There are a lot of different ethnological groups in Sumatera. The people living in a wide area around Lake Toba are known as “The Batak”. Numbering somewhere around seven million people, the Batak are divided into six subgroups; TOBA, SIMALUNGUN, KARO, MANDAILING, PAKPAK, NIAS each with their own language and different customs. Three of those groups are: The Toba Batak – probably the most famous of those groups. They are to be found around Lake Toba and on Samosir Island. Secondly, The Simalungun, you can found at Pematangsiantar and Haranggaol, and third: The Karo – people living in the highlands surrounding well known Berastagi.
CHESS AND MUSIC
Today the Bataks are still very well known for their ability to play chess on a high level. Dutchman Max Euwe, the former number one chess player in the world, once visited Lake Toba and was challenged by the local Batak champion. Max Euwe lost. The Bataks used to carve their own chess pieces. Nowadays replicas can still be bought at the souvenir shops in Tomok, Ambarita and Tuk-tuk. One other favourite occupation of the Bataks is making music. It seems that almost every little boy is born with a guitar. Hear them playing guitar and singing every evening. The Batak are a very flamboyant and open minded people and it’s a pleasure to spend time with them.
BATAK IN PHILLIPINES
Although there are ethnological groups with the same name – Batak – on the Phillipines and in Malaysia, it is not known where the Batak originally came from. The Batak used to have their own script. This is not being used anymore and only some of the very old Batak still have the ability to read and write this old script. You can still find this script on the Batak calendars that are sold in the souvenir shops. The Batak are subdivided in clans – so called ‘marga’. A marga can consist of several different family names (even up to around 300). People are not allowed to marry someone from within the same marga.