29 October, 2008

A Tomb at the House Yard

. 29 October, 2008

It has been more than 15 years since I have been living in Medan. At least once in every year, most often on Easter holiday, I and my family used to visit a village of Tampahan, about 11 km further from Balige, the capital of Toba Samosir district. It takes about 5 hours drive from Medan to Tampahan.

There is a house of my husband’s late grannies located uphill off the road, facing the street of inter province. The cemetery, - I prefer to say a tomb - of my late parents in law is located at the right side yard of the house.
It is common for the people of North Tapanuli to bury down the corpse of family member at their house yard or their private yard somewhere else within the village. They assume they have the right to reserve part of their own house yard for the burial ground or cemetery of the family member when passed away. It is usually at either the front or side yard, but not at back yard, as to honor the soul of the person being buried there. There are still a lot of Bataknese people who prefer to bury the corpse of their parents or grandparents especially of the aged ones at the land of their parent home village. Even if they have to take the corpse across the ocean, they would do it.

The tombs of King Sidabutar
and his family at Samosir island

Cemetery of Nommensen and his family.
Nommensen is a missionary from
Germany who introduced
Christianity to the people

of north Tapanuli in the 19th century

There are many reasons to do so. It can be a wish or request from their parents or grannies when being alive, to ensure that the cemetery will be cared by a member of their family living in the village or at least by someone they may hire. Another reason is as a way for their descendants come to visit their fore father home village. This is what was requested by my father in law before he departed. He was a former member of police officer, and he has the facility to be buried in National Cemetery, but long time before his death, he told his wishes to his sons that his corpse is to be buried at his parents’ home village.

The tombs of my father's grannies
at Butar - Siborong-borong
which is surrounded by rice fields

The tomb of Siahaan's (my husband's clan)
forefather - Somba Debata in Balige

For current generation living in a city, taking corpse of the family member to the village is not practical, wasting time and costs a lot. They don’t care too much about where to be buried when died. However, as a matter of fact, to buy or even to rent the small burial ground at local cemetery costs a lot. The family of the departed has to pay a lot besides must pay for the rent every year including taxes.

Last month when a father of my friend passed away, the family paid 11 million rupiah (=USD11,000) for 2x1.5 square meter of land for burial ground of the death. That is at Simalingkar, which has been the second best cemetery in Medan in this few years. The best one is at Taman Eden, which cost more expensive, 25 million rupiah (=USD 25,000) per corpse to be buried there. This makes the people of Tapanuli Utara, particularly who live in North Sumatera choose to utilize the land at their father home village as burial ground for the family member. So on the way back to Medan from north Tapanuli, it is a common view to see ambulance delivering corpse to certain village at north Tapanuli followed by family of the departed.


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