Pair of Toba Batak Architectural Heads, Sumatra Island, Greater Sunda Islands
heights 43 3/8in (110cm) and 43 1/2in (110.5cm)
According to Sibeth (1991: p. 119), 'The word singa comes from Sanskrit where it means "lion". Gajah dompak is a combination of a Sanskrit and a Toba word and means "an elephant that looks to the front". To the Batak, however, the singa is a mythological primeval beast of no defined zoological species, with an apotropaic function. It usually has a long tongue hanging out (often incorrectly interpreted as a trunk) which has the same effect...The headdress of the singa has three horns, of which the middle one is the longest. This horn is often regarded as another memory of the world-tree which has already been mentioned in connection with the leaf scroll decorations on the side walls. It rises above the head of the mythological underworld beast which is imagined as the naga, the serpent or serpent-dragon. The side beams of the house with the singa heads at their front ends support the room where the people live and are thus comparable with the underworld dragon, Naga Padoha.'