Page images

readers, without any other prefatory remark, than that we have reason to believe it to be the production of a gentleman, holding a very high office in the island, in which the singular race of people, which he describes, have long lived unnoticed by Europeans, and, indeed, almost un


"The Battas of the interior have an invincible prejudice to the sight of the sea, which they suppose to be the residence of evil spirits; and this circumstance added to the little communication they have with Malays or people of any intelligence, renders all account of this singular race of people extremely vague and limited. The sources of my information, are the chiefs of Tapanuli and Sorkom, the latter of whom have twice visited the Tohbah country, which is the parent state; consequently, these memorandums relate only to the countries interior, and to the northward of Tapanuli: excepting for produce, however, this description will answer for the countries to the southward of Tapanuli. The Batta country commences on the borders of the Acheen districts in the province of Karoh, as pointed out by Mr. Marsden in his Map of Sumatra, and extends to the back of Ayer Bonji south. The districts which are difficult of communication, and excite a desire of being known, are at a distance of from three to six days' journey inland. Their population is numerous, as may be well conjectured from the vast consumption of salt, which it is erroneous to suppose is eaten by the Battas in larger quantities, than by any other class of people. Their stature is much above the middle size, and their voice uncommonly strong and sonorous. The country is open and cultivated, snd the air keen and healthy. The space separating it from the sea-shore supports a race of people, inferior in stature, power, and wealth, but having a common origin with those of the interior. Whether the face of this part of the country, which is covered with impenetrable_forests, produces a climate obnoxious to the constitution, I cannot pretend to say; but it is evident, that the inhabitants of these districts resemble those of the former in little more than their language. The population is also inferior; and their villages are at a greater distance from each other, on account of the necessity of choosing a spot favourable to cultivation, and contiguous to a rivulet; for which reason, they commonly reside in the valleys. I understand these parts to have been originally peopled by speculatists, wanderers, and outcasts from Tohbah, who, in the course of time,

and from various causes, have established themselves into chiefships: hence the almost constant state of war in which they are engaged with each other. Among them, reside the Pangalongs, or traders, who keep open the communication with the interior countries, by conveying thither salt, iron, silk chindies, gongs, and other commodities from the settlements on the shore, receiving in payment, dollars, horses, and grain. The only mode of conveyance is on the backs of men; but in the interior, horses are made use of. Having remarked the distinction between the inhabitants of the interior, and those of the countries bordering on the seashore, I shall take the latter as the subject of these memo randums, which I shall proceed to state in succession, commencing with the most northern dominions of the Batta country.

"Karow.-The men work mines, and the women manufacture cloth, and cultivate rice. They have been mostly converted to the Musselman faith.

"Allas, Mahtumbulam.-Cultivate rice and tobacco, which they carry down to Sūsū.

"Se Nandong.-Converted to Mahometanism by the king of Acheen: similar occupations.

"Deiri District. - Divisions.- Se Kohtang, Kasujan, Tamongoh, Bannoriah, Barusoh, Simbatan.-Situated at the back of Sinkel; populous; divided into six parts; producing camphor, benzoin, and wax, all of which are conveyed to that port.

"Tukah District.-Divisions.-Sipang, Rambay, Tukahduloh, Tukahunbun.-Situated between Deiri and the back of Bahruse, and divided into four parts, producing benzoin, grain, horses and cattle.

"The following countries extend from Bharhuse to the back of Sorkom :

"Dohrulan.-Produces gold in small quantities, besides grain for home consumption.

“Parahbotian, Jeitegodong, Pagarsenundi.—The chief employment of the inhabitants of these countries, is the transportation of the imports of Bahrūse, and the exports of Tohbah between the two places; besides which, they cultivate rice.

"Peidundun Pasaribu Dohlut.-Produce benzoin, which is brought down to Murolotah Tongah; and a small quantity of gold, which is collected after the harvest is in.


Tohbah Country. Situated in the interior of the foregoing divisions, and extending from the back of Sinkel

north, to the back of Batang Taroh south, contains the following districts:

[ocr errors]

Battumajaggah.-The inhabitants cultivate tobacco and rice, for home consumption, but do not export any thing : a bad tribe of people, the resort of refugees and outlaws. "Hutahtuah." Produces grain, and a small quantity of scented benzoin, which is carried to Sorkom.

"Hutah Balu, Tangaran.—Independent of the cultivation of rice, the inhabitants are the carriers of salt between Sorkom and Tohbah.


Paripiah, Sepapei.-Produce grain for home consump tion and exportation.

"Jeikekahuli, Mahtiti, Menapong, Dohlok Sangun, Synahutal, Sabushak, Butar.-These seven divisions, surrounding the foot of mount Palakīr, (which will be spoken of hereafter) situated in the southern and eastern end of Tohbah, consist entirely of extensive plains, where cattle and horses run wild. The inhabitants conceive this mountain to be the principal residence of all the evil spirits scattered throughout the Tohbah country, and offer daily sacrifice to avert their anger. Rice is the chief produce.

Bakarah. Here is an extensive, fair, and extremely fertile land, which frequently incite other districts at war to plunder its granaries. The country is so steep and hilly, that only one side of the houses has pillars, the other resting on the side of the hill: in consequence of the only level grounds between the hills being swamps, which are turned into rice plantations, the inhabitants are obliged to choose these situations for their houses.

Baligah, Mohrang, Uluan, Asarhan. These four countries, the inhabitants of which manufacture clothes and earthenware, and cultivate rice and cotton, border on the large lake in Baligah.

"Pulu Serumi. - Ăn island in the middle of the above lake, the inhabitants of which occupy themselves in catching fish with nets, drying it, and carrying it for sale to the fair at Bakarah, in barter for rice and salt.

"The only mountains of consequence throughout the whole extent of the Tohbah country, appear to be Palakir and Mahtimbong. The former is both an object of veneration, from a conception the natives have that it is the chief residence of the evil spirits; and a source of utility, because they are supplied from it throughout Tohbah with chu nam, to eat with the siri leaf; its surface being covered with cockle-shells. The only visible inhabitants, are tame

pigeons, which the natives religiously feed. These two mountains are the highest in the knowledge of the Battas. Nor does the Batta country seem to contain the source of more rivers than any other division of the island, though it has certainly the singularity of possessing a fresh water lake in the district of Baligah, in the centre of which, is a large island, well peopled. Sampans, large and small, are made use of for fishing, and conveyance from and to the island; to reach which, without a sail, occupies half a day; the whole breadth of the lake may, consequently, be paddled over in a day. The only winds that blow over its surface, are east, west, and north, on account of the direction given to them by the surrounding mountains. They are, however, sometimes so violent, as to occasion a considerable surf on the shores, in which the sampans are sometimes upset. The lake is bordered with a sandy beach all round, and is called Laut Towah. From this lake descends a river, which empties itself into the sea on the eastern side of Sumatra, the name of which I could not ascertain. It is also connected with the river of Batang Tano on this side.

"I have already noticed the difference in stature between the inhabitants of the interior, and those residing nearer the sea coast; their features are, however, similar, both being remarkable for an extraordinary straight mouth, not of the smallest size. The clothing described by Mr. Marsden is very just; though the better sort, and Rajahs who can afford it, wear very fine blue deitahs or turbans, on their heads, and silk chindies round their waists: the commonalty are contented with a wisp of straw, or the bark of a tree, and coarse cloth of their own manufacture. These cloths are, however, greatly superior in the country of Anrohlo, to the southward of Tapanuli, where great ingenuity and taste are displayed in the workmanship and introduction of such colours as they can procure, the lower part being ornamented with a vandyke fringe of variegated beads. The kampil siri, or siri bag, is very neat, made of straw, and curiously ornamented with beads; one side of the mouth laps over like a pocket-book, to the extremity of which is suspended a string of beads, three or four feet long, of various sizes and colours, ending with a little bell, The pipe consists of a brass tube, about three feet long, curiously engraved, with an ornamanted bowl, and a stopper of the same metal, connected by a small chain. The arms of the chiefs are generally encircled above the elbow with a

bracelet of kimu, or Asuaso: ear-rings, or drops, of a triangular form, made of an inferior sort of gold, are also the ornaments of a Rajah. The women, as in most uncivilized countries, are paid little attention to; and their dress is nothing more than the coarse cloth tied under the arms, and not extending below the knee: the better sorts wear vests of similar workmanship to the cloths of Anrohlo.

[ocr errors]

A kampong will contain from one to two hundred people, one third of whom, probably, may be children. The houses in the interior are well built of plank, curiously carved, covered with ijū in its raw state, and are sometimes a hundred feet long, without a division in them. The parents and all relations live together, if they can agree, or the building can contain them: the entrance, which they close at night, is by a ladder in the centre, from underneath: on every side of the house are large windows. The buildings of the inhabitants near the sea, are miserable erections: under each house, are the hogs, cattle, or buffaloes of the owner; and as these compartments are never cleaned, the appearance of a Batta kampong resembles that of a buffalo kandong in rainy weather. The kampongs, in times of hostility, are enclosed by a parapet of sod, about four feet high; outside of which are one, two, and even three, strong paggars of split camphor trees, reaching to the height of the windows of the houses, furnished with platforms in the inside, for the besieged to fire from; and the whole is surrounded with an abbatis of briers, and well planted with ranjaus. The entrance is narrow, and over it is a platform protected by briers, fom which they fire on those approaching; the gate or door is strong, and closed by timber wedged against it.

The principal occupation of every member of a family, is husbandry. The low grounds are ploughed; the hills are simply cleared of their wood. The tobacco planted in the northern and interior country, is of an inferior quality, and is smoked nearly in a green state: what I have seen, is shredded like the Java tobacco. The cloth is made by the women. The country abounding with sulphur and saltpetre, every chief manufactures his own powder; but it is coarse, and will not long preserve its strength.

Their knowledge of the efficacy of particular shrubs, herbs, and roots, for the removal of many disorders, and healing of sores and wounds, is extensive; and they are not less expert in the selection and administration of different poisons, from those of the most deadly and sudden nature,

« PreviousContinue »