Restoring the fame of Samosir Island and its environs in North Sumatra, previously a favorite tourism destination, will be difficult and require hard work, but not impossible, especially if we seize the moment.

Pakahirhiri – buffalo slaughtererManagu Horbo Tu Borotan

The biting cold and fog have not yet dissipated. Several people are preparing the stage equipment, and clusters of their relatives, in traditional Batak attire, are beginning to arrive. One by one, they occupy the broad field in Parbaba village, Pangururan, Samosir Island.

In the distance, we can see the man called the Pakahirhiri (buffalo slaughterer) getting ready. He is giving the buffalo special treatment, as it is a critical part of today’s event a sacred traditional festival called Managu Horbo Tu Borotan performed by the Batak, specifically the community of Samosir, to express gratitude.

The Managu Horbo Tu Borotan was the highlight of the Bolon Festival held from 1 to 7 July 2007. This unique ritual focuses on the buffalo, the favored beast always used in Batak ceremonies.

The buffalo employed in this ceremony must meet very special requirements, as they will be presented to the local kings (raja) to properly complete the ritual. They must be male, with straight horns (sitiko tanduk) and four whirls (opat pusaran), two on the left and two on the right. Finding such beasts entails quite a hunt, since buffalos are rarely found to meet these precise specifications. But the Batak community will certainly find them for this sacred event.

After being escorted around the field by six men to the accompaniment of traditional Batak gondang music, the buffalo is tied to the Hau Borotan, a very special wooden pole. This pole is made from sari marnaek wood taken from the nearby forest, symbolizing an improvement in the people’s livelihoods. The sari marnaek wood is then bound together with a green plant, jung jung buhit, to ensure that the descendants will be cleverer and wiser than their parents and their ancestors.

The Hau Borotan cannot be placed just anywhere. It must be implanted in the ground exactly seven paces (or a multiple thereof) from the suhut (the home or place of the person sponsoring the event).

Dancing in the midst of the SimbolonsThe figure seven symbolizes the descendants of Simbolon. According to the history, she married Raja Limbong and had two children, Suri Raja and Martua Raja. Suri Raja had four children Tuan Nahoda Raja, Altong Na Begu, Pandu Sahata and Juara Bulan, while Martua Raja had three Suhut Ni Huta, Si Rimbang and Hapotan. These seven grandchildren from the two children of Simbolon make the number seven particularly significant for the Simbolon clan.

Following a series of other rituals, including a group prayer, a mass tortor dance, and ceremonial speeches, the buffalos are slaughtered the next day by the husband of the Simbolon boru (female descendant). The buffalo meat is distributed to the people of the Simbolon clan as follows: the right shank for the (local king) Raja Simbolon, the left shank for the Raja Bius Perbaba (king in Perbaba village), the right foreleg for the players of the gendang (percussion instruments) that performed during the ceremony, the left foreleg for religious leaders, and the remainder for the rest of the community.

The essence of the Managu Horbo Tu Borotan ritual is to give thanks for the blessings that have been received and to strengthen group solidarity.

Bolon Festival to Revitalize Samosir

The Bolon Festival is a popular feast that assembles members of the Simbolon clan (a prestigious family in North Sumatra) from throughout Indonesia and, indeed, from around the world to join together in fellowship and celebrate Batak culture and traditions with competitions in uning-uningan (wrestling), chess, Batak-language comedy, music, singing, dancing, boxing, and much more.

This is the first such clan festival after 23 generations of the clan, with around 76,000 members around the world. The Simbolon clan comes from an enchanted place Samosir island, in the middle of Lake Toba.

The Bolon Festival is held not only as a huge reunion for the Simbolon clan and a spectacular entertainment for the local people, but also in the hope of reviving activity in Samosir, which is still in an economic slump from the Indonesian monetary crisis.

Despite its lovely panoramas and unique culture, Samosir has not yet recovered its previous glory as a favorite destination for both domestic and foreign tourists.

The Bolon Festival, as part of the “Visit Samosir 2007” campaign, hopes to help revitalize the island so it will again be full of tourists enjoying its beauty.

Enchanting Samosir Island

Samosir is inseparable from Lake Toba. The island, with an area of 627 square kilometers, lies in the middle of a stunning tourist location, Lake Toba, surrounded by lovely green valleys. Exploring the island brings the visitor into contact with a unique, unspoiled culture, with traditional houses, tombs, and the activities of the local people, all painted in the blue of Lake Toba’s waters and the green of the surrounding valleys.



The twisty roads pose a challenge for even the most adventurous tourist. Yet there are plenty of places to visit, such as Tomok, where one can see the sigale-gale a show with lifesize wooden puppets, an attraction always sought out by visitors to Samosir and the graves of Raja Sidabutar and his family, who ruled Tomok for around 450 years, as well as rows of souvenir shops and stalls selling various handicrafts.


One favorite for tourists is Tuktuk, with rows of hotels and restaurants. Another option is the sulfur hot spring baths at Pangururan or Simanindo at the north end of the island.


Getting to Samosir

Garuda Indonesia

Jakarta-Medan-Jakarta 49 times a week.

Jakarta-Medan-Banda Aceh (return) 14 times a week.

Jakarta-Banda Aceh-Medan-Jakarta 7 times a week.


From Medan, it’s three to four hours by car or bus to Parapat, followed by a one-hour ferry crossing.