The Toraja people of Indonesia are known around the world for their bizarre funeral rites such as Ma’nene, “The Ceremony of Cleaning Corpses”. Usually, the Toraja bury their dead in limestone cliffs in order to more easily retrieve the remains of their relatives when the time comes for them to be exhumed, groomed and paraded around their village of birth before being returned to the grave. Sometimes the bodies of children are suspended from the sides of cliffs with rope beside rows of “Tau-Tau”, life-sized wooden effigies of deceased high-status citizens. When an infant passes away before they begin teething, the baby is buried in what is known as a “Baby Grave Tree”.
Family members will carve a hole out of the tree and place the infant’s body inside. In time, the tree will regrow around the remains, “absorbing” the body. The Toraja people believe that because the tree is living, the babies inside are alive as well. Unfortunately, this beautiful and unique funeral rite began to die out in the 1920s when many Toraja citizens converted to Christianity. Although these “Baby Grave Trees” are no longer in use, many still exist in South Sulawesi, Indonesia and serve as a reminder of the Toraja culture’s colorful past.
To learn more about the funeral rites of the Toraja culture read The Walking Dead: Indonesia
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