A Reifying God: Mula Jadi na Bolon, The High God Of Toba Batak

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This paper examines the ways of changing in the Toba Batak concept about God, the different concept of God before and after western Christian missionaries. There is a significant changes of understanding about Toba Batak God’s. The term of Mula Jadi Na Bolon in the Batak people emerged since the arrival of the Protestant missionary in Tapanuli. Then the use of this term became popular Batak Toba until now, both as Christians and Parmalim. This article wants to answer the following question: How is the significance of religious reification of the concept of God for Batak Toba people? To answer this question, I will use data collection based on secondary resources. The sources for this investigation are stories Recorded in books about Batak religion from the time of Christian missionary colonialism and the present. From this study I conclude that, the impact of reification of religion conduct by colonialist missionaries has changed the conception of the divinity of the Batak people in terms of the naming and meaning of God itself. The Lord Mula Jadi na bolon becomes the main reference god in rituals and prayers.

Keywords: Religion reification, Toba Batak Religion, Lord Mula Jadi na Bolon.

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Generally speaking, as homo religious people, every community has its own spiritual and divine concept, humans interested to think of themselves among other entities in the universe, they also build their own concept of alternate realities (Cox, 1988: 77) which are believed in their community. Religion is the fundamental element for human which cannot be segregated from it. Thenceforth, the thought about religion and its concepts always cultivate. Every tribe must have its own cosmological concept. Toba Bataks already have mythological and cosmological concepts to tell their origins and existence on earth. Regarding Simbolon (2014) cosmology (worldview) is a human understanding of its existence in the world, and that understanding is bound by the form of their relation to all the forms that exist in the world. Till the coming of Christian missionaries, the Toba Batak had their own spiritual concepts. Toba Batak has the concepts of Debata Na Tolu (the three gods) namely Batara Guru, Soripada, and Mangalabulan. Vergouwen (1986: 74-75) explains that Toba Batak people do not make a clear difference between the character and function of the three gods. Besides the three gods, there were incarnations of gods on Earth such as Boraspati ni Tano, and Boru Saniang naga. Boraspati ni Tano manifests itself in the form of a lizard that lives on the ground, requests for soil fertility, the establishment of a new hou Religion is the fundamental element which cannot be isolated from human life se aimed at Boraspati ni Tano. While Boru Saniang naga is the goddess of water incarnated in the form of a snake. Dalam kosmologi batak, dunia dibagi menjadi tiga lapis, the upper world named as Banua Ginjang, the realm of the high God, the middle world, Banua Tonga as the place for human and the underworld, Banua Toru realm for the Naga Padoha. Besides the gods mentioned above, Toba Batak also adhere the spirit, called it as Begu and Sumangot, the spirit of the Ancestor. Yet another is Tondi, Tondi like an invisible substance, or a spirit that accompanies the people in their life (Vergouwen:91) . Through this paper, I would like to emphasize that scholars of Toba Batak must look back on the process of change or evolution of the concept of the Toba Batak divinity which is inseparable from the past socio-political context of colonization and Christianity, and the impact of cosmological and social political changes on Toba Batak ethnic life today.

The mythology of Batak

Mythology is very meaningful in the Batak Toba community, myth is one of the tools to find out the concept of the meaning of Batak Toba to the origin of their existence. Paul B. Padersen (1970) stated that, “Batak Mythology described a tree of life, reaching from the underworld to the upper world, symbolic of the High God in uniting all existence and representing the totality of the cosmic order”. Because of the variety of creation myths, J. Warneck (Sinaga:45) mentions that almost all groups tell different creation mites and few similarities. Marsden (1996: 464) mentions ‘the inhabitants of this country have many amazing stories … They know about three gods as rulers of the world, each named Batara guru, Soripada and Mangalla-Bulang’. Consider to Marsden, the beginning of the life of the Batta people was from Bakkara, as a mountain created by Bataraguru to his daughter named Putri-orla-bulan. Consider to Sinaga (2014:95) and Situmorang in various myths of the creation of the Batak Toba cosmos, in his book Toba Nasae (1993:33) . Deak Parujar is the daughter of Batara Guru, nicknamed Partonun Nautusan, which means that the expert is weaving. She refused to be married to Mangalabulan or Tuan Ruma Uhir who was one of the three gods. He fought his father Batara Guru and fled to Banua Bawah, the sea was vast along with his looms. Debata in Banua Ginjang refused and Parujar returned to Banua Ginjang. Then Deak Parujar begged to be given a handful of land to become a foothold and shelter. But the existence of the land disrupted the debate position in Banua Toru, Naga Padoha. Then the quarrel between Siboru Deak Parujar and Naga Padoha was successfully won by Deak Parujar by plunging a sword into Naga Padoha’s head and hoarding it with piles of land, then this pile of land became the land where humans settled. Then after Banua Tonga was created, Deak Parujar asked Debata in Banua Ginjang to bring down the alien host Accompanying Deak Parujar. Simanjuntak in his book titled, Status & Power Conflict of Batak People (2002: 1) describes the mythology of the birth of the Batba Toba tribe, as follows:

“The descendants of Deak Parujar with Mangalabulan / Tuan Uhir are Raja Ihat Manisia and Boru Ihat Manisia, then both of them do incest marriages and give birth to Raja Miok-miok Patundal Na Begu, Si Aji Lapas-lapas. Raja Miok-miok bear to Eng Banua, then Eng Banua engender to: Raja Bonang-bonang, Si Aceh, and Si Jau. Raja Bonang-bonang took down the Guru Tantan Debata who later engender to Si Raja Batak, Afteerwards Si Raja Batak later became the ancestor of the Batak tribe. The Batak King has two descendants namely the Tatea Bulan and Raja Isumbaon. Both of them later became Batak tribes”.

Religion reification

Religion reification is an idea escalate by the Christian western scholars to identify which one the truer religion. They cultivate several prerequisite of religion, religions and religious as a standard of measurement which highly influent by the Christian standard. Henceforth they was reify the religions and the religious around the world. Interestingly, they term of religion was an appropriation term from the Grecian paganism. Cantwell Smith indicate that

The evidence that the concept of religion is invention in the realm of modern west during the last two hundred years, then has exported to the rest of the world. Religion, terminologically is “religio” a latin word adalah appropriation from the Christian in the west toward the paganism practice in there, the phrase religio mihi est meant that it was mightily incumbent upon me to do it, it was aboaut taboo (p.20) .

Knowing that the shape and form of religion are various, the needed of one definition cultivate. Jonatahan Z. Smith (1998:276) stated that the most common form of classifying religions, found both in native categories and in scholarly literature, is dualistic and can be reduced, regardless of what differentium is employed, to “theirs” and “ours”.

I will use the religion reification worldview to address the thesis statement that I cultivated about the changes of God terminology in Batak Toba beliefs. In this case the reification process will be tested based on the results of previous research conducted by Angeller. The results of the study review the documentation that Anggeler did, it was found that the name of Mulajadi Nabolon is not mentioned either in the pre-colonial or in the early colonial accounts. All these early accounts show that there was no generally agreed name for High God in the Batak Lands.

The entry of Christianity into Batak land coincided with the era of colonialism occupation in Batak land. Considering Gultom (p. 86) the flow of arrivals of religious propagators in Batak land originated from the west coast of Barus and the bay of Sibolga. European missionaries who recorded proliferation were Richard Burton, Nathaniel Ward and Evans and then two missionaries from the United States were Samuel Muson and Henry Lyman . The two American missionaries later died because they were killed by the community in Huta Lobu Pining, Tarutung.

It was a German Missionary who began recording folk tales from Toba Batak people. This gathering effort was assisted by Guru Sinangga ni Aji Matondang from Sait ni Huta in Silindung. Angerler (journal Wacana2016: 308) proves that the emergence of the mentioning term Mulajadi Nabolon began in 1872 by Ludwig Ingwer Nomemmensen. Nommensen managed to record oral stories from the Saniangga ni Aji Teacher approximately 120,000 words. Nommensen’s approach to embracing the king and datu helped Nomensen in his zending mission in Batak lands. Great success was achieved since 1864, when L. I Nommensen took over the leadership of the mission, many Batak toba people welcome and receive baptism. The success of Nommensen Christianizing Batak Toba people made Nommensen known as ‘Apostel Batak’. (Sinaga, 2014: 24).

As explained in the introduction, Toba Batak people have a lot of concepts of gods based on their functions and get worship practices based on human needs themselves, and also the existence of spirits in the form of begu, Sumangot, sombaon and the concept of tondi. Toba Batak people claim to be themselves Sipele begu or worshipers of spirits rather than worshipers of gods who are worshiped and feared types of spirits also have variations. Begu is the spirits of the dead, natural spirits and troublesome spirits (beguiling the Evil One). Among the Begu there is an ancestral spirit called Sumangot, this spirit has a special position because at the time of his life the owner of this spirit is a rich man, has a lot of power and descent, (Vergouwen 1986: 76-77), evidence of the importance of the position of a spirit The Toba Batak are the incantations of the Shaman and the making of gana-ganaan, carved statues and Talismans (Parsimbaron). Furthermore, Vergouwen explained that long before the Batak-Toba people came into contact with the Western world, the Batak people already had the knowledge that wealth would make someone honorable and noble. From it will appear Sahala – a kind of Tondi that can bring success.

According to Angerler, the Naming First So Nabolon appeared after Nommensen collected stories of Habatahon from the Guru Sinangga Shaman. Angerler (2016: 308) stated:

“Guru Sinangga did so and subsequently his origin stories, a small but important part of the whole corpus, were copied and dispersed among missionaries and intellectual Batks. It is safe to assume that this dispersion must have helped the process of unifiying the idea of the One Batak God called Mulajadi Nabolon, because, within the span following fifteen years, the nama Mulajadi Nabolon seems to have become widely known”.

Regarding Tobing (1956) address that the Concept of Mulajadi Na Bolon also has a similar concept with the monotheistic concept of Christianity, with transcendental gods. In addition, missionaries and Dutch linguists Van der Tuuk appropriated the name of God, from mentioning the Toba Batak people to their gods. The naming of God for Batak Toba is Debata. This Debata is then interpreted as the High God Mula Jadi Nabolon which overcomes the other gods. The term Debata was later adopted by Christians to translate the meaning of the Christian God as Debata. It’s appropriated for the biblical translation of the Batak language as a direct explanation of the term God . Considering Simanjuntak (2002: 176) stated that Debata Mulajadi Nabolon is the original god of the Toba Batak people. Then Stohr and Zoetmulder (Sinaga: 27) also explained that :

“The Origin of the term ‘Debata’ has been derived from Hinduism, but it is very doubtful whether the meaning is also taken. A clear and clear understanding of God is not given in Hinduism, at least in the appearance achieved by the Toba Batak.”

The concepts of God, described by scholars

We can find the use of the name Mulajadi Nabolon in writings on Toba Batak carried out by Western Scholars and Batak Toba Scholars. First Philip O. Lumbantobing a Batak Scholar, who had an opportunity to interviewed numerous learned indigenous experts on Toba Batak religion, also had knew that the Toba Batak people adhered to the different places and called God by the different names, in his book he describes the realm:

“In Batak’s belief High God is called Ompui Mula Jadi Na Bolon, or in short Debata. This god exixts in the three parts of the world. As the god of the upper world, he is not only called Mula Jadi Na Bolon but also as Tuan Bubi Na Bolon; as the god of middle-world he also called as Ompu Silaon Na Bolon; as the god of under-world, he is also called as Tuan Pane Na Bolon”

Tobing also assumed that behind the different names, was the idea of the oneness of the Omnipresent High God which his p ower is evident everywhere. The representation of God appearance in Toba Batak Culture element such Tongkat Tunggal panaluan, Piso, and Ulos.

Meanwhile Bongsu Sinaga in his book entitled The High God of Toba Batak arguing that Mula Jadi Nabolon as Ompung is transcendent and immanent nature. The High God created the tree of creation, creating the divine godhead. Even Vergote in Sinaga (p. 129) describes that the relationship between Boru Deang Parujar, ladies and gentlemen, the universe and even the Naga Padoha itself must submit to High God authority. Between the immanence of High God lies in the special elements of the universe reflected by Tondi. Sitanggang (2012:6) stated that The Toba Batak people believe that the Mula Jadi na Bolon as High God not only created the cosmos but was himself the cosmos.


Religion reification conduct by missionaries during colonialism, has helped and played a large role in the efforts of Christianization in the land of Batak, there have been adjustments to terms such as, Debata, and Mula Jadi na Bolon. Reification of religion experienced in all religions in this world. Making the definitions and identification of religion are needed in line with the European occupation agenda for regions outside the western. Changes in the concept of divinity in the natural cosmology of Batak also changed the relationship between Batak Toba people and their gods. It starts out that na bolon becomes a transcendent and far-away god. As expressed by one of the lay people found by Angerler (2016:304) that, God feels further than humans, so to recall the relationship of God’s closeness with humans, they performed sacrificial ceremonies once in a while.

The existence and meaning of Begu, Sombaon and Tondi also become insignificant. Tobs Batak people who are also adhered animists as Sipele begu in the influence of Christianity get a lot of stigma as infidels and infidel. Ugamo Malim as a native Batak religion also claimed that the God worshiped was Debata Mula Jadi Na Bolon (Tobing 1956: 27), worshiping the oneness God. Being a minority in religion is still a subordinate group in IndonesiaAccording to Maarif, Indonesia political religion are intended to control over the minority believers by the majority (Maarif: 2017) . Despite the articles 29 on Indonesia constitution in which regulated the freedom to choose and adhering to either a particular religion or aliran kepercayaan, in fact either the fellows of aliran kepercayaan or indigenous religion are persecuted, victimized and discriminated by the majority. The mainstream believers labelling them as kafir, belum beragama, deviant sect etc. Strangely, the government wants to preserve local religions and beliefs as part of cultural heritage.Among the battles between these two interests the local religion and belief maintain its existence.

This article is still imperfect, my criticism of this paper is the lack of literary resources, thus affecting the understanding of the concept of the religion of the Batak Toba ancestors. In the future this paper can be developed from various perspectives, including Indonesian religious politics and the concept of monotheism in the religion of Malim, or from the standpoint of the theory of indigenous religion.


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