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The Hanged Rock (The Legend of Parapat City)

North Sumatra - Indonesia
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In the district of Simalungun, North Sumatra, Indonesia, laid a small city called by the local inhabitants Parapat or Prapat. Located just nearby Lake Toba, this tiny city lures the domestic and foreign tourists to visit the area of breathtaking beauty. Provided with complete transport infrastructure and facilities, the village becomes easily accessed by any kind of mass transportation. Besides, many travelers, who just happened to pass through or pull off Jalan Raya Lintas Sumatra-Jalinsum (Sumatran Highway), usually will pay a visit to this historic city. The highway stretches out west side of Sumatra Island, connecting two pivotal capitals in the Sumatra Island: Medan City (South Sumatra) and Padang City (West Sumatra).  

Apart from the exotic sites of the city, Parapat is widely famous amongst South Sumatran people as a legendary city. Parapat City was once a pekan[1] located in the shore of Lake Toba. After an unfortunate incident took place in the region, the local inhabitants preferred to call it as Parapat or Prapat. It was told across generation that a human shaped rock appeared just beside Lake Toba. According to some people, there was an appealing woman named Seruni who has reincarnated through that solid human-shaped rock. What kind of hideous incident becomes the backdrop of such reincarnation? Why such an appealing woman suddenly transformed into a solid rock? Do you still want to know the answer? Follow the complete story in Batu Gantung below!

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Once upon a time, in a small remote village of Lake Toba shore, North Sumatra, lived a happy couple with their pretty daughter named Seruni. Not only good-looking, Seruni was a dutiful daughter as well, who always obeyed the order of her parents and helped them in doing house chores and earning livelihood. She always went to small garden alongside Lake Toba, growing some green vegetables and harvested them to meet the daily need.

On a sunny day, Seruni went to the garden alone, since her parents had appointment with some people in the neighboring village. She was only accompanied by her lovely dog named Toki. Arriving at the garden, instead of working, Seruni sat in small wood, enjoying the nature of the land, looking at the blue sky, as though she was thinking about a serious problem. Whereas Toki only watched Seruni from a distance, as if it tried to understand what was in her mind. Some times, the dog barked to drive her attention, but Seruni always ignored it and kept gazing at the blue sky.

The sorrow began from the last few days, and Seruni always seemed sad and depressed. She was forced by her parents to get married with one of her relatives, her cousin. As a matter of fact, she had established relationship with another young man, and made promise to build a family with him. She was so confused about her parent‘s decision. In one side, she didn‘t want to disappoint her parents, on the other hand, she couldn‘t bear the pain of being separated with her beloved boyfriend. She was uncertain about the next decision as though she was in an intersection of road. Being in such turbulent times, Seruni started to get desperate.  

“Oh my God! I could bear no longer this painful life, this is too much burden for me,” complained Seruni while crying.

“The worm will not turn,” added Seruni.

In the next few moments, Seruni got up from her chair. Crying desperately, she moved lamently forward to Lake Toba. It seemed that the beautiful daughter wanted to end her life, committing suicide by jumping to the lake. At the meantime, Toki could only walked behind and tried to stop her by barking loudly.  

With such disquieting thought popping into her mind, Seruni walked with a kind of saunter as if she hadn‘t a care in the world, to the edge of Lake Toba. Unnoticing the surrounding, she slipped into a yawning hole and dropped to the bottom. The black rock within created a harrowing situation and the silence made it scarier and tauter. The good-looking woman was very scared. On the dark hole, she began being aware of that the rocky wall moved  toward her, closer and closer, trying to squeeze her tiny body.

“Help.......! Help..........! Help me, Toki.....! Somebody rescue me!” screamed Seruni, hoping someone passed by and lend a hand to her.

Her dog, Toki, grasped the signal sent by Seruni, and understood that she needed a help, but Toki could do nothing, except barking and barking on the upper edge of hole. Seruni repeated again and again her scream, asking for help, but Toki remained in the place and barked. Seruni finally became completely desperate.

“Oh..... it is better for me to die then suffer from an unfortunate life,” mumbled Seruni, trying to chill out.

Soon after she said that, the rocky wall started moving closer again.

“Parapat[2]… ! Parapat the rock… Parapat!” shouted Seruni, hoping that the rock squeeze her body.

On the upper hole, Toki still barked to drive attention from people who would help Seruni out of the dangerous situation. After a while, Toki scampered to Seruni‘s house, asking for help from the neighbor.

Arriving at the house, Si Toki approached Seruni‘s parent who had just come from the neighboring village.

“Auggg…! auggg…! auggg…!” barked Toki, scratching out the ground as if it wanted to inform the parents that a terrible danger was threatening Seruni.

“Toki…, where is Seruni? What happened to her?” asked the father to the dog, wiping the dog‘s fur.

“Auggg…! auggg…! auggg…!” Si Toki kept howling, moving here and there as if it attempted to invite them walking to a certain place.

“Pa....it seems that Seruni is in danger,” said Seruni‘s mother.

“You are right ma....... Toki tried to tell us about a place where Seruni is,” stated the father, supporting her idea.

“But it has been late, it is night. So....how do we reach there?” asked Seruni‘s mother.

“Ma.....bring me a torch! I will ask for help from our neighbor. They will accompany us searching for Seruni” answered the father.

In the next few hours, many people gathered in the yard of Seruni‘s house, carrying with each of them a torch. Presided by the father, the group of seeker followed whereabouts Toki walked. They entered a garden and finally stopped just before the big hole where Seruni felt in the morning. Toki started barking, moving closer to the hole, telling the group that Seruni was in the bottom of the spooky hole.

Being sure about what Toki showed, the parents moved closer to the hole. What a surprise......they saw a big solid rock within the hole. The shock continued as they heard a slow voice of woman coming from between the rocks. “Prapat.....! Prapat the rock.....Prapat!” sounded the voice.

“Pa... hear the soft voice! Is that our daughter‘s voice, isn‘t it?” asked the mother in panic. 

“Yes, I hear that, the voice of Seruni. I am sure about that,” answered the father.

“But, why does she say Prapat, Prapat the rock repeatedly?” asked the mother wonderingly.

“I don‘t know. Something bad happens there,” stated the worrying father.

One of the seekers who carried the torch tried to shed some light on the hole. Unfortunately, the hole was so deep, making the light difficult to penetrate the dark.

“Seruniii…! Seruniii… !” yelled the father.

“Seruni…my beloved daughter! It is your mother. I come here to rescue you, to take you out of the hole,” shouted the mother, attempting to steal the attention of Seruni.

Many times they shouted, it always ended in vain. There was no answer from Seruni. Only a soft voice of woman who asked the rock to squeeze her.

“Parapat… ! Parapatlah the rock… ! Parapatlah!”

“Seruniiii… my dear!” the mother again called Seruni while crying uncontrollably.

The people who were present at the location helped the parents to search for Seruni. One of them paid out a piece of rope to the bottom of hole, but no one touched or grasped the rope. The father increasingly became worried about her daughter. He then decided to go down to the bottom to pick up her daughter.

“Ma, please hold this rope, and tie together with the big tree!” ordered the father to his wife.

“And bring this torch with you,!“ added the father.

“Where will you go?” asked the mother.

“I want to go down there and search for Seruni,” answered the father in the affirmative.

“Don‘t go there! It is too dangerous for you,” said the mother, trying to stop her husband going down.

“She is right Sir. The hole is very deep and dark,” added another seeker, convincing the father.

After a long talk, Seruni‘s father rescinded his intention to go down there. In the next few moments, a striking voice emitted from the hole, making the land shake. All of sudden, the hole closed and some rocks nearby it felt apart. All people included Seruni‘s parents run here and there, tried to escape from the falling rocks. They kept away far from the hole, leaving Seruni alone in the hole. She couldn‘t be saved anymore from the dreadful disaster just happened. 

Soon after the earthquake stopped, all of sudden, appeared a big women shaped rock that hanged in the slope of hill beside Lake Toba. The people of village believed that the rock was the reincarnation of Seruni who was squeezed by the rock within the hole. Then, they named the rock as “Batu Gantung” (the Hanged Rock).

Days later, the news about the disaster and the reincarnation of Seruni was heard all over the village. The people came to the site location to see the Batu Gantung. The presents who saw the incident said that they listened to a voice saying “Prapat......Parapat the rock....Prapat!”. Therefore, the word “Prapat” became expressed repeatedly as they told the story to the other people. Across generation, this story is being told.

Then the village (pekan) nearby Lake Toba is called then “Parapat”. In recent day, Parapat is a small city of North Sumatra that is densely visited by both domestic and international tourists, as the location is known for having picturesque scenery 

* * *

As such is the story of the origin of Parapat City. The above story delivers a very important message for us which can be a valuable guide in daily life. One of the valuable messages is the bad end of desperation and lack of passionate enthusiasm. This character is reflected in Seruni who wanted to end his life by jumping to Lake Toba, plunged into a deep hole, and finally died within. The desperation shown by Seruni is one of the bad characters avoided by the Malayans, as stated in the below saying:

lemah semangat, mati berulat,
lemah iman, mati menyeman



  • The content of story is adapted from Syamsuri, Maulana. t.t. Danau Toba dan Pulau Samosir dengan Beberapa Dongeng Sumatra Utara. Surabaya: Greisinda Press.
  • Anonymous. “Menikmati Keindahan Parapat”, :http://www.silaban.net/2007/06/30/menikmati-keindahan-parapat/#more-2245, retrieved at January 2nd, 2008.
  • Anonymous. “Parapat, Keindahan di Tepi Danau”, www.budpar.go.id, retrieved at January 2nd, 2008.
  • Anonymous. “Parapat”, http://id.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parapat", retrieved at January 2nd, 2008.
  • Effendy, Tenas. 1994. “Ejekan” Terhadap Orang Melayu Riau dan Pantangan Orang Melayu Riau. Pekanbaru: Bappeda Tingkat I Riau.
  • -------, 2006. Tunjuk Ajar Melayu. Yogyakarta: Balai Kajian dan Pengembangan Budaya Melayu in cooperation with AdiCita Karya Nusa.

Photo credit: members.lycos.nl

[1] Pekan is a land or area populated by people. It is usually bigger than kampung (village/settlement), but smaller bandar (city of trade).

[2] Parapat (v) means to move closer.

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