The Karo tribe is one of the ethnic groups in Indonesia. The existence of the Karo tribe inhabiting the North Sumatra region and parts of Aceh; covering Karo Regency, East Aceh Regency, Langkat Regency, Dairi Regency, Simalungun Regency, and Deli Serdang Regency.

This tribe is one of the largest tribes in North Sumatra. The name of this tribe is used as one of the names of the district in one of the areas they inhabit (Karo highlands), namely Tanah Karo which is located in the Karo district. This tribe has its own language called Karo Language or Cakap Karo.
The traditional Karo clothing is dominated by red and black and filled with gold jewelry. The Karo tribe is the first native tribe of Medan City because Medan City was founded by a Karo son named Guru Patimpus Sembiring Pelawi. The Karo tribe originally lived in the Karo highlands, namely Brastagi and Kabanjahe.

In ancient times on the island of Sumatra there was the Haru-Karo Kingdom (Aru Kingdom) which began to become a large kingdom in Sumatra, but it is not certain when it was founded. However, Brahma Putra, in his book “Karo from Age to Age” said that in the 1st century AD there was already a kingdom in North Sumatra whose king was named “Pa Lagan”. Judging from the name, it is a language that comes from the Karo tribe. Could it be that at that time the kingdom must already exist? This still requires further research.

The Haru-Karo kingdom is known to have grown and developed at the same time as the kingdoms of Majapahit, Sriwijaya, Johor, Malacca and Aceh. It is proven because the Haru kingdom had fought with these kingdoms. The Haru Kingdom in its golden age, its influence spread from Aceh Besar to the Siak river in Riau.

There is a Karo tribe in Aceh Besar which in Aceh is called Karee. The existence of the Haru-Karo tribe in Aceh is acknowledged by H. Muhammad Said in his book “Aceh Throughout the Ages”. He emphasized that the indigenous people of Aceh Besar are of Batak-like descent. However, it was not explained which Batak descent the original inhabitants were. Meanwhile, H. M. Zainuddin in his book “Tarich Atjeh dan Nusantara” (1961) said that in the valley of Aceh Besar, besides the Islamic kingdom, there was also the Karo kingdom. Furthermore, it is stated that the original inhabitants or the sons of the 20 mukim mingle with the Karo tribe. Brahma Putra, in his book “Karo Sepanjang Zaman” said that the last king of the Karo tribe in Aceh Besar was Manang Ginting Suka.

The karo group in Aceh later changed their name to “Kaum Lhee Reutoih” or Kaum Tiga Hundred. This naming is related to the dispute between the Karo and Hindu tribes there, which were agreed to be resolved by fighting. A total of three hundred (300) Karo tribesmen will fight with four hundred (400) Hindus in an open field. This battle was reconciled and since then the Karo tribe is called the three hundred and the Hindus are called the four hundred.

Later, there was a mixing between the Karo and Hindu tribes and they were called the Ja Sandang. Another group is the Imeum Peuet and the Tok Batee, who are a mixture of immigrant tribes, such as: Hindus, Arabs, Persians, and others.

There is often a mistake in daily conversations in the community that Taneh Karo is identified with Karo District. In fact, Taneh Karo is much wider than Karo District because it includes:

Karo Regency

Karo Regency is located in the highlands of Tanah Karo. The cities that are famous in this area are Brastagi and Kabanjahe. Brastagi is one of the tourist cities in North Sumatra which is very famous for its superior agricultural products. One of them is citrus fruit and well-known beverage products, namely as a famous passion fruit juice producer throughout the archipelago. The majority of Karo tribes live in this mountainous area, to be precise in the areas of Mount Sinabung and Mount Sibayak which are often referred to as or “Taneh Karo Simalem”. There are many uniqueness in the Karo people, both from geography, nature, and in the form of cuisine. Karo cuisine, one of which is unique is called terites. These terites are served at cultural festivals, such as weddings, parties entering a new house, and an annual party called -work year-. The ingredients of this trites are taken from the stomach of cow / buffalo, which has not been removed as manure. This material is processed in such a way as to be mixed with spices so that the sharp aroma in the stomach contents is reduced and can be enjoyed. This dish is a favorite dish that is first served to the respected.

Medan city

The founder of Medan was a son of Karo, Guru Patimpus Sembiring Pelawi. Binjai City Binjai City is an area that has the strongest interaction with Medan City due to its relatively very close distance from Medan City as the capital of North Sumatra Province.

Langkat Regency

The Karo tribe in Langkat inhabits the upstream areas, such as Bahorok, Kutambaru, Sei Bingai, Kuala, Salakaran, and some of the Selesai, Batang Serangan, and Serapit.

Dairi Regency

The area of ​​Dairi Regency is generally very fertile with the prosperity of its people through its high quality coffee plantations. Parts of Dairi District which are part of Taneh Karo:

Taneh Pinem District

Tiga Lingga District

Gunung Sitember District

Southeast Aceh District

Taneh Karo in Aceh Tenggara district includes:

Lau Sigala-gala District (Lau Deski Village, Lau Perbunga, Lau Kinga) Simpang Simadam District Deli Serdang Regency [edit] edit source]

Tanjung Morawa District

Sinembah Tanjung Muda Hulu District

Sinembah Tanjung Muda Hilir District

Sibolangit District

Pancur Batu District

Kutalimbaru District

Deli Tua District

Kecamatan Biru-Biru

Gunung Meriah District

Simalungun Regency

Dolok Silau District

The Karo tribe has a social or customary system known as merga silima, said siwaluh, and rakut sitelu. Merga is called for men, while for women it is called beru. This merga or beru is worn behind a person’s name. Merga in Karo society consists of five groups, which are called merga silima. The five merga are:

1. Karo-karo: Purba, Barus, Bukit, Gurusinga, Kaban, Kacaribu, Surbakti, Sinulingga, Sitepu, Sinuraya, Sinuhaji, Ketaren, kemit, jung, sinukaban, sinubulan, samura, sekali. (18 in total)

2. Tarigan: bondong, gana-gana, gersang, gerneng, jampang, purba, pekan, sibero, tua, tegur, tambak, tambun, silangit, tendang. (14 in total)

3. Ginting: anjartambun, babo, beras, cabap, gurupatih, garamata, jandibata, jawak, manik, munte, pase, seragih, suka, sugihen, sinusinga, tumangger, taling kuta. (17 total)

4. Sembiring: Sembiring si banci man biang (a sling that can eat dogs): Keloko, Sinulaki, Kembaren, Sinupayung (Total = 4); Sembiring simantangken biang (sembiring that is not allowed to eat dogs): Brahmana, Depari, Meliala, Pelawi, busuk, colia, muham, maha, bunuaji, gurukinayan, pandia, keling, pandebayang, sinukapur, tekang. (15 in total)

5. Perangin-angin: Bangun, Keliat, Kacinambun, Namohaji, Mano, Benjerang, Uwir, Pinem, Pancawan, Penggarun, Ulun Jandi, Laksa, Perbesi, Sukatendel, Singarimbun, Sinurat, Sebayang, Tanjung. (18 in total)

The five merga still have their respective submerga. Every Karo person has one of these merga. Merga is inherited from the father. Merga father also has children. People who have the same merga or beru are considered siblings in the sense that they have the same ancestor. If men have the same surname, they are called (b) ersenina, likewise between women and women who have the same name, then they are also called (b) ersenina. However, between a man and a woman who has the same brand, they are called erturang, so that marriage is prohibited, unless in Merga Sembiring and Warsinangin, someone can marry between them.

Another thing that is important in the composition of the Karo society is rakut sitelu or daliken sitelu (which means metaphorically the three stoves), which means a triple bond. The meaning of rakut sitelu is sangkep nggeluh (completeness of life) for the Karo people. The completeness in question is a social institution in the Karo community which consists of three groups, namely:

1. kalimbubu

2. new son

3. senina

Kalimbubu can be defined as a wife-giving family, a family with a wife taking or receiving a wife, and a family of one line of merga descent or a nuclear family and others.

The kinship concept of the Karo tribe community, Tutur siwaluh is related to narrative, which consists of eight groups:

1. puang kalimbubu

2. kalimbubu

3. senina

4. openly

5. cool senina

6. senina sepengalon / sedalanen

7. new son

8. son of the minister

In the implementation of traditional ceremonies, said siwaluh, it can still be divided into more specific groups according to the needs of the ceremony being carried out, namely as follows:

1. Puang kalimbubu is kalimbubu from someone’s kalimbubu

2. Kalimbubu is a group of wife giving to a certain family, these kalimbubu can be further grouped into:
Kalimbubu bena-bena or kalimbubu Tua, namely the group of givers to a certain group who are considered to be the group of wife givers is from that family. For example A merga Sembiring is re-bere Tarigan, then Tarigan is kalimbubu Si A. If A has children, then merga Tarigan is kalimbubu bena-bena / kalimbubu older than child A. So kalimbubu bena-bena or kalimbubu Tua is kalimbubu from biological father.

Kalimbubu simada dareh is derived from someone’s birth mother. Kalimbubu simada dareh is the brother of one’s biological mother. Called kalimbubu simada dareh because it is they who are considered to have blood, because it is considered their blood that is contained in his nephew.

Kalimbubu iperdemu, means kalimbubu which is made kalimbubu because someone is marrying a daughter from a family for the first time. So that someone becomes kalimbubu is based on marriage.
3. Senina, namely those who have awareness because they have the same merga and submerga. 4. Sembuyak, literally se means one and mbuyak means womb, so it means people who are born from the same womb or womb. However, in Karo society this term is used for different arts submerga as well, in Karo language it is called sindauh ipedeher (which is far to be near).

5. Sipemeren, namely people whose mothers are siblings. This section is again supported by the siparibanen, that is, people who have siblings.

6. Senina Sepengalon or Sendalanen, namely people who are siblings because they have children who are married to the same Beru.

7. Beru child, means the party who takes the wife from a certain family to marry him. New children can occur directly because they marry certain family women, and indirectly through the intermediary of other people, such as ministerial children and singikuri new children. These new children consist of:

1. The new child is the new child in a family from generation to generation. At least three generations have taken wives from certain families (kalimbubunya). The old new son is the main new son, because without his presence in a traditional ceremony made by the kalimbubunya party, the ceremony cannot be started. The elder son also functions as the son of the singerana (as a speaker), because of its function in traditional ceremonies as a speaker and as a family leader in the Kalimbubu family in the context of traditional ceremonies.

The new child is clueless, baka closes, that is the new child who can immediately know everything in his Kalimbub family. The son of the new Sekoh Baka Tutup is the daughter of a family head. For example, Si A is a boy, has a sister to Si B, then Si B’s child is the child who is clumsy and dead from Si A. In everyday calling, the new child is also called bere-bere mama.

2. Children with new ministers, namely children with new children. The origin of the word minister is from the word minteri which means to straighten out. So a child with a wife has a broader meaning as a guide, to supervise and assist his kalimbubinya duties in an obligation in a traditional ceremony. There is also what is called a son with a singkuri, namely a child with a son from a minister. This new child prepares dishes in the context of traditional ceremonies.


The script used in this tribe is Aksara Karo. This script is an ancient script used by the Karo people, but at this time its use is very limited and is almost never used again. In order to complete the writing method, it needs to be completed with sub-letters such as o = ketolongen, x = sikurun, ketelengen and pemantek

The Karo tribe has several traditional cultures, including traditional dance, Piso Surit, Lima Serangkai, Terang Bulan Dance, Roti Manis Dance, and Tiga Sibolangit Dance. The Karo tribe also has a traditional drama called Gundala-Gundala. Apart from having several traditional cultures, the Karo tribe has several cultural activities such as Merdang merdem = “year work” accompanied by “Gendang guro-guro aron”, Mahpah = “year work” accompanied by “Gendang guro-guro aron”.

Mengket Rumah Mbaru – Party enters the new house (adat – ibadat), Mbesur-mbesuri – “Ngerires” – makes lemang when rice is pregnant, Ndilo Udan – calls for rain., Rebu-rebu – looks like a “year work” party, Ngumbung – day pause “aron” (a group of workers in the village), Erpangir Ku Lau – self-purification (to get rid of bad luck), Raleng Tendi – “Ngicik Tendi” = summoning the soul after someone is less calm due to being shocked by an unexpected event, Motong Rambai – A small family party – friends to collect hair from babies (toddlers) that are untidy and untidy, Ngaloken Tendi Upah Ring – Family ceremony of giving a ring of request from nieces (from Mama to Bere-bere or from Aunt to Play), Manok Sangkepi, Maba Belo Selamber (MBS), Ngaloken Rawit – A family ceremony of giving a knife (ground pepper) or small dagger or sickle in the form of a request from nephews (from Mama to Bere-bere) – nephews.


The majority of the Karo population has embraced Christianity around 70% (majority Protestant 90% and 10% Catholic), and Islam 25%. About 5% still adhere to the old belief, namely Pemena.

Many of the Karo people do not want to be called a part of the Batak. They argue that from the ancestral origins of the Karo people are different from the Batak tribe, besides that, Karo culture and language are also believed to be different from Batak. They believe that the “Batak” appendage is a stereotype that was raised during the Dutch colonial period, where non-Malay ethnic groups were categorized as Batak ethnic groups.

This statement raises pros and cons among the community, especially in the Batak tribe. The Batak people say that the Karo people should not immediately declare themselves a non-Batak tribe, because according to them some Karo Tribe clans are still connected with some of the Toba Batak clans, such as the Sitepu clan which is still “trah” with the clan. Sitohang, or the Purba clan which is still related to the Purba clan in Simalungun.

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