Witness a Torajan funeral ceremony

Witnessing a Torajan funeral ceremony in the southern highlands of Sulawesi is one of Asia’s greatest cultural experiences. Now Christians, the Toraja people migrated from the coastal plains to these lush inland valleys several hundred years ago, and designed their houses with boat-shaped roofs in recognition of their former maritime-based lives. This community remained isolated for centuries, and the people of Toraja developed a unique cultural identity that remains central to local life. This is encapsulated in their extravagant funeral ceremonies, which can take the family several years to prepare and save up for, during which time the deceased is embalmed and the body kept in the back room of the traditional house. Maintaining the family’s status is reliant upon the number of buffalos purchased for the ceremony by family members, and donated by friends and associates within the community.  For the funeral of a high ranking official there may be 30 buffalo, which are sacrificed to carry the spirit of the deceased to the afterlife. To get a real sense of how much is invested into these ceremonies by visiting the bi-weekly buffalo auction in the central market, where the most sought after buffalos sell for up to US$30,000 each. A local guide can arrange for you to attend part of a funeral ceremony, by gaining the permission of the close family and offering a donation which could be monetary, a carton of cigarettes, sack of rice or even a pig. In addition to the cultural draw of Toraja the area also offers superb walking, cycling, rafting and overnight stays in remote traditional houses. With easy access to both Java and Bali, Toraja merits a place on multi-island Indonesia trip. 

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