Land of the Heavenly Kings
There is an old belief in the Land of the Heavenly Kings, a belief that has been passed for generations, a belief that is rooted deeply preserving its unique and ancient culture intact. And that is the Torajan forefathers descended from heaven onto the mountainous region of Tana Toraja (Land of the Toraja) in South Sulawesi.
Tana Toraja possesses one of the most interesting mythology and cultural practice in Indonesia. The Torajans are animist in which they believe the spirits of the dead travel to a different plane along with their possessions. And, as a result, the most spectacular of Torajan rituals are the funerals and it is the single most important ceremony in a Torajan’s life.
Many Westerners may have difficulty grasping the concept of the Torajan funeral because, in western society, funeral is a word associated with black dressed mourners weeping by a graveside on a cold winter’s day. On the other hand, the Torajans, even though they wear black traditional dresses, consider funeral as a celebration of a person’s life. The Torajans strongly belief that the soul of the deceased travels to the land of eternity, also called the land of the south. There they are judged by the success of their previous lives and this is influenced by looking at the number of animal spirits that have been sent along with the person.
For the above reasons, funeral ceremonies are festivals lasting as long as weeks with feasting and entertainment and animal sacrifices, usually water buffalo. The ceremonies are performed to ensure eternal life and to safeguard the descendants of the deceased. In other places in the world, funerals involve burning or burying the dead. In the Torajan culture, the coffins are buried in Cliffside caves or hung on a cliff. The coffin would contain possessions that the deceased would need in the afterlife.
Symbolizing the Land of the Heavenly Kings, Torajans built their traditional houses, Tongkonan, facing north in honor of the deities. The reason for Tongkonan distinctive house design is still debatable among historians. Some say that it illustrates water buffalo’s horn while others argue that Tongkonan is designed based on the shape of an overturned boat.
Indulge your cultural curiosity by visiting Tana Toraja and immerse yourself in its unique culture. I personally believe that “the world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” Travelling to Tana Toraja would definitely open up a whole new chapter of your book!
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