The Toraja
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The Toraja

Mountain farmers

Mountain farmers

Indulge in the rolling green landscapes as you discover the fascinating and unique culture of Toraja’s important rituals and beliefs.

The Toraja, meaning ‘people of uplands’, live in the lush mountains of South Sulawesi, in the region of Tana Toraja, meaning ‘land of Toraja’.
Snapshot

Snapshot

  • Region is Southern Asia

  • Climate here is Tropical

  • The challenge here is Medium

  • This trip has been rated 5 by other travelers

Life

Life

The Toraja are skilled subsistence farmers, in fact 90% of the community living in the Tana Toraja region are farmers. The remaining 10% are employed by the government for trading and other government services.
Home

Home

Traditional homes are called Tonakonan, which means ‘to sit’. The houses represent each family and all family members, including those living, their ancestors, and those yet to be born. The home is the hub for most social activities. Each house is beautifully built using a wooden structure and layered with split-bamboo to create a large curved arc shape. The outside is decorated in red, black, or yellow wood carvings.

Culture

Social Structure

Family, class, and religion are all important aspects of Toraja society. Like western culture, each family member is traced through both the mother’s and father’s lineage — the only tribe in Indonesia with bilateral descent. This means during kinship it’s the responsibility of both families to support their children emotionally and financially. There are two classes; nobles, and commoners. Marriage within a family is mostly forbidden, however exceptions may be made if you’re of noble class.

Religion

The majority of the Toraja community are Christian. There are also some Muslims and those who follow a local animist belief called, aluk, meaning ‘the way’ which is recognised by the Indonisian government.

Traditions

Their tongkonan homes and colorful wood carvings are iconic, however the biggest and most widely recognised tradition is their elaborate and unusual funeral rituals. When relatives die they’re taken to a burial site within a cave, called The Tana Toraja Cave Tomb. This deep cave is set on the side of a cliff and filled with the corpses of dead relatives, ordered in family groups. On the other side of the cave is a memorial balcony lined with dressed wood carved mannequins, called tau-tau, which represent each person who is laid to rest in the cave.

Language

The Toraja speak the national language, Indonesian, and varieties of Toraja. In Tana Toraja schools, pupils are taught the Toraja language. This, however, is only verbally as a written form of the language doesn’t exist.

Art

The Toraja use craft, dance, and music to express themselves creatively. For social and religious events they carve wood. For special occasions, such as funerals and harvest, dances are performed. At some celebrations, such as thanksgiving, traditional music from a six-holed flute, called a ‘po’sculing’ is played and a dance called ma’bondensan is performed.

Celebrations

The most important social event in the Toraja culture are funeral rituals. The ceremony is often a gathering of hundreds of tribe members and can last days.
Further knowledge

Further knowledge

The Toraja have tourist visits with many visitors wanting to learn more about their unique culture and rituals. When visiting, people tend to access the tribe via Rantepao, the heart of Tana Toraja, rather than Makale, which is the capital of Toraja. The area has mountains and rivers so activities such as trekking and rafting are possible.


Photo credit: torah traditional village
iStock.com/Elena Odareeva

Photo credit: Elder man of the Toraja tribe
iStock.com/guenterguni

Photo Credit: Torajan girls
iStock.com/greta6

Photo credit: senior lady working in a ricefield
iStock.com/joakimbkk

Photo credit: Traditional Toraja burial site
iStock.com/fbxx

Photo credit: Traditional Toraja House
iStock.com/waklebang