Thursday, July 3, 2014

Lemo Cliff Graves | Tana Toraja | Indonesia

While visiting a culture where death is regularly intertwined with daily life, it seemed appropriate to begin our tour of the region with a trip to a grave site. On our way to Lemo, one of the most well-known burial sites in the area, we learned a little about the Torajan people and what happens when they die.

Typically a will is left behind by the deceased to determine the stipulations surrounding their burials. This could range from instructions about a time frame for burial (several months to several years) to an indication of how elaborate the funeral celebration should be. Those who are wealthy might choose to be buried in cave hollowed out of a cliff. Regionally, the cliff graves are either carved out of granite or limestone and can take from six months to two years to be completed, depending on the number of workers.

Once deceased, a person is wrapped in a cloth made of pineapple fibers. Depending on the wealth of the family, a tau-tau or wooden likeness, is placed outside of the tomb. Those carved out of granite are less help in decomposition and a white trail of bone can be seen from those that are relatively recent.

Since family members are sometimes kept around for several years, we inquired about the preservation process. Our guide informed us that oftentimes, black magic is used in the process of washing a body and that that water is stored in a bamboo tube, taken to the graveside and then disposed of far away to prevent any unwanted aromas.

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