Tana Toraja funeral sites – part II, Sulawesi

Torajans do not “bury” the body until the eleventh day of the ceremony. Final resting place is in a cave up on the cliff. The soul of the deceased is thought to linger around the village until the funeral ceremony is completed, after which it begins its journey to the land of souls.

A wood-carved effigy is called tau tau. It’s carved with the likeness of the dead person and placed in the balcony of the tomb to represent the dead and watch over their remains.

Many tau tau effigies have been stolen to be sold to tourists that people have started to keep them in their homes.

Tau tau’s for turists

Kembira burial tree for babies with little niches carved into the tree

If a child dies before started teething, the baby is wrapped in cloth and placed inside a hollowed out space within the trunk of a growing tree, and covered over with a palm fibre door. The belief is, that as the tree begins to heal, the child’s essence will become part of the tree.

Londa grave site

Londa is a grave site with cliff and cave burial niches

Every year in August and September, a ritual called Ma’Nene (The Ceremony of Cleaning Corpses) takes place in which the bodies of the deceased are exhumed to be washed, groomed and dressed in new clothes. Damaged boxes are fixed or replaced. The mummies are then walked around the village by following a path of straight lines. Following these straight lines is maybe the most important part of the ceremony. According to the myth, these lines are connected with Hyang, a spiritual entity with supernatural power. As this entity only move in straight lines, the soul of the deceased body must follow the path of Hyang.

According to the ancient Torajan belief, the spirit of a dead person must return to his village of origin. So if a person died on a journey, the family would go to the place of death and accompany the deceased back home by walking them back to the village. In the past people were frightened to journey far in case they died while they were away and were unable to return to their village.

Natural grave site, where coffins are stacked in crevices of the cave

Piles of skulls throughout the cave

You can read more about Torajan funerals in part I.

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