Sulawesi, Indonesia. Known for head hunters, vast nature and the Toraja culture with their stunning death rituals. The world's eleventh-largest island, covering an area of 180,700 km², is ruggedly mountainous, especially the central part of the island, where Toraja is located. Eight hours adventurous bus ride away from the next major airport in Makassar, this region is located quite remotely from the normal tourist paths.


The Toraja People

The Toraja are an ethnic group indigenous to this mountainous, remote region. Their population is approximately 1,100,000, but only half of them are still live at their origin. Torajans are renowned for their elaborate funeral rites and burial sites, massive peaked-roof traditional houses (Tongkonan), and colourful wood carvings.



The Toraja Funeral Ritual

In Troaja society, the funeral is by far the most expensive event. The richer and the higher the status of the deceased, the more expensive is the ritual. 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.

Traditional Toraja House - Tongkonan.

As Albino Buffalos are the most valuable, they became a Figurehead of the Toraja People.

Therefore, during the waiting period, the body of the deceased is kept under the Tongkonan. 

An important component of the ritual is the slaughter of water buffalos. The more powerful the person who died, the more buffalos are slaughtered at the ceremony. Torajans believe that the deceased will need the buffalos to make the journey and that they will be quicker to arrive at their great beyond if they have many buffalos. Therefore, the cult around these buffalos is omnipresent. 

What actually surprised and simultaneously impressed me most, the Toraja people have absolutely no (mutual) reservations when encountering tourists. Not in their daily life, not even during their funeral ceremonies. Yet, they allow you to walk into their burial sites (all of them are still in use) and to take pictures.
— Ben Schusterbauer. Photographer. Professional Traveler.

Tau-Taus (Guardians of the Dead) in a Burial Cave.




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