Life and death in Tana Toraja

It is said that the Torajan people of Sulawesi in Indonesia spend there life preparing for death. The Torajans are animists, believing that a human can only pass into the afterlife if accompanied by the soul of an animal. Funeral preparations can take years, an until the time comes the body is kept embalmed in the family house. It is not until the funeral that the soul can pass, and the body laid to rest.






A Torajan funeral culminates with the ritual sacrifice of buffalo and pigs donated by the family of the deceased. Buffalo are expensive, and most families spend much of their life saving up the money to donate for the funerals. The more buffalo that are sacrificed, the higher the status of the deceased. A funeral is a major event, attracting people from surrounding villages. The meat from the sacrificed animals is distributed amongst the attendees.

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Once the funeral has finished, the elaborate coffin carrying the body is taken up into the hills of Tana Toraja and buried in cave tombs. Scattered amongst the graves are the skulls of ancestors.