Toraja Religion

Nowadays, 'Aluk Todolo', the ancestral religion, is almost can't be found in the community. They are already adherents of Protestants, Catholics and Moslem. But they are still follow the traditional customs of their ancestors.

Aluk Todolo officially recognised as related to Hinduism, it has a pantheon of gods and the Supreme God is 'Puang Matua' (the Old Lord) who is also the Creator. It is he who unified all gods, created mankind and all other creatures.

According to the Toraja myth of creation, before there were gods, there was heaven and earth. The universe created the gods and Heaven and Earth were the first parents of 'Pong Tulak Padang' (He who supports the Earth), 'Pong Banggai Rante' (He whose plain is large) and 'Gaunti Kembong' (self-expanding cloud). Together they grew up and formed the trinity and created the sun, moon and the stars.

They separated to become Lords of the underworld. 'Gaunti Kembong', the lord of the upperworld, removed a rib who become 'Usuk Sang Bamban' (the one special rib) who grew up and married 'Simbolong Manik' who emerged from stone in the east. From their union, 'Puang Matua' was born.

As in the upperworld, the earth is supposed to have a head (ulu), which faces north (daya, rekke) and a tail (ikko') which faces south (lo', sau'). East (lan, tama) is for sunrise while west (diong, rokko) is linked with sundown. Based on this, North and East are considered the sphere of life and South and West of death. By this same notion, the north and east are the domain of the gods, protectors of plants, domestic animals and human life, while South and West is where the souls of the dead reside until the completion of the funeral ceremonies. Therefore, all offerings to the gods are made by the priest facing northeast and to the ancestors in the direction of southwest.

From the land of the souls Puya, the ancestors after completion of the death rituals, are deified (appelation with 'deata') and enter heaven via a palm tree.

These deified ancestors or 'tomembali puang' are worshipped as they look after their descendants and shower them with blessings.


Toraja People ( part 2)

Hilltops were considered sacred by the Torajans as the first ancestors descended there, and villages were formerly built on the summits. Fortified walls surrounded the villages, providing a defensive shield against enemies. However in the early part of this century when Toraja came under Dutch rule, the people were ordered to move to more accessible valleys and plateaux. The village complex consists of separate farms, surrounded by paddyfields, the rante where the rites for the dead are held and the rocky cliffs where the burial caves are located.

The village is further divided into two parts, high and low, each one forming a ceremonial bua' circle unit.

Buffaloes represent a status symbol used chiefly for ceremonial purposes and are not considered as draft animals. They are slaughtered for sacrifice during the funeral ceremonies and the meat eaten. Pigs and chickens are also slaughtered and eaten at ceremonies, such as funerals and the consecration of new tongkonan.

Toraja People - Pigs Slaugthered

Toraja People - Ma' Tinggoro Tedong

As the death rituals are the most important ceremony in a person's passage of life, wealth and power are important to attain the status needed to enter Puya (Land of Souls). So Torajans aspire to accumulate wealth through lolo tananan (plants), lolo patuan (animals) and lolo tau (children) which are the elements necessary to attain the power for the funeral ceremony.

The Torajans speak an Austronesian language related to that of the Bugis of South Sulawesi. Referred to as the Sa'dan Toraja language, it is divided into three dialects; the Makale-Rantepao dialect of east Toraja, in the west Saluputti-Bongga Karadeng and in the south Sillanan-Gandang Batu. The language as used by the ritual priests differ from those used by the ordinary people and are sometimes difficult to understand.

Since Bahasa Indonesia is the language of instruction and administration it is understood and spoken by all, and English is becoming a popular second language in schools.

In spite of improved education and migration to other parts of the country, the people of Toraja remain tied to their ramage and kinship groups, returning for funerals and, if they should die away from their homeland, every effort is made to return them for the last funeral rites.


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