In Indonesia, people of the ‘Toraja’ tribe do not bury their deceased loved ones for years. Some even keep the rotting bodies for decades.
The Torajan people mummify the bodies of the deceased ones and care and nurture for the body as if they are still alive and breathing.
Dead bodies removed from their coffin and cleaned
There are about one million people in the area of South Sulawesi region still have this distinct belief that even after death the soul of the deceased remains in the house. The dead are provided with basic requirements like food, water or even if it’s a habit cigarette.
Since within days of death the skin of the dead starts rotting, their skin and flesh are preserved. The skin is preserved by coating the body with a chemical solution known as formalin. Formalin is a solution of formaldehyde and water.
The bodies are mummified using a chemical solution
The foul smell that it gives is very distinct and to solve this problem the family will store a lot of dried plants beside the body in order to undermine the odour.
According to the belief of the community members, if a body is well preserved it can bring good fortune to the family. For further luck, they keep the dead bodies in the same position and try to keep them in the same shape of body.
Bodies being buried with their favorite belongings
In a wealthier house, they are kept at ease in a tongkonan, which is known as a traditional Toraja ‘ancestral’ house. Such houses have distinctive boat shaped roof so that it can help rain run off.
The body stays there until funeral takes place. The funeral may take place within some years or in some case it may take even decades.
A boy giving his grandfather cigarette
According to a Torajan woman, ” My mother died suddenly, so we aren’t ready to let her go.” She told National Geographic of how this can help lamenting process. She further added that she cannot accept her burying her too quickly.
The funerals of the dead tend to be more of a celebration than just a grim event. But even after the burial process, they are either buried in a tomb or a stone grave. So, for relatives who aren’t ready to be apart yet from the deceased, they will come face to face with the their body.
This body has been given a watch. Aw.
Friends and family travel a great distance to get united with their deceased loved ones. They enjoy a heavy feast to signify the special occasion.
The younger generation also come to meet their ancestors for the first time. They usually take a selfie or pose for photographs with the body.
Gradually, the dead are returned back to the coffin and they are ornamented with new gifts such as watches, glasses or jewels.
The Torajan’s do not believe believe that human connection leaves the body immediately
The history of Torajan death rites first began in 9 AD. Nowadays, the practices are accompanied by Christian portion. They include recitations of the Lord’s prayer and biblical readings.
Even the European and Australian tourists are now mingling with locals and appreciating this tradition as this afterlife parade has been embraced and acknowledged through many generations.