Bringing back the dead every three years | Daily News


Bringing back the dead every three years

We all have our ways to remember our fallen, but in Indonesia, you remember your fallen by walking them in the street every three years.

The Ceremony of Cleaning Corpses happens for each family member every three years. The Torajan proudly ‘display’ their relatives after digging them up and dressing them in new clothes. The Torajan live on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia. Their tradition has been going on for years. After being cleaned and clothed the family members are posed with their photograph in the street during the festival known as Ma’nene.

Most save money for funerals all their lives. In some cases, in case they don’t have enough money when their loved ones pass, the funeral is held weeks or years later, so they can have an extravagant funeral. Some of the funerals last up to a week. But at least it’s not the last the village sees of their loved ones. The bodies are wrapped in several layers cloth to prevent decay. Then, every three years, they are dug up and dressed in more recent clothes and more cloth. The families also repair or replace their loved one’s coffin, which helps with the delayed decomposing.

The Torajan may have lived on the island’s mountains for longer than we realize. The area is so remote that the villages were completely autonomous. Until the 1970s when the area was exposed by Dutch missionaries. The families aren’t against marrying within, in fact, they encourage it, but only beyond the fourth cousin. The Torajan believe that death is not the final step, but just the beginning of ongoing spiritual life. They believe that the spirits of the fallen should always return to their village of origin, and their bodies as well. This stopped many of the people from leaving, in case they died outside their village and their bodies couldn’t be returned. On the rare occasion a villager dies away from home, the family members try to find the body and carry it home.


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