A View of a Japanese On Batak Struggle Against Colonialism

The Batak Millenarian Response to the Colonial Order

Journal article by Masashi Hirosue; Journal of Southeast Asian
Studies, Vol. 25, 1994

by Masashi Hirosue


One of the central problems that faced Third World peoples under European colonial rule was how to reform distorted power relations between the colonial and indigenous entities. Although indigenous peoples were generally forced to recognize the superiority of European power, the newly introduced colonial order often frustrated them. The millenarian movement(1) is one type of endeavour to overcome this dilemma by constructing a new socio-cultural order legitimized by a source of power which prophetic leaders insisted ruled their world.

Scholars have dealt with millenarian movements as key examples of social protest primarily under colonial regimes.(2) Studies of Southeast Asia have also paid attention to this type of movement, and many scholars have tried to explain what factors drew followers to such a movement, to the point of sometimes driving them into rebellion. The generally accepted explanations so far have included the propositions that societies were socially or culturally distorted by the influence of colonialism, that people were on the verge of a subsistence crisis,(3) or that they had no alternative but to resort to millenarian solutions to change their situations.( 4) They were drawn to such movements by charismatic leaders or prophets who showed them a millenarian vision.(5) This millenarian vision was generally a restoration of the idealized traditional world with the total transformation of the existing order and the expulsion of the Europeans.(6) Millenarian leaders were able to articulate their belief through their supernatural or magical powers.(7) They had contacts with deities or holy spirits, and their preachings were sanctioned by these supernatural forces.(8)

However, such definitions have not given a full answer to the basic question of why it was that only certain leaders were able to organize these movements. There were many people who longed for the restoration of a traditional order and who claimed to communicate with deities or holy spirits. Around them there must have been many more who were dissatisfied with the existing order. In the Batak area of Sumatra, which is the subject of this paper, there were numerous magicians who were believed to have superhuman abilities and to make contact with deities or ancestral spirits.(9) However, only a certain type of religious leader was able to organize the millenarian movement in that region.

The basic problem with conventional scholarly explanations is that they have not sufficiently examined the prophets’ new messages and the terms the prophets used in order to share their millenarian vision with their followers.(10) Although the existing literature explains that such religious leaders displayed magical or supernatural powers, it has not made clear what these powers represented. These leaders were unlikely to be able to draw people to millenarian movements through their magical or divine abilities based on their indigenous magico-religious belief system, because people often no longer relied on their traditional systems of religious belief, which had been distorted by colonialism. In order to change the existing order totally, millenarian leaders needed to show the people new visions of their world in transformation.

In order better to understand millenarian leadership, it is interesting to look at the religious movements which arose in the Batak area of north Sumatra beginning in 1890. The movements, called “Parmalim” and “Parhudamdam” , arose as responses to colonization and Christianization. The leaders of these movements preached a kind of “millenarian” vision, that promised the restoration of the kingdom of Si Singa Mangaraja, a Batak holy king who had been driven away from his own territory by the Dutch colonial army in 1883. These religious movements often developed into protests against the colonial order.

The point I would like to draw from the Batak case is that the only leaders who were able to organize movements were those whose doctrine appeared to give access to a source of power, a central principle which appeared to animate their changing world. The millenarian leaders saw their main task as reconstructing the socio-cultural system distorted by unbalanced power relations between the indigenous and the external. They had to show what the real source of power was and also how they were able to gain access to it. In order to explain more clearly the role of prophets in millenarian movements, I will classify these leaders into two types,(11) depending on their approach.

The first type of leader is one with strong roots in his traditional cultural system, who found a means to harness the new source of power in traditional terms. For example, Guru Somalaing founded the Parmalim movement after receiving a revelation from “Jahoba” [Jehova] through a dream, the typical Batak way to receive divine inspiration. (12) His doctrine consisted basically of traditional Batak ethics. The important point is that he found a Toba-Batak way to gain access to the new power, “Jahoba”.

The second type of leader is one who at first involved himself in a new environment such as missionary education, the Christian Church, or a job in the modern sector of the economy, such as colonial public service or a plantation company. Some leaders of this type later returned to traditional religion, having found a way to understand it in new terms. One major leader of the Parmalim movement in its later stages, and all the Parhudamdam leaders, were of this type. After they found that the Christian Church could not satisfactorily initiate Toba-Batak into the essential principle of the world (the mysterious power which animated Dutch guns, steamships and telegraphs), they started to reconsider traditional belief. Then they established new religions by revitalizing the indigenous High God as their source of power through Christian or Islamic terms.(13) Leaders of this type revived beliefs in their traditional High God or deities by giving modern meaning to them.

The difference between these two types of leader lies in the way they articulated their doctrines to their followers. To attract people who still had their roots in the indigenous cultural system, the first type of leader had to articulate his millenarian vision in traditional terms, while at the same time showing how he could gain access to the power of the colonial dominating force. To appeal to people whose traditional religious belief system was already somewhat distorted, leaders of the second type had to use new terms to explain their ideas. Once the foreign powers had proved to be unreliable allies, a revitalized traditional source of power could often provide a unitary symbol for their anti-colonialism.

This paper deals primarily with the first of these two patterns, the indigenous leader who gained access to the new external power, using the earlier stage of the Parmalim movement to provide a case study.

The materials which I have used to analyse the Parmalim movement are mainly the testimonies of leaders, in addition to colonial and missionary reports. In order to understand the role of prophets, their own testimonies are especially helpful. As these personal statements were made only after arrest by the colonial authorities, (14) we must recognize the danger that they may have modified their anti-colonial sentiments. However, because the Parmalim leaders believed that they were obliged under God to preach their belief to the world, which also encompassed the Dutch, their basic ideas appear to be consistently upheld in their testimonies. Dutch colonial officials and German missionaries also referred frequently to the movement, although each was concerned with a specific aspect of it. However, together they give us relatively abundant information about the movement.

Besides these three types of source material, description by explorers or travellers and vernacular materials are also helpful. Explorers and travellers were relatively detached and objective. In particular, E. Modigliani, who travelled through the upper Asahan area from December 1890 till January 1891 guided by Guru Somalaing, gives us interesting information on this leader.(15) Most of the vernacular materials about the movement were written by Batak colonial officials and Christians.( 16) Although their perspective is often narrow, their statements help us to understand the movement at the local level. I was able to find very little material produced by followers of the Parmalim movement; however, I believe the data from all the above source are sufficient to sustain the argument I will advance.

The Rise of the Parmalim Movement

Until the beginning of the nineteenth century, the northern part of the Batak area had successfully maintained its social order. The Batak people, whose population was about three quarters of a million at the beginning of the twentieth century,(17) are an Austronesian- speaking population living in the northern part of Sumatra. Some of the Batak inhabited mountainous highland, living by slash and burn cultivation, while others lived in river valleys and the low land around Lake Toba, cultivating sawah (wet-rice fields). The Batak are usually divided into six sub-groups: Toba, Karo, Dairi, Simalungun, Angkola and Mandailing.( 18) The Toba-Batak, the largest sub-group, and the focus of this paper, were settled on the island of Samosir and from the south-western and south-eastern sides of Lake Toba clown to the west coast. Difficult access to the inner Batak area from the coasts due to steep hillsides, the fact that the region produced little of commercial value except a few forest products, and the reputation of the Batak for cannibalism helped the Batak world remain relatively undisturbed by external powers, at least from the seventeenth till the beginning of the nineteenth century.(19)

Traditional Toba-Batak society was organized around its own religion with some ancient Hindu influences and a bit of Islam. The Batak originally shared with other Indonesian peoples basic ideas about the nature of life and death (so called “animism”), and a cosmological dualism of the upperworld and underworld.( 20) They believed that all beings in the world had tondi (souls). Batak perceived tondi as independent entities and believed that the tondi of a man determined his life. In order to maintain and enlarge his tondi-power (sahala), a Batak would seek the advice of a datu (magician). Datu had much knowledge of the Batak sacred and medical texts, and were also able to make contact with ancestral spirits and deities.(21) Datu were regarded highly as persons who had much knowledge about religious affairs and could share supernatural power. The skill of the datu (hadatuon) was also resorted to when a community was suffering from such calamities as disease, drought and a poor harvest, or when it was going into battle against other villagers or family groups.

The founder of the Parmalim movement, Guru Somalaing, had been a well-known datu among the Toba-Batak. He had been a typical upholder of Toba-Batak traditional culture. However, he later acknowledged the superior power of the Dutch and the Christian Church. Establishing a new religion was the outcome of his quest for the best way to share this new power.

Before he started to preach a new doctrine, Guru Somalaing had been an advisor of Si Singa Mangaraja, a Batak holy king who had been revered as an incarnation of Batara Guru, a son of the Batak High God. Si Singa Mangaraja was believed to have the superhuman abilities to control rice-growing, to summon rain, and to drive evil spirits away.(22) Although Europeans usually defined Si Singa Mangaraja as a priest-king or a spiritual leader with no significant secular power,(23) the Toba-Batak not only prayed to Si Singa Mangaraja for his magical power, but also requested him to arbitrate disputes among them. The special importance of Si Singa Mangaraja lay in his role in maintaining stable relations between the Batak world and the outside world. From the seventeenth till the nineteenth centuries, Barus and Asahan were the two most important outlets for the Toba-Batak. Si Singa Mangaraja was on good terms with the ruler of Barus Hilir (Downstream Barus) and the Sultan of Asahan.(24) When relations between the inner and the outer world were disturbed, Si Singa Mangaraja played a major role in preserving the world order. Nevertheless, since Si Singa Mangaraja’s sacred status was based on Batak religious concepts, he could not disregard the opinions of the datu who had had a far longer history in Batak religious affairs than he.

After intervening in the Padri movement, the Dutch established their rule in Minangkabau and the southern part of the Batak area during the mid-1830s. As the colonial government extended its influence to Mandailing, Angkola and Sibolga in the 1840s and 50s, the southern part of the Toba-Batak area became firmly linked commercially to the colonized areas.(25) Under such circumstances, the Dutch government allowed the German missionary society of Rheinischen Missions-Gesellscha ft to start missionary work in the Batak area in 1861. By the mid-1870s, several missionary stations were established in the southern part of Toba with the support of local chiefs, who tried to extend their power through firm connections with the Dutch.(26)

However, other chieftains in the northern part of Toba were afraid that the power balance between them and the chieftains who accepted the missionaries would be upset. They urged Si Singa Mangaraja XII to drive the missionaries away from Toba. With their support Si Singa Mangaraja started a war against the Europeans in 1878.(27)

Somalaing joined the war and became advisor to Si Singa Mangaraja. Somalaing played an important role in uniting the people around Lake Toba to fight under the banner of Si Singa Mangaraja against the colonial and Christian penetration. However, in 1878 and 1883, the army of Si Singa Mangaraja was defeated twice by the colonial army, which was better armed with guns. After the battle of 1883, which marked the defeat of Si Singa Mangaraja, the dominance of the Dutch and the Christian Church over Toba-Batak society was established. Si Singa Mangaraja himself was wounded in the battle and had to flee from his home at Bakkara. In due course, it seems that there arose some discord between Somalaing and Si Singa Mangaraja over whether to continue fighting. Somalaing recognized the superiority of the Dutch and the Christian Church and withdrew from the war leaving Si Singa Mangaraja to fend for himself.(28) Somalaing now faced a dilemma. He recognized that the Dutch colonial goverment and the Christian Church would not be driven away easily, yet he also saw the disruption they were causing in Batak society.

Many chieftains and datu who had at first sided with Si Singa Mangaraja later accepted Christianity and Dutch rule, seeking a share in that mysterious power which had brought about their defeat. Neither the Christian Church nor the colonial goverment could operate without support from the local elites, and most of the influential chieftains Who became Christians were appointed district, sub-district, or village heads by the colonial authorities. (29) Some newly converted datu became parish elders or helpers of the German missionaries. (30)

However, Somalaing could not cast himself into this new regime. In his testimony, he complained of the inflation of the power of Batak chieftains under colonialism. (31) After gaining the sanction of the colonial authorities, they became more oppressive than before towards their subordinates and towards the chieftains who did not receive positions in the Dutch scheme, although they had previously been autonomous rulers. Concerning missionary activities, he complained of the abolition of the Toba-Batak custom in which a married man would take the widow of his brother as his second wife. Somalaing thought that on the whole the traditional society was better than the new European-influenced one. In short, he faced a contradiction between the irresistible power of the new order and the social disruption to which it gave rise.

After reflecting on this dilemma, Somalaing received a revelation from God, who, he later said, showed him the best way to share the power which had brought Dutch rule and Christianity to the Batak area.

I thought over these affairs and how to bring improvement on them. Then the Lord Jesus appeared in my retreat and while my body remained on the earth, my soul was raised to heaven by him and brought before God. This gave me to understand that I am the “anggini Tuhan”, the brother of the Lord. By the Lord, I was sent in order to preach a new doctrine to the people, so that my followers would be the permalims.(32)

Somalaing claimed that he was brought to heaven by Jesus and was ordered to preach a new doctrine by God. The god who gave Somalaing this order was not the Batak High God, Debata Mulajadi Na Bolon. According to Somalaing, it was Jehova and he insisted that his God was the same as that of the Christians.( 33) However, his path of access to God was not a modern Christian way, but rather a traditional Batak one. In Batak religion a datu frequently received messages from deities in dreams or visions.(34)

The doctrine which Jehova ordered him to preach was, according to his own account: pay respect to the elders; never tell a lie; do not partake of dog’s meat or pork, or of the meat or the blood of animals which had died of illness; and purify both soul and body. These were not especially new ideas, and generally reflected traditional Toba-Batak morals. Somalaing’s followers, who were to be called Parmalim, were “the people who endeavour to be holy or to be pure”. The word Parmalim is derived from the Arabic word “muallim”, which means a religious leader. However, among the Toba-Batak the word “malim” seems to have hanged over the centuries into the meaning of “holy” or “pure”. For instance, in one prayer Si Singa Mangaraja was referred to as “raja na pitu hali malim”(35) (raja who is sevenfold holy). This holy raja Si Singa Mangaraja and his appointed sacrifice-priests (parbaringin) did not consume either dog’s meat or pork.(36) Islamic ideas had spread from Barus to the Toba area centuries earlier, and avoiding pork and dog meat had long been part of Toba-Batak religious doctrine. Somalaing applied this elite religious code to all his followers, and also prohibited them from eating the flesh of animals which died of illness because they were not malim. The determination of what was holy or pure was based on Toba-Batak values. While maintaining the essence of the indigenous religion and value system, Somalaing believed he had found a way tomthe source of power that was transforming Batak society. He received the revelation in 1890.

Guru Somalaing and Raja Rum

Somalaing’s next task was to show followers the way to cope with the colonial power. His conviction of sharing the power of Jehova led him to expect European newcomers to assist him in the movement. His encounter with an Italian traveller, Elio Modigliani, just after the revelation increased Somalaing’s expectation.

Modigliani stayed in the Toba area from October 1890 till February 1891. To the Toba-Batak, this Italian was a type of European different from the Dutch and German missionaries. The people who were at the same time oppressed by the colonial regime and impressed by the superiority of Dutch power, were hoping for the appearance of a different kind of European who would help them to share European power without having to accept it on Dutch or missionary terms.(37) The appearance of such a Westerner made it possible for the Batak people to question the legitimacy of Dutch rule and even hope to use his power to change the existing regime.

When Modigliani was travelling around the southern shore of Lake Toba, he had a chance to talk with the local people.(38) He was asked various questions, including who his raja was. He answered that it was “Raja Roma”. Then there arose an unexpected stir among the people. One of them asked Modigliani, “Why did Raja Rom never accept any of the numerous gifts of horses and buffaloes which they regularly presented?” Modigliani was unable to understand who Raja Rom (correctly Rum) was. The name Raja Rum derived from the legend of Sultan Iskandar Dzulkarnain, Alexander the Great. According to the Toba-Batak, Alexander the Great had three sons. One was the king of Rum (also called Raja Stambul), the second was the king of China, and the third was the king of Minangkabau. (39) As Islam spread into the west coast of Sumatra, the name of Raja Rum came to be more well-known among the Toba-Batak through influence from Barus.

The rumour that a delegate of Raja Rum was staying in Balige spread around the lake-side and finally reached Somalaing. This datu visited Modigliani many times, showing much politeness and pressing friendship upon him. Modigliani accordingly asked Somalaing to guide him to the upper Asahan area (on the east coast of Sumatra) where he had not been allowed to travel by Dutch officials because it was outside Dutch authority. Modigliani vividly described the scene after he asked Somalaing for help:

My heart beat with a double blow, while I waited for Somalaing’s answer.

And he made me wait a very long time. His black eyebrows wrinkled, he

remained silent while his face underwent queer distortions. “I will offer

you my revolver as a present and one dollar per day for every man who goes

with you. “I continued in order that I could overcome a dislike of him.

Suddenly he roared out his agreement rather than answering. He took my

hands in his, brought them to his heart, embraced me, kissed me on both

cheeks, and even planted teeth in them. “Amatta [”my father”, alluding to Raja Rom] has sent you in order to drive away the Dutch and Guru Samalaingwill help you!”(40)

Somalaing had been seeking for a way to drive the Dutch away. Looking for a means to master the power of the foreign newcomers, he seized upon the Italian, a supposed son of Raja Rum, as a key to success in the fight against the Dutch.

Modigliani left the Batak area after travelling through the upper Asahan area, but the encounter convinced Somalaing that his claim was confirmed through the appearance of Modigliani. He adopted the belief in Raja Rum as part of his Parmalim doctrine. Raja Rum and Si Singa Mangaraja, he claimed, were sons of God.(41) Some day Raja Rum would come to the Batak area with his son, Modigliani, to expel the Dutch. Then a new Si Singa Mangaraja would arise, and the glorious Batak order, “harajaon Si Singa Mangaraja” (Kingdom of Si Singa Mangaraja), would be restored. After Modigliani’s departure Somalaing and his followers prayed to Raja Rum in the same manner as had been done in traditional religious ceremonies when people had wanted to ask Si Singa Mangaraja or Batak deities for help.

The earlier stages of the Parmalim movement can be described as anendeavour to maintain the Batak traditional social order under the new source of power. The movement spread quickly into the northeastern part of Toba,(42) which was being radically influenced by the colonial government and economy from the Sumatran east coast, though its cultural system was still intact. Somalaing was not able to find many followers in the southern part of Toba where the Christian Church had already established a dominant position, or in the places where the population was not substantially under European influence. He found the greatest support in the places where people had just started to feel the Dutch and the missionary influence.

Somalaing’s followers were mostly minor chieftains and their relatives. In order to retain their status and their social system,
they also sought access to the source of European power in order to combat it. In their Parmalim ceremonies, they prayed to Jehova, the Virgin Mary, Jesus and Raja Rum, as well as Batak deities.(43)

Then, the Parmalims started to revere the German missionaries working in the northeastern part of Toba as Batak kings. Like Modigliani, the German missionaries had objectives different from the Dutch colonial officials. The Parmalims began to expect the missionaries to assist them.

The case of a German named Pohlig, who had been in Toba since 1890, provides an example of this process. He was an engineer and among missionaries was known as “the capable Brother Pohlig” (der tuchtige Br. Pohlig).(44) He occasionally repaired guns for the colonial goverment.(45) Such technical knowledge, which was a major aspect of the superiority of European power, was of great interest to the Parmalims. They were eager to be initiated into its mysteries. According to Pohlig, one Parmalim local leader wrote to him in 1891 saying he would bring presents to celebrate the birth of Pohlig’s son. “We come to you tomorrow with our wives because a son is born to you. God has instructed me that we must salute this”.(46) The following day thousands of Parmalims visited the embarrassed Pohlig, firing salutes and playing music, and presented him a mare and a foal.(47) Pohlig, however, returned these presents to them, because he thought that accepting them would indicate approval of their religion.

In spite of Pohlig’s cold response, the Parmalims increased their reverence towards him. As the colonial goverment intensified its
influence on the northeastern part of Toba, introducing corvee labour from the end of 1892,(48) the Parmalims began to believe that Pohlig was a person who could intervene with the Dutch on their behalf. According to Pohlig’s report of 1893, he came to be regarded as an incarnation of Si Singa Mangaraja.

These men [Parmalims] reveal really crazy ideas. Just now I have become the

Singamangaraja. “You are it”, they say. “You have only changed your form!”

A few days ago some were still here. I said to them. “Don’t bother me with

your absurd reasonings, I am not the Singamangaraja. ” “We know very

accurately that you are it”, they said. “Debata [God] has told us”.

Moreover, they said in order to convince me that I am he, “Your
father, the former Singamangaraja, was shot by the Dutch in the arm, then went toheaven.

He has sent you, but he has given you another form, so that the Dutch could not recognize you.” They believe such nonsense, and that is their gospel.(49)

According to the belief of the Toba-Batak, the sahala of Si Singa Mangaraja could be shifted to another person who would then be the next Si Singa Mangaraja.(50) After Si Singa Mangaraja XII, Ompu Pulo Batu, was wounded in the battle of 1883, those who believed that Si Singa Mangaraja was invulnerable began to doubt whether he still possessed the sahala of Si Singa Mangaraja.(51) The Parmalims began to claim that Si Singa Mangaraja XII, having lost his sahala, had gone to heaven and that the sahala was now in Pohlig, who appeared in the form of a Westerner. Incidentally, Pohlig had a scar on his hand similar to Si Singa Mangaraja XII. This was a sign to the Parmalims reconfirming their belief that in Pohlig Si Singa Mangaraja was reincarnated. When the Parmalims visited Pohlig, they offered gifts, expecting him to support their protests against the colonial government, and anticipating that he would in due course declare himself to be Si Singa Mangaraja, and together with Raja Rum would drive the Dutch away.

As the colonial goverment intensified its authority in the Toba-Batak area, the Parmalims’ expectations escalated. They claimed: before long the seven dark days and nights would come; then the Dutch would be driven away from the Batak country by the appearance of Raja Rum and Si Singa Mangaraja; non Parmalims would be destroyed by earthquakes, and the Parmalims would inherit all things.(52) Occasional collisions occurred between the Parmalims and the colonial government. The leader Somalaing was arrested by the colonial authorities in 1895 and was exiled to Java.(53) However, his removal did not end the movement. The basic problem of the Parmalims — that the colonial goverment and German missionaries should share their assets with the Batak people — was not resolved at all. Among the believers protest movements continued to arise.(54)


This article has argued the role of the Batak milienarian leader in the Parmalim movement against the European colonial order. Guru Somalaing successfully established the Parmalim movement because he was able to show his followers an apparent way to share the new power of the Europeans in indigenous Toba-Batak terms. His claim was confirmed through the appearance of Modigliani and Pohlig who would assist him in the movement. Although previous accounts have suggested that the Batak millenarian vision, the restoration of Si Singa Mangaraja and the expulsion of the Dutch by supernatural means, induced the Batak people to join the Parmalim movement and anti-Dutch protests,(55) such accounts have not given sufficient attention to the basic question of why a certain type of leader was successful.

The role of the prophet in the earlier stages of the Parmalim movement would suggest a tentative model to explain the role of prophets in other millenarian movements which arose in areas newly subjected under European power. Most of the Cargo Cults(56) in Melanesia, as well as the Taiping rebellion(57) in China and the Cao Dai movement(58) in Vietnam, show that the millenarian leader’s main task, like that of Somalaing, was to suggest a way to share the new European power through their own indigenous means regarded as “traditional” . This type of leader’s other characteristics, such as the ability to contact supernatural forces, healing or divination were of only secondary importance.

Somalaing’s claim began to appear questionable to followers when Modigliani and Pohlig proved to be unreliable allies. In spite of the Parmalims’ ardent hopes, neither Modigliani nor Pohlig came to their aid, and the Parmalims began to doubt their doctrine. Re-clarifying to them what the real source of power was and how they could gain access to it was the task of future millenarian leaders. The Parmalim movement was reorganized in the late 1890s by another millenarian leader, who revitalized the Batak traditional High God as their source of power through new terms. Thus when a prophet successfully suggested a new solution in familiar terms to people dissatisfied with the existing order, such a movement again arose. Batak millenarian responses continued. This article is a revised version of a paper originally presented at the 12th IAHA [International Association of Historians of Asia] Conference, University of Hong Kong, 24-28 June 1991. The issues discussed here are explored more fully in my Ph.D. diss., “Prophets and Followers in Batak Millenarian Responses to the Colonial Order: Parmalim, Na Siak Bagi and Parhudamdam, 1890-1930″ (The Australian National University, 1988). I am very grateful to B. Dahm, G. Daws, J. Fox, R. de Iongh, Y. Ishii, M. van Langenberg, D. Marr, A. Reid, L. Schreiner, A.A. Sitompul and S. Situmorang for their comments and advice.

(1) I generally follow the definition of a “millenarian” movement as conceived by Y. Talmon and N. Cohn, who use the term not in a specific and limited historical sense, but in the wider sense of characterizing religious movements that expect imminent, total, ultimate, this-worldly, collective salvation [Y. Talmon, “Millenarism” , in International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, ed. D.L. Sills, vol. 10 (New York: The Macmillan Company and The Free Press, 1968), p. 349, and N. Cohn, “Medieval Millenarism: Its Bearing on the Comparative Study of Millenarian Movements”, in Millennial Dreams in Action Essays in Comparative Study, ed. S.L. Thrupp (The Hague: Mouton, 1962). Though “messianic” movements, which arose where history was seen as a series of recurrent cycles, have little of the linear quality of many European millenary movements, we can use the term “millenarism” to refer to them because their prophetic leaders endeavoured to initiate followers into the source of power appearing to cause such a total transformation.

(2) This does not mean that millenarian movements arose only in colonial situations or because of foreign impact. Such movements were also evident in the pre-colonial period without foreign influence, when established socio-cultural conditions were distorted by disasters such as plagues, devasting fires, recurrent long droughts or by the unjustified assumption of power [S. Kartodirdjo, “Agrarian Radicalism in Java: Its Setting and Development” , in Culture and Politics inIndonesia, ed. C. Holt (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1972), and Talmon, “Millenarism” p.354. There are two main reasons why I have chosen to study millenarian movements under colonial regimes or foreign influence. The first reason is that by dealing with cross-cultural millenarian movements, I would like to consider through what millenarian vision prophets were able to draw people into movements in order to explain the role of prophets better. The other is because there are abundant source materials about millenarian movements during the colonial era.

(3) J. C. Scott, The Moral Economy of the Peasant: Rebellion and Subsistence in Southeast Asia (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1976).

(4) M. Adas, Prophets of Rebellion Millenarian Protest Movements against the European Colonial Order (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1979).

(5) Ibid., pp. 92-121, and J.M. van der Kroef, “Messianic Movements in the Celebes, Sumatra, and Borneo”, in Millennial Dreams, ed. Thrupp, pp. 117-20.

(6) This does not mean that millenarian movements were mere retreats into the traditional world. Even when millenarian visions put great stress on nativistic elements, these movements endeavoured to keep some aspects of their indigenous culture alive in new situations or revitalize these traditions by giving them new meanings. In this sense, millenarian movements were new attempts to establish new world views by taking both the indigenous and the externals into consideration. See for instance, Adas, Prophets, pp. xxvi-xxvii, and Talmon, “Millenarism” p. 353.

(7) S. Kartodirdjo, “Agrarian Radicalism”, pp. 78-82 and Protest Movements in Rural Java A Study of Agrarian Unrest in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1973), pp. 7-8.

(8) Adas, Prophets, p. xx and 112.

(9) J. Warneck, Die Religion der Batak: Ein Paradigma fur die animistischen Religionen des Indischen Archipels (Gottingen:
Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1909), pp. 109-113.

(10) Related works include Adas, Prophets, and S.L. Popkin, The Rational Peasant: The Political Economy of Rural Society in Vietnam (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 1979), pp. 252-66. The former still needs to explain why prophets were important in these movements, and the latter uses very general terms that are applicable not only to millenarian movements hut also to other socio-political movements. In this paper, I will not refer to unorganized protest movements in which no prophetic leader appeared; however, so long as existing co-ordination systems continue to
function, leaderless opposition is possible [see Popkin, The Rational Peasant,p. 266, and J.C. Scott, Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1985)].

(11) I exclude from millenarian leaders those who endeavoured to share the indigenous source of power through traditional ways or who endeavoured to gain access to the external source of power through external ways. When the traditional approach [to share the indigenous source of power through indigenous ways] collapsed in new situations, millenarian movements generally started. The latter pattern is a pure assimilation into a new power. Such adherence to traditional ways or to a new power, that caused no competitive situation between an indigenous power and an external power, inhibited people from engaging in millenarian activities. See K.O.L. Burridge, New Heaven New Earth: A Study of Millenarian Activities (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1969), pp. 33-35.

(12) Process-Verbaal of Guru Somalaing (Tarutung, 31 Jan. 1896), Indischen brief, 22 May 1896, no. 910/2, Verbaal 25/6/1896/96.

(13) For instance, Waldemar, Testimony of Gayus Hutahaean (Pangururan, 2 Feb. 1922), V.E. Korn Collection, no. 454.

(14) Since the main leaders of the earlier stages of the Parmalim movement were sentenced to exile by decision of the Governor-General of Netherlands India, their testimonies, which had first been sent to the Council of Netherlands India [in Batavia] from Tapanuli, were later sent to Netherlands Ministry of Colonies along with the Governor-General’ s decisions. These testimonies can be found in the Archives of the Ministry of Colonies in Algemeen Rijksarchief, The Hague.

(15) E. Modigliani, Fra i Batacchi indipendenti (Rome: Societa Geografica Italiana, 1892).

(16) Most of them are stored in V.E. Korn Collection (no. 441 and 454) in Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, Leiden.

(17) “Bataks”, in Encyclopaedie van Nederlandsch- Indie, vol. 1 (The Hague and Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff and E.J. Brill, 1917).

(18) F.M. Lebar, Ethnic Groups of Insular Southeast Asia, vol. 1 (New Haven: Human Relations Area Files Press, 1972), p. 20.

(19) L. Castles, “Statelessness and Stateforming Tendencies among the Batak before Colonial Rule” in Pre-colonial State Systems in Southeast Asia, ed. A. Reid and L. Castles (Kuala Lumpur: The Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1979), p. 75, and R. Heine-Geldern, “Le pays de P’i-K’ien, le Roi au Grand Cou et le Singa Mangaradja”, Bulletin de l’Ecole Francaise d’Extreme-Orient 49 (1959): 363.

(20) Warneck, Die Religion, p. 25-26; E.M. Loeb, Sumatra: Its History and People (Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta: Oxford University Press, 1972); and H. Parkin, Batak Fruit of Hindu Thought (Madras: The Christian Literature Society, 1978), pp. 145-49.

(21) J. Winkler, Die Toba=Batak auf Sumatra in gesunden und kranken Tagen: Ein Beitrag zur Kenntnis des animistischen Heidentums (Stuttgart: Chr. Belser A. G., 1925), pp. 72-78; and Warneck, Die Religion, pp. 109-113.

(22) Heine-Geldern, “Le pays”, pp. 374-78; and C.M. Pleyte, “Singe Mangaradja: De heilige koning der Bataks”, Bijdragen tot de Taal-,Land- en Volkenkunde van Nederlandsch- Indie 55 (1903): 1-17.

(23) For example, J.H. Meerwaldt, “De laatste Singamangaradja” , De Rijnsche Zending (1908): 2-7.

(24) Van Lith and E. Gobee, “Rapport omtrent Si Singamangaradja en zijn naaste familieleden” , Mail-rapport 2674/1929, Verbaal 14/10/1930/20; Resident van Oostkust van Sumatra aan Gouverneur Generaal van Nederlandsch- Indie (Bengkalis, 28 Aug. 1885), Malirapport 648/1885; and J. Drakard, A Malay Frontier: Unity and Duality in a Sumatran Kingdom (Ithaca: Cornell Southeast Asia Program, 1990), pp. 81-82.

(25) M. Joustra, Batakspiegel (Leiden: Bataksch Instituut, 1910), and O. von Kessel, “Reis in de nog onafhankelijke Batak-landen van Klein-Toba, op Sumatra, in 1844″, Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde van Nederlandsch- Indie 4 (1856): 73-76.

(26) S. Coolsma, De zendingseeuw voor Nederlandsch Oost-Indie (Utrecht: C. H. E. Breijer, 1901), pp. 309-385; and J.R. Hutauruk, “Die Batakkirche vor ihrer Unabhangigkeit (1899-1942): Probleme der kirchlichen Unabhangigkeit angesichts der Problematik von Mission, Kolonialismus und Nationalismus” (Ph.D. diss. Hamburg University, 1980), p. 101.

(27) Meerwaldt, “De laatste Singamangaradja” , pp. 87-88; Resident van Tapanuli, “Extract uit het verslag betrekkelijk de verwikkelingen in de Battaklanden en de daarop gevolgde militaire expeditie naar Toba”, Mailrapport 801/1878; W.B. Sidjabat, Ahu Si Singamangaraja: Arti Historis, Politis, Ekonomis dan Religius Si Singamangaraja XII (Jakarta: Sinar Harapan, 1982), pp. 165-70.

(28) Proces-Verbaal of Guru Somalaing.

(29) “De zendingsposten der Rijnsche zending in Silindoeng en Toba”, De Rijnsche Zending (1887), pp. 63-68; and Joustra, Batakspiegel, p. 258.

(30) G. Pilgram, Laban: Ein Lebensbild aus der Batak=Mission auf Sumatra (Barmen: Rheinischen Missions-Gesellscha ft, 1921), pp. 12-28; and “Eenige schetsen uit de Batta-zending” , De Rijnsche Zending 1883), p. 99.

(31) Proces-Verbaal of Guru Somalaing.

(32) Ibid.

(33) Ibid., and D.W.N. de Boer, “De Permalimsekten van Oeloean, Toba en Habinsaran”, Tijdschrift voor het Binnenlandsch Bestuur 47 (1914): 382-83.

(34) Winkler, Die Toba=Batak, p. 75.

(35) Sidjabat, Ahu Si Singamangaraja, p. 442; and A.L. Tobing, Si Singamangaradja I-XII (Medan: W. Marpaung, 1967).

(36) J. Keuning, “Einige beschouwingen betreffende de staatkundige organisatie onder de Toba-Bataks” , Koloniaal Tijdschrift 28 (1939): 497; and Sidjabat, Ahu Si Singamangaraja, pp. 373-77.

(37) For example, see Burridge, New Heaven, pp. 67-68; and A.F.C. Wallace, “Handsome Lake and the Great Revival in the West”, American Quarterly (Summer 1952): 149-65.

(38) Modigliani, Fra i Batacchi, pp. 71-77; and J.C. Vergouwen, “Een Italiaan onder de Bataks”, Koloniaal Tijdschrift 21 (1932): 553-55.

(39) “Verslag van eene reis in het land der Bataks, in het binnenland van Sumatra, ondernomen in het jaar 1824, door de heeren Burton en Ward, zendelingen der Baptisten. Medegedeeld door wijlen sir Stamford Raffles”, Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde van Nederlandsch- Indie 5 (1856): 283.

(40) Modigliani, Fra i Batacchi, p. 85

(41) Proces-Verbaal of Guru Somalaing.

(42) Boer, “De Permalimsekten” , pp. 391-92.

(43) Ibid., pp. 382-84.

(44) M. Joustra, “Een bezoek aan de Rijnsche Zendelingen in Silindoeng en Toba”, Mededeelingen van wege het Nederlandsche Zendelinggenootscha p 43 (1899): 260.

(45) Controleur van Toba aan Assistent Resident van Toba en Silindung, (Balige, 21 Mar. 1904), agenda no. 2294/1904 [in Arsip Nasional Republik Indonesia].

(46) P. Pohlig to the Inspector of the Rheinischen Missions-Gesellscha ft (Siantar, 28 Dec. 1891), B/f 34 (in Archiv der
Vereinigte Evangelische Mission, Wuppertal).

(47) “De Batta-zending” , De Rijnsche Zending (1892), p. 195.

(48) The Governor-General’ s Decision of 29 December 1892, no. 3.

(49) “Aus der Battamission” , Berichte der Rheinischen Missions-Gesellscha ft (1893), pp. 325-26.

(50) M. Joustra, “De Singa Mangaradja-figuur” , in Gedenkschrift voor het Koninklijk Instituut voor de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde van Nederlandsch- Indie (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1926), p. 211.

(51) J. Warneck, Sechzig Jahre Batakmission in Sumatra (Berlin: Martin Warneck, 1925), p. 118; and Sidjabat, Ahu Si Singamangaraja, p. 119.

(52) O. Marcks to the Inspector of the Rheinischen Missions-Gesellscha ft (Sitorang, 13 Mar. 1902), F/a 50.

(53) Extract uit het Register der Besluiten van den Gouverneur-Generaal van Nederlandsch- Indie” (Cipanas, 22 May 1896),
Indischen brief, 22 May 1896, no. 910/2.

(54) For further details, see Hirosue, “Prophets and Followers”, pp. 160-212. (55) For example, van der Kroef, “Messianic Movements”, pp. 92-106; Mohammad Said, Tokoh Singa Mangaradja XII (Medan: Waspada, 1961), pp. 54-73; and L. Castles, “The Political Life of a Sumatran Residency: Tapanuli 1915-1940″ (Ph.D. diss., Yale University, 1972), pp. 74-76.

(56) P. Lawrence, Road Belong Cargo: A Study of the Cargo Movement in the Southern Madang District New Guinea (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1964); and Burridge, New Heaven, pp. 47-74.

(57) F. Michael, The Taiping Rebellion: History and Documents, vol. 1 (Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1966), pp. 21-50.

(58) Hue-Tam Ho Tai, Millenarianism and Peasant Politics in Vietnam (Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London: Harvard University Press, 1983), pp. 84-86; and J.S. Werner, Peasant Politics and Religious Sectarianism: Peasant and Priest in the Cao Dai in Viet Nam (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981).

Share this

Related Posts

Next Post »