Indonesia has plenty of traditional and primitive ethnicities who keep upholding their cultures until today; far from the strong influence of modern era. It is such a unique experience to leave the modern civilization for a moment and join in the primitive culture of a tribe. And if you wish to do this, then Tana Toraja could be a wonderful choice.

 

About Tana Toraja

Long time ago, Tana Toraja is isolated and closed from the modern world. But now, even if they have opened themselves to a little bit modernization and outsiders, they still behold their ancient beliefs.

The land of Tana Toraja is very exotic with huge megalithic rocks that spout mystical atmosphere. The people of this tribe are famous for being very respectful towards the death and deceased ancestors. They believe that even if they are already dead, they are still alive somewhere else. Therefore, they have some rituals and traditions to keep the deceased ones alive.

The Village on Tana Toraja Highlands (Source: Flickr. Credit: ryan sanjaya)
The Village on Tana Toraja Highlands
(Source: Flickr. Credit: ryan sanjaya)

This unique concept and wisdom of Tana Toraja culture has made them classified as World Heritage by the UNESCO in 2004. To celebrate this attainment, the tribe holds a great festival at Rantepoa. This festival is a form of Rambu Tuka’, a traditional ritual to express the joy and happiness.

 

Rambu Solo

As mentioned above, death is very important for Tana Toraja people. Thus, if someone passes away, a big sacred ceremony must be held for the funeral. This ceremony is called Rambu Solo. A series of rituals is practiced on this ceremony.

It can take up few days for one funeral ceremony. Not only the family of the deceased, but all the people of the tribe also participate in this ceremony. It is the greatest ceremony in Tana Toraja culture. Mostly, the ceremony is held after a harvesting season. It is around July to September.

Rambu Solo ceremony can spend a serious amount of money. It even takes up more money than a wedding ceremony. Some families might need to save up money for months or years before they have enough money to afford a proper Rambu Solo ceremony. Thus, it is considered normal for them to postpone a funeral for quite a long time to wait the family to have enough money for it

When someone in Tana Toraja dies and his family has not done Rambu Solo yet, he would not be considered dead. People will just consider him as being sick or in a weak condition. The body will be put at home and be treated like a sick person. His family would still have a conversation with him. They also put him in bed at night and wake him up in the morning.

People are Bringing the Decorated Coffin to the Cemetery (Source: Flickr. Credit: bayu winata)
People are Bringing the Decorated Coffin to the Cemetery
(Source: Flickr. Credit: bayu winata)

The ceremony started with a funeral ritual called “Rante”. It takes place on the square in the middle of the village. First, the dead body is wrapped and put in a coffin. People then decorate the coffin using golden and silver threads. After the decoration is done, they need to bring the coffin to the cemetery.

Cemetery in Tana Toraja is just cave or huge rocks with holes. In the cemetery, the dead body will not be buried. Burial is considered too harsh to treat a dead body. Instead, they just put the coffin inside the cave and leave it there.

There are several cemeteries for different groups of people. Nobles’ dead bodies are put in Lemo, a huge megalithic rock with holes on the side. When a noble died, his family will make a statue of him to be displayed on the side holes. The royal family member’s dead bodies are kept in Suaya. Meanwhile, the bodies of dead kids and babies must be buried nearby the tree.

Lemo and the Displayed Statues of Deceased Nobles (Source: Flickr. Credit: Arian Zwegers)
Lemo and the Displayed Statues of Deceased Nobles
(Source: Flickr. Credit: Arian Zwegers)
Lemo and the Displayed Statues of Deceased Nobles (Source: Flickr. Credit: Arian Zwegers)
Lemo and the Displayed Statues of Deceased Nobles
(Source: Flickr. Credit: Arian Zwegers)

When most funerals around the world are filled with mourn and quite sadness, Rambu Solo is not all about grieving. After the funeral, a merry feast will be held to entertain the grievers and to respect the deceased. The feast starts by taking buffalos in the middle of the village. The buffalos will then be beheaded as sacrifices. But before the beheading, several traditional dances and music will be practiced to make people happy and forget about their sadness.

One of the money spent on this ceremony is to buy lots of buffalos and pigs to be beheaded as sacrifices. In Tana Toraja, a buffalo can be extremely expensive. The nobler the deceased were, the more expensive the buffalos they need to sacrifice. This is because they believe a buffalo is used as transportation mode by the deceased at the afterlife. The most expensive buffalo can be sold up to $75000.

 

Transportation

To get there, you first must reach Makassar. There are several domestic flights from Jakarta City, Manado, Bali Island, and other towns in Indonesia. From Makassar, you can take a bus to Toraja for eight hours. The bus is available everyday. The price for the bus ticket is about $7.5 to $ 11.

Beside bus, there is a small plane with the capacity of 24 people that can take you to Tana Toraja from Makassar. The plane does not operate everyday but it is the quickest transportation you could ever find. It is only 45 minutes of flight. The plane operates only every Tuesday and Friday. Price changes at anytime.

 

Accomodation

There are several hotels and inns at Rantepao. Here are some of those accomodations:

  • Wisma Sarla, at Jalan Andi Mappanyukki 83, Rantepao. You can book your stay by calling +62 423 21167. The rate is about $6 to $12 per night.
  • Wisma Maria 1 at Jalan Dr. Sam Ratulangi, Rantepao. Contact by telephone number: +62 423 21165. The rates start from $12
  • Wisma Maria 2 at Jalan Pongtiku, Rantepao where you can contact them through +62 423 21288. The rates, similar to Wisma Maria 1, starts from $12
  • Hotel Indra at Jalan Landorundun 63. Telephone is on +62 423 21583. The lowest rate is $26.
  • Hotel Missiliana at Jalan Pongtiku 27, Rantepao. Telephone is on +62 423 21212. Lowest rate is $45.

To ensure your accommodation, please book your room at least three days prior your trip to Tana Toraja. The inns and hotels might be fully booked during the holiday.

 

Culinary

Tana Toraja indeed has several traditional culinary such as lendong pammarasan, ikan pammarasan, dangkot ayam, papiong, and much more. You can taste those foods from the locals when visiting the highlands. There are also several restaurants in Rantepao where you can get those amazing foods. Another culinary you should never miss in Tana Toraja is the coffee. Toraja is quite famous for producing high-quality Arabica coffee. (Unique foods in Makassar)

 

Souvenirs

It would not be complete to visit a cultural tribe without buying any souvenirs made by the locals. Therefore, you need to stop by at Rantepao Art Market where you can buy many handmade souvenirs original from Tana Toraja such as bracelets, necklaces, handicrafts, carvings, and even snacks.

 

Tana Toraja has an ultimately unique way of life. You will never find this kind of culture at any other places around the world. So next time you feel like you want to live your life differently, just remember that Tana Toraja is waiting.