From Mysterious Tale of Sigale-gale to Unique Tombs of the Kings – SAMOSIR ISLAND

Finally!! After busy and tiring weeks, I have time to continue this writing.

From my hotel which is located in Prapat, It took about half an hour to reach the Samosir Island by boat. This island is located in the middle of the large Lake Toba. Many Tourist visited this island and chose hotels in Tuk Tuk area. This island is famous by the land of Batak people and some of them still holding into their traditions from generation to generation. I found mysterious yet unique in this island. So check this out :



My first impression when I looked at this puppet was mysterious and creepy one. It had something that made me feel scared. So I searched about Sigale-gale and found out that this puppet is used in funeral ceremony. This wooden puppet is operated behind by marionette that using strings which are the same as veins in human body. This puppet wears traditional Batak clothes and perform when families don’t have children or when a child dies. Batak Toba believe souls become an ancestral spirit and the children of the deceased perform funerary rites.

There are legends behind Sigale-gale. The first version is about husband and wife that didn’t have a child. The husband was a paranormal and one day he found a wooden girl puppet in the forest. He transformed this girl puppet in a little girl whom he and his wife took care. They named her Nai Manggale. When the couple died, Nai danced beside their corpses. She felt sad that she couldn’t have child, so she made a puppet like her to be her child. And this tradition still happened to Batak people especially in Samosir Island when they don’t have child.

The second version is about a prince that died in war. His father couldn’t accept the reality and made a wooden puppet that looked alike his son. He named it Manggale like his son’s name. This puppet accompanied the king till his death. When the king died, the puppet danced by itself beside the king’s corpse.

The mystical thing about Sigale-gale is in the making process. Everyone who made this puppet must sacrifice their souls to this puppet, so that this puppet could move like human did. Batak people believed that everyone who made this puppet would die as a scapegoat. So to prevent that scary things happened, Batak people made the body part separately. One made head, one made hand, other made leg, etc. The puppet must be placed in coffin and it danced above the coffin.

History said that King Sidabutar could make Sigale-gale danced and cried by itself.  But in modern era, Sigale-gale becomes a tourist attraction in Samosir Island. Tourist will be amazed by the details of the movement like head waddle, eye twitching, etc.

2. Tombs of The Kings in Tomok

The guide

Place that I visited next was The kings’ Tomb in Tomok. There is 128 villages in Samosir Island and Tomok is one of them. The word “ Tomok “ means fertile and healthy. There are 3 kings that had ruled in Tomok from 1544 – 1945. Batak people have tradition to prepare their own coffins before they die and it is made by stone. And if curious about this, you can just stroll around this island and you will find lots of empty coffins.

The tomb of the first king

Before we entered the tomb area, we must put Ulos in our shoulder. So, I will begin telling about the three tombs. Long ago before religions came to this island, Batak people believed in Parmalin and they didn’t eat pig, dog, and food that weren’t sterilized. The first king tomb is made by stone. There is the king’s face that was chiseled in the front side. But we couldn’t see his face clearly because the tomb was quite old. It’s not only the king, but there is his grandson in his shoulder. The king believed that by putting his grandson in his shoulder, made the grandson had higher status than him. In this tomb, we could see cloth that was put above the coffin. The cloth was divided into 3 colors with different meanings in each of them. The first color was white which means eternity. The second color was which refers to our lives now. And the third color was black which meant the black world. They believed in karma “Where you go after life depends on what you do when you still alive”. They planted tree beside the tomb. But because trees growed larger and larger, people decided to cut the trees in this tombs area.

The tomb of the second king, King Sidabutar

The second king named King Sidabutar has the most unique tomb. Same as the first king, There was the king’s face that was chiseled in the front side. On the top corner of this tomb, A woman named Malela was chiseled, The guide said that that woman was his first love was didn’t end in marriage. It was said that this woman was the most beautiful woman in this island that men tried to steal her heart. But this king was the winner and he made her his fiancé. He was so happy and felt like the luckiest man in this island. When the wedding day arrived, people came to see. But suddenly something weird happened, Malela suddenly didn’t want to marry the king and became crazy. She even removed her dress and run naked. No one knew to where she run until now. Later, they said that Malela went crazy because she cheated on the king and black magic made her became like that

The king was so sad and confused. He later married a woman and have children. But because he couldn’t forget his first love, he made her on the top corner of his tomb. He once said “Buah ketimun ditambah lada, hatiku rindu” which meant that he still couldn’t forget about Malela. His wife was also placed inside his tomb. We can see there was a man below the king’s face. He was his commander who came to this island to spread Islam religion. The guide said the commander’s name was Muhammad Said. He interested in learning supernatural power that King Sidabutar had, so he decided to stay and later became the king’s commander.

King Sidabutar was known with his supernatural power. And like I said before, he could make Sigale-gale danced and cried by itself!

The tomb of the third king

Christianity started to spread in this island since the third king ruled. We could see that the third king tomb was different from the tombs before. There was no more face chiseled, no more 3 colors cloth, etc. The third king ruled till Indonesia became independent in 1945.

We can see from the tombs that religions came to this island long time ago and some of the tradition still remain the same. There are so many things in this world that make us wonder how can it be or how can people do that, every people have their own unique traditions. And I feel happy to be able to learn that.

I end this article with ….. HORAS!!!