Rumah Bolon: House of the Batak Toba

The Batak people are North Sumatra province’s major ethnic group. Within this particular ethnic group are many sub-groups and tribes, for example the Batak Toba. Like most Indonesia’s other ethnic groups, Batak Toba have their own traditional house. Rumah Adat Batak Toba (Batak Toba Traditional House) is known as Rumah Bolon (Bolon House), a rectangular form commonly shared by 5 or 6 families. Entering a Rumah Bolon requires that one walks through oddly numbered stairs located in the middle part of the house, bending slightly to avoid hitting an intentionally low-placed transverse beam. By doing so and bowing, the guest shows respect to the owner of the house. The floor of Rumah Bolon usually measures 1.75 meters above ground, with the space underneath used as a pen for raising pigs, chicken and other animals. In the old days, the main entrance of Rumah Bolon used to employ both vertical and horizontal doors but nowadays only vertical doors are used.

A glimpse of Rumah BolonSpace inside the house is largely open, based on their tradition of not having separate rooms—despite the multiple families sharing their living space. It does not mean, however, that there are no room divisions employed of any kind. The rear space at the right corner is called jabu bong and is occupied by the head of the house (porjabu bong) with his wife and children. The space n the opposite left corner is taken up by Jabu Soding, and is especially designated for the married women who do not yet have their own houses. The left corner at the front of the house is called Jabu Suhat and is designated for the oldest married son. It is located across from another space called Tampar Piring, reserved for guests.

In the case of a big family, two more rooms called Jabu Tonga-ronga and jabu rona are added interstitially. In such crowded conditions, each family has their own kitchen at the rear of the house, taking the form of an annex. In between the two rooms at the center of the house is a neutral area called telaga where meetings are conducted. Based on their function, Rumah Bolon is distinguished as both residence and barn. Typical Batak houses use wood with large, strong poles. Walls and floors are from plank or tepas, while the roof is from coconut fiber or palm leaf. A distinct characteristic is the curving roof at the culmination of its front part.

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