"Amazing Torajaland" Rantepao by Daihappydai

Rantepao Travel Guide: 167 reviews and 474 photos


The Torajan people are very friendly, open people. They are happy to meet visitors and eagerly enquire about your home, family and religion. The beautiful old man in the picture above was working his field on Christmas day as we were heading towards Ke'te Kesu. I stopped to ask him directions. He didn't have any English but eventually we managed to communicate and he understood what I was asking him. He proudly pointed in the direction of Ke'te Kesu. I gave him a box of Torajan biscuits and said 'Selamat Hari Natal' - Happy Christmas. His face broke into a huge smile. We shook hands and parted ways.

Architecture & Symbolism

The traditional Torajan house, the Tongkonan and the rice barns that usually stand opposite them, are built in a particular style. The roof has a slight U shape. There are two schools of thought for this style. One is that they are shaped like buffalo horns, buffaloes being an integral part of the economy and culture. The second is the shape is in the form of an upturned boat, signifying where the first settlers would have lived - under their boats - when they arrived from over the seas.
There is a strong symbolism attached to Torajan architecture and culture and this is depicted in the four main colors of Torajan motifs. Red is for blood, white is for the bones black is for hair, and yellow is for the spirit. Often you will see two roosters - these are the symbols of justice. In the past when there was a dispute, it was settled with a cock fight. The owner of the losing cock was said to be the party at fault.


Torajan funerals are an integral part of the culture - and come at huge expense. The first small funeral is held immediately after death when the body is wrapped. The second is a massive sometimes lasting several days. It is at the second funeral where sacrifices are made - the Torajans believe that the sold of animals will follow their master to heaven. Family, distant relatives and friends will all present a gift to the deceased - a buffalo, a pig or a smaller gift. The animals are sacrificed in open view of all attending a funeral so some parts of the ceremony are not for the faint hearted. Throughout the ceremony, important guests are presented to the family of the deceased and drink tea, coffee or palm wine and smoke cigarettes. There is a huge entourage of helpers taking drinks and food around to the 'mourners'. Local guides will know when a funeral is being held. You should dress appropriately and take a small gift such as a carton of cigarettes. It is quite an amazing ceremony to witness - especially watching the coffin arrive and listening to the men who 'sing' a biography of the deceased's life.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:An incredible cultural experience
  • Cons:None
  • In a nutshell:Something quite unique that I will remember forever
  • Last visit to Rantepao: Jan 2009
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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