Funeral processions, buffalo slaughter, ethnic food, tombs and cemeteries, Tongkonan houses – whatever it is you’re after in Tana Toraja, you can be sure that somewhere you will find it. But what are the ultimate attractions in Tana Toraja? You must check out these 3 main sites!
Ke’te Kesu’ is a quaint and traditional village concealed in the mountainous region of Tana Toraja. It sits amidst a vast expanse of rice fields, and is the oldest village in the Sanggalangi district. The village is over 400 years old, and is said to have not changed at all in that time. Kete Kusu functions as a sort of living museum, where you can experience first-hand the culture and traditions of the ancient Torajan people. Kete Kesu is probably most recognized for its fascination with death, as shown through their extravagant funeral ceremonies, hanging graves and decorative burial sites. The Ke’te Kesu’ are said to have the most well-preserved megalithic culture and death-celebrating traditions in all of Toraja.
This timeless town is home to about 20 families. It is comprised of eight Tongkonan houses, set in rows facing each other, complete with connected rice barns. The walls of the Tongkonan are adorned with beautiful carvings and buffalo horns, which serve as a mark of the homeowner’s status. A Tongkonan is the traditional house of the Torajan people, distinguished by its oversized boat-shaped roof. The construction of Tongkonan is a laborious task, and usually requires the help of all family members.
Bori Parinding is on the road from Rantepao to Batutumonga, and is situated in the middle of stunning rice paddies. It is a combination of ceremonial grounds and burials. The ceremonial ground is an open space used for traditional ceremonies, including rituals for the dead and thanksgiving. More than a hundred megaliths stand on the ceremonial ground, each representing a feast of merit performed in the past by a person of high status. Human remains are placed in stone chambers carved out of huge stone boulders, which lies scattered around the ceremonial ground. There are five tongkonan houses spread around the area. Bamboo is now planted in some places around the ceremonial ground to replace the extinct bamboo forest of the traditional settlement.
Londa’s burial caves are one of the more popular tourist destinations in Toraja. It is located about 7km south of Rantepao and therefore easy to get to by public transport such as bemo (mini van) or ojek (motorcycle taxis). To get to the tomb caves of Londa, one must descend a number of stairs but just before you do, you will be approached by a member of the local community offering you lanterns for rent costing about 20,000 Rupiah. You will need a light to find your way into and around the cave. Aside from renting a lantern, you may also bring your own flashlight to light your way, or ask your tour guide to provide one for you.
From a distance the cliff sides appear lush and green with the forest trees. If you are observant, however, you will notice colourful coffins tucked into crevices of the cliff walls. At the foot of this lushgreen cliff lies a cave which is used as a tomb. On the walls of the cliffs around the cave, rows of wooden statues called Tau-taus (a wooden effigy) can be seen in the chiselled stone cliffs. The Torajans believe that the dead can take their wealth with them into the afterlife. One reason why they bury the coffins in high places is to protect the buried treasure from thieves, yet they also believe that the higher the coffin lies the shorter the journey is for the deceased to enter into Nirvana.