Ulos is a name given to traditional handwoven textiles from the Lake Toba region of North Sumatra. Ulos is a Batak word for Blanket, as in the past Ulos was woven as a blanket or a shoulder cloth. Ulos is a traditional ceremonial textile of the Batak people (my people). As a Batak, ulos has played a big role in my life, since I was born, and will continue to be a big part of my world right to the day I depart this planet. 


There are many varieties of Ulos, each with its hierarchy and function. There are ulos for a newborn, ulos for someone who just got married, ulos for someone who has just departed, and hundreds of other functions and purposes.  

Ulos Harungguan, from the Muara region of Lake Toba
Ulos Sibolang, from the Toba Balige region of Lake Toba
Ulos Ragi Hidup, from the Toba region of Lake Toba

Ulos tradition and their ceremonial values are changing very fast. In the past, the shades of Ulos were predominantly made in subtle colour red, white, and black, and most of those subtle colours Ulos which used to be dyed in natural dyed and woven with a back-strap loom, has slowly pushed aside by brighter colour synthetically dyed ulos which are produced cheaply using semi-industrial shaft loom.

Despite these extreme changes and challenges, more young Batak weavers are influenced by the demand for high-quality naturally dyed Ulos and are slowly producing excellent quality naturally dyed Ulos Batak for global Ulos collectors.


The Batak tribe is divided into 5  tribes: Batak Toba (my people), Batak Simalungun, Batak Karo, Batak Pakpak, Batak Mandailing and Batak Angkola. Most of these people are living around the shore of Lake Toba, of North Sumatra and each of these tribes is represented by different types of Ulos textiles

I am a Toba Batak, so I am more familiar with Ulos originating from the Toba Batak region, and I would like to share some stories about these textiles with you. Some of our most respected Ulos which have the highest function within the Batak society are the Ragi Hidup, Ragi Hotang, Sibolang, Mangiring, Pinusaan, Suri-suri, and Sadum.  I will be sharing more details on each of these Ulos in my Ulos Batak posts, particularly those that I inherited from my family.


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