Living With Dead Bodies For Years

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The world is full of strange customs and traditions. Sometimes you even get shocked. But the question is, if not Torajan people funerary rites is one of the most spectacular and shocking in the world.

The Torajan People

The Torajans are an ethnic group indigenous to a mountainous region of South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Their population is approximately 1,100,000. Most of the population is Christian. Others are Muslim or have local animist beliefs.

Before the 20th century, Torajans lived in autonomous villages. Where they practised animism and were relatively untouched by the outside world. Dutch missionaries first worked to convert Torajan highlanders to Christianity in the early 1900s.

Toraja’s indigenous belief system is polytheistic animism. Also called aluk, or “the way”. In the Toraja myth, the ancestors of Torajan people came down from heaven using stairs. Which were then used by the Torajans as a communication medium with Puang Matua. Or The Creator.

Toraja Funeral Rites

Torajans are renowned for their elaborate funeral rites. Burial sites carved into rocky cliffs, massive peaked-roof traditional houses known as tongkonan, and colourful wood carvings.

Toraja funeral rites are important social events. Usually attended by hundreds of people and lasting for several days. Family is the primary social and political grouping in Torajan society.

In Toraja society, the funeral ritual is the most elaborate and expensive event. The richer and more powerful the individual, the more expensive is the funeral. The death feast of a nobleman is usually attended by thousands.

The ceremony is often held weeks, months, or even years after the death. So that the deceased’s family can raise the significant funds needed to cover funeral expenses. During the waiting period, the body of the deceased is wrapped in several layers of cloth and kept under the traditional house.

In the ritual called Ma’Nene, that takes place each year in August, the bodies of the deceased are exhumed to be washed, groomed and dressed in new clothes.

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