Toba Batak people

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For the Toba ethnic group from South America, see Kom people (South America).
Toba people
Batak Toba
COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM Een man van Toba-Batak afkomst met een patjol (gereedschap om het land te bewerken) te Samosir Noord-Sumatra TMnr 10005435.jpg
A Batak Toba man from Samosir with a hoe over his shoulders, pre-1939.
Total population
Regions with significant populations
North Sumatra (Toba Samosir Regency, Samosir Regency, Humbang Hasundutan Regency) 3,000,000
Toba Batak language
Protestant Christian (predominantly), Islam, Parmalim, Animism
Related ethnic groups
Angkola people, Karo people, Mandailing people, Pakpak people, Simalungun people

Toba people (also referred to as Batak Toba people or often simply "Batak") are the most numerous of the Batak people of North Sumatra, Indonesia, and often considered the classical 'Batak', most likely to willingly self-identify as Batak. The Toba people are found in Toba Samosir Regency, Humbang Hasundutan Regency, Samosir Regency, North Tapanuli Regency, part of Dairi Regency, Central Tapanuli Regency, Sibolga and its surrounding regions.[1] The Batak Toba people speak in the Toba Batak language and are centered around Lake Toba and Samosir Island within the lake. Batak Toba people frequently build in traditional Batak architecture styles which are common on Samosir. Cultural demonstrations, performances and festivities such as Sigale Gale are often held for tourists. Sometimes Batak people accept those of traditional Formosa (Taiwan).


Batak kingdoms[edit]

During the time when the Batak kingdom was based in Bakara, the Sisingamangaraja dynasty of the Batak kingdom divided their kingdom into four regions by the name of Raja Maropat, which are:-[2]

  • Raja Maropat Silindung
  • Raja Maropat Samosir
  • Raja Maropat Humbang
  • Raja Maropat Toba

Dutch colonization[edit]

During the Dutch colonization, the Dutch formed Tapanuli Residency (country subdivision) in 1910. The Tapanuli Residency (country subdivision) is divided into four regions that is called afdeling (in Dutch language means, section); and today it is known as regency or city, namely:-

Japanese occupation[edit]

A group of Toba people, circa 1914-1919.

During the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies, the administration of the Tapanuli Residency (country subdivision) had little changes.

Post independence of Indonesia[edit]

After the independence, the government of Indonesia retain Tapanuli as Residency (country subdivision). Dr. Ferdinand Lumban Tobing became the first Tapanuli Resident (title).

Although there were changes made to the name, but the division of the region was still the same. For example, the name of Afdeling Bataklanden was changed to Luhak Tanah Batak and the first luhak (federated region) appointed was Cornelius Sihonbing; who was once also a Demang (chief) Silindung. The title Onderafdeling (in Dutch language means, subdivision) is also changed to urung, and demangs that surpervises onderafdeling are promoted as kepala (head) urung. Onderdistrik (subdistrict) then became urung kecil, and is supervised by kepala urung kecil; which was previously known as assistant demang.

Just as it was in the past, the government of the Tapanuli Residency (country subdivision) were divided into four districts, namely:-

Transfer of sovereignty in early 1950[edit]

Toba head with his family in their home with beautifully carved head of Toba family (adathuis) Tapanoeli, North Sumatra, circa 1900.

During the transfer of sovereignty in early 1950s, the Tapanuli Residency (country subdivision) that was unified into North Sumatra province were divided into four new regencies, namely:-


In December 2008, the Tapanuli Residency (country subdivision) was unified under North Sumatra province. At the moment, Toba is under the Toba Samosir Regency's region with Balige as its capital.


A newly converted Christian Toba family in Tapanoeli.

The Toba people practices a distinct culture. It is not a must for Toba people to live in Toba region, although their origin is from Toba. Just as it is with other ethnics, the Toba people have also migrated to other places to look for better life. For example, majority of the Silindung natives are the Hutabarat, Panggabean, Simorangkir, Hutagalung, Hutapea and Lumbantobing clans. Instead all those six clans are actually descendants of Guru Mangoloksa, one of Raja Hasibuan's sons from Toba region. So it is with the Nasution clan where most of them live in Padangsidimpuan, surely share a common ancestor with their relative, the Siahaan clan in Balige. It is certain that the Toba people as a distinct culture can be found beyond the boundaries of their geographical origins. The region of Toba, known as "the king of Batak" is precisely Sianjur village situated on the slopes of Mount Pusuk Buhit, about 45 minutes drive from Pangururan, the capital of Samosir Regency today.

The Toba clan[edit]

Surname or family name is part of a Toba person's name, which identifies the family they belong.

The Batak people always have a surname or family name. The surname or family name is obtained from the father's lineage (paternal) which would then be passed on to the offspring continuously.

Traditional house[edit]

A traditional Toba house.

The traditional house of the Toba people is called Rumah Bolon. It is a rectangular building that can house up to five or six families. One can enter a Rumah Bolon through a staircase in the middle of the house with odd numbers of steps. When a person enters the house, one must bow in order to avoid one's head from knocking the transverse beam at the entrance of the traditional house. The interpretation of this is that the guests must respect the owner of the house.

Views of Toba people in Indonesian culture[edit]

The Batak Toba are known throughout Indonesia as capable musicians, and are perceived as confident, outspoken and willing to question authority, expressing differences in order to resolve them through discussion. This outlook on life is contrasted to Javanese people, Indonesia's largest ethnic group, who are more culturally conciliatory and less willing to air differences publicly.[3]


  1. ^ Jacob Cornelis Vergouwen (2004). Masyarakat Dan Hukum Adat Batak Toba. PT LKiS Pelangi Aksara. ISBN 9-7933-8142-6. 
  2. ^ Julia Suzanne Byl (2006). Antiphonal Histories: Performing Toba Batak Past and Present. University of Michigan. 
  3. ^

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Pardede, Bertha T.; Apul Simbolon & S. M. Pardede (1981). Bahasa Tutur Perhataan Dalam Upacara Adat Batak Toba. Pusat Pembinaan dan Pengembangan Bahasa, Departemen Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan.