Welcome to “Tana Toraja”, a unique district in the South Sulawesi Province that has a pleasant climate due to its high elevation. The district covers an area of about 3,000 square kilometers and located approximately 300 kilometers (186 miles) from Makassar, the capital city of South Sulawesi.
“Orang Toraja”, how the natives call themselves (“Orang” literarily means “people of”), is well known for its unique culture, especially to the Dutch. It was the Dutch colonial government, through the Reformed Missionary Alliance, who introduced Christianity to the native back in the early 20th century. Today, Christianity is still practiced though surrounded by many Muslim districts.
…the history of Tana Toraja…
Orang Toraja speaks their own dialect, the Toraja dialect, apart from the national language of Bahasa Indonesia. According historians, the name of Toraja was initially mentioned by at least two other ethnic groups in south Sulawesi, Bugis-Sidendereng and Luwu. The "Bugis-Sidendereng" named them as the “To Riaja”, which means men who live in mountain’s foothill. While the "Luwu" ethnic group named the Torajans as “To Riajang”, which means men who live in the west. Later, the Torajans are well-known as "Toraja", while the area where these Torajanese live is known as “Tana” or land. Today, it is now known as "Tana Toraja", which is also sometimes referred to as "Tondok Lepongan Bulang Tana Matari’ Allo" (a round land just like the sun and the moon: different ethnicities unite in a land).
There are 3 “social status/classes” in Tana Toraja, namely “Tokapua” (the highest status society), “Tomakaka” (the middle status society) and “Tobuda” (the lowest class society). These classes also influence their culture, such as their famous traditional ceremonies, such as “Rambu Solo”, a funeral ceremony that is based on social status, where the mourning family sacrifices many buffalos, pigs, and so on, which later to be given or served to the families and the guests.
The Toraja funeral ceremony is not like any common funeral in the other part of Indonesia or even the world, Orang Toraja keep the dead body in a traditional house ” before finally be buried in a “Liang” or a grave that is built in caves, high cliffs, or rocks.
Grave location on cliff also determines the social status/class of the family, the higher the social status is, the higher their graves will be chiseled on cliff. While for family from lower social status, the dead body is usually placed in a coffin inside a cave nearby or in stones in a paddy field or beside the road.
Beside funeral ceremony, there are also thanksgiving ceremonies to celebrate the all blessing received, such as prolific harvest, good health, ability to build a house. Again this will be celebrated by sacrificing many pigs, buffaloes, and so forth. The ceremony is led by a “Tominaa”, a priest of old “Aluk Todolo” religion.
...beautiful side of Tana Toraja...
Tana Tana Toraja that has many hills and mountains, such as Mount Latimojong (the highest mountain) or Mont Sopai Mount. There are a few routes to climb the hills and mountains around Rantepao, the most visited town in Toraja, where you can see beautiful scenery of the nature of Toraja land. For those who don’t like climbing the hills, visiting villages, such as Londa village, is a great option, where you also can see the natural graves that are built in caves up in cliffs. Visit Bonoran village to see "Kete Kesu", "Tongkonan" or Toraja’s traditional houses. These houses have typical roofs that look like “ship” to cover the whole house; there are usually rice barns built in front of the house.
Some "Tongkonan" are decorated with carvings/motifs and some are not. Each design describes the social status of the owner. You can contact travel agents in Rantepao to arrange these trips. Toraja also has never-dry rivers, such as Sadan River, the main river, and Maulu River, for rafting.
Whatever your plan is going to be, have a wonderful experience in Toraja!