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Indonesian folk tales: Samosir island

Here are some interesting myths and cultural values of Batak people I found from my last trip to Samosir Island, located in North Sumatra’s Toba Lake


Three-colored ulos in King Sidabutar’s Tomb

Ulos is a traditional fabric of the Batak. It illustrates the Batak belief in the three worlds and principles of Dalihan Na tolu.

The white in the fabric represents the place where the higher power and spirits of the ancestors reside, orange is the present, black is the underworld and the world of the dead.


Wearing ulos when visiting King Sidabutar’s Tomb

Visitors are obliged to wear ulos in the royal graveyard complex in Tomok.

The ulos are provided on the table near by the gate, neatly folded. A guide told me a story about a visitor who did not obey this custom and had a dream on the night after that the King Sidabutar visited him and ordered him to go back to the graveyard and this time paying his respect wearing ulos.


The four-breasted-one-gecko column

The column symbolizes two cultural beliefs of the Batak.

The gecko represents a value cherished by many Batak, who are used to traveling and move away from the homeland. The gecko is a highly versatile animal that can live anywhere in any conditions. The Batak are expected to live up to this quality whereever they live and I must say, the many Batak I know do live up to this expectation.

The four breasts are a symbol of how Batak people perceive beauty in woman. It represents fertility and woman’s task in society as a child bearer. Big breasted women are preferred because big breasts are associated with abundant breast milk .

They believe a family should have plenty of children, who will bring prosperity.


The beard of King Sidabutar

There is one tombstone, the grandest among the others, in a complex known to be the cemetery grounds for the ancient kings. That tomb is said to belong to the powerful King Ompu Ni Ujung Barita Sidabutar.

Touching the beard of the statue on the tomb during your visit is said to make your wishes come true, although the guide said nobody ever told a remarkable story about having their wishes granted by the magic beard.

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Share your thoughts about our article

  • Stephanie Lee 3 yearss ago

    I have an ulos bought by my friend who have visiting the toba. This is very typical and made from a nice garment and quite colorful. Anyway, that puppet looks scary..

  • Kevin Garnett 3 yearss ago

    What the interesting myths and cultural trip in Indonesia! I love those unique statues and puppets anyway. I think this place is worth to visit.

  • Liesl Rainer 3 yearss ago

    why they put ulos in King Sidabutar’s Tomb?? it is a spiritual journey. to learn bout your ancestor and respect the culture.

  • Karenenna Cester 3 yearss ago

    Oh those statues and puppets look kinda scary.. So how could the puppet dance?

    Nisha 'Icha' Rahmanti 3 yearss ago

    Hi Karenenna, the guide told me that the statue was intended to look alike the king's dead son and the king's medicine man had succeeded in bringing back the spirit through the statue, when the statue was dancing for 7 nights in a row. But now for tourist attraction i think they use some kind of string to make the puppet dances.

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