone could marry to another Bataknese who has different clan. If they marry to other ethnics (such Javanese, Sundanese, etc), she or he must adopt one of Bataknese’s clans.

b. Brotherhood

Social stratification of Bataknese is based on four principals that are: (a) difference age level, (2) difference place, (3) difference characteristic authenticity, (4) marital status.

5. Mean of livelihood

Generally, Majorities of Bataknese are farmer. They work in wet rice field and in-irrigated agricultural field. The field comes from distribution based on clan; and every family who gets the field cannot sell it. Animal husbandry is one of Bataknese mean of livelihood to;  for examples, the husbandry of buffalo, cow, pig, goat, chicken, and duck. Bateknese who lives in the edge of Lake Toba, raises fishes especially mujair fish (freshwater fish widely stocked in inland waters and an important food) and gold-fish. Besides, there are also handicraft industries such as tenun (weaving affairs), anyaman rotan (cane work), ukiran kayu (carved wood), and glazed porcelain.

6. Religion

Basically, most of Bataknese are Christian. It was announced by German missionary, I.L Nomensen in 1863. The first church is called Huria Kristen Batak Protestan (HKBP) (The Batak Protestant Church) which was built in Huta Dame (Dame Village), Tarutung. However, most of Batak Mandailing and Angkola are Moslem. Moslem came to South Tapauli in 19th century which was announced by Tuanku Rao. Moreover, there are other religions believed by Bataknese who lives in the rural. They believes that the universe was created by Debata Mula Jadi Na Bolon and he lives in the sky. The gods is divided into two:  Debata Mula Jadi Na Bolon: lives in the sky and he is a great creator; Siloan Na Balom: the duty is dominate the world and supernatural creatures. They believe in three concepts according to relationship with soul and spirit. They are tondi: soul or spirit, sahala: soul or supernatural spirit, begu: the dead people’s soul. A part of Bataknese believes in the power of talisman (jimat) which is called Tongkal.

7. Art and Traditional Foods

There are many kind of arts in Batak. Some of them are folk dances such as Tari Tor-tor (Tor-tor dance) which has the magic characteristic; Tari Serampang dua belas (Serampang dua belas dance) has the entertain characteristic. Traditional instruments: gong, hasapi (plicked stringed instrument), gondang (like drum). One of the handicraft products is ulos. Ulos is always used in every ceremony like wedding ceremony, new home celebration ceremony, entering the  new home ceremony, funeral ceremony, giving legacy ceremony, and Tor-tor dance ceremony. Besides, there are the Bataknese traditional foods such Batak Toba’s traditional foods that are: ‘naniura’ is made from gold-fish, vinegar, and traditional cooking spices, ‘napinadar’ is made from chicken, the chicken’s blood and traditional cooking spices; Batak Karo’s traditional foods there are: ‘trites’ is made from the fill of cow’s colon. Another is ‘tasak tiga’, it is made from chicken cooked in three ways with the different flavors, they are spicy, sour, and salty.

Philosophical system

Batak has three custom philosophies ‘Dalihan Na Tolu’ that are ‘Somba Marhula-hula’ (respect to wife’s family), ‘Elek Marboru’ (hospitable to sisters or daughters), ‘Manat Mardongan Tubu’ (close to same clans). In daily life, Bataknese are still holding on philosophy firmly and it is a base in their social life.

Culture Values

1. Philosophy and Brotherhood

As mentioned in before, Bataknese has philosophy ‘Dalihan Na Tolu’ which organizes their social life. They are Hula-hula, Dongan Tubu, and Boru.

Hula-hula is wife’s family who occupies the higher position in social life and in Bataknese’s customs and traditions. Bataknese is ordered to respect Hula-hula. Dongan Tubu or Dongan Sabutuha is brothers in the same clan. Literally, they were born from the same womb. All of Bataknese is ordered tot take care of the same clan. Boru is family who takes wife from one clan (other family). Boru  occupies the low position as ‘parhobas’ (attendant) in daily life or in every custom ceremony. Although Boru are attendants, the people cannot handle them as pleases. However, they have to coax. The position of Bataknese can be  a Hula-hula, Boru, or Dongan Tubu and they must put their position in certain place.

Bataknese family system is strong especially in the clan system. Till now, they are still keeping the generations. In Batak Toba there is ‘sistem pariban’ to keep their generations; parents usually let their daughters marry her ‘pariban’ (‘pariban’ is the son of their aunts). The other uniqueness is when the Toba people died in everywhere; the human corpse is brought into their birthplace and buried there. Besides, there is a Toba slogan “Marsipature hutanabe.” It means that the successful Tobanese must give their life and contribution to develop their village.

2. Hagabeon (Success)

This culture value means have a long life, have many generations and others.

3. Hamoraon (Wealth)

The honor value of Bataknese is placed in spiritual and material balance.

4. Uhum and Ugari (Law)

The law value of Bataknese is seen by the seriousness to build justice and loyalty with a promise.

5. Hasangapon (Magnificence)

Nowadays, Bataknese especially Batak Toba has  strong wish to find pomp, authority, charisma and power.

6. Hamajuon (Progress)

Most of Bataknese leave their home and study out to find progress. This value influence Bataknese migrates to all the Indonesia’s outlying place.

7. Marsisarisarian

A value whose means to understand, appreciate and help each other.

8. Pengayoman (Shelter)

Shelter must be give to society; this duty is carry out by the three unsure of ‘Dalihan Na Tolu’.

Development Aspect

Development aspect of Bataknese are the coming of school system and the emerge of chance to get social prestige. There is society system based on custom which makes a good relationship between Bataknese. For Bataknese, the customs is holy and forget customs is dangerous. Confession of the blood relationship and the marriage strengthen the relationship in daily life. Help each other in a trade and in the midst of modern city’s life are always seen in Bataknese.



4 thoughts on “The Uniqueness of Bataknese

  1. Indra January 11, 2010 / 9:05 am

    Nice Article!!
    I think I will suggest to read this article if someone ask me about Bataknese in simple way.
    Just wanna suggest, at the Dalihan Natolu section you should add more explanation about every person will have their own position in every event. Such as, if Someone becomes Hulahula in one event, he can be a Boru in other event, as well as with Dongan Tubu. So this condition will make Dalihan Natolu as a perfect condition that everyone has.

    oh ya, just curious about why food part includes in art section? hehehe..
    you also forget about naniarsik and napinadar as far as I know that chicken is not the main menu. hehehe..


    • hotgantina11sinaga January 12, 2010 / 11:07 am

      Thanks for your suggestions.
      Actually, I don’t know more about Dalihan Na Tolu. hehe
      I didn’t ask someone about. I just read wikipedia and someone’s blog but I will revise it again.
      about the food, you’re right. I should made the sub-title ‘Art and Food’. I forget to revise this part before I posted it..hehe
      I don’t know what is the English of ‘Ayam Kampung’, ‘village cock’, is it the English?

      I don’t know what is the meaning of your korea letters, could you tell me?

      God bless.

  2. uli cute April 11, 2012 / 10:57 am

    so beautiful………..

    • 1107's April 12, 2012 / 11:25 am

      The essay or Bataknese culture? It’s ambiguous for me, hehe 😀

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