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!