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Toba Lake, The Largest Lake in Southeast Asia with Its Beauty and Legend

Toba Lake North Sumatera

Toba Lake, North Sumatra

The world famous crater lake of Danau (Lake) Toba is the third biggest tourist destination of Indonesia. It is situated north of Sumatra, Indonesia. The island in the middle of the lake, Pulau Samosir, attracts many tourists. Lake Toba is the largest lake in Southeast Asia, once created by an enormous eruption less than 100.000 years ago. The eruption was approximately 8.000 times more powerful than the eruption of Mount St. Helen in 1981. Ashes in the stratosphere circled around the earth for years and changed the climate. As things began to settle another volcanic eruption happened about 25.000 years later and built up a secondary volcano inside the caldera. The cone of that volcano collapsed and formed the island Samosir while the crater of the first eruption filled with water, what to become Danau Toba.

The Legend Of  Toba Lake

Toba Lake North Sumatera

There are of course legends on how Lake Toba was formed. The following is a Batak Toba legend: Once upon a time there was a man living in the area of the present day Danau Toba. No one knew when or from where he came. He lived in a simple hut in a farming area. He had a garden and did some fishing. One day he caught a big fish in his trap. It was the biggest catch ever in his life. Back home the fish turned into a beautiful princess decorated with jewels. He fell in love with her and proposed to her. She nodded romantically, however, the princess had one condition. The man had to promise never to tell anyone that she had been a fish. If he would, there would be a disaster. They married and got a daughter and lived happily. The daughter always brought lunch to her father out in the fields. The girl was however very greedy and one day she ate all her father’s lunch. Her father got angry and scolded: “You damned daughter of a fish!” The princess started to cry when she heard what her husband had said. She told her daughter to go to the hills, as there would be a disaster. When the daughter had left for safety the princess prayed. Soon there was an earthquake, rain started to fall and springs appeared everywhere. The whole area got flooded and became Lake Toba. The princess turned into a fish again and the father became the island of Samosir.

According to a Simalungun legend, told in Pematang Raya, there was once a mountain called Gunung Tuhaweoba in the area where Lake Toba is now. (Tuhaweoba is also the name of a kind of pepper). A long time ago the mountain exploded, Lake Toba was formed and the people were divided. Those on the western side of the lake became the Batak Toba and on the eastern side Batak Simalungun. The word Tuhaweoba changed over time to Tuba and later to Toba.

Samosir Island

Pulau Samosir, North Sumatra, Indonesia

Samosir Island, or Palau Samosir, is a large island in the middle of Lake Toba.  The island is surprisingly just a little smaller than the country of Singapore and is located nearly exactly in the center of the lake.
Samosir Island is the home of the Batak people, making it the center of their rich culture and tradition. Singing is a well-known custom of the Batak people. They love greeting their visitors with their own composed songs.

Woodcarve Toba Lake Samosir Island

There are also many fine Batak woodcarvers in Samosir Island. To reach the island, tourists must take the public bus, ferry, or car. Tourism is concentrated on the town of Tuk tuk.

Tor Tor Dance, Toba Lake Samosir Island

Tuk tuk is the best place to appreciate the exotic beauty of the island and the lake around it. Small canoes are used to cross the lake. One can go hiking on one of its towering mountains. People can enjoy the nearby hot springs. Samosir Island is also a perfect place to do paragliding.  Samosir Island is more than just its rich history. The Batak people, the scenery and all the exciting activities just makes Samosir Island a place worth looking and experiencing.

Tomb of Batak King and Megalithic sites

Samosirt Island Megalithic Sites

King Sidabutar Tomb, Samosir Island

One main attraction of the island is the tomb of their King Sidabatur and  Megalithic sites in Tomok. Three megalithic sites on Samosir bear witness to the glory – and horror – of Batak history. The three consist of 300-year-old stone seats and benches arrayed in a circle. The first set of ruins was used as a conference area for Batak kings. At the second site, the rajas would sit in judgment of a criminal or enemy prisoner. If the accused were found guilty, the assembly would move to the third set, which features the ghastly addition of a central stone execution block.

Sigale-gale a dancing wooden sculptures

Sigale gale sculptures, Tor Tor Dance Samosir Island
Sigale gale sculptures, Tor Tor Dance Samosir Island

Sigale-Gale, wooden sculptures that can dance (manortor), found only in Samosir (Tomok-Simanindo). Sigale Gale is a well known feature to tourists who visit the island and see it dance. During the dance, the puppet is operated from behind using strings that run through the ornate wooden platform that it stands on enabling it to move its arms and body as well as turn its head. There are a few versions of Sigale Gale in existence but the main one sits outside one of the many traditional Batak style houses in Tomok Village, Samosir Island.
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