By S. Kramer
Located about 350 km North of Makassar in South Sulawesi, Tana Toraja has attracted many local and foreign visitors for its natural beauty and unique cultural tradition. The preserved Austronesian culture of Torajan has been proposed to be listed as one of the United Nation’s world cultural heritage. For anthrophologists like Kelli Swazey, the Torajan culture has been such an intriguing object of research on the alternative view of life and death.
Torajan society takes a gradual transition period from life to death. The impact of death is ritualized socially in the family and community. In Torajan society, after a person has died, his or her dead body is preserved in the family home, dressed, and cared for as if they are still part of the living members of the family, until the family can hold a lavish Rambu Solo the funeral ritual. This means that the deceased person is still part of the living community. Rambu Solo ritual for the death shows the family identity and social status within the community as shown by how big the celebration is and how many water buffaloes or pigs the family will sacrifice in the ceremony.
Rambu Solo ritual begins with sacrificing water buffalo and pigs. Dances, music, and community celebration that take place at the family’s traditional house, called Tongkonan, can last for a few days or even a few weeks. The water buffalo, used as the status symbol of the deceased, is believed to carry his or her soul from here to the after-life or Puya. After the ritual of Rambu Solo, the deceased is considered to have joined the ancestral family. The body is then brought and interred into its final resting place in the cave of the rock mountain.
In the ritual of Ma’nene, the death was taken from their coffin that is stored in the rocky cave of the mountain. The Ma’nene ritual is usually held during the month of August or after the harvest season as a way of giving thanks to the ancestors. Family members and close relatives form a circle and open the coffin while keeping it off the ground, and dress the corps in a new set of clothes.
While in the area, you can also visit the beautiful area of Ollon