Living With The Dead! We Do Not Bury Them.
Most of us dislike the idea of even being near the dead, let alone touching them. However, the Torojan are an example of people who live side by side with the dead, including eating with them and even praying with them.
EDITORS NOTE: WARNING! IMAGES SHOWN IN THIS ARTICLE ARE GRAPHIC THUS MAY BE TRAUMATIZING.
Almost everyone on the planet believes that once a person dies, his or her remains must be disposed of in any way possible. This includes being cremated, buried, or burned to ashes, which we believe to be religion as history books state was one of the ways that early man began to practice religion, as evidenced by the excavation of early human remains that had been buried in different but one area, particularly with their various items and tools to be used in the afterlife.
Imagine having to keep a dead body in your home for years while tending to it, cleaning it, feeding it, dressing it, and praying with it. That must be traumatic for some people, right? If you try this in most African countries, you might be associated with witchcraft or other supernatural beings or bad omens.
This is not the case for more than a million people in the Sulawesi region of eastern Indonesia's Toraja region, who have practiced this tradition for centuries. In this case, animist beliefs blur the distinction between this world and the next, making the dead very much present in the world of the living.
After someone passes away, it may be months, if not years, before a funeral is held. Meanwhile, the families keep their bodies at home and treat them as if they were sick. Twice a day, they are given food, drink, and cigarettes. They are washed and their clothes are changed regularly. The dead even have their own "toilet," which is a bowl in the corner of the room. Furthermore, the deceased is never left alone, and when it gets dark, the lights are always left on for them. Families are concerned that if the corpses are not properly cared for, the spirits of their departed loved ones will cause them grief.
To preserve the body, special leaves and herbs were traditionally rubbed on it. Formalin, a preserving chemical, is now injected instead. It emits a strong chemical odor in the room.
While some may consider this extreme and unchristian, a local from the region spoke to BBC to confirm that they are Christians who truly value the existence of their kin. They believe that the spirits of those who have died still linger on earth, so they have a strong connection with their family members, and unlike in most other parts of the world, there is no fear of the dead here.
Torajans work hard their entire lives to amass wealth. But, rather than pursuing a luxurious lifestyle, they are saving for a spectacular departure. Funerals, according to Torajan belief, are where the soul finally departs this Earth and begins its long and difficult journey into Pooya - the final stage of the afterlife where the soul is reincarnated. Buffaloes are thought to be the carriers of the soul into the afterlife, which is why families sacrifice as many as they can to ease the deceased's journey.
Torajans spend the majority of their lives accumulating funds for these rituals.
Once the families have saved enough money, they invite all of their friends and relatives from around the world. The larger and more elaborate these ceremonies are, the wealthier the deceased was when he or she died.
Torajans are rarely buried in the ground. Instead, they are either interred in family tombs or placed inside or outside caves, which are plentiful in this mountainous region. These caves are yet another location where the afterlife appears to interact with this one. They can stretch for kilometers and contain countless coffins and corpses, as well as loose skulls and bones. Friends and family members bring "necessities" for their deceased relatives, which are frequently money and cigarettes.
Images of dead noblemen and women are carefully carved out of wood in a tradition that predates photography. These sculptures, known as tau-tau, wear the deceased's clothes, jewelry, and even their hair - silent sentinels looking out over this world from another plane. According to the BBC, they cost around $1,000 to make on average.
But even interment isn't the same as saying good-by. The physical relationship between the dead and the living is maintained long after death, thanks to a ritual known as ma'nene, or "cleansing of the corpses." Every couple of years, families dig up the coffins of long-dead relatives and open them up for a big reunion with the dead. During ma'nene ceremonies, friends and family offer food and cigarettes to the dead, grooming and cleaning them lovingly. Then they pose for new family portraits with them.
These acts may appear strange in other parts of the world. However, it is everyone's wish to spend some time with their loved ones and celebrate various milestones with them. When saying goodbye to a loved one, most people go through a lot of trauma, and this torojan tradition has really helped them a lot. Perhaps the Torojans are trying to do things their own way; tradition is something that should be highly valued.