Indonesian adventure … rituals and culture in Tanah Toraja - Tourism Indonesia


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Indonesian adventure … rituals and culture in Tanah Toraja

Tucked away in the mountains on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi is the regency of Tanah Toraja. You might want to include Toraja as a three-day or longer side trip from Bali or Jakarta. Here you can get an anthropologist's glimpse of an ancient culture, fantastic building styles, unusual burial customs, and possibly witness a festive funeral.

Only 80 years ago, the Torajan people were untouched by Western influences. Missionaries quickly modified traditional life. Just 15 years ago, lack of lodging and poor roads still kept all but the most intrepid travelers away.

Funerals are social affairs. If you're adventurous, ask your guide to scout out a Funeral. Foreign guests are welcome to attend these affairs; be sure to dress modestly. Wealth in Toraja is expressed in the accumulation of rice, animals (pigs and especially water buffalo), and children; the ultimate expression of status and worth is the ability to stage a big funeral ceremony, which usually lasts three days.

We attended a typical one, wading up muddy paths, past professional mourners and guests bringing gifts (buffalo, pigs, rice, and palm wine) to a village where hundreds of guests sat on mats under houses and on the platforms of rice barns. The buildings were draped in red. Sweets and tea were served.

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