Posted by: Johan Normark | March 29, 2009

Funeral in Tanah Toraja

Last summer my wife and I travelled for the fourth time to Indonesia. This time we went to the strangely shaped island of Sulawesi. This island is famous for the land of the toraja and most travellers end up at the small town of Rantepao, located in a valley surrounded by hills with rice fields, the characteristic tongkonan houses and burials of different styles (caves filled with coffins and bones lying scattered around, infants buried in trees, and hanging coffins). The toraja funeral has two phases. The first takes place directly after death and the second takes place after elaborate preparations, usually in July to September (the dry period). We visited one of these second burials at a small village (more on this in a later entry).

On the following day we went to Lemo which is a small village ten km south of Rantepao. It is probably the best known of the burial areas, famous for its rock face with balconies for tau tau (wooden effigies of the dead).

Lemo
Lemo

At Lemo we observed a rare event according to our guide since he had only seen it twice before. This was the entering of the coffin into one of the chambers carved into the rock face. A bamboo ladder had been built the day before, roughly 20 m tall. An old man entered the chamber to pull the coffin while the rest pushed from below. It took over an hour to enter the coffin and the old man could crawl out into the fresh air (the others argued that he could stay inside with the coffin since he was old and near his own funeral anyway).

Funeral at Lemo
Funeral at Lemo
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