“Show me the manner in which a nation cares for its dead and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender mercies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land and their loyalty to high ideals.”
– Sir William Gladstone
I came across a story about a ritual that takes place in the Indonesian village of Toraja. The ritual, known as MaiNene, involves exhumed up dead family members, cleaning them and re-dressing them. The ritual happens regularly and shows a great respect for their dead, as well as the afterlife.
Most members of this group consider themselves Christians- many converted after the Dutch colonized the area. However, old traditions and cultural practices are still very visible within their burial traditions.
The Toraja people spend much of their lives concerned with their death. Funerals and burials are big events, and many families spend much of their time saving for them. This practice and devout reverence reminded me of early Egyptian burial practices. I think some interesting parallels could be drawn there, but I digress.
When a person dies, their body is wrapped in cloth and preserved until the family can raise enough money for a proper burial. Hundreds attend the event. Family members do not refer to the person as dead but as sick or sleeping.
When the funeral finally happens, the dead member is placed in a cave, tombs near cliffs or hung on a cliff or mountain/hill in wooden coffins.
However, the reverence to the dead does not stop there. The MaiNene is performed regularly. “According to the ancient Torajan belief system, the spirit of a dead person must return to his village of origin”. The bodies are cleaned, dressed and walked around the village.
This video shows the ritual in practice:
Read more about these burial practices here: