Huta Siallagan : The Ancient Batak Village on Samosir Island
Situated inside the present Ambarita Village in the Simanindo District on Samosir Island, North Sumatra Province, is Huta Siallagan, an ancient village which strongly radiates the unique culture of the Batak ethnic group, set amidst the dramatic beauty of magnificent Lake Toba.
In the local language, Huta literary means settlement or village, therefore, Huta Siallagan means the Village of Siallagan. A Huta also identifies the family or clan as its residents, that in this case is the Siallagan Clan. The Siallagans are descendants of King Naimbaton who follows the line of King Isumbaon, second son of the King of Batak.
Huta Siallagan village was built in the reign of the first Huta leader, King Laga Siallagan, then further expanded during the time of his heir, King Hendrik Siallagan, down to the descendants of King Ompu Batu Ginjang Siallagan. A number of descendants of King Siallagan still reside here today in Ambarita Village, where tombs of their ancestors can still be found in the area.
Huta Siallagan covers a total area of 2,400 square meters and is surrounded by a 1.5 to 2 meter stone wall. Built from sleekly structured stones, the wall was once completed with bastions and sharp bamboos to protect the village from wild animals and attacks from other tribes.
Entering Huta Siallagan, one will be greeted by a number of traditional Bolon and Sopo houses which are traditional houses of the Batak ethnic group of North Sumatra.
What makes Huta Siallagan special is the existence of two sets of large stones carved into chairs encircling a stone table. These fascinating sets of stone furniture artifacts are called Batu Parsidangan, meaning “Stones for Meetings and Trials”. It is located right at the center of Huta Siallagan under a Hariara Tree, which is considered a sacred tree by the Bataks. The Stones are believed to be over 200 years old.
There are two sets of Batu Parsidangan in which one used to serve as official meeting place, while the other served as the site for executions.
The first set of Batu Parsidangan, that served as the official place for meetings, consists of orderly arranged stone chairs that are specifically intended for the king, the queen, clan elders, neighboring huta leaders, invitees, and the datu or spiritual leaders. While the second Batu Parsidangan features a similar arrangement but with the addition of a Long Stone Table, where executions took place.
As the name suggests, Batu Parsidangan or the Stones for Meetings and Trials served as a Court of Justice to conduct trials on various crimes that included murders, theft, rape, as well as political cases, and more.
In ancient time, a person suspected of a crime would be shackled as he or she awaited trial. The King of Siallagan along with the clan elders and spiritual leaders would use the Batak Calendar to seek the appropriate date for such trials. If a suspect is found guilty, the clan elders would advise the appropriate punishment to meet the crime committed. Acting as Judge, the King of Siallagan would determine the punishment that may include paying fines, shackling, or even beheading.
Those who were passed the death sentence would then be taken to the second Batu Parsidangan set to be executed. The convicted person would be beheaded and the body cut in pieces. There is a local story that suggests that before decapitation those suspected to have supernatural powers would be cut to bleed first and the wound would be poured with lime juice to neutralize their powers.
There is also a rather gory folk story that tells that when the King really hated the convict, he would eat the liver of the person while the rest of the body would be feasted on by the entire community. The criminal’s head would be wrapped in a piece of cloth and buried somewhere far from Huta Siallagan. The bones of the criminal would be thrown in Lake Toba, and people were then forbidden from touching the lake’s waters for a week or two since they the lake was considered to still contain evil spirits.
These cannibalistic rituals, thankfully, disappeared gradually and were later completely erased as Christianity spread over Samosir Island and nearby areas. The Protestant religion was spread here by a German missionary called Dr. Ingwer Ludwig Nommensen who arrived here in the mid 19th Century and is still very much revered until today. The Kings of Siallagan, who previously followed the ancient Batak believe of Parmalin converted to Christianity and completely banned these cannibalistic rituals.
Today majority Bataks are Protestants of the Batak Christian denomination.
Nowadays, Batu Parsidangan and Huta Siallagan stand as a legacy of those ancient times. Here one can learn about the culture and beliefs of the ancestors of the Batak ethnic group of North Sumatra.
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