Traditional funeral in Tana Toraja – part I, Sulawesi

For the Toraja people life very much revolves around death. A funeral is a great celebration of life, just like going-away party, and it’s an occasion in which the entire family and all villagers take part. Their ancient traditions have been practiced over many centuries and are the most complex funeral traditions in the world.

Arriving guest are bringing present, usually a pig or more, depend on how big and wealthy the family is

The Torajans are Christian minority, that’s why pigs are also on the menu

Master of ceremony welcomes guests and takes them to their place, where they get drink and food


Family arriving


During their lives, Torajans work extremely hard to accumulate wealth. Unlike other societies, they do not save their money to give themselves a good life, but they save for a good send off in death. It’s the extravagance of the funeral, not the wedding, which marks a family’s status.




Welcome team of family kids



Men, women and children chatting in the shade of ancestral homes — tongkonan — stilted structures with giant curved roofs


The funerals are held in stages and animal sacrifice day is most interesting for westerners. A big funeral has as many as three hundred (300) buffaloes!




They kill many pigs during the day to feed all the visitors




Meat is chopped, cooked and grilled for guests. When the family leaves the funeral, they get some meat to take home





Pig meat is also mixed with herbs, stuffed in the bamboo and roasted on fire





Ceremony begins when all funeral visitors attend a buffalo-slaughtering field. Family members are required to slaughter buffaloes and pigs as they believe that the spirit of the deceased will live peacefully thereafter, continuing to herd the buffaloes that have come to join him.

Torajan funeral is measured in the number and quality of buffalo, which serve as a form of currency.

Before being sacrificed, according to a strictly defined procedure, the animals take part in trials of strength known as tedong silaga.



Buffalo meat is also chopped and then cooked or grilled for guests





Funeral ceremonies are held weeks, months or even years after the death of a person to give the family of the deceased time to raise enough money for expenses – a body is not buried until the funds have been raised. Many people go deeply into debt in order to hold a funeral ceremony and it is not uncommon for a young man, afraid of being burdened by debt, to postpone or cancel his marriage if grandparent of the girl he loves is old enough to die soon.





Guests are sipping and drinking palm wine

You can read more about Torajan funerals in part II

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