The religion of Toraja

Toraja – is a Christian island in the predominantly Muslim province of South Sulawesi. It happened mainly due to the isolation of the mountain region.

The trade routes did not pass through it and Islam, which was spreading in Indonesia, largely due to the trade contacts with the Arabs and Indians, was not accepted in Toraja.

In the 17th century the territory involved in maritime trade, and neighboring with Toraja began to convert to Islam. But Tana Toraja was remaining pagan until to the early 20th century.

The similar situation occurred in another Indonesian region, but on Sumatra island. Due to the natural isolation of Lake Toba neighborhoods Bataks were remaining remained pagans for a long time. And they kept the culture very similar to the culture of Toraja due to their common ancestor - Austronesian heritage.

The penetration of Islam was going on in a very moderate way. Usually Muslims were intermediaries in trade. They gathered around the largest markets where they were establishing their settlements making not many attempts to assimilate. Until now, the largest Muslim communities are in the cities of Rantepao and Makale. And the mosques are almost absent in villages.

Dutch missionaries came to Toraja in the 20th century with Dutch colonialists. The first Protestant missionaries arrived in 1913. The Catholic only in 1937. By the way, even in the modern Toraja the number of Protestants seriously prevails over the number of Catholics.

The ancient Torajanese pagan religion was very different from Christianity.

The concept of original sin was unknown in Toraja. It was difficult for locals to understand why a person is a sinner by nature. In Torajanese beliefs a human was born without sin. And sins were the result of improper conduct or not worshiping gods and spirits.

If a person was properly conducting all ceremonies of worshiping gods and spirits, he was considered sinless.

The story of the crucifixion of Christ was also hard to understanding. Torajanese could not understand how the God could be really powerful and also allow his son to die on the cross.

Christianity had very congenial to the lowest caste of Torajanese who were slaves before the arrival of the Dutch.

The poor perceived a new system of health care and education brought by the Dutch as a feature of the new religion. This allowed them to start accepting Christianity more easily. The social reforms were more important for these humble people than religion as such.

But the highest caste was not sympathetic to Christianity. Christianity proclaimed the people were equal in front of God. And the aristocracy was afraid to lose their privileges.

In addition, the nobility suspected that a mandatory Sunday rest can give their servants a good reason to escape working.

The Christian God was named in the translation of the Bible after the supreme god of Torajanese pantheon - Puang Matua in order to make the new religion more close for Torajanese. And the name Puang Matua is still used in Torajanese worships to refer to God's name.

By the way, the Dutch not only planted their religion to locals but were intensely researching the local one. Dutch priest and linguist Hendrik van der Veen spent in the region about three decades. He collected and published a rich collection of ritual Torajanese poetry.

Some tragic events took part as well. Dutch priest Van der Loosdrecht - the head of the Protestant mission in Toraja was trying to convert the local residents with the most gentle methods for several years. When that did not work, he turned to criticism of Torajanese lifestyle. He was sending to Holland shocking and desperate messages that human heads adorn the facades of houses, and that according to the stories of local priests, Torajanese practiced cannibalism.

He called wealthy people dirty and stupid materialists, insulting Torajanese respect to rich people as blessed by the gods.

But the process of christianization was so slow that by 1950 only 10% became Christians.

In the mid-20th century there was an event that provoked Torajanese to start to seek the salvation in Christianity more actively.

In 1948, a radical Islamic organization - Darul Islam - the abode of Islam appeared in the wake of Indonesia's struggle for independence in the country. Its aim was the formation of an independent Islamic republic in Sulawesi.

The radicals were taking away Torajanese family members by force to fight as parts of their squads. They were burning Torajanese ancestral homes.

In this situation Christianity, which was being implemented by non-violent methods, acted much more mild and tolerant and looked like a better alternative to paganism than Islam.

Nowadays about 87 percent of the Toraja population converted to Christianity. 78 percent of them are Protestants and 12 percent - Catholics.

But conversion to Christianity did not make Torajanese forget their pagan religion. It continues to exist in harmony with the new faith in the life of Christians.

Currently, the Christian priest works with the pagan priest To Minaa on every major holiday. The Christian Messiah and praises to the pagan gods and spirits and read on the day of the celebration. The Catholic Pastor Johnny and the pagan priest To Minaa named Pong Elma are attending to the funeral ceremony in the village of Lempo during the guests receiving day. By the way, by his personal religion Pong Elma is Protestant.

By the way, Christian missionaries called the highest god of Torajanese - Puang Matua in the translation of the Bible into Torajanese. It was the name of the supreme Torajanese god.

What is a Toraja ancient faith and how all began according to it?

Until the 20th century Torajanese had no written language, and all the myths, stories, poetry and ritual information about pedigrees were transmitted orally. Therefore, in different parts of Toraja, and in different villages completely different legends about the origin of the world and man can be met.

One myth says that the world was created by two deities - a man and a woman. They were created by themselves when the sky separated from the earth. The man was a master of the sky, and lived in the south. The woman was a mistress of the earth, and lived in the north. They created the first two people.

Another myth tells how the separation of heaven and earth created three deities. Pong Tulak Padang god of the underworld "Supporting the earth.

“Pong Banggayrante” God of land "God of sweeping plains».

And Gaun Tikembong the heavenly god "The Growing Cloud."

And the earth and the sky according to the Torajanese had head, which was resting on the north and the tail, which was stretching to the south.

The gods created the sun, moon and the stars. The first "Maintaining the land" went to the underworld, where he judged the troublemakers. He dragged the roots of crops and caused the crops failures.

The second "God of sweeping plains" was left on the ground.

And the third "The growing cloud" ascended to heaven.

Earthen god married a woman that was created by autogenesis samozarodilsya Tallo Mangka Kalena, and they gave birth to eight children.

Heavenly God did not find a couple to leave the offspring. In the end, he pulled out his own rib and created a son Usuka Sangbambana.

In search of the wife his son found a large boulder from which was coming a charming laugh. He tried to destroy the stone, until he became exhausted and broke down in tears.

Then the spirit of this stone beauty Simbolon Manik told him how to make offerings to the stone. After the ceremony the stone cracked and released the woman.

The pair became the parents of the future supreme god Puanga Matua.

Puang Matua married the goddess, who also came out of the stone and her name sounded like "The Shining Stone" – Arrang di Batu.

She told her husband to go to the west, where the setting sun turns the most gorgeous colors and to get gold. There, in the west, Puang Matua got the gold.

In his smithy Puang Matua forged the first human - Datu Laukku or «Lady, whose wishes come true”. The first man, according to Torajanese legends was a woman.

Вместе с ней Пуанг Матуа создал предков самых важных элементов – ядовитых деревьев, хлопка, дождя, железа, риса,  кур и буйволов. Всего того, что стало самым важным в жизни тораджийца.

Together with her Puang Matua ancestors created the most important elements - toxic trees, cotton, rain, iron, rice, chicken and buffalo. All that elements were the most important in the life of Torajanese.

From the same material Puang Matua created another 6 children who have become masters. The Master Carpenter, Master of Supernatural Abilities, Master Visionary, Artfully Planning Master, Master Observer and Master Curtaining the Sky.

The Last Master became the ancestor of the priests.

Originally, people lived in the sky. Six generations later, God decided to send people by the stone stairs to the ground, giving them 7777 law that became the basis of faith Aluko That Dolo - Toraja traditional faith.

Torajanese Adam and Eve, named Puang Bura Langi '(heavenly foam) and Kembong Bura (uplifting foam) entrusted the burdens of the laws to their slave. He lost most of the laws and brought only 777 laws.

As soon as people came down, Puang Matua ruined the staircase.

All the remaining laws were divided into four parts: Aluk - ritual requirements

Pemali - signs and prohibitions

Sangqu - the rules for constructing the houses and agriculture

and Sanda salunna - the right way of life in general.

This way Aluk Todolo – are just the laws that govern the everyday behavior of Torajanese on holidays and at home.

Literally Aluk Todolo is translated as "Ancestral Rites." "Aluk" - ritual. "To" - a man, "Dolo" - before.

Modern religion, Christianity, is classified as Aluk To Temo. Or rituals of today.

By the way, due to the fact that since the 17th century the neighbors of Torajanese accepted Islam that rejected the pork people started to create the explanation of this phenomenon in Torajanese legends.

One of the heroes of myths was Tali Sibaba, whose mother was a wild pig. In order to save his mother, Tali Sibaba forbade his subordinates to eat pork.

Another legend tells about the hero Bonga Karadeng. During his rest in the woods, he urinated on a tree trunk, which was inhabited by the spirit of the pig, and accidentally fertilized it. Bongga Karadeng became the father of two sons with the spirit of the pig.

When the boys grew up, they came to their father to show their blacksmith craftsmanship. The father accepted them, but the children refused to live with him because Bongga Karadeng used to eat pork.

The view of people, killing pigs and eating pork was unbearable for them. So they magically lowered darkness to the ground. And only their house was lit by the sun.

Frightened neighbors came to the brothers with a request to return the light. The descendants of pigs agreed to this, if people would not eat pork, and eat meat of only those animals that had been slaughtered in a special way.

The principle of Islam Halal, which among other things regulates the rules of eating, bans eating pork and prescribes slaughtering of animal in a special way with the mentioning of the name of Allah.

The laws of Aluk Todolo were literally never counted and recorded. The number 7777 was only symbolic. Torajanese language did not have alphabet until the 20th century. The information was stored or preserved in the form of woodcarving. That’s why the word for the process of cutting and writing – is the same - ma sura.

If Torajanese needed to write something in words they used the language of their southern neighbors Bugis and their writing. By the late 19th century, most Torajanese leaders were fluent in the language of the Bugis.

If you ask a modern Torajanese what principles of Aluk Todolo he knows it may make him puzzled. But education and traditions do their job, and most of the Aluk Todolo laws live in the subconscious of people.

Most often Torajanese can recall the laws of Pemali that looks more like taboos or norms of politeness. For example: "Do not eat in the dark. This food will be eaten by evil spirits." "Do not sit in the doorway. The evil spirits can push you. " "When everybody sits, does not stretch your legs to the center of the room." "Do not fight in the market." "Do not scatter and not break things in a quarrel."

The caste division of people was regulated in Aluk Todolo as well.

The first caste or nobles called themselves Thana bulaan - people with gold cores. Later they became the nobility "To parenge" or "Puan".

They were followed by a second caste - less notable, but still revered - Thana Bassi - people with iron cores. These people are respected as free people and also called "to makaka".

The third caste were free, but not wealthy people Thana Karurung - people with a core of palm sugar wood. They were also called "To Sama."

The fourth caste were slaves - Thana Kua-Kua - people with a cane core. Or "To Kaunan."

According to Torajanese legend gold, iron, wood and cane - were the elements that the supreme god Puang Matua put into the representatives of castes during the creation of humans.

All the Aluk Thodolo ceremonies are divided into two main categories - happy holidays of the east associated with sunrise and sad holidays of the west associated with the sunset.

Oriental Ceremonies - Rambu Tuka or the «ascending smoke”. They symbolize the sunrise, the process of renewal and creation.

The celebration of the harvest, weddings, the consecration of a new home, cleansing, healing the sick, reincarnation of the deity, the creation of new instruments – are the celebrations of the east. These ceremonies are usually performed in the morning.

The Western rites - Rambu Solo. According to Torajanese – the descending smoke. They symbolize the sunset, the destruction and decay. They are the sad funeral ceremonies and rituals associated with the ancestors.

In ancient times, Torajanese tried to hold western ceremonies in the afternoon. Even their names signify that "that which takes place during one night", "the one that takes 3, 5, 7 or 9 nights."

In fact, the ceremony last all day long.

When the priests conduct Torajanese ceremonies dedicated to undeified ancestors, to the souls of the dead, they turn to the spirits living on the west.

But if the rituals are dedicated to spirits, deities and spirits of life, the traditional priests turn to the east while praying.

According to Torajanese a funeral is the most important event in a person's life. That's a time when a person reaches their highest power. All the cases have already been made, the children grew up. The only things left are to accept the gratitude from children and go to the other world.

Moreover the Torajanese tradition believes that the deceased sent to the other world with full honors becomes a deified ancestor. Such personal patron saint becomes the protector of a family.

The Christianity brought by Dutch colonizers and ancient pagan tradition Aluk Thodolo intertwined in modern life of Toraja.

In 70-80s a Christian priest, coming to the ceremony and seeing the pagan priest could take displeasure just turn around and leave the event.

But the times of tension passed and now every major holiday - whether it's a funeral, a wedding or housewarming party – honors both traditions Christian as well as pagan, bringing twice as much emotions.

Probably not many religions have no representations of the heavenly kingdom, or any kind of paradise.

But torajanese religion Aluk Thodolo believes that there are two kinds of paradise - in the south and the north.

Southern or Southwestern paradise – is Puya or country of souls. It looks just like the familiar ordinary world. In the afterlife Torajanese souls live in the villages, rice is grown on the fields and the livestock - buffaloes, pigs and chickens is raised. Even the caste division is kept.

The main difference between Torajanese paradise and Torajanese reality is that in the heavenly houses there is on light, fire and smoke.

That’s why Torajanese often call their "the house without smoke or village where there is no fire."

The Northern Torajanese Paradise - is the land of the gods. But an ordinary soul, can get from the southern to the northern paradise after death too. There was a special conversion ritual in Torajanese tradition for this.

Torajanese believed that, as soon as life and death are closely related and co-exist in the cycle, after the funeral rituals there should be life recreating rituals, transforming death into life back. During these rituals, "Aluk To Mendeata" spirits of the dead were transformed into spirits and deities of life.

By the way, just for this ritual ancient Torajanese arranged headhunting "Aluk Mangaung." A severed human head, separated from the tissue was needed for such a ceremony.

By killing the inhabitants of distant villages the military units of Torajanese hunters were changing the life of one to the divine statuses of others.

Shortly before the arrival of Christianity, the ethnographers noted that a fresh human skull was often replaced with a fragment of an old skull. And with the advent of Christianity headhunting has completely gone.

For the ancient Torajanese a soul of a living person and a dead man - were not the same substance. Even the names were different. The soul of a living person was called sumanga or penaa. Of a dead - Bombo.

Sumanga – is the life force. It is present in all living beings. A sudden fear can make this power instantly disappear and then come back.

Thank you in Torajanese is pronounced - Kurre Sumanga. By saying this, Torajanese call on the life forces to a person.

Another option - Penaa. It is associated with breathing. And it also signifies the heart or the spirit. It varies in accordance with all that a person does and is more similar to health in western european.

When a person dies, the breath leaves the body, and with it, Pena and Sumanga leave the body too. A Bombo or a "bombo lotong" - black shadow comes instead.

Torajanese say that when death approaches the human, their bombo starts to wander around. And it looks exactly the same as its owner.

For example, if someone sees a double of his friend, not where they in fact must be - it is clear: the death will come soon.

Usually bombo comes in black. And to heighten the resemblance it uses the accessories of its owner - a favorite hat, sarong, watches or glasses.

Torajanese believe that anyone can gain the ability to see the bombo - to become "Pa Tyro Bombo." To do this, the person needs to wash their face with water, previously used to washed the body of the deceased relative through the female line.

They say that grandmother Cattin living in the village of Lempo has the ability to see the bombo of another people. She did not do anything special to gain this talent. It is her natural ability. They say that if during the feast she does not eat anything, it means that the spirits she can see are close.

A radition of making funeral dolls tau tau is connected with Bombo.

It is believed that the tau-tau is a copy of the bombo, visible to everybody. And during the funeral festival the soul of the deceased can stay inside tau-tay , in order not to wander around the neighborhood.

A specialist that manufactures tau-tau usually receives a reward for his work in the form of a buffalo.

On the first day of the funeral the tau-tau is placed on the place of honor, from which the ceremony can be observed in the best way.

Tau-tau is dressed in clothing of the deceased and their accessories - sunglasses, watches, jewelry.

During the day tau tau watches the arrival of the guests, cocks fighting, or buffalo fighting, buffalo slaughtering and meat division.

During the traditional parade around the village it is believed that the soul for the last time walks through the native places. Torajanese carry stretcher and the coffin of the deceased and with the figure of the tau-tau, where that time should be the soul.

At night, the tau-tau is witnessing mabadong a ritual dance in honor of the deceased.

The fate of the bombo soul depends on the funeral ceremony held by the relatives.

If the ritual is condicted with violations of the rules, the soul begins to wander in this world and disturb the living.

If the funeral took place in the right way, in the most glorious moment the bombo is going to Puya – the souls’ land.

Acrroding to Torajanese beliefs the soul of the deceased departs to heaven with all the property and the whole cattle slaughtered at the ceremony. And in the next world, the animals faithfully serve the deceased.

And in heaven the soul of the deceased has a chance to be reincarnated as the divine soul deata worthy to live with the gods.

Torajanese are were strictly tied to the observance of rituals and rules of life, partly because they believed in the existence of soul wanderers and werewolves.

They believed that the violators of social harmony can not find a shelters in heaven. The souls fo those died from leprosy, suicide, those who have been unjustly killed - got all the chances to become a terrible death ghosts, terrifying the living.

According to legends some Toraja bombo were possessing the living people.

Torajanese believe in Batitiong beings. These were the people who were possessed by the souls of women who died in childbirth. During the day they lived like ordinary people, and at night hunting on human liver and livestock.

Of course, modern Christianity, brought to Tana Toraja by the Dutch in the 20th century changed the presentation of local residents about the soul and heaven.

Now 87 percent of modern Toraja Christians accepted the Christian beliefs that the heaven is only one. They believe that the human soul is one, indivisible and unchangeable.

Only 4 percent of Torajanese keep their pagan faith - Aluk To Dolo.

But they both respect each other and continue to perform the traditional ceremonies that makes this land unique and rich with ancient culture.