The Tana Toraja (Sulawesi, Indonesia)
To immerse yourself in the Tana Toraja spirit, this indigenous people with ancestral and theatrical customs, you will have to go to the south of Sulawesi during your trip to Indonesia. This island is located east of the island of Borneo. Magnificent by the landscapes it offers, it will amaze you with its deep green mountains, its terraced rice fields, its steep coasts and its original dwellings, especially those of the Toraja country. The Tongkonan, surprising traditional houses, with unique architecture, with a roof reminiscent of the shape of buffalo horns. Which is surely no coincidence, the buffalo being a sacred animal for this community.
If the majority of Toraja today are Christians, many are still practicing the Aluk To Dolo, “the way of the Ancestors”, a fascinating animist cult of the dead. Funeral ceremonies can last several days and are very impressive. To accompany their deceased to the land of the dead, the Toraja sacrifice buffaloes which will travel alongside them to guide them. The funerary sites are cut into the rock and accommodate members of the same family. In front of each tomb is a balcony on which are arranged wooden sculptures bearing the effigy of the deceased. Thus living and dead can they see each other every day.
People go to Tana Toraja mainly to attend the funeral ceremony, which takes place in summer. We drove through Tana Toraja in March so didn’t manage to see the beautiful ceremony.
Because the family of the deceased (depending on the status) must accumulate an incredible amount of money in order to bury their loved one with all the honors.
For this reason, the body of the latter awaits burial for several years. What is the “funeral” money for, which a family can work for half their life? At the feast and several dozen heads of bulls, which are cut off at the ceremony in front of everyone.
Tana Toraja located in the heart of the mountains of South Sulawesi, the Toraja Country is a unique region of its kind. Or at least, the people who live there. The Toraja Country region is a collection of funerary sites, mountains, rice fields, traditional houses decorated with painted wooden sculptures and above all unique funeral rites.
Moreover, it is the funeral rites that are at the heart of the Toraja cultural identity. An ethnic group of approximately 650,000 people made up mainly of Christians. It was officially born in the early 1900s. It is an animist ethnic group following a set of beliefs (Aluk To Dolo: the way of the ancestors). The Toraja people are organized into castes of 4 levels.
Toraja is also famous in art (wood carvings) and in the architecture of their houses (the Tongkonan) that the Toraja people stand out. The Tongkonan are houses with an astonishing shape: the roof is in the shape of an upside-down boat. This would come from their ancestors who used the hull of their boats to shelter from bad weather. A characteristic architecture of the Toraja people that can be found in all the villages of the region. Each of the houses was accompanied by one or more rice granaries of the same shape as the house (but smaller). The set is magnificent!
What to visit in Tana Toraja?
Lemo Stone Tombs
The stone tombs of Lemo are located 12 km south of Rantepao. The driver of the last car that took us to Tana Toraji dropped us off there. Lemo in translation means “orange”, because the stone hill, in the slopes of which tombs are carved, resembles this particular fruit in its shape for the locals. So be it !
Another old cemetery, but already in the caves, is located 6 km closer to Rantepao than Lemo and is called Londa. In fact, they are all the same burials, only now inside the cave complex. The place name was transferred from the nearby village of the same name.
There are still rice fields in front of the cave entrance, the place outside is quite scenic. Inside the cave, coffins, bones, skulls are everywhere, the inhabitants do not hesitate to take pictures with almost all the dead.
Tilanga Natural Pool
This picturesque place with clear blue waters is located very close to Lemo or 10 km north of Makale, to be exact, it is located in Sarira Village. From the main road in Tilanga, walk a few miles, but what a beautiful views on the sides.
Photo description: Kete’ Kesu’ is a tourist attraction located in North Toraja Regency. There is a row of Tongkonan which is the traditional house of the Toraja people. In addition, in the same complex there is also a tomb that has been used as a tourist attraction, as well as many sellers of typical Toraja souvenirs.