Selasa, 08 Mei 2012


Extravagant Tana Toraja funeral ceremonies are a social and religious necessity in this Christian-Animist society because families have to impress the gods with the importance of the dead. If not, the soul of the dead person may not be able to enter heaven and will travel the earth instead, causing trouble for the relatives. Families keep the corpse of their kin in their strangely shaped three room houses for two or three years, while they save up for the sumptuous wake.

This fond and funky farewell involves the construction of an entirely new village of bamboo, sometimes with more than a hundred rooms, in which to entertain thousands of guests for up to seven days. The procession carrying the deceased's effigy (tau tau) from her family home to funeral village, Tana Toraja.

The beginning of the funeral celebration starts with the transportation of the red and gold covered coffin, and the effigy, from the relatives home to the funeral village. There is loud cheering and the many carriers stop regularly to jump up and down with the coffin. The coffin is also pushed to all sides, under loud laughter and cheering. It is all meant to scare away the bad ghosts and spirits. Eventually the coffin is pushed and pulled into the verge and uphill through the bush to a rocky cliff. Suddenly, on an open space, the coffin is put on the ground and several women are diving on top of it crying load. Apparently, this is the last goodbye and it seems as if actresses are hired to change the joy into grief. One of the women even faints from the emotion.

The body is not buried until the eleventh day of the ceremony. Following a birth ceremony for the dead person, characterized by the sounds of cries of family members, the deceased is buried - but not in the ground. The final resting placed is in a cave up on the cliff.

To Get There
From Makassar go to Rantepao, in the mountains of Tana Toraja. This is the area of the Toraja people, known for their funeral rituals and typical houses. Although they are converted to Christianity, their traditional animist beliefs are still part of everyday life. The first part of bus drive to Rantepao is in flat terrain, along the coast heading north. The views are nice, with simple yet typical malay houses in the rice fields with mountains in the backdrop. After the harbor city of Pare Pare, move up into the mountains. This means heavy winding roads, roaring engines going up, and squeaking breakes going down. After a while the first Tongkonan houses appear, and at the end of  Rantepao.

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