The toraja are an ethnic group indigenous to a mountainous region of South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Their population is approximately 650,000, of which 450,000 still live in the regency of Tana toraja ("Land of Toraja"). Most of the population is Christian, and others are Muslim or have local animist beliefs known as aluk ("the way"). The Indonesian government has recognized this animist belief as Aluk To Dolo ("Way of the Ancestors").
Toraja is unique highland. It is a cultural island, hemmed in by mountains on all sides, the Toraja people believe there is life after death with their elaborate ceremonies. Take the beauty panorama of Bali, the tribal houses of the Bataks in Sumatra and the megalithic cultures of Sumba and you’re still not get even close to compare. Cave graves, hanging graves, Tau tau (life-sized wooden effigies) of the dead and buffalo carnage every summer; it’s macabre but mesmerizing. This is a world unto it self.
Toraja is undoubtedly the most popular destination in Sulawesi. It’s a vast, pretty and mostly unspoilt area of traditional villages, unique architecture and fascinating cultures.
The funeral season is usually during July and August, when Toraja working throughout Indonesia return home for celebrations.
1). Ritual of Life
One of the rituals that falls into life-facing ritual is marriage ritual. Marriage in toraja language is called Rampanan Kapa', lying down of the kapa'. Kapa' is the penalty paid by marriage partner who is responsible for dissolving the marriage bond. Kapa' is counted in buffaloes and pigs and its sum is based on the agreement and social status of both partners. Traditionally, the regulations were as follows: for the highest noble class (tana' bulaan) the kapa' is 24 buffaloes, for the lower noble class (tana' bassi) the kapa' is 7 buffaloes, for the commoners (tana' karurung) the kapa' is 2 buffaloes, and the last caste (tana' kua-kua) the kapa' is one pig. In general kapa' is pail by the partner who causes the divorce. But kapa' should also be paid in the event of urromok bubun dirangkang that is when someone commits adultery with a widow whose husband's funeral has not yet been completed. In this case, the kapa' payment is accepted by the family of the widow's former husband. The cancellation of a marriage also calls for the payment of kapa'.
Family is the primary social and political grouping in Torajan society. Each village is one extended family, the seat of which is the tongkonan, a traditional Torajan house. Each tongkonan has a name, which becomes the name of the village. The familial dons maintain village unity. Marriage between distant cousins (fourth cousins and beyond) is a common practice that strengthens kinship. toraja society prohibits marriage between close cousins (up to and including the third cousin)—except for nobles, to prevent the dispersal of property. Kinship is actively reciprocal, meaning that the extended family helps each other farm, share buffalo rituals, and pay off debts.
Tongkonan are the traditional Torajan ancestral houses. They stand high on wooden piles, topped with a layered split-bamboo roof shaped in a sweeping curved arc, and they are incised with red, black, and yellow detailed wood carvings on the exterior walls. The word "tongkonan" comes from the Torajan tongkon ("to sit").
Tongkonan are the center of Torajan social life. The rituals associated with the tongkonan are important expressions of Torajan spiritual life, and therefore all family members are impelled to participate, because symbolically the tongkonan represents links to their ancestors and to living and future kin. According to Torajan myth, the first tongkonan was built in heaven on four poles, with a roof made of Indian cloth. When the first Torajan ancestor descended to earth, he imitated the house and held a large ceremony.