Wednesday, December 16, 2009


By: Sandrine Germain

(EN) Kayu Dalam Arsitektur Tradisional Batak

Translated with the help of
Extracted from my end study report, pages 75 - 78.
Names and uses of the woods were essentially given to me by Mr Monang NAIPOSPOS from Laguboti, Mr HUTAPEA from Panamean and Mr S.H. SIRAIT from Ambarita. The Latin translations are the fruit of long researches in the Herbarium of Leiden, Netherlands, where M.M.J van BALGOOY patiently helped me to identify the species and find their Latin translation. I was so able to verify the usage which had been given to me, with the detailed description of every species.

Taking a tree in the forest is traditionally the task for the all family, which together, leave the village for several weeks in search of lumber. Men, women, children carry with them the food of their long march in the forest searching for the first post that will take place in jabu bona. Guided by the datu, they cross the forest until they reach the tree which will be raised at first. Banging the trunk, counting the knots, the choice is given to the best trunk with which the datu owes have a dialogue. Calling upon the prayers and putting the offerings, the datu so asks the begu of the tree the authorization to cut it down with planting an axe in the trunk. This is called dibuti, the ceremony where Mula Jadi na Bolon is asked for two days to grant His blessing by taming the begu of the tree. If the axe falls at the end of the ceremony, the begu refuses and the choice has to refer on another tree. If on the contrary, the axe remains standing, the begu accepts that the tree is cut down. The trunk is then surrounded with an ulos and the lumberjacks cut below.

The tree fallen, the branches are cut, the trunk is rough-hewed and is put on a gadar suspended from the halu halu of porterage. On the way back, loaded with the first post, the collectors of wood repeat the same operation on the trees which they had marked on their way. Brought in the village, the wood is immersed the time to gather the other species used for the construction, those fragile to water being collected lastly.

After several months of dumping, the carpenters embody the wood, the datu covers the main parts with itak gurgur, the ground rice, then the craftsmen pursue their work on the construction. So much care shows us that the wood is much more than one material for the Batak carpenters who, by choosing their trunks, attempt to provide to the homes all the benevolence that honor their acts with the consciousness and the forgiveness of taking a life in the forest every time a tree is down.

A tree is a part of us because we take it as much as it gives to us, and in this harmony, it settles an inseparable relation between the material and the man. The tree is not only a box which contains a spirit, but a glance on our own spirit as the morality in front of a mirror. It is said that the one who has the bad heart will see the heart of the tree used for his house to decay in some years, while a good man always has a house stronger than a tree on feet. We tell that it is there so because trees always know what the people do not want to say, and if the people do not want to judge, the function of the tree is to do so. The tree is the part of an ancestor alive inside us, but this ancestor is not different, it is us strictly speaking, as a gene that we inherit from the most distant grandparents. But only the ancient remember it.

Most the species quoted here are not any more in use in the construction. The Indonesian legislation forbids any usage of wood from the forest, such in the North of Sumatra where these became the property of Indorayon with the exception of some protected zones where the disaster of buildozers is replaced by that of the tourism. The wood must be thus bought at the price fixed by the international markets so depriving all the carpenters of exotic wood whom they had the habit of using. Wood of which the price still accessible are the jior, planted in the border of the villages of Samosir, the meranti bought from Sibolga, the ingul of Porsea and the enau. Such wood still allow to build traditional, but very expensive houses, of small dimmensions and of fathomless resistance since the carpenters are not any more lumberjacks.

ANDILO - Commersonia bartramia - The bark of andilo is used for the manufacturing of ropes, some those sometimes used for maintains the ladders of houses.

ANTAHASI - Weinmannia - Hard wood used for the construction of the posts of the house. It is a small-sized tree which nevertheless can sometimes reach around thirty metres that we find in equatorial mountain forest.

ARUMAS - Sapwood

BALINTANG - Kind of wood of which we use the heart to prop up some parts of the structure, such ransang, aloangin, or the urur.

BINTATAR - Celtis tetrandra - The bintatar is used for the manufacturing of boards. We find it in all the Toba houses as wood for the pandingdingan. The bintatar is a tree of about forty metres of which the trunk can be upper to one metre in diameter. We find it in the rain forest until 2000 metre height.

BINUANG - Octome les sumatranus - Wood used for the construction of boats.

BULU SUGA - Thorny bamboo planted on some ramparts of village.

BULU TOLANG - Gigantochloa heterostachya - Bamboo of which we use the bark for the manufacturing of the braided walls of the houses.

ENAU - Arenga pinata or Arenga saccharifera -
Agaton: enau of which the fruits are in growth, period during which the ijuk is taken.
Panko is the heart of the enau which we use in the construction of houses for the carring parts. Panko is also the name given to the stalk of the palm with which is made the prop up of ransang, tali pangurat, or songsong boltok.

GAMBUS - This is a word used for soft woods easy to cut, however we also find the gabus ( with the same pronunciation) which is Alstonia spatulata, a shrub of low lands.

GARINGGING - Crotalaria retusa - We use the leaves of garingging for the cover of some bale bale, small house of full foot or ascents on posts, built in suburb of villages for the accommodation of family of slaves (due to debts for example) or of foreigners.

GOTI - Alstonia scholaris - Tall tree, easy to work, used sometimes for the manufacturing of boards.

GUNOM - The grammatical construction Manggunomhom means dipping the wood.

HALEMBANG - T.C. Whitmore in "The flora of Indonesia, check list for Sumatra" talks of Alleban - Symplocos laeteviridis. It is possible that it is about another spelling of halembang. It is a tree from 10 to 20 metres high which we find in mountainous region.

HALUMPANG - Sterculia foetida - Used for the manufacturing of boats. T.C. Whitmore in " The flora of Indonesia, check list for Sumatra " speaks of kalumpang barih (Sterculia cordata) and of kalumpang barus (Sterculia oblongata). In Batak, HA and KA spells and pronounce in the same way.

HAPINIS - Sloetia elongata - Hard and resistant wood sometimes used in the construction of the carrier structure of houses.

HARIARA BARINGIN - Ficus benjamina -

HARIARA JAMBU BARUS - Ficus religiosa - By chance, the Ficus Religiosa is the tree under which Buddha used to pray. If I speak about chance, it is because this tree arouses at all those who look at it a strange emotion. We believe we can sometimes go inside, and everything becomes so small that we are forced to stay outside. Its air roots wrap us, remove us, or transport us towards the branches of the height. Its leaves, small and regular are so disproportionate in front of the unlimitedness of the tree as we feel taken by God's magic. Moreover, is it a tree?...

HIDUL - Said of a tree cut down which has not yet been transformed.

HORTUK or SIJAMA HORTUK - Means cutting down a tree. Also said of someone looking for damar.

HOTANG BASBASAN - Calamus castaneus - The hotang basbasan is a small-sized red rattan, used during the cover of houses to ligature the boots of ijuk.

HOTANG SAMAMBU - Calamus scipionum - Called also "royal rattan" for the manufacturing of sticks and fences.

HOTING - Quercus blumea -

HULIM - Scorodocarpus borneensis - Heavy and resistant wood of red color used in the construction.

INGUL - Toona Sureni- Is of use for the manufacturing of boards for the construction of houses, boats or chests where to tidy up valuables.

JABI JABI - Ficus rhodendrifolia - The hariara jabi jabi is planted in the entrance of the village if there is no hariara baringin. It is a species smaller than the baringin which we sometimes use to assume the complementary functions of Hariara jambu barus. See hariara jambu barus.

MAHANG - Macaranga pruinosa - Soft wood but resistant to the larvas of insects used for the manufacturing of partitions or floors.

MALLO - Calamus manau- Rattan of big size which we use for the construction of bridges.

MANIBAR HAU- To sculpture in round works.

MEANG - Payena suringariana - Used for building houses.

MERANTI - variété de Shorea - The meranti is used for the realization of the no-carring parts of the construction, such partitions, particularly those exposed to the bad weather.

MORBO - Intsia amboinensis or Intsia palembanica - Lumber used for the carrier parts of weak constraints such the skeletons of bale bale.

SALAON - Indigofera - Used for the dye of fabrics and manufacturing of the black of gorga.

SAMOJA - Bridelia - Used for the construction of houses and boats.

SAMPINUR BUNGA - Dacrydium elatum - Used during the growth of fruits for the construction of the elements of the structure and the partitions of the house.

SIMARTOLU - Schima noromhae or Schima wallichii - Used for building.

SIOTUL - Sandoriodam kucape.

TAMBOSU - Fagraea fragrans - Used for the manufacturing of the posts of house.


Sandrine Germain is a French architect working and living in France. She made seven years researches about the Batak traditional architecture from 1992 to 1999 and wrote a “Batak Construction Manual” about Batak myths, technologies and history.


Panglatu said...

Post yang sangat menarik Lae... salut saya dengan penuturan yang detail, kenapa yah orang2 dari luar seperti Ito Sandrin ini dan Ito Annette malah lebih perduli tentang kebudayaan dan alam kita dari pada kita sendiri Bangso Batak...?!

Par Bintan said...

Kebanyakan orang Batak masih dalam taraf keluar dari kubangan kemiskinan lae...belum sempat berpikir melestarikan kekayaan budayanya...termasuk kampung halamannya. Sedangkan orang Eropa sudah lebih beberapa abad yang lalu hidup sejahtera. Jadi mereka sudah bergerak dari kebutuhan fisik ke kebutuhan intelektual, meminjam istilah Maslow.

Yang menyedihkan, kalau orang Batak yang sudah kaya diajak untuk berbuat sesuatu untuk melestarikan kebudayaan Batak, biasanya responnya pasif, diam atau malah berkomentar negatif tentang upaya itu...

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Anonymous said...

good points and the details are more precise than somewhere else, thanks.

- Thomas

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