We ask the simple question – why do the Toraja tribe from Indonesia keep dead relatives at home? The answer…
We ask the simple question – why do the Toraja tribe from Indonesia keep dead relatives at home? The answer is not as simple so read on to find out…
The Toraja tribe from Indonesia live in a very mountainous region of South Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Most of them are Christian, some are Muslim and the rest have local beliefs. There are just over a million members of the tribe and nearly half of them live in Tana Toraja.
The strange and bizarre actions of this tribe will either disgust you, amaze you or creep you out. The latter would probably be the most popular reaction.
At a young age, the Toraja tribe are taught that death is part of life’s journey. They are taught not to fear death so that when they are adults it’s easier to accept.
When a relative passes the dead are only treated as they are sick. The dead are offered food, water, and even cigarettes which is most bizarre. This practice is done on a daily basis and they believe that the spirit remains close to the dead body which needs daily care.
The dead relatives even have a new change of clothes frequently. The corpses are kept in one of the rooms which is in a southerly direction because heaven is situated in that direction. If the dead relative was sick when they passed then they are situated in a room that faces west. This is because they are in transition.
To keep dead relatives at home must be overpowering with decaying odor yes?
The smell is restricted by placing dried plants near the body. The body is given Formalin which is a saturated water solution shortly after death. This solution will help the body mummify which helps eliminate the smell and decay. After several days of the corpse being paraded around as if it is still alive, they finally bury the corpse.
The body is still disturbed time and time again and rarely left in peace. The ritual called ma’nene is then practiced by the tribe and the dead are taken out of the coffin to get a new change of clothes. They are also washed and cleaned before they are clothed and many relatives travel far and wide to take part in the ritual.
Yes, once they have been at home in a coffin for several months. The family members will never leave the corpse alone as they believe the soul is always near to the body. In many cases, funerals are delayed for as long as possible so the relatives can be with the corpse for as long as possible.
The dead are treated very well here. Funerals can last for weeks and the celebrations can stop traffic in the streets because death is seen as more important than life.
Grief is a normal process as it would be for many worldwide. There are many Toraja members who suffer grief but they can accept death better than other cultures. They understand that death is not the end and with this understanding comes an easier way of dealing with the death of a loved one.
We certainly wouldn’t want to have dead relatives sitting on our sofa while watching TV here in the West. The best and safest option is for cremation or burial so they can rest in peace.