Corpse Cleaning among the Torajan people of Indonesia is one of the unusual cultures in the world which has summoned the attention of writers, bloggers and scholars for several years ago.
In one of my written articles, I examined six (6) weird, unusual cultures in the world. Among these cultures, the corpse cleaning by the Torajan people of Indonesia poses more strange view of the culture of this group. I, therefore, examine this practice among these people solely in this article.
Ma’nene Festival: Torajan People
The Torajan people inhabit the Tana Toraja (Land of Toraja) in the mountains of Sulawesi in Indonesia. One of the most strange practices of these indigenous people is their traditional culture of cleaning corpses, which they perform during the Ma’nene Festival (the ceremony of cleaning corpses).
Ma’nene Festival: Rites
During the Ma’nene festival, they dig up the body of a dead relative(s), clean them up and leave the body to dry, afterwards, they clothe the body in nice, good-looking garbs, sometimes, eyeglasses included.
Along the line, the family members save money for the burial ceremony as this is a significant aspect for them. In another case, the dressed body will be kept in the house they live in until the time they are financially capable to carry out a normal funeral.
During the period of waiting for funds to execute a normal funeral, the Torajans believe the “spirit lingers and only finds rest in Puya (land of the spirits) when a funeral ceremony takes place.”
Ma’nene Festival: Myth
Ma’nene festival is not a recent development among these people; it has been in practice for centuries ago. Mythically, Pong Rumasek, a hunter, once upon a time walked in the Torajan mountains and found a dead body.
Pong cared for the dead body and dressed it with his own dress. This kindness towards the dead body by Pong Rumasek later brought him good fortunes, supposedly.
Ma’nene Festival: Dedication
This practice of cleaning corpses thus originated from this myth. As practised, this festival is really, solely dedicated to the dead. It is a means of creating bonds, and relationships with the dead.
Seem like a weekend cleanup, the festival is only dedicated to the dead. After dressing up the corpses, they change the coffins, and moreover, during the ritual, the bodies are “paraded around the community where they once lived following a straight path.”
Ma’nene Festival: Implications
The purpose of supporting the dead bodies to parade around the community following a straight path is to let the dead have a connection to Hyang, a spiritual being who is believed to have moved in “straight lines…… way of the ancestors AlukTodolo”