General: The classic Batak Ulos Pinunsaan or Ragidup is five panel cloth distinguished by plain sides with supplementary warp stripes on the center facing edge, a central section carrying supplementary warp ikat stripes of varying complexity and at either end, panels with supplementary weft patterning in black, red and white carrying both complex male and female symbolism (the “pinar halak”)
There is some confusion over the naming of this style of Batak Toba cloth. It can be called either a Pinunsaan or a Ragidup. Although they are essentially of the same style of cloth and of a similar ritual importance, they are in fact very different cloths. The Pinunsaan is woven in the areas immediately surrounding Lake Toba with each of the five elements being stitched together to form the whole. The Ragidup, on the other hand, is woven to the south of Lake Toba around Taratung in the Siliding Valley. In this cloth the supplementary weft elements are attached by weaving to the central panel and only the side panels attached by stitching. The supplementary weft panels in the Pinunsaan (the pinar halak) also tend to be more detailed and complex.
The Ulos Pinunsaan and Ragidup are the most significant of Batak textiles and general worn as a shoulder cloth at important ceremonies or “adat” such as at ceremonies marking birth, marriage, death and the reburial of bones. It may also be used as a shawl, wrap or skirt (sarong). It is an important symbolic gift at weddings, given by the father of the bride to the mother of the bridegroom, to cement family relationships, and is also gifted at other important life transitions, such as the seventh month of pregnancy. These cloths are passed from parents to children and form an important part of Batak family inheritance.
Specific: In this example the three center panels are woven together so it can be identified as a Ragidup from the Siliding Valley to the South of Lake Toba. The dominant color is deep red or maroon throughout (a natural dye obtained from the plant Morinda Citrifolia) which makes this a very attractive cloth. The “pinar halak” are again complex and finely woven. The side panels are hand stitched to the center panel, indicating that the cloth probably dates to the early 20th century.