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Funeral Ceremony in Toraja
Rambu Soloq (Rites of The Dead of Tana Toraja)

In Toraja society, the funeral ritual is the most elaborate and expensive event. The richer and more powerful the individual, the more expensive is the funeral. In the Aluk religion, only nobles have the right to have an extensive death feast. The death feast of a nobleman is usually attended by thousands and lasts for several days. A ceremonial site called Rante is usually prepared in a large grassy field where shelters for audiences are built.  Flute music, funeral chants, songs and poems, and crying and wailing are traditional Toraja expressions of grief with the exceptions of funerals for young children and poor low-status adults.

The ceremony is often held weeks, months, or years after the death so that the deceased's family can raise the significant funds needed to cover funeral expenses. Torajans traditionally believe that death is not a sudden, abrupt event but a gradual process toward Puya (the land of souls, or afterlife). It is based on a strong belief that the soul of the deceased travels to the land of the south and in this land of eternity, he will need all the requisites of everyday life in the hereafter just like when he was alive in this world.
During the waiting period, the body of the deceased is wrapped in several layers of cloth and kept inTongkonan. The soul of the deceased is thought to linger around the village until the funeral ceremony is completed, after which it begins its journey to Puya.In Toraja a person is not considered dead until this last ceremony and the soul is released to the heavens. It is this celebration that is so absorbing.

Another component of the ritual is the slaughter of water buffalo. The more powerful the person who died, the more buffalo are slaughtered at the death feast. Buffalo carcasses, including their heads, are usually lined up on a field waiting for their owner, who is in the "sleeping stage". Torajans believe that the deceased will need the buffalo to make the journey and that they will be quicker to arrive at Puya if they have many buffalo. Slaughtering tens of water buffalo and hundred of pigs using a machete is the climax of the elaborate death feast, with dancing and music and young boys who catch spurting blood in long bamboo tubes. Some of the slaughtered animals are given by guests as "gifts" which are carefully noted because they will be considered debts of the deceased's family.Animal sacrifices are made to ensure eternal life in the afterlife and to safeguard the descendants.

A funeral is a festive event for every member of the society. When the funeral is held by noble families then the ceremony will usually involve great fanfare. Buffaloes and pigs are sacrificed as an indication of status and as repayment for gifts received.

The Torajans believe that aristocrats must be buried between heaven and earth - hence their spectacular grave sites. High up in the limestone cliffs are set tombs, carved out of solid rock, and guarded by human effigies called Tau tau watching sightlessly over the rice fields. 

The coffin may be laid in a cave or in a carved stone grave, or hung on a cliff. It contains any possessions that the deceased will need in the afterlife. The wealthy are often buried in a stone grave carved out of a rocky cliff. The grave is usually expensive and takes a few months to complete. In some areas, a stone cave may be found that is large enough to accommodate a whole family. The coffin of a baby or child may be hung from ropes on a cliff face or from a tree. This hanging grave usually lasts for years, until the ropes rot and the coffin falls to the ground.

While funeral ceremonies occur all year round, the best time to see them is in the drier months of August and September. Some of the big ceremonies are so large that over 100 buffaloes are killed. Although it may seem to visitors an abundance of buffaloes are sacrificed, few Torajans eat meat every day, and festivals are one of the rare chances to enjoy the opportunity.

The Buffalo Sacrifice

It is interesting to reflect on the significance of funerals in this traditional society. In many ways, perhaps in most ways, people of traditional society seem closer to te processes of life and death than those of their modern relatives. Thus, while they treat birth with unrestrained joy, they are not afraid to face death, either. In the world view of Torajans, death is not regarded as the opposite of life. Rather, birth and death are regarded as major mile stones within a person's life. Amongst the people of  Tana Toraja, this world view forms the basis of the Alluk Todolo tradition. It is this tradition which is the inspiration for the long, joyful funeral celebrations characteristic of these people.

A funeral here is not an occasion for sorrow. Rather, it is a celebration in which the entire family of the deceased, and all the members of his village, take part. specifically, a funeral reinforces the eternal bond between the living and the dead of a single family. In the society of Tana Toraja, it is the funeral, not the wedding, which marks a family's status. In Tana Toraja, the funeral ceremony is known as Rambu Soloq. The most important part of this ceremony involves the sacrifice of buffalo. These animals die in order to accompanying the spirit of their master on his journey to the land of the dead. Before being sacrificed according to a strictly defined procedure, in which the neck of the ox is cut with a sharp blade and the animal allowed to bleed to death, the animals take part in trials of strength known as tedong silaga. This procedure is known as tinggoro.

While the sacrifice of the other buffalo is also acceptable, traditional Torajan belief states that offerings of albino buffalo with a certain type of spotted skin (tedong bonga) are preferable. Buffalo with these characteristic markings on their hide are rare, constituting a mere eight percent of the total population. Therefore, it is not surprising that these animals can command a price between 15-30 million rupiah, depending on the perceived beauty of the animal. Attempts to breed these animals have met with very limited success. Even if both parents have the desired markings, there is no guarantee that the offspring will be similarly blessed. An attempt in Bandung, West Java, to breed buffalo that consistently give birth to these animals failed completely.

The rarity of the animals is compounded by the increasing number of rich Torajans, all of whom desire prestigious funerals involving these animals. It is by no means uncommon for more than 300 animals-a good many of them are spotted albino buffalo-to be sacrificed in a single ceremony. Considering that the ceremony of a wealthy or high-status person often lasts as long as eight days and involves more than 15,000 people, all of whom have to be fed, this number is hardly surprising.The funeral is used by the people of Toraja to establish the status of the deceased. In the Torajan belief system, people lead their lives in preparation for their death.

During their lives, people work hard to accumulate wealth. When they die, they take this wealth with them beyond their grave.All members of the deceased family are expected to contribute to the costs of the expensive ceremonies. Many people go deeply into debt in order to hold a funeral ceremony. It is not uncommon for a young man, afraid of being burdened by debt, to postpone or cancel his marriage if the grandmother or grandfather of the girl he loves is old enough to die soon.

To Make a Dead Man Walk

In times past, when the villages of Tana Toraja were still extremely isolated and difficult to visit, it is said that certain people had the power to make a dead man walk to his village in order to be present at his own funeral. In this way, relatives of the deceased were spared the necessity of having to carry his corpse. One particular area, Mamasa ? West Toraja, was particularly well-known for this practice. The people of this area are not strictly speaking of the same ethnic group as the people of Tana Toraja. However, outsiders often refer to them as Toraja Mamasa. In many ways, the cultures of the two groups are similar, although they each have their own distingushing characteristics. In particular, the style of wood carving of the two groups is different.

According to the belief system of the people of Mamasa, the spirit of a dead person must return to his village of origin. It is essential that he meet with his relatives, so that they can guide him on his journey into the after-life after the ceremonies have been completed. In the past, people of this area were frightened to journey far, in case they died while they were away and were unable to return to their village. If someone died while on a journey, and unless he has a strong magic power, it would be necessary to procure the services of an expert, to guide the dead person back to the village.

This is not intended metaphorically-the dead person would be made to walk from wherever he had journeyed back home, no matter how far away that was. The corpse would walk stiffly, without any expression on his face, in the manner of a robot. If anyone addressed the dead man directly, he would fall down senseless, unable to continue his journey. Therefore, those accompanying the deceased on the macabre procession had to warn people they met on their path not to talk directly to the dead man. The attendants usually sought out quiet paths where the procession was less likely to meet with strangers. These days, the practice of walking the dead back to their place of origin has fallen out of currency.

Good roads now connect the villages of Tana Toraja, and people tend to rely on more conventional means of transportation for bringing bodies back home. The ability to bring the dead back to life has not been entirely forgotten, however. Sometimes, even now, the deceased is made to continue breathing and seems alive until all his relatives are gathered around him.More commonly, the skill is practiced on animals. At a funeral ceremony, when a buffalo has been sacrificed and its head separated from its body, the body is made to get up and walk for as long as ten minutes. A demonstration of this sort proves to the audience that the ability to bring the dead back to life has not entirely passed from the community.

Cock Fighting

As part of the funeral ceremony, a tower is built in whch to place the body of the dead relative. This structure is referred to as a lakkian, and is placed in the position of honor in front of an open arena. Many of the rites associated with the ceremony take place in this arena. The rites included depend on the social and economic status of the deceased. Naturally, the higher the status of the dead person, the more elaborate his funeral will be.

However, a cock fight, known as bulangan londong, is an integral part of the ceremony. As with the sacrifice of the buffalo and the pigs, the cock fight is considered sacred because it involves the spilling of blood on the earth. In particular, the tradition requires the sacrifice of at least three chickens.

However, it is common for at least 25 pairs of chickens to be set against each other in the context of the ceremony. Usually, the 'extra rounds' are held outside the ceremonial field, for the pleasure of the participants.In this day and age, the sacred ceremony has degenerated into an excuse for gambling. Fewer and fewer among the audience regard the cock fight as a religious event, and most take part in the gambling that inevitably accompanies it. These days, with the advent of telecommunications, it is not unusual for people to bet on cock fights via telephone.

As a ceremony reaches its climax, the roads leading into even smallest villages can become crowded with vehicles bringing gamblers to the site.In addition to the cock fights and the trials of strength between the buffalo, the ceremony also involves a mourning dance known as ma'badong, in which members of the family of the deceased hold hands and form a large circle. The dance is accompanied by the recitation of poetry which describes humanity's journey from the womb, through birth, life, and finally death.Oddly, the fact that a large number of the people of Tana Toraja have embraced Christianity has not prevented them from holding or taking part in these ceremonies.

Type of Graves of Torajans

When a person dies, the body is not directly buried, but preserved by using formalin (in the past, people used certain leaves). After that, the corpse is put on the top of the house. The dead person is considered to have headache, and people still give him/her food and drink. The dead person is kept in his/her house until 2 to 5 years, it depends when is his/her family able to carry on a funeral ceremony for him/her.There are several kinds of graves:

Lemo Grave type
The family asks "to pande batu" (carving expert) to make a hole (about 3 m long and 1 m high) on stone wall. The corpse is wrapped with sarung (traditional cloth) and put inside a coffin, then the coffin is placed inside the hole. Nobles of Toraja always make "tau-tau" (a human-like statue) for dead people. Tau-tau is made similar as the dead person, including the body, appearance, clothes, and necklace. To make a statue, people have to contact "to minah" (tradition keeper, a person respected as an elderly one). Besides, they also have to check the date (time). Tao-tao for a man wears pants, and the one for a woman wears a long skirt. A person who is skillful in making tao-tao is called "to pande tao-tao". Tau-tau is still an animism belief. Common people do not make tau-tau, and after 2 - days the corpse is put into a coffin called "tongkonan". A single hole of Batu Lemo grave can be put 3-5 corpses because the size of preserved corpses can shrink to � m. If the hole is already full, then people need to make new a hole which are near the previous hole.

Erong Grave, Marante
The deceased person is put into a huge coffin which can contain 2-5 corpses. After that, the coffin is placed inside a cave. In Marante there can be found many human skulls and bones.

Patane Grave
It is a modern grave of Christian Torajan. The shape of the grave is a house, and it is said as the second home after a person dies. The house can contain 20-25 corpses. The corpses are placed with their coffins. The grave is also called "banua tang marambu" (house which no longer has smoke).One grave is for one family.

Ma?ne?ne? (The Ceremony of Cleaning Corpses)
Once a year, or once in every 5 or ten years Torajan people carry on a special ceremony for changing the clothes and coffins of the corpses. The cleaning day is a special day agreed by tradition keepers. People clan the corpses, change their clothes and the damaged coffins, and the scattered bnes are gathered. The clothes worn by tau-tau (statues) are also changed.


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