Tana Toraja in South Sulawesi has a unique funeral tradition, with ceremonies reflecting a blend of grief and wealth. When a Torajan dies in Toraja land, family members of the deceased are required to hold a series of funeral ceremonies that usually last for several days before the deceased is brought to a funeral site for burial. The family of the deceased should provide tens of buffaloes and pigs for the ceremony.
The busy scene begins when funeral visitors come and crowd the buffalo-slaughtering field. A group of funeral visitors and family members of the deceased chant a 'mournful tune' known locally as ma'badong, at packed site of the buffaloes' nemesis.
The deceased is not buried immediately but stored in a traditional house - or Tongkonan, as locals call it - under the same roof with his or her kin. Torajans consider the person to be merely suffering from an illness and not truly dead until the moment his funeral when the first buffalo is sacrificed; then their spirit can begin its journey to the Land of Souls.
The most exciting part of the ceremony is the buffalo fights and slaughter. Family members are required to slaughter buffaloes and pigs as they believe that the spirit of the deceased will live peacefully thereafter, continuing to herd the buffaloes that have come to join him or her.
The buffalo fighting draws much attention from the locals and visitors who crowd to catch a glimpse. Cheering and applause is heard all around when the buffaloes are fighting. The fighting buffaloes are then slaughtered, and the meat distributed to the funeral visitors. Distribution is carried out in accordance to visitors' positions in the community, and the spirit of the deceased is also entitled to a portion of meat, known locally as Aluk Todolo. The heads of the buffaloes are returned to what is locally known as puya (a site for the soul or spirit of the dead person) and their horns placed in front of the house of the kin. The more horns that decorate the front of the house, the higher the status of the deceased.
The body is not buried until the eleventh day of the ceremony. Following a birth ceremony for the dead person, characterized by the sounds of cries of family members, the deceased is buried - but not in the ground. The final resting placed is in a cave up on the cliff.
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