Monday, January 02, 2012

Indonesia -- Day 4 The Batak People and Toba People

I know this probably seems like the longest day in history but it was EXCELLENT !! There was so much to see and learn.  So far we had eaten Rambutan,  Dodol, seen a rubber grove and palm nut production.

Dodol is what the locals refer to as their version of "chocolate". It is a combo of glutinous rice and coconut milk. I tried the pandan version which is green and has some pandan plant "squeezed" into the mixture. It was sweet and nice but I couldn't have too much of it.

From Wikipedia:

Dodol is a toffee-like, sweet food delicacy popular in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines (especially in the Ilocos Region in Luzon), the Lanao provinces of Mindanao, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Burma, where it is called mont kalama. It is also popular among the Roman Catholics from the west coastal Indian state of Goa. It is common fare on the streets of Zanzibar, sold as halva. It is made with coconut milk, jaggery, and rice flour, and is sticky, thick and sweet. It normally takes up to 9 hours to cook dodol. During the entire cooking process, the dodol must be constantly stirred in a big wok. Pausing in between would cause it to burn, spoiling the taste and aroma. The dodol is completely cooked is when it is firm, and does not stick to one's fingers when touching it.
In Muslim majority countries, such as Indonesia and Malaysia, dodol is commonly served during festivals such as Eid ul-Fitr and Eid al-Adha as sweet treats for children. The town of Garut in West Java is the main production center of dodol in Indonesia. Many flavours of dodol are available, including a durian flavor called lempuk, which is available in Asian food stores. In Malaysia, it is quite popular amongst the eastern states, such Kelantan and Terengganu, while in Indonesia durian dodol is popular in Medan and other Sumatran cities.
Dodol has also made its way to some Middle Eastern countries, including Iran, where it is very common and normally preferred by women]. It is used as a facemask and skin mask by some

Let's lower the maternal mortality and infant health checks
ation gives exclusively for 6 months
and do check the health of mothers and children in posyandu / village health post

Storefronts in Medan

A graveyard

Safety at its finest -- look closely to how the wood is being held in at the sides.

I guess tobacco advertising is allowed in certain parts of the world still ;) Daily Life

A traditional Batak designed monument

A traveling Rambutan salesman.  Isn't it pretty?
A gorgeous local house.  So beautiful.  I wish I could have seen the inside. All the local lots seem to be skinny but long.

A local family's Bonehouse on their land.
 I have included quite and excerpt from Wikipedia below.  The Batak people are tremendously complex and I could take months to cover everything that we learned on our trip. Below is a desciption of the religous and burial practices of the Batak people, specifically with the Toba group of people. All the pictures are my own but the text in italics is from Wikipedia.

From Wikipedia:

Batak is a collective term used to identify a number of ethnic groups predominantly found in North Sumatra, Indonesia. The term is used to include the Toba, Karo, Pakpak, Simalungun, Angkola and Mandailing, each of which are distinct but related groups with distinct, albeit related, languages and customs.

In North Sumatra, Toba people typically assert their identity as 'Batak', while other 'Bataks' may explicitly reject that label, preferring instead to identify as specifically 'Simalungun', 'Karo', etc

Batak societies are patriarchally organized along clans known as Marga. A traditional belief among the Toba Batak is that they originate from one ancestor "Si Raja Batak", with all Margas, descended from him. A family tree that defines the father-son relationship among Batak people is called tarombo. In contemporary Indonesia, Batak people have a strong focus on education and a prominent position within the professions, particularly as teachers, engineers, doctors and lawyers. Toba Batak are known traditionally for their weaving, wood carving and especially ornate stone tombs.

Before they became subjects of the colonial Dutch East Indies government, the Batak had a reputation for being fierce warriors. Today the Batak are mostly Christian with a Muslim minority. Presently the largest Christian congregation in Indonesia is the HKBP (Huria Kristen Batak Protestan) Christian church. The dominant Christian theology was brought by Lutheran German missionaries in the 19th century, including the well-known missionary Ludwig Ingwer Nommensen. Christianity was introduced to the Karo by Dutch Calvinist missionaries and their largest church is the GBKP (Gereja Batak Karo Protestan). The Mandailing and Angkola Batak were converted to Islam in the early 19th century. A significant minority of Batak people do not adhere to either Christianity or Islam, however, and follow traditional practices known as the agama si dekah, the old religion, which is also called perbegu or pemena.

Another family Bonehouse or Tugu or Tambak (a description of these is below)
 The modern Indonesian state is founded on the principles of pancasila, which requires the belief in 'one and only God', the practice of either Protestantism, Catholicism, Islam, Buddhism or Hinduism, one of which must be entered on an individual's KTP. Traditional religions are not officially recognised, and accordingly traditional religions are increasingly marginalised, although aspects of the traditional Batak religion are still practised alongside Christianity, and, to a lesser extent, Islam.

Burial traditions

Batak burial traditions are very rich and complex. Immediately after death various ritual actions are performed to make the begu understand that from now on its world is separate from that of its kin. Symbolically this is done by reversing the mat on which the corpse is laid out so that the body lies with its head at the foot of the mat. Thumbs and toes respectively are tied together and the body is rubbed all over with camphor and its orifices stopped with camphor, then it is wrapped in a white cotton cloth. During this perumah begu ceremony a guru sibaso declares to the begu of the deceased that it is definitely dead and must take leave of its relatives.

Wealthier families have their coffins (Karo: pelangkah) made of the wood of the kemiri tree (Ateurites rnoluccana), carved in the shape of a boat, its bow decorated with the carved head of a hornbill, or a horse, or a mythical beast known as a singa. The lid is then sealed with resin and the coffin may be placed in a special location near the family's house until a reburial ceremony can take place (see below). Families that are not wealthy use simple wooden coffins or wrap the body in a straw mat.

The corpse is carried a few times round the house, usually by women, and then to the cemetery with musical accompaniment from the gondang orchestra and the continual firing of guns. At any crossroads the corpse is put down and eleven people go around it four times to confuse the begu. It is hoped that the begu will then be unable to find its way back to the village. When the funeral procession arrives at the cemetery the grave is dug and the corpse laid in it, flat on its back. Care is taken that the head lies towards the village so that, in the unexpected event that the body should get up, he or she will not be looking in the direction of the village. The bodies of datuk and those who have died from lightning are buried sitting up with their hands tied together. The palms of the hand are tied together and betel placed between them.

The burial tradition includes a reburial ceremony in which the bones of one's ancestors are reinterred several years after death. This secondary burial is known among the Toba Batak as mangongkal holi, among the Karo as nurun-nurun. In a ceremony lasting several days the bones of a particularly honored ancestor and those of his descendants are exhumed, cleaned, mourned and finally laid to rest again in a bone house known as a tugu or tambak:
"On the morning of the first day of the festival the graves in the cemetery are opened and the bones of the ancestors that are still there are removed. The unearthing of the skulls is presented as especially moving. The bones are collected in baskets lined with white cloth and then ritually cleaned by the women using the juice of various citrus fruits. The exhumation and cleaning of the bones is accompanied by the singing of laments. The bones are kept in the baskets in the tugu until the next morning, when the remains are wrapped in traditional cloths (ulos) and transferred from the baskets to small wooden coffins. After long speeches and a communal prayer the coffins are nailed down and placed in the chambers of the tugu. A feast consisting of meat and rice follows and traditional dances are performed."
In ancient times these sarcophagi were carved from stone or constructed from wood and later brick. Nowadays they are made of cement or concrete. Large and very ornate tugu can be seen around Lake Toba and on the island of Samosir.
One motive for the reburial ceremony appears to be to raise the status of the begu of the deceased. Traditional Batak beliefs hold that the dead occupy a hierarchical status similar to the social position they held in life. This means that a rich and powerful individual remains influential after death, and this status can be elevated if the family holds a reburial ceremony. A rich descendant can advance a begu to the status of a sumangot by means of a great ceremony and a horja feast which can last up to seven days. In antiquity a vast number of pigs, cattle or even buffalo were slaughtered at such festivals, and the gondang orchestra provided an accompaniment.

 As we traveled to Parapet to catch the ferry to Tuk Tuk and Samosir Island we past some more beautiful and unique sights.
A another type of family home -- on the weathly side
Family house with a rice field and a bonehouse in the background.

More bonehouses

A typical village scene

Wild Monkeys just hanging out

If you would like to travel to Indonesia and/or learn more about the Batak people,
contact Adventures Abroad at 1 800 665 3998
Quote code AANK for a special discount.

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