GRANDIOSE PARTING, CEREMONY OF DEATH
There is nowhere else on earth where the words death and lavish can be paired in a sentence as in Toraja. In this ethereally charming land, death has never borne sadness. On the contrary, it is the ultimate goal of life, longing to be celebrated by both the departed and the family members left behind. Cheers that echo through hilltops, a big feast for all guests, and traditional dances redefine what human perceive as morbid into something beautiful. The death ceremonies of Toraja, named Rambu Solo’, is the apotheosis of Torajan festival because of the sheer magnitude and cultural significance that follows.
Rambu Solo’ is a ceremony of the departed, where buffaloes are highly revered as a sacrificial entity playing an irreplaceable role in Torajan traditions. The more a Torajan individual is respected, the more buffaloes to sacrifice. Some even bear staggering numbers of hundreds, with a belief that with each buffaloes sacrificed, the departed will enter the afterlife (Puya) more easily. The meat of the sacrificed buffaloes are then shared with the guests attending as part of the revelry. It is a very extravagant and paramount celebration dating back to ancestral times, where buffaloes carefully and lovingly cared for give their meat back to the community that cherished them. These ceremonies are events highly anticipated by locals and travelers alike, as they show the true hues of Torajan culture in its essence. Grand is not even a word fitting enough to describe the excitement and festivities going on as the Torajans always celebrate the parting in an extravagant feast. Then comes the burial. Contrary to traditional norms, here, burial should not be hidden from the public eyes. Tombs are laid down through a specific construct: the higher the location, the nobler it is for family members. In each ceremony, children and descendants pay respect to their elderly departed.
CELEBRATION OF LIFE
Like yin and yang, beside a Rambu Solo’, the death ceremony, is Rambu Tuka’, the life ceremony in Toraja. The word Rambu Tuka’ can literally be translated as ‘smoke ascending.’ These celebrations are always associated with life. There are certain rites that accompany a Rambu Tuka’. For example, a Rambu Tuka’ is always held in the morning to the east of the main Tongkonan. Rambu Tuka’ celebrates life and encompasses events such as the blessing of a new Tongkonan (Mangrara Banua) to weddings (Rampanan Kapa’). Other Rambu Tuka’ ceremonies include Ma’bugi, a thanks giving ritual held after harvest and Sisemba’, a celebration of the harvest which includes a kicking fight. During these life-related ceremonies, make sure to wear bright colored clothing and avoid black, as black is worn to death ceremonies.
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