Toraja, Life For A Luxurious Death (Hidup Untuk Mewahnya Kematian)

Night was about leaving us. Our car finally took us to final stop for that day. It was very hard for me leaving my seat because I was very exhausted due to our long journey. It was a non-stop trip which spent 4 hours air travel from Jakarta to Makassar, 10 hours Makassar-Rantepao journey via bus, then 45 minutes via car from Rantepao to Nanggala.The last spirit left emerged from lights that was shining from the building of which structures has obsessed my mind all day long. Before long, we officially hopped on in the location where I could enjoy the beauty of Tongkonan, traditional house of Toraja, completed with two sharp and pointed ends. Its beauty was totally successful in spoiling my eyes. My tiredness suddenly disappeared and turned into a blow of spirit which led me to get so excited and curious on things I would get on the next day.

4.suasana kampung Nanggala di malam hari

Together with Fatur and Yoyo, my companions during this journey, we felt lucky enough since this very first journey to Sulawesi gave us chance to look closer at Rambu Solo, Toraja’s traditional funeral ceremony. At that time, there was a funeral ceremony for Elisa Siman Pongpalita at Nanggala village. Elisa passed away in 2005 at the age of 80. The deceased was not only one of community figures but also was the sixth generation of King Luwu, one of the ruler of Toraja in the past time. To be honest, we were a bit late since the ceremony has run for three days before we arrived at Nanggala. That forced us leave three processions includes moving the dead body from Tongkonan to Lumbung (a place to store paddy), which was followed by moving it to Lakkien. It was a special place to put the dead body before burying it. The procession continued to guest welcoming, and Ma’pasilaga Tedong or buffalo fight. But still above all, we felt so grateful since we’re living in Lantang, a special building for guests and family. It gave us access to experience the rest of the procession to the full. A friend of us namely Theresia Kurniasari Pongpalita, the grandchild of the deceased, gave us a huge help to know and understand the culture of Toraja deeply.

1.Lakkien, tempat menaruh jenazah sebelum dikubur batu

On my first day, or the fourth day of the series of procession, we watched Ma’tinggoro Tedong procession. It was a procession of buffalo slaughtering. What makes it special is that its way of cutting buffalo’s head. The slaughterer used chopping knife with a single cutting movement. Not only buffalo, pigs are also another animal that could be sacrificed. Buffalo and pig are the form of last tribute for the family for the deceased. There were 3 pigs and 17 buffaloes including one Tedong Bonga, a buffalo with strips over its body. The bigger number of strip existed in the buffalo’s body, the higher price should be paid for it. The price of one Tedong Bonga could be hundreds of millions rupiahs. As a comparison, the price of regular buffalo is about 20 millions rupiahs.


8.salah satu kerabat almarhum

After being cut to pieces, the organ and meat of these buffaloes or pigs was cooked before it was served to the family. Then, it was given or sold by auction to the neighbours or any other people who were involved in the ceremony. There is a unique thing from this series of procession, related to the use of buffalo’s horn which was placed in the front part of Tongkonan. For sure, the horn was cleaned initially. The point of this part of custom is as indicator to show the number of buffaloes which have been sacrificed by the family. More horns show higher level of family’s wealth.

On the second day, which was also the last day in the ceremony, the procession of coffin lowering from Lakkien to the field was held. Most of the time, the field is located in front of Tongkonan. In the middle of the procession, I saw some members of the family were in tears. Two of them even cried hysterically while staring at the coffin. There was a rare moment happened on the procession. At that time, the family and people who were involved in the ceremony gathered at the edge of the field. Some people who we believed as local figures deliver an oration in turn by using local language. It made us have no idea on what they talked about. From Sari, we know that they talked about their worry and rejection to local government and church that prohibit the implementation of chicken or buffalo fight during the procession of Rambu Solo as it indicates gambling activity. This situation is in contrast with their belief which considers it merely as a ritual in parts of Rambu Solo’s tradition.

5.Ma’tinggoro Tedong, tradisi menyembelih kerbau dengan sekali tebas

6.membersihkan babi sebelum dipotong

7.menguliti kerbau persembahan

There is another unique procession which got my full attention. I was amazed seeing people who lifted the coffin pranced while shouting a kind of spell. The initial plan was burying the body in a sarcophagus. However, the condition of the cliff did not support it at that time. There were holes in the cliff which would be used as the grave. Therefore, the coffin was placed in Patane, a special house to put the coffin. After fixing the holes in the cliff, the coffin will be moved. The coffin was brought by many people who were guided by some people bringing gong and umbul-umbul. Gong is part of Gamelan instruments, a traditional musical instrument made of brass, while umbul-umbul is a kind of flag which is usually used to celebrate special events such as country’s Independence Day. Those people yelled during the procession. I wondered on the thing that they did, especially when they pulled the coffin in some different directions, back and forth. Once they got to Patane, the coffin was placed into the house, together with other five coffins.

At night, we chatted with some family members of the deceased while enjoying a cup of coffee, special from Toraja. At this moment, we asked some questions to get deeper understanding on their way of life. The first question was why they should hold Rambu Solo. A very short answer came out at that time. They said, ‘sick or sleep’. It might be short but not so simple to understand. For them, someone is considered as dead person only when Rambu Solo is conducted for him or her. When the family has not conducted this procession, it means that they are considered in a condition of ‘sick or sleep’. This belief makes them treat the deceased as if they are alive. They accompany, give food, drink, and even cigarette to them. Besides, according to the lesson from Aluk To Dolo (traditional belief of Toraja), Rambu Solo is a form of last admiration to the family members who passed away before going to afterlife.

11.Ludia Ramma, istri kedua almarhum

12.foto bersama keluarga alamarhum

In Toraja’s tradition itself, there are four levels of Rambu Solo. The first is Dipasang Bongi. It lasts only for a day. The next is called Dipatallung Bongi. It last for three days. It was located at the house of the deceased together with the implementation animal slaughtering, meanwhile Dipalimang Bongi, which is almost the same as ‘Dipatallung Bongi’ last for five days. The last is called Dipapitung Bongi, it last for seven days with animal slaughtering done every night. The higher social status, the longer time of the procession it will take. In this case, the funeral of Elisa Siman Pongpalita belongs to Dipalimang Bongi.

Then, we asked on the reason why Rambu Solo for Elisa Siman Pongpalita was done in 2013, almost 8 years after she was in the stage of considered as ‘sleeping’. They said it was about money and time. Rambu Solo needs a high budget. Though they did not mention it in detail, we calculated the cost. It could reach five hundred millions rupiahs or even until one billion rupiahs. To make the building and its ornament they spent almost four hundreds millions rupiahs. It did not include the animals and operational cost during the procession happened. Further, when the family has been able to gather the money, it was quite hard to find a perfect time to gather all members of the family. It is related with the requirement which states that all family members have to come when Rambu Solo is held. In this case, the deceased has two wives. The first wife is Yohana Tambing. From her, they have two daughters, Corry Taruk Datu and Alberthin Siman Taruk. Then, from his second wife namely Ludia Ramma, he has two sons. They are Samuel Barumbun and Yusuf Kadang Pongtinamba.

Not only owning a special culture, Toraja is blessed with a fertile land with landscape of hill wall which is acted as natural cover. That was my thought on our last day in the land of Toraja when we visited some locations of sarcophagus. These places also become some tourist destinations in Toraja. They are Kete’kesu, Londa and Lemo. At the end of the journey, we were interested in what was said by one of the family members of Elisa who accompanied us. He said, “This is life in Toraja, we spent years to look for money then spent it all at once in Rambu Solo or funeral”. Death is a luxurious with an expectation that the soul of the deceased successfully reach afterlife stage to get happiness and peace. That is the last honor given from the persons who are left behind.


Malam hampir berganti hari, mobil akhirnya sampai di tujuan terakhir. Enggan rasanya pantat ini beranjak dari kursi akibat lelah menggelayut efek dari perjalanan panjang nonstop, 4 jam Jakarta-Makassar via udara, 10 jam Makassar-Rantepao via bis, dan 45 menit Rantepao-Nanggala via mobil jemputan. Satu-satunya penyemangat bagi Kami untuk bangkit adalah nyala lampu dari susunan bangunan yang bentuknya selalu terbayang di pikiran Saya seharian ini. Tak lama beranjak, akhirnya susunan bangunan dengan kedua ujungnya yang lancip tersaji langsung di depan mata, Tongkonan, rumah adat Toraja. Lelah pun berganti dengan semangat dan rasa penasaran dengan apa yang akan Saya hadapi esok hari.

10.anggota keluarga almarhum yang meratap

9.penurunan peti jenazah dari Lakkien

Bersama dua orang rekan, Fatur dan Yoyo, Kami merasa cukup beruntung bahwa perjalanan kami yang pertama kali ke bumi Sulawesi ini bertepatan dengan berlangsungnya Rambu Solo, pemakaman adat khas Toraja. Saat itu di kampung Nanggala tengah diadakan pemakaman bagi Elisa Siman Pongpalita, yang meninggal tahun 2005 lalu pada usia 80 tahun. Mendiang adalah salah satu tokoh masyarakat sekaligus keturunan ke enam Raja Luwu, salah satu penguasa Toraja jaman dulu. Kami datang agak terlambat sebenarnya. Karena acara prosesi yang memakan waktu hampir satu minggu ini sudah berlangsung 3 hari sebelum kami tiba di Nanggala. Akibatnya kami terlewatkan 3 prosesi, pemindahan jenazah dari rumah Tongkonan ke Lumbung (tempat menyimpan padi) lalu ke Lakkien (tempat khusus menaruh jenazah sebelum dimakamkan) , penyambutan tamu dan Ma’pasilaga Tedong atau adu kerbau. Namun demikian tetap saja kami beruntung karena bisa mengikuti sisa prosesi secara lebih dalam, karena kami tinggal di Lantang , yaitu bangunan yang dibuat khusus untuk para tamu dan keluarga yang menginap dalam rangka menghadiri Rambu Solo ini. Jadi kami memiliki kesempatan untuk mengenal dan memahami budaya Toraja secara lebih mendalam. Semua ini berkat bantuan dari seorang teman, Theresia Kurniasari Pongpalita, yang tak lain adalah cucu mendiang.

13.prosesi menarik Duba-Duba dengan arah berlawanan

14.mengarak Duba-Duba

Hari pertama, atau hari keempat rangkaian prosesi, Kami disuguhi dengan prosesi Ma’tinggoro Tedong atau penyembelihan kerbau khas Toraja, yaitu menyembelih dengan parang dan hanya dengan sekali tebas. Sebenarnya bukan hanya kerbau saja yang dikorbankan, tapi ada juga babi. Kerbau dan babi ini adalah persembahan dari keluarga sebagai bentuk persembahan terakhir bagi almarhum. Total ada 17 kerbau dan 3 ekor babi yang dikorbankan, termasuk 1 ekor kerbau belang atau biasa disebut Tedong Bonga. Sekedar diketahui, semakin banyak belangnya, semakin mahal harganya. Kisaran harga kerbau belang bisa mencapi sampai ratusan juta rupiah. Bandingkan dengan kerbau biasa yang berharga sekitar 20 juta.

15.Patane, rumah untuk menaruh peti jenazah

Selanjutnya daging dan organ kerbau atau babi ini dimasak untuk disajikan ke keluarga dan dibagi-bagikan atau dilelang ke para tetangga dan orang-orang yang terlibat dalam acara pemakaman. Yang unik adalah tanduk kerbau yang setelah dibersihkan kemudian dipasang di bagian depan Tongkonan sebagai penanda jumlah kerbau yang dikorbankan oleh keluarga. Semakin banyak tanduk yang dipasang, artinya semakin makmur juga keluarga yang bersangkutan.

16.Lanskap sawah kampung Nanggala

Hari kedua, atau hari kelima rangkaian upacara sekaligus hari terakhir, berlangsung prosesi penurunan peti jenazah dari Lakkien ke lapangan yang biasanya berada di depan Tongkonan. Peti jenazah ini kemudian dirangkai dengan Duba-Duba, yaitu keranda khas Toraja yang bentuknya mirip atap Tongkonan. Di tengah prosesi perangkaian ini, beberapa anggota keluarga tampak menangis. Dua orang diantaranya bahkan histeris meratap di samping keranda. Ada kejadian langka sebelum prosesi ini berlangsung. Saat itu para keluarga dan orang-orang yang terlibat dalam proses berkumpul di pinggir lapangan dan beberapa orang yang kami yakini tokoh masyarakat setempat bergantian berorasi dalam bahasa Toraja. Kami tidak tahu persis apa maknanya, tapi dari teman kami Sari, kami tahu bahwa mereka tengah menyuarakan kegelisahan dan penolakan mereka terhadap pemerintah daerah dan gereja setempat yang melarang adanya prosesi adu kerbau dan adu ayam yang berlangsung selama prosesi Rambu Solo karena dianggap kental berbau judi. Padahal ritual tersebut memang sudah menjadi bagian tradisi Rambu Solo sejak dulu kala.

Peti telah dipasang bersama Duba-Duba. Ada satu prosesi unik, yaitu secara beramai-ramai peti jenazah diangkat sementara orang-orang pembawa peti berjingkrak-jingkrak sambil meneriakkan semacam mantra. Sebenarnya rencana awal mendiang akan dimakamkan ke kubur batu. Namun karena kondisi lubang di tebing yang akan dijadikan makam masih kurang memadai, maka peti disemayamkan dulu di Patane, yaitu rumah khusus untuk menaruh peti jenazah. Nanti setelah lubang kubur batu diperbaiki, barulah peti dipindahkan lagi. Peti pun dibawa beramai-ramai dengan dikawal pembawa gong dan umbul-umbul. Orang-orang beramai-ramai berteriak dengan sesekali terjadi prosesi unik yaitu para pembawa Duba-Duba yang jumlahnya banyak itu menarik dengan arah yang berbeda, ke depan dan belakang. Sesampainya di Patane, peti jenazah dimasukkan ke dalam, bergabung dengan lima peti lainnya.

18.kubur batu Lemo


Malam harinya, sambil menikmati suguhan kopi toraja, kami mengobrol dengan beberapa anggota keluarga almarhum. Inilah kesempatan untuk mencari informasi. Kenapa harus ada upacara Rambu Solo ini? Itulah pertanyaan pertama yang terlontar. Tidur atau sakit. Ya itulah jawabannya. Meninggal secara medis, bagi tradisi Toraja baru dianggap sebagai tidur atau sakit, sampai keluarga bersangkutan melaksanakan Rambu Solo. Tidak heran, sebelum Rambu Solo diadakan, almarhum masih diperlakukan layaknya orang hidup seperti ditemani, disediakan makan minum dan rokok. Selain itu menurut ajaran Aluk To Dolo (kepercayaan tradisional Toraja), Rambu Solo adalah bentuk penghormatan terakhir bagi anggota keluarga yang meninggal sebelum menuju alam baka.

Dalam tradisi Toraja sendiri dikenal empat jenis tingkatan Rambu Solo. Dipasang Bongi, upacara yang berlangsung hanya satu malam saja. Dipatallung Bongi, berlangsung tiga malam di rumah almarhum serta dilakukan pemotongan hewan. Dipalimang Bongi, berlangsung lima malam di rumah almarhum serta dilakukan pemotongan hewan. Terakhir, Dipapitung Bongi, berlangsung selama tujuh malam dengan disertai pemotongan hewan setiap malamnya. Semakin tinggi strata sosial si almarhum, semakin lama waktu prosesinya. Dalam hal ini, pemakaman bagi almarhum Elisa Siman Pongpalita termasuk dalam Dipalimang Bongi.



Uang dan waktu. Itulah jawaban untuk pertanyaan Kami berikutnya, kenapa Rambu Solo bagi mendiang baru diadakan tahun 2013, berselang hampir delapan tahun sejak almarhum mulai ‘tidur’. Rambu Solo butuh biaya yang banyak. Meskipun keluarga almarhum tidak menyebut secara detil, tapi kami perkirakan untuk melaksanakan Rambu Solo yang sedang kami ikuti ini menghabiskan lebih dari lima ratus juta, bahkan bisa hampir satu milyar. Untuk membuat bangunan dan ornamennya saja menghabiskan empat ratus juta sendiri. Belum lagi hewan persembahan dan biaya operasional selama upacara berlangsung. Ketika uang sudah terkumpul, yang tak kalah sulitnya adalah menemukan waktu yang tepat untuk mengumpulkan anggota keluarga. Hal ini berkaitan dengan adanya ketentuan bahwa semua anggota keluarga wajib hadir ketika Rambu Solo berlangsung. Almarhum sendiri memiliki dua orang istri. Istri pertama, Yohana Tambing, menghasilkan dua orang putri, Corry Taruk Datu dan Alberthin Siman Taruk. Kemudian dengan istri kedua, Ludia Ramma, menghasilkan dua orang putra, Samuel Barumbun dan Yusuf Kadang Pongtinamba.

Selain budayanya yang khas, Toraja dianugrahi tanah yang subur dengan lanskap dinding bukit yang seolah menjadi benteng alam. Setidaknya itu yang muncul dalam benak Saya ketika di hari terakhir kami mengunjungi lokasi-lokasi makam batu yang sekaligus menjadi obyek wisata di Toraja seperti Kete’kesu, Londa dan Lemo. Di akhir perjalanan, kami tertarik dengan potongan ucapan salah satu anggota keluarga mendiang Elisa yang ikut menemani kami. Beginilah kehidupan Toraja, bertahun-tahun mencari uang akhirnya hanya dihabiskan dalam sekali waktu yaitu saat Rambu Solo atau pemakaman. Kematian adalah hal yang mewah dengan harapan roh yang meninggal dapat menuju alam baka dengan keceriaan dan ketenangan. Dan itulah bentuk penghomatan terakhir dari mereka yang ditinggalkan.


Indonesian-based photographer and story teller

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