Toraja

Published June 13th, 2014

The Toraja are an ethnic group indigenous to a mountainous region of South Sulawesi (Indonesia).

Torajans are renowned for their elaborate funeral rites, burial sites carved into rocky cliffs, massive peaked-roof traditional houses (konwn as "tongkonan"), and colorful wood carvings.

Tongkonan are the traditional Torajan ancestral houses. They stand high on wooden piles, topped with a layered split-bamboo roof shaped in a sweeping curved arc, and they are incised with red, black, and yellow detailed wood carvings on the exterior walls.

Before the 20th century, Torajans lived in autonomous villages, where they practised animism and were relatively untouched by the outside world. In the early 1900s, Dutch missionaries first worked to convert Torajan highlanders to Christianity.

Today, most of the population is Christian, and others are Muslim or have local animist beliefs known as aluk ("the way").

In Toraja society, the funeral ritual is the most elaborate and expensive event.

The d ...

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