Toraja Death Rituals

Toraja Death Rituals


Indonesia's Toraja people keep their dead relatives in their homes, treating them as if they were alive until they can be given expensive, elaborate funerals.


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While death is typically treated with a joyless outlook in Western culture, the complete opposite is true for Indonesia's Toraja people. For them, death is not something to dread and avoid, but a central part of living that involves honoring the deceased with the utmost care to aid their passage into the afterlife.

Funerals are major celebrations that take years of preparation. In the meantime, the dead bodies remain in their family homes. Their loved ones change their clothes, give them food and water daily, and swat the flies off their rotting skin.

In the time between a person's death and their burial, verses from the Bible are read daily, while the corpse is preserved — and eventually mummified — with a solution of formaldehyde and water. It's only when a suitable amount of money has been raised and every relative has been contacted that the family begins funeral and burial preparations.

A funeral is viewed as a showing of status for Torajan families. It's such a costly and important affair that people often go into debt to provide a proper funeral for their loved ones. A man may even put off taking a wife if he knows that his would-be bride has a relative who may die soon.


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