On this page...
Where the Batak people came from.
Sideak Parujar was a goddess who escaped from her lizard-like intended husband. She descended on a spun thread from the sky – the world of gods – to a middle world which then was still made only of shapeless waters. It was not comfortable there, but she resolved not to return back to the sky. Her caring grandfather sent her a handful of earth which she spread in such a way that it became broad and long. Unknowingly, she spread the earth on the head of a monstrous dragon, Naga Padoha, who lived in the waters of the underworld. The monster was not pleased and attempted to get rid of the earth by rolling around, making her life quite miserable. Resourceful Sideak Parujar plunged a sword into his body, up to the hilt and immobilized the monster. Every time Naga Padoha twists in his restraint an earthquake rumbles throughout the land.
And there is a twist to the story. Sideak Parujar’s former lizard-like suitor, in disguise, followed her to the Earth. The goddess married him and they were blessed with two children, twins, a boy and a girl. When the children had grown up the divine parents returned back to the god’s world in the sky. The children formed an incestuous but happy union which resulted in humankind populating the Earth. The couple decided to settle on Pusut Buhit – a volcano on the western shore of Lake Toba – where they founded the village of Si Anjur Mulamula. One of their grandchildren, Si Raja Batak is the mythological ancestor of the Batak people.
'Batak' is a useful, but not universally accepted name, encompassing a number of cultural groups such as the Toba, Karo, Simelungun, Pakpak, Angkola and Mandailing who occupy the wide region around Lake Toba in northern Sumatra. Although these groups and languages – all of the Austronesian family - display local variations there are strong cultural similarities in architecture, ancestral beliefs and customs. The majority of the people are Christians while the Angkola and Mandailing adopted Islam from the early nineteenth century. Throughout history, Indian influence has trickled into local cultures and is visible in the Sanskrit-based Batak script - now rarely used - and some concepts of the ancestral beliefs (Sibeth 1991). Many of these beliefs are reflected in the symbolism and meaning of Batak textiles.
Achim Sibeth. The Batak. London: Thames and Hudson, 1991.