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The northern part of Sumatra around Lake Toba and Samosir Island (now the Toba Samosir Regency) are home to the Batak tribes also known
as Batakland which includes the six distinctive Batak ethnics: Toba, Karo, Pakpak, Simalungun, Angkola and Mandailing Batak.
The Bataks have a rich and diverse culture evidenced in their idiosyncratic arts and traditions, known throughout Indonesia as musicians,
on top of which legend indicates, they were fierce warrior peoples.



Called jabu or rumah bolon, the Toba Batak traditional house boasts a striking saddle-shaped roof separated into three areas.

Beneath the house is used as a pen for animals, while the actual home of the extended family is on the floor above accessed by a ladder or stairs.

The highest storey is where family heirlooms and ancestral shrines are placed.



One of the main features of a Toba Batak traditional house is its mesmerising wood carvings.

Called gorga, this art is also a prayer carved on the exterior of the house to protect it against flood, earthquakes, fire, and to repel evil spirits.

The gorga motifs are painted in red, black, and white to symbolise the tri-realm in the Batak cosmology.

gorga ulu singa


A gorga motif only features on the house of Toba Batak noblemen which is the gorga ulu singa (or gorga jorgom).

Placed on top of the front gable of a Batak house, this motif depicts the head of a lion that somewhat also resembles a human head.

Just like a lion, the king of the jungle, this motif indicates the high status of the owner of the house.



Additional Batak treasures are the meticulously handwoven textiles known as ulos.

These artisanal cloths, rich in colour and texture, can only be made by women and take months to complete.

They serve many purposes such as symbols of status, precious heirlooms, ceremonial gifts for life cycle rituals from births and weddings to deaths.