In a weird and horrific tradition, Indonesians dig up their deceased relatives, dress them and parade them around the streets as a part of the annual Ma’nene festival!
Rest in Peace seems like a statement that is not followed on the remote island of Sulawesi, Indonesia. Welcome to The Ma’nene festival, which literally means “Ceremony of Cleaning Corpses”. The Torajan people that inhabit the island are either Christians or Muslim, but a small group of people still practice the “Aluk Todolo” or “The Way of The Ancestors“.
The basic belief behind the festival is the belief that for the people who pass away, death is just a step into the oncoming spiritual life!
The festival is believed to have originated in the Baruppu village over a century ago. Legend says that an animal hunter named Pong Rumasek was hunting in the mountains when he found a corpse abandoned, decaying, under a tree. Rumasek dressed the corpse in his own clothes and gave him a proper burial, and believed he was blessed with good fortune. The practice was adopted by the Toraja, who believed the spirits would reward them for taking care of the dead.
When a person dies in the village, the funeral is not concluded in a day. Instead, the funeral ceremonies are extensive and can go on for weeks. This is done in order to give the families a chance to give their relatives an extravagant send off to the after life called as “Puya“. The process starts with several animal sacrifices like bulls and buffaloes. The horns of the animals are then used to adorn the house of the deceased person. It is believed that the more horns on a person’s house, the more respected that person is.
The Toraja tribe members are rarely buried in the ground. Because the village is situated on top of several mountains, several caves are cut out into the mountain side, for bodies to be accommodated or in wooden coffins that are hung from the side of the mountain. Similarly, babies are buried in the hollows of trees. The bodies are wrapped in extensive layers of cloth to prevent and extend the decay process!
One of the reasons the funerals are delayed is also because the funerals are expensive and they give time to the families time to collect money as well as to pay for the processions. The higher the status of the person, the costlier the expenses. The family members clean, wash and dress up their family members for the processions. As bizarre as it sounds, they do it with smiles on their faces.
Once the bodies are placed in the caves on the mountains, a wooden effigy called “Tau Tau” is placed near the bodies to guard them. They are referred to as ‘a person who is sick’ or ‘the one who is asleep’ because locals do not believe they are truly dead until they have been buried.
Torajans are supposed to be buried in the area they spent most of their life or where they died. Deviating from this tradition causes tension among families.
No matter how bizarre and scary this tradition sounds, you can’t help but just wonder about the weird and bizarre beliefs people have over the world!