my “lucky” day: experiencing the torajan burial celebrations

“you’re lucky because there’s a burial of someone high-born this week,” erwin said to me. and everyone in town knows about this event, so i thought “damn i am lucky!” but yeah, i wasn’t really prepared for what i experienced.


before going to the burial, we first visited Lemo, a burial site for the high class. erwin kept saying high-born, so while i’m sure they’re filthy rich, i’m not sure if it means they’re part of “royalty,” or what used to be a royal family.

the site is big and “rocky.” the height of your grave signals one’s standing in society. there were some graves that were open so you can see that the hole in the stone is big. erwin says sometimes it takes 6 months to make the hole. but for the most part, the tau tau’s just freaked me out.

tau tau’s are statues that reflect the social standing of the dead. they also act as guards for the tomb, as well as for those who are still alive. they are made to look like the dead they represent, so yeah, creepy


death, in the western world, is for the living, not for the dead, hence all the grief that comes with it. i don’t really subscribe to this idea. death is part of life; it makes life beautiful, that everything is impermanent. so the idea of throwing a party for the deceased is not something i’m averse to. i’m all for celebrating the beauty of life, especially a well lived one

but no, i’m not ready to see animals being killed slowly. nor am into eating the killed animals while i can hear the others struggling to live. i get it, it’s all part of the ritual, ensuring the safe passage of the dead to the afterlife. but, no i cannot

and since i cannot, here’s a video and some pictures

but i managed to zone out the pig shrieks and manage to enjoy some aspects of it. like the men dancing and chanting, admiring the beautiful dresses of the relatives, and just be in awe of how elaborate all these was (did i mention this was a 3-day celebration?)

after giving my gift (1 rim of cigarettes), eating the food and drinking tea, i’ve had enough. now we just enjoy the beauty of rantepao (and see some more graves


where i grew up, the cemetery is always far away, tucked in a place away from the living and often inconvenient to reach. it’s easy to forget the dead when they’re so far away from you.

in rantepao, you see signs of death everywhere. torajans are very comfortable with it (vs. westerners who are freaked out at the proximity of death). sometimes, if there’s a rock big enough to put a dead person in in the middle of a rice field, they’re gonna use that too. erwin said: we’re smart, we just use whatever’s around us. there’s also an element of life being cyclical, that even in death you still contribute to the living by…serving as fertilizers. you get my point. rantepao’s landscape is full of ricefields that give life while also recognizing that there is also an end in sight


Bori Parinding.jpegwe also went to bori parinding, a place of monolyths…i really didn’t know what it was for. and the last one was pasar bolu, the local market where the buffalos for offerings are sold and bought. unfortunately it was past 5 when we arrived so the market was closed. we only saw a few buffalos left.

the market also had the usual market stuff: vegetables, meat, groceries, clothes. you name it, it’s there

pasar-boluand that was my day exploring rantepao. again, it hurt my lower back. but the experience (and realizations) made it worth it

Date: 2015.10.16
Erwin’s Fee: IDR300,000
Lemo Entrance Fee: IDR10,000
Gift (1 Cigarette Rim): IDR98,000
Tip: IDR20,000

Other Costs
Lunch: IDR35,000


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