I have fallen in love with the culture of Tana Toraja (Sulawesi, Indonesia) the first time I arrived there. In 2012.
I was charmed with the picturesque traditional houses - "tongkonans" scattered around the valleys and mountains, waterbuffaloes that are sacred animals for Toraja. This culture was unlike any other culture I've seen in the world. Magnificent funeral festivals that can last a month, strange rituals of keeping mummies for several year inside the house with living ones. This looked so strange and unique that I started my research of the culture.
There were not many really deep and serious ethnographical books about Toraja that could explain the origin of the strange rituals. Many of them were published by foreign non-Indonesian scientists and were written in the middle of 20 century.
During the time of my research I wrote series of short articles devoted to specific aspects of life in Toraja (history, religion, weddings, funeral rituals, buffaloes). As well as I filmed much video about these sides of day-to-day life.
This video about megalitic stones in a pilot series of the documentary series devoted to the culture of Tana Toraja.
During making this documentary I was acting as producer, cameraman, director, scriptwriter, editor and voice over.
Could you imagine something Stonehenge like in Indonesia?
But yes. It exists. And there are many of them.
I’m going to prove it right now.
Remembering about the giant statues of Easter Island, Stonehenge people use most of the time the words – mysterious, enigmatic. And some of the most impressed spectators say that these constructions were created by aliens or legendary giants that lived on our planet long time ago.
Actually megalithic stones are widespread in Europe, Arfica and Asia. There are around 50 000 megalitic stones in Ireland, England and Brittany still left from the ancient times.
Tana Toraja on Sulawesi Island in Indonesia is one of the cultures that still has plenty of them. Torajanese call them simbuang.
Torajanese brought the tradition of erecting these stones 5 000 years ago with all the heritage of Austronesian culture.
In all tribes these stones were the places of religious ceremonies. And the real purpose of most of them is still a mystery for the historians.
Torajanese megalithic stones are real. They are the part of the tonglonan – traditional Torajanese house. The stones symbolize the members of the tongkonan’s family that already passed. And each stone like this is devoted to the exact person.
There were no aliens in Toraja or giants. Ever. So trust me. These huge stones were erected by ordinary humans.
Do you want to see it?
If the work is hard people try to make it more pleasant.
There is really much hard work in Toraja. So, most of the hard working activities are followed by jokes and laughing.
It is amazing how all the spirit of Torajanese – so industrious and supporting can be reflected in one activity. This is Tarik Batu – the ritual of delivering the stone to the place where it should be set. Or literally pulling the stone.
All the neighbours of the Simbuang’s owner comes to help. And nothing is more pleasant for Torajanese than spending time in a company of good friends and neighbours with jokes and whoops of joy.
It takes around half a year or a year to cut the monument like this. The work takes place right in the forest. There is no danger that some person passing by would steal simbuang.
The standard stone can be from 50 sentimeters till 7-8 meters high. Of course the price depends on the size – from 500 till 3 000 US dollars. Yes, this is an expensive luxury. But Torajanese believe it’s worth it.
When all the heavy work is finished there the work for kids is left. Torajanese kids feel natural to help in adult working activities. Working together and helping each other are in the blood of these people.
Actually working together on a non-financial basis is in the spirit of all Indonesia. And Indonesians call it gotong-royong.
The installation of the stone can happen the same day or another.
And this is the time for gotong-royong, joking and laughing again. Everybody tries to help the process. With a piece of advice or real action.
This statue was installed in a memory of the woman that died on 1991. She was the sister of the deceased that in honored by the new simbuang. As you can see the stones for the women can be carved with the elements that remind real human facial and body features.
This is the tradition of South Toraja.
Now the rante of Batusura village is decorated with a new monument devoted for the glorious ancestors of this community.