Tana Toraja Regency is a regency of South Sulawesi Province of Indonesia, and home to the Toraja ethnic group. The local government seat is in Makale, while the center of Toraja culture is in Rantepao.
The land of the Toraja people (many nominally Christian but most, in practice, animist) is above all famed for their spectacular (and rather gruesome) burial rites. After a person’s death, the body is kept — often for several years — while money is saved to pay for the actual funeral ceremony, known as tomate. During the festival, which may last up to a week, ritual dances and buffalo fights are held, and buffaloes and pigs are slaughtered to ferry the soul of the deceased to the afterlife (puya). The deceased is then finally buried either in a small cave, often with a tau-tau effigy placed in front, inside a hollow tree or even left exposed to the elements in a bamboo frame hanging from a cliff.
Tana Toraja has unique culture set in stunning scenery. Globalisation and tourism may have impact, but if you venture away from the tarmac roads you will find soon a way of life that has not changed much in the last 100 years.
Traditional Tongkonan houses stand proudly in this setting. These intricately decorated houses with upward-sloping roofs are the center of all Aluktodolo (Torajan religion before the coming of missionaries; the ancestors belief) rites; from storing the harvest in the carved rice barns, “alang”, to slaughtering sacred water buffaloes at a week or more-funeral ceremonies. Tana Toraja’s beauty is also reflected in its people. Although they are devoutly Christian (there are small number of Muslims especially in the southern area), they combine this religious belief with magic and mysticism, and welcome visitors to witness their ceremonies.
Tana toraja is a sleepy rural region cultivating rice, cacao, coffee, and clove most of the year. Toraja’s arabica coffee carries a high reputation and is something that visitors may be interested in trying. These all change during the dry season,, from June until September, when Children are home from school, the rice is harvested and it’s time for a “rambu solo”, a complex funeral ceremony of the ancestors. During the time, Rantepao is transformed into a major tourist resort for national and international visitors.