Sigale-gale Carnival


Sigale-gale carnival is a wooden puppet performing arts tradition in Pangururan village on Samosir. Participants represent the various Batak tribes (such as Toba, Pakpak, Simalungun, etc.) Hundreds of students and local residents participate in the program by wearing the Sigale-gale costume and performing the cup dance. The are also a Batak fashion show, martial arts called “pencak”, and a parade of ornamental cars designed in Batak motif.

About Sigale-gale

Sigale-gale is a wooden puppet used in a funeral dance performance on Samosir. Sigale-gale is a feature well-known to visiting tourists. During the dance, the artist operates the doll from behind like a marionette using strings that run through the ornate wooden platform on which it stands. The setup enables its arms and body to move and its head to turn according to the operator’s intention.

Traditionally the performance was carried out only for childless persons. Toba Bataks believe that each dead soul will become an ancestral spirit and the children of the deceased shall perform funerary rites. But if a person died childlessly, then a Sigale-gale is created as a substitute for his/her child. To look real, Sigale-gale could be life-sized and equipped with sponges that could be squeezed to make the doll appear to cry. The wooden figure has jointed limbs mounted on large wheeled platforms on which, weeping, they danced during funerary ceremonies called papurpur sepata, held for persons of high rank who had died without offspring. The ritual dispelled the curse of dying childless and placated the spirit of the deceased so that he would do any harm to the community.


According to the legend, the doll originated from the story of a king in Samosir who lost his only son and heir apparent due to his death. The king had been in deep sorrow for a long time before he fell sick. Various treatments were given to him, but none was successful. Then some king’s advisers made a wooden statue that resembled his son. After the statue was ready, the advisers then performed several ceremonies including the calling of the spirit of the son to get into Sigale Gale, the statue. The spirit danced for his father and made the king happy and recover.