Walk back in time to the The land of Tana Torajans

Tana Toraja (in Sulwaesi) is Indonesia’ best kept secrets.

Unspoilt area of  traditional villages, unique architecture and above its quaint culture which hasn’t faded away with time.     What's striking are their funeral ceremonies which last for months and even years.

The deceased which is still treated as a member of the family until the funeral rites are performed, is preserved and kept in the house - often taking part, in a somewhat diminished role, in family conversations and meals while the family makes arrangements for the funeral.

I witnessed one of the most talked about funerals of the year – since the deceased belonged to the highest echelons of the Torajan society, being the mother of the village chief.  

I was aghast at the lavishness of the ceremony, the cost of which worked out to Rs 50 lacs! The government has now introduced a tax on the slaughter of animals that are central to the funeral sites!

The funeral celebration itself takes place in a large open area surrounded by bamboo pavilions erected for spectators. The corpse 'presides' over the event from a high-roofed tower, and the atmosphere is reminiscent of a country fair.

Since the Toraja believe that the deceased ride to the afterworld (Puya) carried by the souls of buffalo, animal sacrifices are central to the ceremony. The more buffalo killed, the easier the ride. The bloodshed is accompanied by singing, dancing, drinking and eating.

After all the excitement dies down, the body of the deceased is finally 'buried', either in a small cave, a hollow tree, or a bamboo lattice coffin hanging from a cliff.

My account will be more photographic, while also highlighting the quaintness and bizarreness of this culture. It hope to appeal to both, the avid traveler who can find an easy flight from Singapore to Sulawesi (Indonesia) as well as the armchair culture vultures!

Traditional house – with horn shaped roofs
Traditional house – with horn shaped roofs

 

Buffalo horns mark of affluence akin to owning a fleet of cars!
Buffalo horns mark of affluence akin to owning a fleet of cars!
Arm around the dead!!! Effigies of the deceased lady
Arm around the dead!!! Effigies of the deceased lady

 

The coffin parade! The dead’s way to bidding farewell to the village!
The coffin parade! The dead’s way to bidding farewell to the village!

 

Mabadong – the song and dance – slow moving circular dance enacting circle of life and death!
Mabadong – the song and dance – slow moving circular dance enacting circle of life and death!

 

Coffins go deep inside rock caves or niches made into the cave.  Tau Tau – are life size effigies of the dead, that sit in balconies on the rock face
Coffins go deep inside rock caves or niches made into the cave.

 

Offerings to the dead
Offerings to the dead

 

Green fields, crisp fresh air, and vast open valleys
Green fields, crisp fresh air, and vast open valleys