Trips in The Land of The Death


Visiting Toraja, is one of the exciting moment in 2016. It is unplanned, like most of trips that I did before in 2016. In September 2016, I become a part of team that has task to campaign and spread information of Kartu Indonesia Pintar (KIP) for Ministry of Education and Culture. Luckily, I got to choose region that I want to visit and yeaay, I directly choose Enrekang, Tana Toraja dan Toraja Utara as regions that I should visit.

Business trips itself was planned to be held in 5 days. We landed on Makassar  on 8 pm and continue the journey by using rental car to visit Enrekang first. It takes 6 hours trip to reach Enrekang and in the morning, we directly had to show in front of District Government and principals to tell them about KIP (and practically beg them to help us register student’s KIP in education’s data portal). After that, we directly go to Tana Toraja.

In websites that I have looked, they said it only takes 8 hours to reach Tana Toraja which I had spend 6 hours to reach Enrekang, therefore the rest should only take 2 hours right? However, rainy condition and muddy road let us take 6 hours more to reach Tana Toraja. There was a time when I had slept, then woke up then slept again and the cycle continues. However, on the way to Toraja, we passed the Butu Kabobong and chalk stone that looks exactly like my macbook’s desktop background. The view were so beautiful. Butu Kabobong is like yellow hills that were spread beside the road that people use to go to Tana Toraja (see 1st and 2nd pictures). We spend the two days to promote KIP in Tana Toraja and Toraja Utara, the event finished around 2 pm.

Then, I decide to spend one day alone, without my partners in Toraja to travel. My partners decided to go directly to Makassar on the 4th day since they have flight to catch tomorrow. I don’t know what comes into me, but I was sure that I would be fine, alone (If my mom knew, I know that business trip won’t be in my list anymore hehhehe). To travel in Toraja, I decided to rent a car from hotel. The price was rational and around my budget. However, if your budget is so tight, you can rent motorbike that only takes 1/5 from rental car budget. Unfortunately, I can’t ride motorbike.

Besides visiting the graves, Tana Toraja was famous with The Land Above The Clouds called Laloi. I do want to visit that place. For me, who hasn’t got chance to climb a mountain, to be in a land above the clouds will be a nice experience for me. I have woken up since 3.30 am and BAMM! it was raining so heavily and It hadn’t stopped until 6 am. Then my plan was ruined :”(. Really, I was sooooo disappointed and I knew one day travelling is not enough in Toraja.

However, it didn’t stop me to continue grave-visiting trips. The driver picked me up at 8.30 and luckily I got knowledgeable driver so he also acted as Tour-Guide for me. We visited Londa, Lemo, Kambira, Kete’kesu and Bori as a grave sites in Toraja. Personally, I think each grave sites has its own characteristics. For example, for Londa, The grave site is a chalk cave so you can put the coffins inside the cave or making a hole in cave walls. For Lemo dan Kete’kesu is  a wide chalk wall (actually it looks like a cliff if you see from above). The torajans buried the coffins by making a hole in the wall. One wall can be used by more than one coffins. Kambira is a baby grave sites that use tree as a coffin for those who died at baby age. My tour guide said the practice was common for lower level of torajans (like slave or commonal). For Torajan nobles, they could easily buy gold teeth to be planted in baby, so the baby soul will live, however, for commoners, buried baby in tree means a hope that the baby will still grow as long as the tree was alive. However, the practice had stopped. In Kete’kesu, they were also a bunch of Tongkonan, traditional house for Torajans.

At first, I thought the Torajans really live in Tongkonan, then how can this small size house can contain the whole family (really, the biggest Tongkonan that I saw in there is only around 100 m2)? It turned out that nowadays, Tongkonan was used as family meeting place instead place of living. Tongkonan was usually surrounded by  house of family members who owns the Tongkonan. I really was touched that this traditional house contains beautiful meaning for life and death of Torajans. Usually, wood pillars at the front of Tongkonan House was hanged by buffaloes’ horn that was sacrificed during death ceremony of family members. According to my tour guide, the buffaloes’ horn that was hanged as a symbol of stairs (really it looks like a stairs) that help souls to go to the sky. The Tongkonan’s roof itself looks like Buffalo horns. It was the symbol that The Torajans was a descendant of the sky (The Almighty One) that should go to the earth before the time that they should go back to the sky by embracing the Death. That is why they celebrate the Death, because embracing the death is the only thing that they can do to go back to the sky. I really was touched by that. I feel like there was a longing feeling from Torajans to meet the sky after the Death when listening to the story and I was soooo lucky that I had chance to see Rambu Solo, the burial ceremony.

I feel like there was a longing feeling from Torajans to meet the sky after the Death

The Torajans, really celebrate the Death, in my opinion, more than birth, marriage or holy days. They sang, jumped, did some dance by holding the coffins together before putting in Tongkonan-coffin-likes, and last held buffalo fight in the honor of the Death one and then sacrificed the buffaloes and pigs for the Death one. Sometimes burial ceremony takes a week. Burial ceremony itself is a must in Torajan people, so don’t be surprised if you see the preserved dead body inside Torajan house just because they still haven’t got any money to buried him/her.  Burial ceremony is a pride, a proof of Torajan’s status in society and a proof of Torajan’s love to the death one.

Burial ceremony is a pride, a proof of Torajan’s status in society and a proof of Torajan’s love to the death one.

Besides cultural sites, Torajans was also recognized for its beautiful scenery. You can visit Lolai, as I’ve described earlier. You also can visit Batutumongga, a village in the uphills and you can see Toraja’s regions from above. I didn’t have chance to visit those places, unfortunately. I think two days trips are the best time to spend the time in Toraja. So, to sum it up, Toraja’s trips really  a remembrance of the death for me. Death should not be a sad moment, but a welcome gate to meet the Almighty ones for them, and for me moslem, a looong (hopefully peaceful) rest before I met you, Rabb.

Balikpapan, while waiting for Evaluation Time

Ps: the source of information of this article is My Tour Guide in Toraja, so I really welcome your feedback and correction regarding this.



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