Home The Ethnic Group Karo The Karo Regency covers an area of more than 2.000 square kilometers (or 3% of North Sumatra) on an average altitude of 700-1.400 m above sea level. Average temperature is 16-27 degrees Celsius, and average rainfall 1.000-4.000 mm per year. The active volcanoes Gunung Sibayak (2.000m) and Gunung Sinabung (2.400m) are visible from most points in the Karo regency. When looking out over the Karo landscape, at the first glance, it often looks rather flat. However, if one moves around along small roads, one soon realizes that the landscape is varied with many small and deep valleys making the traveling very nice and giving unexpected views.
The population of the Karo regency is app. 300.000. The regency capitol is Kabanjahe even though Berastagi is more known amongst foreigners. App. 75% of the population is farmers. Tourism, both international and domestic also plays an important role in the economy, however now less important than before. The fertile land of Karo has made the area known for fruits, vegetables, and flowers. The Berastagi Marquisa (passion fruit) is well known throughout Indonesia and is a local delicacy. The big cash crops are oranges (mandarines), cabbage, and corn. The Karo people are known to be hard workers.
The Karo people are normally described as one of six sub-groups of the Batak people. However, Karo scholars claim that they form their own ethnic group, the Karo. Others say that the Karo are closely related to the Melayu. The Karo people have, like the other Batak peoples, a strict clan system. There are five so-called original clans (marga): Karo-Karo with 20 sub-clans, Sembiring with 18 sub-clans, Tarigan with 14 sub-clans, Perangin-Angin with 18 sub-clans, and Ginting with 16 sub-clans. When people of other ethnic background move to Karo they are given a Karo clan name and, in such a way, are faster assimilated. For example a Sihotang from Toba becomes a Karo-Karo Sitepu. The clan system is today not as strict as it once was.
The Karo people embrace several religions and they live peacefully together. Even the smallest village has normally both Christians and Muslims living next to each other, in some cases even in the same longhouse. There are still people of older local religions (called Pemena), however they are few and less visible nowadays. Half of the Karo people are Protestant, 18% are Catholics, and 28 % Muslims. Other religions cover 2% of the population, including a few Hindus. Karo became Christians or Muslims during the last century. The first Christian conversions took place as late as in the 1930's. Hinduism was much more influential in Karo than in other Batak areas, especially in the Sembiring clan. Biring is a Karo word meaning “black”. It is almost impossible to find any religious fanatics in Karo.
Quoted from :http://www.sumatraecotourism.com/karo.html