In the traditional beliefs of Toraja people, South Sulawesi, Indonesia, death is not the end of life cycle. It is the beginning of someone’s journey to meet The Greatest. This traditional belief conception believes that all the living things will reach puya, the dream of heaven for all people after death. It is the reason, furthermore, during the funeral ceremony, called as rambu solo, the families and extended relatives will prepare the event in the best way, and as glorious as possible, in order to prepare the descended ones to start the journey to puya.

Generally in modern time, rambu solo will be conducted in several days accordingly to the ability and capacity of the families. The event will consume amount of materials and efforts. Tens to hundreds animals must be sacrificed, the chosen and the best water buffalo as the main offerings, the numbers of visitors and guests who will be invited, and other glorious indicators will be applied to measure the pride and succeed of the event.

Before these periods, rambu solo was based on the nobility and social strata of the families in the community. Only several families were able to conduct this funeral ceremony in relatively seven days with huge sacrifices of the animals. But this current time, the length and number of slaughtered animals are accordingly to the economical capacities of the families. The richer of the families, the merrier the event.

In transforming the conception of puya, I took these photos by using infra-red modified camera. Then the post processing is transferred into monochrome. This technique is applied in order to provide imagination and fictional description, or perception, towards the conception of puya, a heaven for Toraja people after death.

 


 

One of the conceptions of Toraja people faith is about the harmony of human beings with its surroundings. Then the knowledge is transferred that puya can be achieved if the harmony of human beings relationship with the environment can be maintained and conserved.

 

Tongkonan, the traditional house of Toraja, is derived from “tongkon”, or “to sit down”. Literally, tongkonan is defined as a place to hear the command and wise words in a problem solving situation; a place as center of traditional governance (adat); and, as center of families relationship compound. It is the reason then that in every rambu solo event, there is a small tongkonan which is referred as the center of the series of traditional processions for funeral ceremony.

 

When the descended one will be processed in a rambu solo event, she/he will be paraded and transported up to the main tongkonan in the event venue. The objective of this effort is to remind the whole families and extended relatives that the center of this event is to prepare the path of the descended ones to puya.

 

During the procession of rambu solo, on the la’kian (the main construction in the center of the venue), the core family members, usually wife, husband, or the eldest son/daughter, will accompany the descended one for the last time before funeral. It reflects the loyalty of the families to be as always together and to support each others in every circumstance.

 

The families, extended relatives, and colleagues of the descended ones will come to convey their grieves. Among them, the contributed animals will be escorted as sacrificed animals to be served during the processions for several days. It is believed that the sacrificed animals will be utilized by the descended ones as vehicles to puya.

 

Each guests group will be escorted by war dance as form of respects to the visiting guests. The dance, called as ma’randing, is the expression of strengths and skills of warriors in applying weapons, and it is performed to glorify the spirits and efforts of the descended ones during life.

 

The visiting guests will be escorted to the main alang to be served by the families of descended ones. Among them, the contributed animals will be also guarded as offerings to the grieving families.

 

During the procession, ma’badong dance, or mourning dance, will be performed in the center of the venue. It is the expression of the harmonic relation among human beings and their surroundings, and the life stories of the descended ones.

 

As for entertainment purpose, the water buffalo fights are performed nearby the venue. It is usually in the paddy fields, or in the wide space of the venue. Those water buffalo are usually the contributed animals from extended relatives and guests to the families. After the fights, the animals will be slaughtered and the meats will be distributed to the guests, families, churches, and poor people.

 

In some occasions, in the end of rambu solo procession, the families will distributed some rewards to the people by throwing moneys. It is the rewards for the people who had supported and contributed during the events. In this day, the descended ones will be paraded to the grave in a carved stones, or in the hilly areas.