September 24, 2013

0814 INDONESIA (Sulawesi) - A Torajan with a tedong bonga

I wrote about Toraja and their special houses here, but I didn't say anything about the importance of water buffalo in their society, in lives, but also in death. In lives, wealth is counted by the ownership of water buffaloes. Together with pigs, buffaloes are the main animals in Toraja’s culture to be sacrificed in every ceremony, especially in Rambu Solo or Toraja’s funeral ceremony and Rambu Tuka or its thanksgiving ceremony. As a special animal, buffaloes in Toraja can be extremely expensive. One big "white” buffalo can be priced to tens of millions rupiah. In the postcard is a tedong bonga, a local variety, with a unique black and white colouration.

Rambu Solo is the biggest funeral ceremony in Tana Toraja. The family of the dead person have to sacrifice lots of big buffaloes, pigs and other animals in this ceremony, depending on the social status of the dead person. Influenced by the local religion Aluk Todolo, the Torajans traditionally believe that death isn't a sudden event, but a gradual process toward Puya (the land of souls). Buffalo carcasses are lined up on a field waiting for their owner, who is in the "sleeping stage". Torajans believe that the deceased will need the buffalo to make the journey and that they will be quicker to arrive at Puya if they have many buffaloes. There are many types of Rambu Solo: Disilli (for children or infants of the lowest class: sacrifice of one pig only), Dipasangbongi (a one-night-long ceremony for young and adults of the lowest class, normally will sacrifice one buffalo and four pigs), Dipatallung Bongi (a three-night-long ceremony for the middle class, normally sacrifice four buffaloes and many pigs), Dipapitung Bongi (a seven-night-long ceremony for the highest class, sacrifice of many buffaloes and pigs), and Dirapai (the most luxury ceremony for the high class society that may spend even more than a year and will need about 24 buffaloes and hundreds of big pigs).

The first part of the ceremony is named Ma’pasilaga tedong, and consists in a fight between buffaloes. At the ending of Rambu Solo ritual take place Ma’tinggoro Tedong, when a man slaughters a buffalo, that is tethered to a big stone, with a sharp machete. The meat is shared with the funeral visitors. Distribution is carried out in accordance to visitors' positions in the community, and the spirit of the deceased is also entitled to a portion of meat, known locally as Aluk Todolo. The heads of the buffaloes are returned to puya, and their horns placed in front of the house of the kin. The more horns that decorate the front of the house, the higher the status of the deceased.

About the stamps 
The stamps are part of a series issued on July 3, 2010 with the occasion of the Centenary of Muhammadiyah Movement, established to support the efforts of KH. Ahmad Dahlan in purifying the Islamic teachings that were considered to be heavily influenced by mystical things.
• KH. Ahmad Dahlan (1.500 IDR)
• Kauman Yogyakarta Mosque (1.500 IDR) - it's on this postcard
• Muhammadiyah and Education (1.500 IDR) - it's on this postcard

Toraja - Wikipedia
Unique funeral traditions of Tana Toraja - Bali & Indonesia on the Net
Traditional Ceremonies, Toraja, Indonesia - Jo Travel Guide
Centenary of Muhammadiyah - Indonesia stamps

sender: Anis Wahyuni (direct swap)
sent from Malang (Java / Indonesia), on 15.06.2013
photo: Kal Muller

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