Torajan Funeral Ceremony – AZ's Blog | Indonesia Photograher
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AZ's Blog | Indonesia Photograher / Photojournalism  / Torajan Funeral Ceremony

Torajan Funeral Ceremony

On a hot afternoon in a dusty, dry field, many rows of water buffalo are standing together patiently in the sun. With his left hand holding the first buffalo in the row by a short rope and his right hand softly stroking its head, a young Torajan with a broad bladed knife tucked into his waistband prepares himself for the ritual slaughter. Hundreds of guests and villagers are milling around but the rowdy crowd suddenly goes completely quiet. No one moves. All eyes are on the young man stroking the buffalo’s head. With lightning speed he pulls the broad blade from its sheath and slices down across the water buffalo’s neck. A split second later blood spurts from the wound and the buffalo sinks to its knees and falls over.

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This sequence repeats itself until all the water buffalo have been sacrificed and the dry, dusty soil is soaked red with blood. Sometimes hundreds of water buffalo are slaughtered at a single funeral ceremony. The Torajans believe that the spirit of the sacrificed animal will accompany the soul on its long journey to heaven, passing thousands of mountains and valleys. This is a piece of story from the most important in Toraja’s tradition that is the funeral ceremony. A Ceremony is held to deliver soul spirit to Puya (the spirit world), the heaven for Aluk Tadolo followers…”

Tana Toraja is a name of town located in South Sulawesi, around 300 km northern of Makassar, the capital of South Sulawesi. Tana Toraja is a land of green rice terraces bed blood – red soils, steep granite outcrops and forested mountains. Tana Toraja is being a tourism destination in Sulawesi because of not only its natural beauty, but also its rich culture. One of the most attractive Toraja’s cultures is funeral ceremony.

Hundred people gather. A sarikan (a coffin) has been already placed on the solid Torajan’s shoulders. No sadness is described on their face like what happen in common funeral. They have waited this occasion for such a long time. “We have been waiting for four years ago for this funeral and we are proud of having this funeral ceremony for the late”, said one of the members of family. (

With the cheering, they bring the coffin where The Late Ne’ Remang placed around the village to area in which the late spent his life. The crowd and scream are coloring as long as the journey of the coffin, which is, decorated such a Tongkonan House. This is the beginning procession from Torajan Funeral Ceremony after they move the sarikan with the corpse in it out of the house.

For Torajans, the funeral ceremony is a highly significant ceremony. In Aluk Tadolo belief, they believe that if the ritual is not done properly the soul of the dead man will bring bad luck to the remaining family members. Because of that, the Torajans carefully prepare everything several months or sometime years before the event actually takes place. Not only because they had to arrange a time so that all the family members could attend but also because they had to collect a lot of money for the expenses of the ritual. Then this event become my reason to visit Tana Toraja where is located around 300 km to the north of Makasar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia.(

After they carry the corpse around the village, they carry back home. They place in front of the house on the stage called lakian. The late’s family are ready to receive guests. Some boy and girl teens stand in front of the entrance gate to welcome the guests. They wear traditional Toraja costume dominant by red. The golden holsters are slipped on the waist with the Toraja kris in it respectively. The girls wear kandaure that is beads decoration hang on their neck.

The number of people paying their respects to the family of the deceased usually comes in extended family groups or in a group from the village where they live. The men are dressed in black and the women wear a sarong – a kind of head covering made of woven bamboo with a broad conical shape. They bring pigs and water buffaloes for the deceased person’s family. On this occasion, people can see the ma’badong dance, which is performed only by men. While dancing, they also sing songs of praise to God. These songs are meant to deliver the soul to puya or heaven safely. How long this takes depends on the number of people paying their respects to the family of the deceased. It can take one or two days. In funeral, which I attended, they had two days for receiving the guests.
On the third days, I came back to the funeral place to look at other important procession, mantunu. It’s slaughtering water buffaloes (matinggoro) occasion. In the suffocating heat afternoon, tens of water buffaloes stand up in the rows on the dusty and dry field. A middle aged of Toraja man stands up among the people whom want to watch him. His left hand handle the rope tied around water buffalo’s neck, on the other hand he wipes the water buffalo’s head with softness. He does it in order to ma it calm and try to not become it wild. No rowdy at the moment, even hundreds of villagers who attend that ceremony restrain their breath to see what happen next. With the thunder speed, he pulls his broad blade knife and directs its sharp side into the neck. In per second, blood burst out from the dead area. Restrained sounds go out from throat water buffalo wound. At the moment, the sacrificed animal unsteady then collapse on the land.(

That action does again and again until all animals’ presence sacrificed. Until dusty and dry soil become wet and red by blood. Tens or even hundreds of water buffaloes are slaughtered at a funeral ceremony. The Torajans believe that the spirit of the sacrificed animal will accompany the soul on his long journey to puya (the heaven of Torajans), passing thousands of mountains and valleys. For this reason they only choose strong and extraordinary animals. Age and status of the deceased influence the amount of animal which are to be slaughtered. The higher the social status, the more animals must be slaughtered.

Day was creeping into the night. The clear sky has been changed into dark. As if it wanted to say if feast has been ended. I met the host for the last time to thank for their hospitality, for the stories, which are very interesting to be understood. I went back to the town and after tens step from the entrance gate I looked back. At the same moment I realized that a story about Torajan funeral ceremony was only beginning of my visit and I then surely must be returned to watch many kinds of other miracle Tana Toraja‘s custom.(

Text and Photo by: Ahmad Zamroni

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1 Comment
  • Anonymous


    November 10, 2010 at 3:33 pm

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