What do you wish to see and explore when traveling? Breath-taking views, exotic food? Well, none of those would be a good reason t visit Tana Toraja. Most people visit the mystical Tana Toraja for the graveyards and burial ceremonies.
Three villages, Lemo, Londa, and Kete Ketsu have attracted many tourist because of their unique graveyards. In Lemo the graves are chiseled into the side of a sheer, vertical rock face. Corpses are then placed into these horizontal shafts. Carving the Shafts into the sides of the sheer cliffs requires exceptional dedication and courage. Placing the body of the deceased into the grave is extremely perilous work. In Londa, the bodies are entombed in cave. Coffins are placed among the stalactites and stalagmites. When the coffin fall apart, the skeletons fall onto the floor and remain there. The graveyards at Kete Ketsu are famous because of their proximity to the traditional Torajan houses in the area. The graves have distinguished characteristic. Each grave is marked with tau-tau, a wooden statue which is dressed just like the deceased.
The Burial Ceremony
To the Torajans, death is not the end of the journey of life. Rather, death, as will as birth, is viewed as a major milestone of a person’s life. It is the beginning of an eternal journey to meet the ancestors and the loved ones who passed away. That why the Torajans welcome death with both expressions of relief and mourning. They feel relieved because they know that the deceased will soon be \ unites with his or her ancestors. On the other hand, they also feel sad because \ they know the deceased in no longer be with them.
In Tana Toraja, the burial ceremony, known as rambu solok, involves the sacrifice of three kinds of animals: buffaloes, Pig, and chickens. The spirit of the buffaloes will accompany the spirit of the deceased to the land of the dead.
At a single ceremony of high status person, more than 300 animals are sacrificed. The ceremony usually involves around 10.000 people and last for about 6-8 days. Often, the family of the deceased have to wall for a long time to raise funds for the ceremony. While waiting, the family keeps the body preserved with herbs.
An integral part of the ritual is a cockfight known as bulangan londong. It was considered sacred. The tradition dictates the sacrifice or at least three cocks. However, it id mow common to sacrifice more cocks for the fight. These ‘extra rounds’ are held for the pleasure of the participant. However, bulangan londong has been corrupted. Nowadays only a few people regard the cockfight as a sacred event. Most of then take part in the accompanies it.
It addition to the cockfight, the ceremony also involves a mourning dance known as mabadong., In this dace members of the family of the deceased hold hands and form a large circle. The dance is followed by a poetry recitation which describes man’s journey from birth to death.
The Burial Procession
The burial procession is led by the elder of one village. The family members of the deceased, dressed in black, march slowly and solemnly behind the leader. They cry and weep to express their grief.
Finally, lakkian, the tower that contain the coffin, is brought slowly and carefully to the grave and towed by a very thick rope to the high shaft and left there. For a couple of months, close relatives of the deceased are still in mourning and wear black in their daily activities. Two times a year, they visit the grave and bring offerings to respect and show their love to the dead. They also pray, asking the dead to guide them to enter the after life, when the day of their death has come.