Tana Toraja : Land of Heavenly Kings Review


With security protection beyond the mountains and granite cliffs of the central highlands of the island of Sulawesi, the Toraja are living in valleys that are lush, green rice terraces and fertile coffee plantations.

"Discovered" and open the world of its long isolation from the beginning of the century just past, the Toraja today still adhere to traditional beliefs and rituals and traditions, although many of its people are upgraded or have embraced Christianity.

When one travels in the highlands from Tana Toraja, therefore, expect to be surprised at the spectacular beauty of nature, while experience of how communities are sustained over time beliefs and traditions in splendid isolation to survive this eternal cycle of life and death on earth.

The road from Makassar to Toraja runs along the coast about 130 km and then goes to the mountain. After the entrance to Tana Toraja in the village Mebali market goes into a majestic landscape of giant granite and stone gray and away the blue mountains that form a sharp contrast to the lush green fertility, rainfed terraces and rusty red tropical soils. This is Tana Toraja, one of the most splendid areas in Indonesia.

Here the nobility of Toraja are believed to be descendants of heavenly beings who descended a stairway to heaven on earth live in this beautiful landscape.

And to keep the energy of the earth and its people, the Toraja people believe that they should be sustained through rituals that celebrate the life and death, that bind to the agricultural seasons. Here rituals in relation to life are strictly separated from the rituals of death.

Toraja is best known for his elaborate funeral ceremonies can take days and involve entire villages. These are not just moments of mourning, but then are events to renew family ties and to ensure the continued unity among peoples and communities.

death ceremonies, however, take place only after the last rice crop is in and cleared, usually between July and September, while the celebration of life ceremonies are held in conjunction with the planting season starting in October. These times are possible because the dead are not buried immediately, but remain for months, sometimes years, in the manor until the time and funds allow for a proper funeral.

Tourists from Toraja, therefore, are either attracted by its unique culture and rituals, most of which are mostly around the graves and death ceremonies. While others prefer to avoid the lurid images and hike through the spectacular countryside, almost untouched Toraja visit remote villages, or cheer on rafting the rapids of the river Sa'd.
Capital of Toraja is Makale but visitors usually head to the town of Rantepao, the heart of Tana Toraja - The Land of Toraja.

Toraja social life and ritual cycle

According to legend, the original of the Toraja ancestor came down from heaven through a star-lit stairway to live in this beautiful part of the land. This myth, told from generation to generation continues today, where people of Toraja believe that the star-lit stairway from heaven is a means of communication for people on earth to communicate with Puang Matua (The One True God).

The Toraja name was first given by the Bugis tribe Sidenreng he called the "RIAJ" ("The people who inhabit the top of the mountains"). As the people of Luwu called "Riajang" (or "people living in the West"). Another version says' Toraya "is coined a word A (Tau = meaning people) and stripe (comes from the word Maraya = large). The two words together mean" great people ", or nobility. Finally, the term Toraja became. The word "Tana" means earth. So Tana Toraja Land means the Nobility.

In social life, the Toraja adhere to "ALUK" - elsewhere known as "adat", which are the traditional beliefs, norms and rituals prescribed by the ancestors. Although most Torajans today are either Protestant or Catholic, the rituals and ceremonies ancient traditions are still practiced.

The Torajans make a clear separation between the ceremonies and rituals associated with life and death-related, as these are closely linked to rice planting and harvest farm.

funeral ceremonies can begin only when the last harvest is cleared and stored, usually in July, and brought to an end before planting the new rice seeds for the next harvest, usually starting in September. With the planting season comes the ceremony of his interest in life, health and prosperity. The Toraja call these carbon cycle (Tuka rambu) - related to life, and smoke down (only rambu) associated with death.

The Toraja live in small communities where children are married to leave the family home and start a new community elsewhere. Children belong to the two lines of the mother and father. But all of them attributed to a manor house, known as the "Tongkonan" the father and the mother line. The Tongkonan is the home of Don and the aristocratic family patriarch. As a gift or patriarch his main duty is to maintain unity among families, villages and communities and ensure that the ancient beliefs and traditions are respected.

At his death, therefore, an elaborate funeral ceremony should correspond to the family, which has become the distinguished event marked the Toraja culture. However, as ceremonies of this kind require a large fortune, funerals are not executed immediately, but only a few months or years after the death of the person. Meanwhile, the body is wrapped in swaddling clothes and held in the ancestral home.
Tongkonan itself is a big house with a stunning roof gable roof shaped like the horns of water buffalo - with its horns in the front. This is different to the house Minangkabau in West Sumatra, which has a similar roof-shaped mount, but is placed throughout. The roofs are made of palm leaves and coconut and wooden sides of the house are beautifully decorated with different designs and geometric abstract Toraja rich natural red, black and white. In its front pillar of support are often placed a number of buffalo horns.

The Tongkonan often rebuilt and refurbished, not necessarily because they are in need of repair, but rather to maintain the prestige and influence of the ruling nobility in the area. The reconstruction of the Tongkonan, of course, accompanied by elaborate ceremonies involving whole communities - not unlike the funeral ceremonies, where relatives bring gifts of pigs and buffaloes One requirement is to build a tower, similar to the one for the funeral, but here the bamboo pillars point towards the sky, while for the funeral, pointed bamboos are planted in the ground.

After small ceremonies in homes, rice seeds were taken from the barn, then hit, not by hand, but for this first ceremony, the women loosen their hair and pound the grain with her bare feet. Baskets seeds are then brought to the flooded fields where grown in nurseries. When the rice plants have grown enough, a ceremony called maro is carried out, to beg for a good harvest, but on the other hand, at the request of fertility, health and prosperity of the family and community the village. (Source: Periplus: Sulawesi, Celebes)

Elaborate ceremonies Toraja funeral

When the approximate amounts of funds have been pledged by members of the deceased's family patriarch Don or ensure that a funeral was held a meeting reflected in the people who attended all family members, traditional leaders ALUK and village chiefs to discuss details of the funeral ceremony, the necessary funds, the minimum number of buffalo to be sacrificed - for the guests will reach the thousands - and most importantly, the effective date of the funeral.

We all know that the funeral will take place only after harvest and before the first sowing of rice seeds, which normally falls between July and September.

Toraja funeral rites are not only sad events, but are sometimes whole families gathering around the world, and for residents to participate in community events, renewal of relationships and to reconfirm the beliefs and traditions in the way ancestors.
In preparation for the funeral, villagers and family members to build a tower at the designated site where they perform ceremonial meat from cattle slaughtered distributed during the event. In the center of the land is planted a stake where the buffalo slaughter bound and stabbed. In any large room built temporary shelters forming balconies where people can see the procedures below.

The next day, the coffin of the deceased is moved down from the floor Tongkonan the rice granary of the decorations are made around the coffin.

Before the public ceremony begins, a priest or pastor will celebrate a Catholic mass or Protestant family service.
So begins the public funeral. The previous day, guests from all over Toraja, and relatives and descendants of the deceased come from many parts of Indonesia and even abroad, to collect and care for the most important ceremony.

The first official day is devoted to the seemingly endless procession called Ma'passa formal Tedong where people, families, groups, bringing with them their gifts and contributions ranging from water buffalo to pigs, rice or alcoholic beverages . All gifts are carefully recorded and announced that the donors are their gifts to walk around the ceremonial area. Everybody look what it gives, so the opportunity not only to confirm the status and wealth in society, but also to express the old debts paid or even made new ones. In the afternoon, the coffin is carried by hundreds of people at the ceremonial site - called Rante and placed in the upper house. After the procession, buffalo fighting starts moving, noisy, where a large amount of betting follows.

The next day, the committee agrees all the gifts and the family decides how many buffaloes and pigs will be slaughtered and distributed to customers, and how many given to the charity of the poor neighboring villages. More expensive are precious pied buffalo.

The next day comes the real sacrifice of cattle for meat to be distributed to the food to the thousands who attended the ceremony that lasts more than a week. The slaughter of the buffalo sacrifice is made in public. This happens very fast and safe, where the buffalo is stabbed directly into his heart and collapses immediately. The buffalo is then cut and its meat distributed from here, where each party is assigned to a particular person or group whose name is called out, with prime cuts to the most important in the state.

Foreigners and tourists can also take a cut, which provides that this act of a state universal appeal to people standing at a distance.
Finally, on the day of his funeral, called: Ma'Kaburu 'will carry the coffin in the ceremonial procession of thousands of villagers to the tomb from the green fields of rice to his resting in caves or crypts high in the rocky walls of the hanging tombs. (Source: Periplus: Sulawesi, the Celebes "and other information)