Toraja 2

E.  Market, Ancient Villages, Graves & Funeral Ceremony

In Tana Toraja, we spent three full days visiting some ancient villages and graves. We made Rantepao as our base for our travels. Besides the villages and graves we also went to Bolu Market and near Rantepao, we witnessed a funeral ceremony in a rural village near Lemo.

Following  are some of the more fascination places we visited.


Bolu Market

Our first visit in Tana Toraja was to Pasar Bolu located about 2km from Rantepao. We were lucky because this market was held once in six days.

The most amazing and large section of the market was devoted for the sale of cattle where hundreds of buffaloes and pigs were sold to those who needed them for thanksgiving ceremonies, weddings and funerals. We first saw numerous buffaloes (mostly black) held by lashes and some in corrals.

The price of these common buffaloes can range from USD1,000 to 5,000 and more than USD10,000 for a rear spotted albino.

We moved on to the area where pigs were held. Piglets were kept in plastic bags and the bigger ones were tied to bamboos squealing all together under the sheds.

After visiting the buffalo and piggy markets, we went to the traditional market where local coffee beans, veggies, fruits and fish were sold. It was busy and all walkways and stalls were packed with customers and visitors.

Merante Village

Merante Village is located 6km east of Rantepao and not far from Pasar Bolu. It is a traditional village with old Tongkonan and ancient graves. The first Tongkonan was built in the 1700s.

The most interesting attraction in Merante we visited was the place where many long-horn buffaloes were lashed in a yard. And one even had three horns!

Ketekesu Village

Ketekesu represents a typical Toraja village. There are traditional Tongkonan houses and rice barns of about 100 years old. The village is set amongst the trees below a towering cliff.


About 100m behind the Tongkonan is the base of a cliff from which the coffins hang. Some have fallen and the ground is scattered with bones, skulls, and rotten wood coffins.

Palawa Village


Situated 9km north of Rantepao, Palawa is the oldest village of Toraja. Antique traditional Tongkonan houses and rice barns are set in rows on the mountain top.


Batu Tumonga Village

Batu Tumonga is about 20km north of Rantepao and located high on the slopes of Mt. Sesean.  The village overlooks Rantepao far below and has the most fantastic scenery in the whole of Toraja.




Locomata is located just about 3km from Batu Tumonga. It is the most impressive burial site in Torajaland where, in the huge stone rock on the roadside, a number of graves have been carved into it. The graves have been in existent since 1650.

Also, from the roadside the scenery of the plain to Rantepao and the surrounding mountains is beautiful.


Lemo Cementry

Lemo is located 12km from Rantepao. The towering cliff face is filled with graves and tau-tau (edifies) of high-ranking aristocrats.



Funeral Ceremony in Toraja

The Torajan funeral service is a massive affair. It is so big that temporary shelters are needed to be built to accommodate all the “mourners”.

We were lucky that the day before our departure from Torajaland, there was a funeral ceremony held in a village not too far from Lemo Cementry. Our Guide advised us that to witness the ceremony, we had to wear black and had to bring along some gifts to present to the host. We bought a carton of cigarettes and two boxes of Instant Mee.

When we arrived, the ceremony had just started and we were led to a shelter to sit in. The place was quite crowded and the first thing we saw was the slaughter of two buffaloes in full view of the guests. Each was cut at its throat by a single stroke of a knife! It was indeed not a pleasant sight!

Throughout the service the men were “singing”, women chanting and hordes of helpers serving tea, coffee and food to guests. Also, gifts and pigs were bought to the ceremony in convoys.



Baby Graves In Trees

After witnessing the funeral ceremony, we proceeded to Sangalla Village and not far from there we saw a tree where babies were buried.

It is said that children who die before they have teeth are not yet fully part of this world. So these children are buried in a particular soft-wood tree. A hole is carved in the tree, and the tiny wrapped body is placed inside. A 'gate' is nailed shut over the opening of the 'grave'. As the tree grows and repairs itself, the gate falls off, and eventually the hole closes in on itself leaving a small vertical cleft in the tree. It is said that the child has been taken back into the womb.


Londa Old Graves

Londa is 6km south of Rantepao and 1km off the main road. It is the largest stone grave yard in Tana Toraja and also one of the oldest hanging graves for the nobilty.

There is a balcony of tau-tau (edifies) guarding  the entrance to two caves. We hired a boy to carry a kerosene lattern and guide us inside the caves.



Bye-Bye Toraja!

We ended our sojourn in Torajaland after visiting the Londa Graves. The long drive from the lowlands starting from Makassar to the mountain stronghold of Tana Toraja is worth the trouble as the latter opens up a breath-taking new world for me and many others. With majestic panoramas, captivating villages, graves and dramatic ceremonies, Tana Toraja is undispuably the highlight of all my travels.

I was totally mesimerised by the Torajan colourful and endemic culture which is specially rich and unique. Though there are Christians and Muslims amongst the population, the majority of the people still follows  an ancestral cult which governs all traditional ceremonies.

The only qusetion which I am unable to find an answere is why none of the village/grave  in Tana Toraja has been listed under  the UNESCO World Heritage Site?


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