Ulos Batak

Ulos Batak is the traditional cloth of the Batak people of North Sumatra, Indonesia. Ulos is also as one of the high-value weaving craft art. Almost every region in Indonesia has a tradition of making woven fabrics. Woven products in Tapanuli in the form of cloth or sleeves of various motifs, sizes, and functions are called as Ulos Batak.

Ulos is not only cloth but also has a special meaning in the life of society.
So, Ulos is a kind of custom fabric of traditional handicrafts by Batak people, especially those who live in North Tapanuli, South Tapanuli, Simalungun, and Tanah Karo. Some of the Ulos Batak even has sacred values.

Ulos Batak The Traditional Woven Fabrics

Ulos Batak Making Process

In the past, before there are weaving companies, almost every family weave Ulos for their needs. With cotton yarn or flax yarn, Ulos are woven with traditional weavers (non-machine looms) that is powered by hand and foot. The tools consist of:

  • Tundalan, a waist belt when weaving
  • Baliga, a yarn separator
  • Langgiyang, as the baliga couple, to keep the yarn from tangling when woven
  • Patubabohon, a long woven gauges

The yarn that used is colored according to the need. Usually, they use basic colors such as black, white red, yellow, dark blue. Before there was any chemical dye, they use traditional dyes from sap, skin or leaves of certain plants such as gambier, betel nut, betel, and others.

Weaving Ulos cannot be rushed. A piece of Ulos can take weeks or even months. There is no particular ceremony before or during Ulos weaving. However, because of its sacred usefulness, then it always ties to certain procedures.

The Shape And Type Of Ulos

Ulos can vary in terms of motive, color, name or usefulness. In the North, Tapanuli is more combinations of three colors, white, red, black. In South Tapanuli, there are four basic colors with ornate white and black beads.

The basic colors of the dark blue in Karo area, Toba, and Simalungun are black-brown or whitish. The color that used is not arbitrary because it is associated with a certain meaning. The white color in South Tapanuli means holy or sincere or honest.

The red color in South Tapanuli means courage or heroism. The black color in South Tapanuli means dark or dead. About the shape and size of Ulos is not much varied. The shape of Ulos is a rectangle that resembles a scarf with tassels at both ends. Ulos length is generally ± 2 m and its width ranges from 40-60 cm.

Social Functions Or Roles Of Ulos

Ulos Batak has a certain and sacred meaning. The following are the function or roles of Ulos.

A Tribute Or Award

As a custom fabric, Ulos is never absent in traditional ceremonies such as birth, marriage, the establishment of a new home, welcoming guests, and others. Some types of Ulos are given as a reward or treatment to someone as parents, brides, friends, kings, elders, officials, children, and others in accordance with certain rules and procedures.

Ulos Batak The Traditional Woven Fabrics

An Official Dress

Some of custom Ulos cloth is used in ceremonies and official ceremonies that are done in many Batak societies whether relating to religion, community, or lifecycle. Ulos are required in many ceremonies such as state ceremonies, village ceremonies, agriculture, ceremonies for ancestors, upgrading of adult children, marriage, death, religious festivals, and others.

The Dress For Custom Dance

Batak people are familiar with traditional dances called Tortor. It is a sacred dance. Tortor dance is one way of communication with the world of spirits or with the Almighty in the hope of blessing, salvation, happiness, and protection. Considering the function, then all dancers who perform must wear Ulos.


Ulos Batak is the traditional cloth of the Batak people of North Sumatra, Indonesia. For Batak people, Ulos is not only a cloth but also has a special meaning in the life of society.

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