My last post introduced the importance of buffalos in the Toraja culture. The Torajan culture, with its elaborate sacrificial funeral rites and sacred burial cave sites guarded by effigies, has fascinated anthropolgists for many years.
We were fortunate to be in Toraja at funeral season time.Torajan funerals are held only when the families have saved enough money to host the elaborate event. Part of the costs is the necessity to build a temporary village to house and feed hundreds of guests over the five-day period. The other major cost involves buying animals for sacrifice.
One healthy buffalo can cost up to US$4,000 and pigs US$300, it is not uncommon for more than 50 pigs and several buffalo to be sacrificed. Therefore. the deceased may end up being kept in the house for several months or more to await the accumulation of finances.
The funeral that we attended was of an old lady that had died last November. The bodies were preserved in a traditional way with herbs and but nowadays western medicine is used, the deceased is kept at home.
While the body is waiting for its funeral, their last journey, it is important to make sure the soul is not neglected, a bowl of food is replenished daily and palm wine poured plus an offering of betel nut or chewing tobacco is made at regular intervals. The Torajans believe it is only through this intense rich ritual that the deceased will always be “a free soul” and become richer in their next life.
The Torajan society is a highly structured one, with four classes of people, from the nobility down to the peasant class.
Depending on your ranking in the village, you must offer a certain number of pigs or buffalo, which are then slaughtered and the meat distributed evenly among the guests, depending on their ranking in the village society. A government official records in triplicate every animal given for slaughter and a tax is imposed accordingly.
The animal sacrifice had, thankfully, already begun when we arrived. The family members and friends were offering their other gifts, often sugar, rice, ciggarettes to the next of kin. The slaughtered buffalo was butchered and huge chunks of meat were weighed and divided throughout the day according to the ranking and status of the recipients.
I am aware that some may be shocked at this image, but this is Torajan culture and I do want to introduce a short series here, warts and all, isnt that what TE is about?
Critiques | Translate
holmertz (31380) 2008-10-20 1:58
I find this picture a lot less shocking than the pig you posted the other day. This gives an interesting glimpse of an old tradition and it's a well composed picture with beautiful colours.
More than 30 years ago while on Bali I went to a village to watch a cremation of some important man who had died three years earlier. It was to become a very spectacular ceremony but I left in disgust before it started, because it turned out to be a chaotic tourist show, hundreds of tourists disturbing what really was a family event. Has tourism overtaken traditions also among the Toraja?
Angshu (52956) 2008-10-23 20:51
Shocking is a very relative term dear Elaine..I don't know if you have seen one of Subir(photographer123)'s picture titled ‘My Shop’ about the Toto tribe in North Bengal...& you'll know what I mean. Slaughter of animals is pretty common is Asia for occasions like marriage & funerals. But what I am amazed by, having seen the same in Bali is that the funeral might happen a full year after the death of a person & till such time the body stays in the house. But again as I said, for us to think this as amazing is a Relative issue. Like this picture & in fact the two succeeding ones as well in this series in the truest spirit of TE
mightyweed (1292) 2011-09-05 15:57
I have not visited TE for a pretty long time and forgot how interesting it had been...great note and great photo...
- Copyright: Elaine springford (everlasting) (14023)
- Genre: People
- Medium: Color
- Date Taken: 2008-09-02
- Categories: Daily Life
- Camera: Nikon D 70, Sigma 18-50 f2.8 EX DG, Digital RAW
- Exposure: f/8, 1/250 seconds
- More Photo Info: view
- Photo Version: Original Version
- Travelogue: Sulawesi
- Date Submitted: 2008-10-19 2:58