Sulawesi (Summer 1972): Toraja funeral ceremony



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The Torajas are one of the main ethnic groups in Sulawesi. They live in the highlands round Mamasa, Rantepao and Makale, and until recently have been mostly rice cultivators. They have complex rituals, among which the most famous to outsiders is their funeral ceremony. This ceremony is an expensive event held over several days and attended by many people. Several dozens of water buffalo and many pigs are slaughtered near the coffin of the deceased. I followed one such ceremony during my 1972 trip, where I was the only outsider. I attended another one, much smaller, in 2009 (see here), also attended by a number of outsiders, including TV crews from Jakarta. The general atmosphere was very different.


Coffin of the deceased, exposed in front of a traditional house.


Musician in the house.


Slaughter of water buffalos.



Boys collecting buffalo blood in bamboo stems.


Buffalo carcasses are then pulled under the coffin and cut into pieces that are later shared among guests.





On the last day of the ceremony, the coffin is taken down and carried to the burial site located a long distance away.





Funeral cortege between rice fields.


On the way to the burial site people play some complex combination of dance and simulated fight.






Finally the cortege reaches the burial site, a huge boulder with large tomb cavities. The deceased is put to rest into one of them.



There are many burial sites around Rantepao. The most famous are those of Londa and Lemo. In those two sites statues (called Tau-Taus) are effigies of the deceased. Unfortunately, in recent years, many Tau-Taus have been stolen and sold away to tourists and collectors.


Burial site of Londa.




Burial site of Lemo


Links to:

- Ujung Pandang and Polewali

- Polewali to Mamasa

- Mamasa to Palopo via Rantepao




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