Sunday, January 29, 2012

Indonesian Cave Graves

In Rantepao, on the island of Sulawesi, the Torajan people are famous for their elaborate 3-day burial ceremonies. Chief among these unique aspects of Tana Toraja, as the area is known, are the traditions associated with the dead. The Torajans are animist: they believe in the spirits of the dead. They believe that when a person dies, they can take their possessions with them, which means that people are buried with their possessions. In the past, this led to a serious amount of grave robbing, so the Torajans began to bury their dead in caves in the surrounding cliffs, closed off with a door, preventing robbers from getting in, and the dead from oozing out. 

One problem is that the local rock is so hard that digging a burial cave is a highly expensive exercise; the cave diggers are traditionally paid in the well-known currency of water buffalo, which are very expensive, so only the rich can have cave graves. As a result the whole burying and funeral process has assumed an important status: the better the cave, the more expensive and elaborate the funeral preparations, the more status is afforded the family.

Burial site, Lokomat
Burial site, Lokomat
The 'hanging graves' of the nobility, where crypts are carved high into steep rock cliffs
Burial site, Lokomat
Tombs carved in granite
Baby graves carved into granite

Info from here

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