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Frankincense, the Magic of the First Gold Values

Jangan heran jika Anda ke rumah orang Arab di Arab Saudi, berbau kemenyan
Jakarta (Dreamland Library) - There is a story that is believed by the people of Tapanuli, North Sumatra. One of the offerings brought by three advanced or intellectuals from the east for the newborn baby Jesus in Bethlehem came from the Land of Tapanuli. The offering was in the form of incense, accompanied by two other offerings, gold and myrrh.

Through stories passed down through generations, the people of Tapanuli believe the incense was brought from the Port of Barus, which was once a large port, to the Middle East, to Bethlehem.

The story is increasingly rolling considering that most of Tapanuli residents are Christians and Catholics who are closely related to the story of the birth of the Prophet Jesus.

The truth needs to be examined, but at least from the story it can be seen that even now a fragrant sap called frankincense, which in Batak language is called haminjon, is so closely related to the lives of Tapanuli people.

Head of the North Sumatra Regional Planning and Development Agency (Bappeda) who is also a former North Tapanuli Regent, RE Nainggolan, explained that incense was once very prosperous for the people of Tapanuli. And, the fragrant sap also contributed to its name. "My grandmother is a trader of incense," he said.

He knew exactly, in 1936 his grandmother already had a car to transport incense from Tapanuli to the Port of Sibolga. At that time the price of one kilogram of incense was equal to one gram of gold. The standard continues to be used by farmers and collectors in Tapanuli: One kilogram of incense is equal to one gram of gold. One kilogram of incense is also equivalent to one can (16 kilograms) of rice.

Besides the story about the offering from the east to the Prophet Jesus, not many people know the history of incense in Tapanuli. Most residents call it a miracle plant that has existed for hundreds of years and supports the people of Tapanuli.

Washington Situmorang (70), a farmer in Doloksanggul, Humbang Hasundutan Regency, said that in the 1960s the price of incense was really the same as gold. The price is slowly receding. Around the 1980s the price of incense continued to decline to only half, even one-third the price of one gram of gold.

According to Thomson Silaban, forest rehabilitation staff at the Department of Mining and Forestry of the Humbang Hasundutan Regency, if prior to 1980 incense was able to contribute 60 percent of the household economy, it has now dropped to around 20 percent.

Kemenyan (Stryrax sp), which belongs to the Stryraccaceae family of the Ebeneles order, is cultivated by the people of North Sumatra in seven districts, especially in the districts of North Tapanuli, Humbang Hasundutan, Pakpak Bharat, and Toba Samosir. This plant is also developed in Dairi, South Tapanuli, and Central Tapanuli, although not too much. While the largest incense producers are still in North Tapanuli and Humbang Hasundutan.

In North Tapanuli, incense is a mainstay commodity under coffee and rubber. Of 56,003 families in the district, 30,446 families or more than 54 percent use incense as a source of income. In Humbang Hasundutan, even about 65 percent of families (33,702) live on incense trees. This commodity ranks second under coffee.

North Sumatra Plantation Office estimates, in 2005 the area of ​​incense plantations in North Sumatra reached 23,592.70 hectares with a production of 5,837.86 tons. Latex productivity of 294.31 kilograms per hectare per year. The incense sap contains about 36.5 percent cinnamic acid which is widely used for the pharmaceutical, cosmetic, cigarette, drug, and religious ritual industries.

Not just for rituals

Before Christianity entered Tapanuli, incense was widely used by the Batak people for ritual worship activities. For thousands of years, incense is widely used in the tradition of honoring the Creator.

Burning smoke that rises high becomes a representation of prayer that also rises to the Creator. In the Catholic tradition, for example, frankincense is used in special mass, being part of hundred powders which are burned in burning charcoal which produces fragrant smoke.

In the land of Java and also in many world cultures, the fragrance of the incense smoke is believed to be able to bring the spirit but also to expel the spirit. The fragrance creates a magical sensation. Frankincense is also a cigarette mixed powder which is mostly smoked by rural and elderly people in Central Java.

Only Tapanuli and a little in West Sumatra that produce incense in Indonesia. Unfortunately, even though this commodity has been traded for hundreds of years, there has been no innovation in developing its plantations. Product innovation also doesn't exist yet. Most farmers do not know the trade route. For what and who is the end user incense, they do not know. As a result, the price of the sap is very easy for traders to fool because farmers do not know the world price standards.

Seven kinds

Frankincense grows in mountainous areas with an altitude of 900-1200 meters above sea level, with temperatures between 28-30 degrees Celsius in podsolic soil, red yellow and latosol. Soil acidity is between 5.5 and 6.5 with a maximum slope of 25 degrees.

This annual plant can live up to more than 100 years. There are 20 types of frankincense trees, but the most widely grown in North Sumatra are durame (Styrax Benzoine) and toba incense (Styrax Sumatrana). Frankincense Durame grows faster than Toba. Durame can be tapped since the age of 6-7 years with the color of the sap tends to be black, while the new Toba is tapped for ages 10-13 years with the type of white sap.

"Taking care of the incense tree is like treating a girl. Difficult and difficult, must have a lot of attention, "said Washington Situmorang.

In contrast to rubber, tapping frankincense does not need a container. The sap is left out of the tree trunk, melting in the tree bark.

In the first installment, the tree trunk will produce white sap which can only be taken about three months later. The sap is attached to the bark of the tree so that to harvest the farmers must pry the incense bark.

White gum called sidukabi or zam-zam eyes are of the highest value. However, now the price is only around Rp. 60,000 to Rp. 75,000 per kilogram at the farm level.

The scraps will produce a second sap droplet called a path or jurur that can be harvested two or three months after harvesting the zam-zam eyes. After that comes the third sap called tahir. The price is much cheaper than the price of the eye, around Rp. 20,000 to Rp. 25,000 per kilogram. If the eyes are white, the color of the cerebellum or fetus becomes increasingly blackened.

The incense sap can be grouped in at least seven types from the most expensive to the cheapest, namely coarse eyes, nuts, corn, large, coarse sand, fine sand, to ashes. Rough eyes can be valued at Rp 100,000 per kilogram at the collector level, while ash or fine incense incense costs Rp 3,000 per kilogram.

At the collection place, this sort of incense is sorting like gold from the sand. The female workers diligently sort through the grains. Incense sap that is old age usually is yellow like gold.

In one tree there can be many deposits. In Tarutung or Doloksanggul it is quite easy to find this plant. As long as you see a plant whose stem is full of cut wounds, we can be sure it is incense plant.

Chairperson of Commission B of the Humbahas Regency Aslin Simamora who is also the son of an incense farmer said that there was a ritual that was used by his ancestors before chewing (tapping) incense trees.

Farmers need to make gurgur itak cakes, cakes made from a mixture of rice flour, brown sugar and grated coconut. The cake is chewed and then sprinkled on the incense tree that is about to be tapped.

Because of this long history, it is not surprising that the public was angry when PT Toba Pulp Lestari (TPL) felled the people's incense tree at register 41 at the border of Humbang Hasundutan and Samosir Districts late last year. DPRD Humbang Hasundutan even formed a special committee that urged PT TPL to protect the area of ​​the people's incense plantations.

Source: (Aufrida Wismi Warastri) Kompas Daily
Copied from: www.silaban.ne

Photo: Special

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