The Mandailings in their own terms
Abdoellah Loebis, one of the foremost Mandailing
scholars in the first quarter of the 20th century, stated unequivocally
the Mandailing are not Batak in an article he wrote for the newspaper
Mandailing in the 1920s.
at length using ethnological, anthropological and historical
arguments that the Mandailing and Batak are distinct ethnic groups.
Abdoellah Loebis attributed political and religious motives behind
attempts by Christian missionaries (Zendeling) to define Mandailings
are Batak He said Europeans were in no position to tell whether
the Mandailings are Batak (Zendeling refers to Christian Proselytism.
The Christian missionaries had successfully converted some Mandailing
in Pakatan in Upper Mandailing into Christians and until today
churches can still be found in that area. The Christian missionaries
are still having their eyes on the Mandailing. See Joshua Project
2000 - unreached People Profile at http://www.ad2000.org)
He said it was the Malays who coin the term Batak to refer to
the people who worship the trinity gods, "Debata jang beratak-atak." Abdoellah
Loebis argued that the forefathers of the Mandailing rajas "never
worshiped the gpds of the Batak in Bakkara," adding that
the practice did not come to Mandailing.
He noted that because of the similarities in the clan system
and language shared by the Mandailing and the Batak, Europeans
observers were quick to equate the former with the latter and
arrived at the finding that they were of the same stock. Nevertheless,
these very same observers cannot be certain that the Mandailing
are of the Batak stock.
Abdoellah Loebis was of the view that the Mandailing was first
populated before the Toba lands and the 'Hindus' first came to
Mandailing. Conversely, he concluded that the clan system was
first introduced by the 'Hindus' into Mandailing. (A Dutch report
named the Lubu as the first people to settle in Mandailing.)
Abdoellah Loebis differentiated the "Hindus" who came
to Mandailing compared to those who came to Toba, Karo and Pak-Pak.
Only after the 'Hindus' left, did Namora Pande Bosi, the progenitor
of the Lubis clan and Sibaroar, the progenitor of the Nasution
clan, came to Mandailing. This essentially marks the beginning
of the Mandailing people in the Mandailing homeland. Going by
the genealogies and assuming that there were no discrepancies
in them, the Lubis clan came to Mandailing Julu (Upper Mandailing)
in the 16th century (Tugby)
Abdoellah Loebis's thesis and that of Radja Moelia, which appeared
in the newspaper called "Tapian Na Oeli" are contained
in a book entitled "Asal Oesoelnja Bangsa Mandailing" (The
origin of the Mandailing Nation) compiled by Mangaradja Ihoetan,
the editor of Pewarta Deli and published in Medan in 1926. It
was intended as a reminder for the future generations of Mandailing.
In Mangaradja Ihoetan's preface he stated that the compilation
was done so that the descendants of the Mandailings would know
the great pains their forefathers went through to defend their
ethnic and cultural identity. "In this way, it is hoped
that they would never consider forsaking their nationhood carelessly
and obliterate it by entering into the fold of another ethnic
that does not elevate their status."
In his own words: …"hanjalah kadar dijadi peringatan
di-belakang hari kepada toeroen - toeroenan bangsa Mandailing
itoe, soepaya mereka tahoe bagaimana dijerih pajah bapa-bapa
serta nenek mojangnja mempertahankan atas berdirinja kebangsaan
mereka itoe. Dengan dijalan begitoe diharap tiadalah kiranja
mereka itoe akan sia-siakan lagi kebangsaannja dengan moedah
maoe mehapoeskannja dengan dijalan memasoekkan diri pada bangsa
lain jang tidak melebihkan martabatnja."
The compilation covered the event that took place between 1922
- 1926, that involves a court battle between Mandailings and
Muslims claiming themselves to be Batak over who had the right
to be buried in the Mandailing waqf (trust land) burial ground
in Sungai Mati, Medan. The Mandailing argued before the Madjelis
Sjara'iah (Islamic Law Council) established by the Sultan of
Deli that only Mandailings have the right to be buried in the
waqf burial ground. Therefore Bataks as well as Mandailings claiming
to be Batak, have no right whatsoever to be buried there. The
Islamic Shariah Council ruled in favour of the Mandailing. This
was upheld by the Raad Van Justitie and in the process affirming
the Mandailing's distinct ethnic and cultural identity from the
The court case was recorded in the newspapers of the day such
as Mandailing, Pewarta Deli, Sumatra Post, etc., and was afterwards
compiled by Mangaradja ihoetan, the editor of Pewarta Deli. As
a result of this dispute, the line was drawn between the Mandailings
and the Batak groups, and the ethnic and cultural identity of
the Mandailing was defined as distinct from that of the Batak
During the episode, the Mandailing deliberated intensely over
their cultural identity and the definition arrived at in his
case colours the social memory of the Mandailing to this day.
It was during the height of this episode that a Mandailing delegation
was sent from Medan to Tapanuli and Malaya to canvas for the
views of Mandailings in the homeland as well as 'overseas' Mandailings
(Mandailing living in the rantau) on the matter. A Mandailing
association was also formed in Batavia.
When the 1930 census approached in the 'Netherlands East Indies',
the 'Comite Kebangsaan Mandailing' (Mandailing National Committee)
based in Panyabungan, Mandailing, petitioned, with some success,
not to be listed as MandailingBatak in the census results. Though
the term "Mandailing-Batak" was not used, the "Mandailingers" were
still listed under as one of the "Bataks" subgroup
in the census.
Unlike in Indonesia, The Mandailings in British Malaya did not
pose any resistance to colonial attempts at labelling them as
Malays in the census and for "administrative convenience." Indeed
it was for "administrative convenience" that the Mandailings
were defined as Bataks in the Dutch east Indies and as Malays
in British Malaya.
Subsequently in the name of Malay nationalism (bangsa Melayu)
of an imagined people, national education and the print media,
the Mandailings in Malaysia have all but lost their cultural
and ethnic identity.
to 'The Mandailings in Indonesia'