Thursday, February 2, 2012

Cliff Graves

Known for their spectacular funeral rituals, effigy-filled burial cliffs, and elaborately carved architecture, the people of Tana Toraja, Indonesia number some 346,000. Although they continue to adhere to animist traditions, the Toraja are a predominantly Christian minority in a Muslim country. The most important thing in a Torajan’s life is saving enough money and having enough children to ensure their funeral is the most prestigious. Funerals are often held years after death, the body having spent the intervening time lying in state beneath the family home. The family uses the time to save for the big day, which will be a huge affair, involving hundreds of guests who will bring dozens of buffalo and pigs, all destined to be slaughtered and eaten that afternoon. Torajans are rarely buried in the ground. The cliff graves of Lemo and Londa are surrounded by rice fields.

The Torajans believe that you take your worldly posessions with you to the afterlife. So burials included posessions, much like the Egyptians. Theft of these burial items led the Torajans to build grave sites in caves hollowed out in cliff faces. In front of the burial caves are "tau tau" - wooden effigies that represent the people buried in the caves. To inter the coffin,one man climbs into the grave, first, to make room, while the others push the casket from the outside. It takes half an hour before both man and coffin are in the grave. The original man must then crawl through the coffins to get out of the grave so it can be sealed.

tau tau effigies
tau tau effigies
Coffins piled up in caves among ancestor bones
Ancetsor coffins
Ancestor bones
Coffins piled into a cave
Coffins and bones lie in this cave
Coffins and the possessions of the dead
Ancestor skulls with cigarette offerings
Coffins piled within a cave
Ladder in front of the cliff grave before interment
The door which seals the grave into a cliff

Info from here, here and here

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