The Bataks

There are two versions of the descendant of the Bataks. According to the legend, all Bataks are descended from Si Raja Batak, who was born of supernatural parentage on Bukit Pusuk, a mountain in the western edge of Lake Toba. But, according to anthropologists, the Bataks are a Proto-Malay people descended from Neolothic mountain tribes in Northern Thailand and Burma. Their first settlement in Sumatra was around Lake Toba. They lived there in virtual isolation for centuries.

Today, there more than six million Bataks. They are divided into six main group-ings-The Pakpak Batak to the north-west of Toba lake, the Karo Batak around berastagi and Kabanjahe, the Simalungun Batak in the east of Lake Toba, the Toba Batak in Lake Toba and the Karo Highland. Islam is the predominant religion in the south. However, many Bataks still incorporate elements of traditional animist belief and ritual. Traditional beliefs combine cosmology, ancestor and spirit worship and tondi.
Tondi is concept of the soul, the spirit-the essence of a person's individuality. it is believed to develop before a child is born. It exists near the body and from time to time takes its leave, which causes illness. It is essential for Bataks to make sacrifices to their tondi to keep it in goog humour.

There is a legend about the omnipotent god Ompung. One day Ompung leant casually against a huge banyan tree and dislodged a decayed bough that plummeted into the sea. From this branch came the fish and all the living creatures of the oceans. Not long afterwards, another bough dropped to the ground and issued crickets, caterpillar, centipedes, scorpions and insects. The third branch broke into large chunks which were transformed into tigers, deer, bears, monkeys, birds and all the animal of the jungle. The fourth branch which scattered over the plains became horses, buffaloes, goats, pigs, and all the domestic animals. Human beings appeared from the eggs produced by a pair of newly created birds, born at the height of a violent earthquake.

A purely Batak tradition is the si gale-gale puppet dance, once performed at funeral ceremonies but now more opten a part of wedding ceremonies. This Batak culture  was used at funeral ceremonies to revive the souls of the dead and to communicate with them. Personal possessions of the deceased were used to decorate the puppet and the dukun would invite the deceased's soul to enter the wooden puppet as it danced on top of the grave. At the end of the dance, the villagers would hurl spears and arrows at the puppet while the dukun performed a ceremony to drive away evil spirits. A few day later the dukun would return to perform another ceremony sometimes lasting 24 hours, to chase away evil spirits again.

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