Piso Ni Datu

IN52 Piso Ni Datu

Code: IN52

Batak Legend of the Twins

"The legend says that long ago in a Batak kingdom in Sumatra a noble woman was about to give birth when a shaman predicted she would give birth to twins. A boy and a girl. 

The shaman told the parents that the children should be separated at birth and never allowed to meet, or the consequences would be dire.

So after their birth the twins were separated. Each was sent to far ends of the kingdom, the parents hoping the sheer distance between them would prevent them ever meeting.

However, as they reached their teenage years they each felt an urge to travel. They met, not knowing they were siblings. They found an instant rapport and spent the night together.

The next morning they awoke and walked together into a great forest. They heard a strange sound high in a tree. The boy climbed up through the branches to investigate.

The girl waited on the ground for some time calling out to the boy, who did not answer. So she climbed the tree also.

Word had spread to the parents and, fearing the worst, the parents sought their children. They found them at the top of the tree, frozen together forever."

This is a Piso Ni Datu c. late 1800's from the Karo Batak people of northern Sumatra. "Piso" means "knife" in Batak, and "Datu" means "guru" or "magician".  Only the leader of a village or tribal unit (usually called Datu) was permitted to carry this sword. It was considered so powerful that it was not kept in the home but outside, in its own house. The power derives from the "twins" featured on the hilt and scabbard. In many societies, twins are considered magical or mystical. It is thought they share a common soul.

Piso Ni Datu, Batak, Hilt Twin Ancestor Figures 45deg

The blade is 14 inches in length, ⅞ inch wide at the middle "belly". It is a hefty ¼ inch thick at the forte and tapers distally to the tip. The back of the blade is slightly concave. Beyond the forte, which is roughly triangular, the edge of the blade is convex leading to an upswept hilt. The blade shows signs of hardening as well as wear that is consistent with the age. The overall length is 22 inches in the scabbard.

The scabbard features a brass top section with a seated twin, and a brass shape decorated in engraved geometric patterns that also appear on the scabbard and hilt. The wooden scabbard itself is bound together by 10 copper bands.

The Batak of northern Sumatra comprise six groups: the Toba, Mandaling, Angkola, Pakpak/Dairi, Simalingun, and Karo. All share a common origin myth and ancestor (Si Raja Batak), have similar kinship and marriage customs, employ a common language and script, and emphasize certain ritual practices. Until the mid-twentieth century, political power was in the hands of chiefs and the council of elders, while spiritual power resided with the priest (datu), who had great influence on Batak life.