Batak Traditional Houses on Lake Toba
Batak traditional houses are called Bolon houses. They are a symbol of the identity for Batak. In the ancient times, a Bolon house was home to 13 kings living on Lake Toba. There are several types of Bolon house as summarized below.
Toba Bolon House
Toba Bolon House is a traditional house of the Toba Batak sub-tribe. This house consists of parts namely Jabu Parsakitan and Jabu Bolon. The former is a storage place for goods (mainly rice), and the latter is home for the big family. The house has no partition or room, so all family members live and sleep together. For Bataks, a house should look like a buffalo head. The house construction is not done by any paid contractor, but by all members of the society in the spirit of teamwork. The Bolon House uses wood materials. According to Batak beliefs, a house contains three parts reflecting three different worlds that one should be aware. The first part is the roof that is believed to reflect the world of the gods. The second part is the floor that represents the human world. The third part is the bottom of the house that reflects the world of the death.
Simalungun Bolon House
The Simalungun Bolon House at Pematang Purba, built in 1515, is a heritage building from Pangultop-ultop, the first King of Simalungun. It represents the design of traditional houses for Simalungun sub-tribe. There are some buffalo horns in the palace, which are believed to be the actual horns used in traditional ceremonies led by the king and his successors. Interestingly, the number of horns in the palace equals the number of kings who had ruled Simalungun. The house was built using wood materials (not using nails), but it is still able to stand firm until now.
Siwaluh Jabu (Karo Bolon House)
Siwaluh Jabu is the traditional house of Karo. The Karo bolon house is different from other indigenous sub-tribal dwellings in respect of the peculiarities that characterize it. For example, the shape is very different from others yet still a reflection of the buffalo horn. The house is designed to accommodate eight families. A cloth curtain separates one family from another at night. They also share kitchens in the building.
Bagas Godang (Mandailing Bolon House)
Bagas Godang is the traditional house of Mandailing Batak. The building uses big odd columns as well as the odd number of stairs. It comes with unique construction and philosophy. For example, Mandailing Batak holds that home is a safe place. It means that if anyone runs into the yard to seek salvation, then he will be protected by the host.
Pakpak Bolon House
Pakpak Bolon House is the traditional house of the Pakpak sub-tribe. It is also a unique house made of wood and fibers. The roof section is considerably oversized compared to the overall building, making it look sharp. The particular designs of the house mean something, too. For example, rooftop ridge is curved shape meaning “dare to bear a heavy risk in maintaining customs.” Buffalo horn attached to the roof means “spirit of Pakpak heroism.”
Angkola Bolon House
Angkola Bolon House looks slightly similar to Bagas Godang (traditional Mandailing house). That is because Angkola’s geographical location is adjacent to that of the Mandailing. The difference is as follows: Angkola bolon house uses fibers for the roof and boards for the wall and the floor. Its uniqueness lies in the dominant black color.
See also Batak Myths and Legends on Lake Toba.