Tombs Hopping in Toraja

Whether you are a local or a visitor, I think you’ll be captivated by Torajan funeral ceremony. There’s a saying which is widely spread that we, Torajan, live for the dead one. My mom once even told us this,” When it comes to a wedding party, don’t you ever dare to come when you are not invited, even though you are a relative, but it much different with funeral, once you hear about a Torajan’s funeral, whether you are invited or not, you have to come and join the ceremony.” Yes, we treat our deceased specially.

Despite all of the pros and cons about funeral tradition of Torajan, and how complicated it is, I follow the tradition as an appreciation of my ancestor and beloved one. So that’s why, visiting Toraja is usually related to attend the funeral ceremony or pay a visit to our family burial site. My dad, my sister, and I went to Toraja on March and we didn’t do both, neither attended a ceremony nor paid a visit to our ancestor. March is not a popular time of the year to hold the funeral ceremony and to visit our ancestor burial site needs at least a week. We went sightsee to the other popular burial sites instead (we might sound a little bit rude to our family here).


Visiting Lemo might give similar feeling to visiting your noble neighbors’ burial sites because it is a typical of puang’s (noble) tomb in Toraja with additional of tau-tau (small wooden statues which represent the deceased bodies).  First carved in 1680, this tomb is owned by few noble and prominent clans, which social statue is easily shown by how height is one’s position from the ground level. As the position is getting closer to the peak of the cliff, so is the social status while the person was alive, and vice versa, as one’s position is getting closer to the ground, so the person’s status was much lower than the person above it. The position is all about statue.

Lemo1Since Lemo is known for its tau-tau, the visitor can buy it (unusual) souvenir from the souvenir stores around tomb area.


I think Londa is the most popular of all burial sites in entire Toraja. Londa could be reached in approximately 40 minutes from Lemo. From afar, the whole area might give one beauty sight of distinctive limestone terrain plus the refreshing greenery around it, but as we get closer, the beauty was fade away, and replaced by creepiness from various burial methods of Torajan tribe (I still have this struggle every time I have to go to an ancient way of Torajan funeral).

Londa1When Lemo provides one method of carving a hole for the dead, in Londa we could see few methods depend on the statue of the dead (again? About status?). From the outer part, we could see numerous hanging coffins (with draping loved belongings of the dead). The hanging coffins belong to member of the clan, which are thought as ordinary people. As far as I know, the changing someone’s status is happened to the offspring, once she/he married to an ordinary person (so, if you are a Torajan and in to social status, you are expected to be considerate about who you are going to marry, ugh).

Londa2Besides the hanging coffins, there are so many coffins laid down inside the cave, and the other coffins are carved into the cliff. All three methods depend on someone’s status. While the cave is for ordinary people, carved limestone cliff is only for noble. Not much different with one in Lemo, the status is increasing upward. Our guide said that there was a special burial area behind the main cliff. It’s especially for babies less than three months. It used different method, the bodies weren’t carved into stone, nor laid down in the cave, but carved into (I forget the name) a tree. Since I thought it would be creepy, I refused to see it.

Londa4Because of my first (selfish) refusal, I chose the other path, a tour inside the cave, and that decision was not less creepy because all I saw were coffins, skulls, bones, and various loved stuffs of the dead. Because it was too daunting to enjoy, I didn’t continue until the end of the trail. I decided to get out of the cave up to the tragic love story of Lobo and Andui, and then continued our trip.


I knew about Bori from the tourism board of Kete Kesu’. There are two things that make Bori is interesting to visit; hundred scattered megaliths and the use of this area for both funeral ceremony and burial. Ignoring the scorching sun and the lunch time, I asked my cousin to drive us 40 minutes more to the northern part. Even though the area was quite far from our last stop, Kete Kesu, I think the whole trip was exciting because of the beautiful sight of wide paddy field on the road side. The view sometimes was accompanied by various sizes of Tongkonan (a compound of Torajan traditional houses).

And it became more interesting when we arrived in Kalimbuang, Bori burial site for the scattered huge megaliths were seen from the road. Moreover, the burial wasn’t the typical cliff as we saw in Lemo and Londa, but few of huge boulders.

Bori1Bori3Unfortunately, the site didn’t provide any detail information besides the one that I read at Kete Kesu, even the receptionist came few minutes after we arrived in the main gate. I think they were not that ready and that was a miss. I do hope they give more because I think Bori megalithic site is interesting. However, we spent almost an hour there for taking picture in every possible angle and feeding our eyes curiosity about that fascinating site before heading back to Makale, where we stayed.

BoriBori2That was a time when we did tombs hopping in Toraja, excluding our ancestor.


7 thoughts on “Tombs Hopping in Toraja

    1. Ah, iya mba non, aku berfikir jenasah itu suka banget ngerokok semasa hidupnya. Itu kebiasaan orang Toraja, suka bawain apa-apa (terutama maknan) yang disukai almarhum semasa hidup kalo lagi jiarah. Kalo rokok kadang dibakarkan, kalo minuan di pasang sedotannya, di buka penutupnya, kalo makanan di letakkan di piring dan gelas kesukaannya.
      Lumayan jauh emag Bori ini dari dua lokasi sebelumnya.
      Ayo ke Toraja lagi. 🙂 *playing tourism ambassador* kekekekeke

  1. The megalithic stones looks like menhir yah? I am not sure I’d like to see the burial grounds, it is fascinating and not that I am scared but I just feel wrong doing it as a tourist. It is one of my things.

    1. Yes, it looks like menhir, Ndien. Ahh, yes, I get your point. Ehm, I had that feeling at first, I even asked them before going to the sites whether it was okay to pay a visit. but then my cousin convinced me that it was okay, moreover, at one point, they make the (festive) funeral ceremony and nice burial grounds to be visited by people.
      In my family we don’t do the funeral ceremony for that, but when we hold one, we are honored when someone who is not a relative comes and join our ceremony. It does go the same way about burial ground. we feel that someone cares about our late one when they pay a visit.
      Sometimes it touches and moves our hearts when someone says, “Ah, I just visited your mom, your grandfather, or grandmother.”

      Ah, I like your comment, I don’t know how to explain it, but I get your point, Ndien.

    2. Of course na, I wasn’t trying to make a point. Hahaha. It is simply my preference, like you won’t go and see crocodile.I still find it fascinating, I am glad to learn about it from your blog. 🙂

    3. Ah, yes. yes. Nice to hear that you learn something from this blog. 😀 😀 LD
      Argggghh, that creature? 😥

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