Batak Batik Costume and Dress

Batak Batik Costume

Introduce Batak Batik

North Sumatra Province is one of the provinces in Indonesia well-known for producing high-quality textile crafts, particularly Ulos woven rugs and mats. Batak traditional weaving, known as ulos, is made up of woven designs that depict the tribes of North Sumatra.

The theme conveys a moral message and meaning, such as the community's social rank and the family's customs. In addition to weaving, the people of North Sumatra developed new textile works in batik, including written and stamped batik.

The Ulos woven pattern is the inspiration for this North Sumatra batik. Batik is from the province of North Sumatra. The traditional Batak woven fabric served as the inspiration for the theme ideas developed by the artisans. The result was that many styles of North Sumatra batik emerged in the hands of talented artisans.


Traditional Batak Textiles

Textiles are not limited to accessories in Batak culture; they are also important aspects of ceremonial life and play an essential role in exchanging gifts and celebrating life-cycle rites. Clothes are given as gifts on several significant occasions, following strict guidelines established by the kinship network.

Each end panel of the Simelungun people's bulang head-cloths, given to a bride by her parents and worn by married women, is distinguished by a distinct repeating lozenge design, which can be differentiated as either male or female.

To weave these designs in the supplemental weft, we used a warp substitution method in which a second set of white warp threads was used to replace the red warp thread during the weaving process. It has been suggested that the intricate nature of weaving is used not only to create beautiful fabrics but also to imbue them with symbolic and ceremonial significance.

In the Batak culture, weaving is generally associated with females, and the fabric is ritually transferred from women to men in exchange for metal objects. Although they can be viewed as a whole, Batak textiles are composed of (female) warps and (male) wefts, and a single fabric can contain designs representative of both genders.


Batak Textile Designs

The division of Batak textiles into three pieces is the most immediately noticeable design feature; two identical, plain sides surround an alternating patterned center. It is further subdivided into male and female components in the textile industry. A seamless union of male and female elements results in a finished textile. Now, the textile is ready to make a batik shirt.

Batak textiles can be viewed as a spiritual endeavor to comprehend the intricacies of life's many facets and complexities. Even though each component is significant, the overall composition is composed of conventional patterns imbued with a certain amount of individuality. Because they lack significant meaning, rough textiles made from scraps are not highly valued.

Historically significant designs have been passed down through matrilineal lineages since immemorial and are used to create the most valuable textiles. So weaving connects to one's ancestors, which is especially important to the Batak people.


Types of Batak Textiles

An essential ceremonial textile in Toba tribes, the ulos ragi hotang from the Balige area south of Lake Toba was one of the most significant ceremonial textiles, traditionally given by the bride's family to either the groom or his father.

The ragi hotang or rattan pattern — known as the stippled ikat — symbolizes longevity. A woman received the ulos ni tondi (soul cloth) from her parents during her first pregnancy to protect her and her family and grant her long life and fertility.

The indigo-dyed Suri Suri and the ulos sibolang, both commonly worn as shoulder cloths, are examples of textiles that could have been given for this reason. A traditional method of weaving in which designs are dyed into the warp threads before weaving is used to embellish both fabrics.

They are well-known for their hand-woven textiles, produced by the Toba Batak people, who live in the region's heart. Women make these outfits entirely, worn as traditional clothing and ceremonial gifts of exchange during religious ceremonies. Beautiful and majestic fabrics, with solemn and dignified patterns and colors, are traditionally created by Batak women, skilled weavers.

An important type of fabric, ulos ragidup, has traditionally been used in wedding rituals and is considered sacred by many people. It is this cloth that the father of the bride hands over to the bridegroom's mother on the day of the wedding. As a result of this symbolic act, the two families are reunited, and the couple's fertility is guaranteed. As with jewelry and other household items, it is passed down from generation to generation as a family heirloom.

Batak weaving and textile traditions are dynamic, evolving in response to and adapting to changing conditions... One type of ulos godang shoulder cloth, for example, has two weft bands that are inscribed with the romanized Indonesian phrase 'Selamat Pake,' which translates as 'blessings to the wearer.'

Though the Angkola Batak makes these textiles in the Sipirok region, the Toba Batak may choose to wear them to gain recognition or demonstrate their affiliation with Islam. The borders of this fabric and many other Batak textiles are completed using a weft twining method known as sirat, a pattern that both men and women used; however, outside of fabrics, only males were known to write in their native language.


Batak Ulos Textiles

Fabrics known as "ulos," made with meticulous attention to detail, are not only produced to be worn as a traditional dress but also to serve as major status symbols, such as:

  • Priceless heirlooms
  • Showing social status
  • Ceremonial gifts are at various human life cycle stages (birth, marriage, and death).

With the advent of modernization, the non-mechanized upright loom was developed. Purchased cotton yarn has supplanted the handcrafted variety, and synthetic colorings have supplanted the handmade variety. Artificial colors are bought in shops and used to manufacture lower-cost versions of current designer garments or sold to tourists.

There are many ulos types, below are some most commonly used: 

  • Ulos sibolang: The blue ulos have light blue patterns and arrowheads on the ends of their tails. It is referred to as selendang and is used as a sarong or a shoulder shawl in some parts of Indonesia and is known as Indonesian batik.
  • Ulos ragi hotang: A wedding tradition in Indonesia is to wrap the ulos ragi hotang (spotted rattan fabric) around the shoulders of both the bride and groom in the hope that the marriage, like the rattan, will be long-lasting and characterized by conjugal solid bonds. Also, the ulos ragi hotang is utilized when a newborn boy is born. A well-designed wide edge with tassels is often found on this type of ulos, which adds to its overall appearance.
  • Ulos ragi hidup: A male's or their widow's ulos ragi hidup (also known as the pattern of life) is a ceremonial garment only worn in rare rituals. An ulos with a primary red field (or badan) and two white strips of delicately ornamented pieces at the top and bottom ends consists of a red field and two white stripes of delicately embellished pieces. A large ulos is created by sewing two red side strips to the entire fabric and sewing them together.

Women weaving in front of their homes near Lake Toba are becoming increasingly difficult to spot. In Tongging, Paropo, and Silalahi, three villages located on Lake Toba's western northwestern shore, traditional ulos fabrics, known as sitelu huta, are still being produced (three villages).

Trade places, on the other hand, can be found in Pematang Siantar and Balige. Also widely available in Tomok and Tuktuk are tourist shops and artisan markets where Ulos can be purchased by the pound.


Who are the Batak People?

The Batak are a group of ethnic tribes from north-central Sumatra, Indonesia, who speak a language distinct from other Asian languages. In most cases, indigenous outsiders invented the word Batak during pre-colonial times, and Europeans later adopted it. 

It has also been used as a self-designation by other tribes such as the Toba, Karo, Simalungun, Pak Pak, Mandailing, and Angkola, though to a lesser degree. They speak separate languages from the Austronesian language family and use the same writing system.

As of the beginning of the twenty-first century, the Batak population numbered around 6.1 million people.Before 1825, the Batak people lived in relative isolation in the hills surrounding Sumatra's Lake Toba, descended from a powerful Proto-Malayan race that inhabited the area around the lake.

Around the second or third century CE, Indian concepts of administration and literature and religious components, arts and crafts began to impact the Batak people. However, they did not unite to form one state and are now divided into six cultural groups, as shown in the diagram below.

Marga clans, which are exogamous patrilineal clans, exist among these people. Their version of bridewealth involves the husband's family sending gifts and providing services to the wife's family; once a certain percentage of the agreed-upon facilities has been received, the bride is officially admitted to her husband's group. Regarding the Toba Batak, a traditional hamlet comprises several clan homes, but in the Karo division, everyone lives in a single longhouse or several longhouses.


Batak Spiritual Beliefs

Muslims or Christians make up the vast majority of Bataks in their homeland, and the vast majority of Batak migrants to Sumatra and Java. As a result, the Batak are stereotyped as being unusually devout monotheists in Indonesia; both the southern Batak Muslim pilgrim to Mecca and the Toba Batak Protestant pastor are stock characters in the national dramatis personae when people from other ethnic backgrounds think of these Sumatran peoples.

In the same way that Batak culture, in general, is ethnically diverse, syncretic, and dynamic, so is Batak's traditional religion, which is inextricably linked to both village social organizing systems and Indonesia's monotheistic national culture.

It was customary for the old Batak communities to have three stories corresponding to the three levels of their universe: the upper, middle, and lower worlds. The higher world, the domain of the gods, was represented by the soaring ceiling. Because it was elevated above the ground on pillars, the dwelling level represented the human world's mid-planet level.

The lower realm, which is said to be the home of a mythical dragon, is represented by the area below the animal's living quarters. A large number of carved animal heads served as the primary decorative elements of communal dwellings. In addition to serving as protective devices, these sculptures were placed at the ends of side beams. They were capable of releasing positive energy as well as shielding the residents from illness or bad energy.

Like many religious traditions in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines, the seasonal cycle of rice production operations and the local kinship structure are at the heart of ancient Batak myths and rites.


In the Batak religions, these two worlds are linked to a more outstanding cosmic order, which is reflected in religious art forms (traditional home design and layout, village spatial arrangement, and wood carving), as well as ceremonial activities (dances, oratory, and gift-giving ceremonies).

Among the most powerful members of a Batak society were the Datu, who were ritual experts. Often, they were members of the village's founding family who were recognized as religious authorities. Their abilities included:

  1. Healing the sick.
  2. Communicating with spirits after death.
  3. Foretelling favorable days for specific events.

These professionals, who were all men, had a variety of abilities.

The ceremonial staff of a datu is his most valuable possession, and it is made of a special wood that represents the Tree of Life. They all have a distinct look and feel because an expert designs each one. Tungkot malehat ("smooth staff") is the most basic type of ceremonial staff, consisting of a single wooden or metal figure affixed to the top end of the shaft. Tungkot malehat is pronounced, "smooth staff."

By infusing the figurines with pupuk, a mystical concoction, the specialists "animate" or activate the power of the figures. Despite the fact that this chemical is extremely potent, it can only be preserved in specific containers such as hollow water buffalo horns, wooden pots, and Chinese trade pottery.

Singing wooden puppets known as si gale gale are made by the Toba Batak people. For affluent men who did not have male heirs to carry out their funeral rites, these puppets were used in their burial ceremonies. The puppets were sculpted in the likeness of the deceased person, dressed in clothing, and outfitted with a complex system of internal strings that a puppeteer operated to create the illusion of the deceased. When the puppets were finished dancing among the mourners, they were stripped naked and thrown over the town walls, signaling the end of the festivities.


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