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Carved In Stone: The Caves and Graves of Toraja

New year, new blog design (let me know what you think), new post. So why not start off with some death? But, in all seriousness, for me, the caves and graves of Tana Toraja were some of the most fascinating aspects of local tradition and culture. During our trip to Toraja, Chloe and I visited several grave sights and we attended two funerals. One of the things we immediately noticed were the effigies present at both burial caves and funerals. The effigies are known as tau tau in bahasa Toraya, the local language. Our guide, Pak Agust, took us to Tampangallo, a famous burial cave constructed in a natural cave, after the funeral. Today, carvers create new spots for graves in rocks throughout the regency.

Tau Tau

Selamat Datang

While there, Pak Agust explained that wealthy Torajans have tau taus made. They protect the grave and remind people of the deceased. Then Pak Agust smiled slyly and told us something he knew we would be unhappy hearing. Many tau tau are stolen from graves, taken to Bali and then sold. And guess the nationality of many of the buyers? American. I hope I never find myself face to face with a tau tau in some American’s home. The tau tau pictured below are from the famous burial caves in Londa:

Modern Tau Tau

On our first day in Toraja we motorbiked over to the village of Ke’te Kesu. There we attended the final day of a funeral. It was the funeral of a woman who was married to a well-known local politician so there were many people in attendance and many floral arrangements sent from all over Indonesia. The tau tau of the woman was very realistic, a newer trend according to Pak Agust.

Tau Tau, Coffin

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