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Tana Toraja, An Island With The Unique Culture and Traditions

Tana Toraja Culture

Tana Toraja, South Sulawesi

Tana Toraja culture is a world cultural heritage thousands of years ago (Tongkonan, grave stones Lemo, Londa caves Tomb, Tombs of ancient Kete Kesu, baby graves Kambira, Ceremony Signs Solo) are still there and still preserved and make Tana Toraja as a tourist attraction in the archipelago eastern part of Indonesia, especially in southern Sulawesi, even make Tana Toraja as a World Cultural Tourism.

Tana Toraja is located in South Sulawesi Province. Located approximately 328 km from the capital of South Sulawesi, Makassar. With a height of 300 up to 2880 meters above sea level Toraja combines freshness and coolness.

Tana Toraja cultural uniqueness lies in traditional house, funeral rituals,  stone grave and carving wood.

Tongkonan Pallawa, Tana Toraja Traditional House

Tongkonan Rumah Adat Tana Toraja


Tongkonan derived from the word tongkon  which means ‘to sit together’.  Told as a seat because once a gathering place for Toraja nobles who sat in tongkonan for discussion. This traditional house has a social and cultural functions stratified society. Originally the seat of government, customs authority, as well as social and cultural development of the life of Toraja.

Tongkonan is a traditional house with characteristic wooden houses on stilts under the house where the pit is usually used as a byre. The roof houses of  tongkonan coated with a black fibers and the curved shape just like a boat with a stern face down. on the front there is a row of buffalo horns. In front of Tongkonan there are the granary, called a ‘alang’.  In addition Tongkonan also used as a place to store the bodies.

All the tongkonan houses lined up will point to the north. Tongkonan facing northand and the tip of the  roof pointed upward symbolize their ancestors who came from the north. When died later they will gather together the spirits of his ancestors in the north.

Rambu Solo-Funeral Ceremony in Tana Toraja

Tana Toraja Funereal Ceremony

Tana Toraja in South Sulawesi has a unique funeral tradition, with ceremonies reflecting a blend of grief and wealth. When a Torajan dies in Toraja land, family members of the deceased are required to hold a series of funeral ceremonies that usually last for several days before the deceased is brought to a funeral site for burial. The family of the deceased should provide tens of buffaloes and pigs for the ceremony.

The ceremony is often held weeks, months, or years after the death so that the deceased’s family can raise the significant funds needed to cover funeral expenses. Torajans traditionally believe that death is not a sudden, abrupt event but a gradual process toward Puya (the land of souls, or afterlife). It is based on a strong belief that the soul of the deceased travels to the land of the south and in this land of eternity, he will need all the requisites of everyday life in the hereafter just like when he was alive in this world.
During the waiting period, the body of the deceased is wrapped in several layers of cloth and kept inTongkonan. 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 Puya.In Toraja a person is not considered dead until this last ceremony and the soul is released to the heavens. It is this celebration that is so absorbing.
The deceased is not buried immediately but stored in a traditional house – or Tongkonan, as locals call it – under the same roof with his or her kin. Torajans consider the person to be merely suffering from an illness and not truly dead until the moment his funeral when the first buffalo is sacrificed; then their spirit can begin its journey to the Land of Souls.

Tana Toraja Buffalo fights

The most exciting part of the ceremony is the buffalo fights and slaughter. 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 or her.

Tana Toraja Buffalo Sacrifice

The buffalo fighting draws much attention from the locals and visitors who crowd to catch a glimpse. Cheering and applause is heard all around when the buffaloes are fighting. The fighting buffaloes are then slaughtered, and the meat distributed to the funeral visitors. Distribution is carried out in accordance to visitors’ positions in the community, and the spirit of the deceased is also entitled to a portion of meat, known locally as Aluk Todolo. The heads of the buffaloes are returned to what is locally known as puya (a site for the soul or spirit of the dead person) and their horns placed in front of the house of the kin. The more horns that decorate the front of the house, the higher the status of the deceased.

The body is not buried until the eleventh day of the ceremony. Following a birth ceremony for the dead person, characterized by the sounds of cries of family members, the deceased is buried – but not in the ground. The final resting placed is in a cave up on the cliff.

The Cave tombs of  Tana Toraja

Tana Toraja Cave Tombs

Tana Toraja Cave Tombs

The cave tombs of Tana Toraja are the last part in the funeral ceremonies of the Tana Toraja. This Grave is located on a high rock cliff. In these rocks is dug a hole to bury the corpse.
In these rocks there are about 75 graves holes, each hole is a grave one family. From the outside, which looks only just the door, covered with wooden boards. The location of the holes is quite high, reaching tens of meters. The corpse is inserted into the hole with a ladder or pulled by a rope. The size of the hole is so big, about 3 meters by 5 meters. To make this hole will cost a fairly large, around Rp. 30,000,000, because the hole made by carving the rocks by hand. Work to make this hole usually takes 6 months to 1 year.

Tana Toraja Cave Tombs

On the cliff wall lined with many tau-tau (a statue of the deceased), the numbers are about 40 pieces. The existence of tau-tau showed that these tombs are the tombs of the rich pepople, because to make the tau-tau must meet various requirements such as buffalo slaughter as many as 24 individuals.