Ulos – The Traditional Cloth of Batak People

Ulos is one important traditional asset that Indonesia possesses.

Coming from the culture of Bataknese in North Sumatra, Ulos is a traditional cloth which is typically worn over the shoulder in ceremonial events like funerals and weddings.

With the rich cultural and historical values, ulos is now still used to appreciate the tradition, and it has gone through several modernization to produce more varieties of ulos.

This cloth also increases the tourist attractions in North Sumatra that tourists often buy ulos as gifts.

Let us discuss the facts about ulos, the traditional cloth of Batak people, which also adds up the unique facts about Sumatra Island.

History of Ulos

History of Ulos

During the ancient times, Batak people firstly believed that ulos is one of the sources of warmth for humans aside from the Sun and fire.

Having to live on cold mountains, ulos as the source of warmth then became an important thing to keep them warm especially during night-time.

It is also believed that ulos was able to give men bravery and women strength against infertility.

As time goes by, ulos has started to be used not only for its original function, but also as a symbol of love called mangulosi and the society structural system, and it is then being used in traditional ceremonials.

Especially with added belief of religious power, ulos is also said to be sacred and performs the power to protect its users.

Functions and Types of Ulos

Ulos
Ulos

Ulos can be used in various ways and functions, and it may be called in different ways accordingly. Below is the list of the functions of ulos:

  • To be worn in traditional ceremonials of the Batak Toba culture. 
  • To commemorate 7 months of pregnancy, and as a gift for a newborn grandchild.
  • To be used when attending an event of blessing a new house.
  • To be used to attend funerals.
  • As a gift to the new married couples.
  • For women’s use: when used as a scarf, it is called ampe-ampe; when used as a head cover, it is called saong; and when used to carry a baby, it is called parompa.

For certain functions, the type of ulos used also varies. There are many types of ulos being developed up to the present time, and below are the 12 types of ulos that people use the most:

1. Ulos Ragi Hontang

Ulos Ragi Hontang

Ulos Ragi Hontang is normally used during parties and is usually given to the newly married couples during the traditional wedding ceremonies of Batak, which is one of the most popular traditional wedding ceremonies in Indonesia.

It is a symbol of hope that the couple will continue to have stronger bonds.

2. Ulos Sibolang

Ulos Sibolang

This type of ulos is used as a symbol of grief and sorrow in the funerals.

It is usually used to appreciate the deceased elderlies who have not been blessed with grandchildren.

3. Ulos Mangiring

Ulos Mangiring

Ulos Mangiring is often given to the newborn grandchildren, particularly the first child.

It is a symbol of hope to be blessed with another childbirths in the future.

4. Ulos Ragi Huting

Ulos Ragi Huting

Being rarely found now, this type of ulos is used by the young girls as their daily outwear and is used around the chest.

The use of this ulos symbolizes a young, virgin and well-mannered girl of Batak Toba.

5. Ulos Ragi Hidup

Ulos Ragi Hidup

Ulos Ragi Hidup symbolizes longlife and happiness throughout the generations and is usually used during parties.

6. Ulos Bintang Maratur

Ulos Bintang Maratur

Ulos Bintang Maratur is used during the traditional events of the Bataknese culture, like to bless a new house or to commemorate 7 months of pregnancy.

7. Ulos Padang Ursa

Ulos Padang Ursa

This type of ulos is normally used as a scarf or rope during general traditional events of Bataknese culture.

8. Ulos Antak-Antak

Ulos Antak-Antak

This ulos is often used as a scarf by the older people when attending funerals.

It can also be used as a twisted cloth during a dance from the culture, which is one of the traditional dances of Indonesia.

9. Ulos Pinuncaan

Ulos Pinuncaan

Considered as the most expensive ulos, Ulos Pinuncaan is used by the kings and other important figures during traditional events.

10. Ulos Ragi Harangan

Ulos Ragi Harangan

Ulos Ragi Harangan is originally used as a blanket for the rich families.

However, when the older ones died, this ulos will be placed on the deceased bodies and buried.

11. Ulos Suri-Suri Ganjang

Ulos Suri-Suri Ganjang

Ulos Suri-Suri Ganjang is normally used as a scarf while dancing to the music of Bataknese, one of the traditional music of Indonesia.

12. Ulos Tumtuman

Ulos Tumtuman

This type of ulos is used as a rope to symbolize that the user is a first child or the child of the host family.

Those are the all the facts of ulos, the traditional cloth of Batak people that you should know.

We hope that the usage of ulos as a traditional asset of Indonesia will continue to be preserved, so the culture and tradition itself will continue to develop.