Batak


Batak
/beuh tahk", bah-/, n., pl. Bataks, (esp. collectively) Batak for 1, 2.
1. a member of a group of people chiefly inhabiting north-central Sumatra.
2. a member of a group of mountain-dwelling people of northeastern Palawan in the Philippines.
3. either of the Austronesian languages spoken by the Batak peoples.

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Any member of any of several closely related ethnic groups of central Sumatra, Indon.

The Batak are descendants of a powerful Proto-Malayan people who until 1825 lived in relative isolation in the highlands surrounding Lake Toba in Sumatra. They have their own written language. In their traditional religion, ancestors, plants, animals, and inanimate objects are considered to possess souls or spirits; today about a third of the 3.1 million Batak adhere to traditional beliefs, while the rest profess Christianity or Islam.

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people
also spelled  Battak, or Batta  

      several closely related ethnic groups of central Sumatra, Indonesia. They possess a written language, consisting of several diverse dialects, belonging to the Austronesian family. The Batak are descendants of a powerful Proto-Malayan people who until 1825 lived in relative isolation in the highlands surrounding Lake Toba (Toba, Lake) in Sumatra.

      By the 2nd or 3rd century AD, Indian ideas regarding government, writing, elements of religion, arts, and crafts had begun to influence the Batak. They did not, however, develop a unified state and today are found in six cultural divisions. Within these are exogamous patrilineal clans known as marga. They practice a form of bridewealth, in which a husband's family gives gifts and services to the wife's family; once a particular proportion of the agreed-upon gifts is reached, the bride becomes an official member of her husband's group. Among the Toba Batak a village consists of several clan houses, but in the Karo division all dwell in one or more longhouses.

      Ancestors, plants, animals, and inanimate objects are considered to possess souls or spirits that can be coerced or enticed by male priests. These priests are aided by female mediums who, in trance, communicate with the dead. Cannibalism was once practiced, but victims were confined to prisoners and those guilty of incest.

      Today most of the Toba Batak are literate, and many occupy places of importance in trade and in the Indonesian government. Muslim and Christian missionaries have been active in regions to the north and south of the Toba. In the late 20th century the estimated population of Batak lands was about 3,100,000, of which about one-third were Christian, one-third Muslim, and the balance adherents of traditional beliefs.

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Universalium. 2010.

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