Torajan people

Torajan people

The Torajans are an ethnic group indigenous to a mountainous region of South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Their population is approximately 1,100,000, of whom 450,000 live in the regency of Tana Toraja ("Land of Toraja"). Most of the population is Christian, and others are Muslim or have local animist beliefs known as aluk ("the way"). The Indonesian government has recognised this animistic belief as Aluk To Dolo ("Way of the Ancestors").

The word Toraja comes from the Buginese language term to riaja, meaning "people of the uplands". The Dutch colonial government named the people Toraja in 1909. Torajans are renowned for their elaborate funeral rites, burial sites carved into rocky cliffs, massive peaked-roof traditional houses known as tongkonan, and colourful wood carvings. Toraja funeral rites are important social events, usually attended by hundreds of people and lasting for several days.

Before the 20th century, Torajans li...Read more

The Torajans are an ethnic group indigenous to a mountainous region of South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Their population is approximately 1,100,000, of whom 450,000 live in the regency of Tana Toraja ("Land of Toraja"). Most of the population is Christian, and others are Muslim or have local animist beliefs known as aluk ("the way"). The Indonesian government has recognised this animistic belief as Aluk To Dolo ("Way of the Ancestors").

The word Toraja comes from the Buginese language term to riaja, meaning "people of the uplands". The Dutch colonial government named the people Toraja in 1909. Torajans are renowned for their elaborate funeral rites, burial sites carved into rocky cliffs, massive peaked-roof traditional houses known as tongkonan, and colourful wood carvings. Toraja funeral rites are important social events, usually attended by hundreds of people and lasting for several days.

Before the 20th century, Torajans lived in autonomous villages, where they practised animism and were relatively untouched by the outside world. In the early 1900s, Dutch missionaries first worked to convert Torajan highlanders to Christianity. When the Tana Toraja regency was further opened to the outside world in the 1970s, it became an icon of tourism in Indonesia: it was exploited by tourism development and studied by anthropologists. By the 1990s, when tourism peaked, Toraja society had changed significantly, from an agrarian model—in which social life and customs were outgrowths of the Aluk To Dolo—to a largely Christian society. Today, tourism and remittances from migrant Torajans have made for major changes in the Toraja highland, giving the Toraja a celebrity status within Indonesia and enhancing Toraja ethnic group pride.

From the 17th century, the Dutch established trade and political control on Sulawesi through the Dutch East Indies Company. Over two centuries, they ignored the mountainous area in the central Sulawesi, where Torajans lived, because access was difficult and it had little productive agricultural land. In the late 19th century, the Dutch became increasingly concerned about the spread of Islam in the south of Sulawesi, especially among the Makassarese and Bugis peoples. The Dutch saw the animist highlanders as potential Christians. In the 1920s, the Reformed Missionary Alliance of the Dutch Reformed Church began missionary work aided by the Dutch colonial government.[1] In addition to introducing Christianity, the Dutch abolished slavery and imposed local taxes. A line was drawn around the Sa'dan area and called Tana Toraja ("the land of Toraja"). Tana Toraja was first a subdivision of the Luwu kingdom that had claimed the area.[2] In 1946, the Dutch granted Tana Toraja a regentschap, and it was recognised in 1957 as one of the regencies of Indonesia.[1]

 
A Toraja warrior from South Sulawesi holding a spear and a traditional Kanta shield.

Early Dutch missionaries faced strong opposition among Torajans, especially among the elite, because the abolition of their profitable slave trade had angered them.[3] Some Torajans were forcibly relocated to the lowlands by the Dutch, where they could be more easily controlled. Taxes were kept high, undermining the wealth of the elites. Ultimately, the Dutch influence did not subdue Torajan culture, and only a few Torajans were converted.[4] In 1950, only 10% of the population had converted to Christianity.[3]

In the 1930s, Muslim lowlanders attacked the Torajans, resulting in widespread Christian conversion among those who sought to align themselves with the Dutch for political protection and to form a movement against the Bugis and Makassarese Muslims. Between 1951 and 1965 (following Indonesian independence), southern Sulawesi faced a turbulent period as the Darul Islam separatist movement fought for an Islamic state in Sulawesi. The 15 years of guerrilla warfare led to massive conversions to Christianity.[5]

Alignment with the Indonesian government, however, did not guarantee safety for the Torajans. In 1965, a presidential decree required every Indonesian citizen to belong to one of five officially recognised religions: Islam, Christianity (Protestantism and Catholicism), Hinduism, or Buddhism.[6] The Torajan religious belief (aluk) was not legally recognised, and the Torajans raised their voices against the law. To make aluk accord with the law, it had to be accepted as part of one of the official religions. In 1969, Aluk To Dolo ("the way of ancestors") was legalised as a sect of Agama Hindu Dharma, the official name of Hinduism in Indonesia.[1]

^ a b c Volkman, Toby Alice (February 1990). "Visions and Revisions: Toraja Culture and the Tourist Gaze". American Ethnologist. 17 (1): 91–110. doi:10.1525/ae.1990.17.1.02a00060. JSTOR 645254. ^ Schrauwers, Albert (1997). "Houses, hierarchy, headhunting and exchange; Rethinking political relations in the Southeast Asian realm of Luwu'" (PDF). Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde. 153 (3): 356–380. doi:10.1163/22134379-90003928. Retrieved 2007-05-18. ^ a b cf. Kis-Jovak et al. (1988), Ch. 2, Hetty Nooy-Palm, The World of Toraja, pp. 12–18. ^ Ngelow, Zakaria J. (Summer 2004). "Traditional Culture, Christianity and Globalisation in Indonesia: The Case of Torajan Christians" (PDF). Inter-Religio. 45. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-06-20. Retrieved 2007-05-18. ^ Volkman, Toby Alice (December 31, 1983). "A View from the Mountains". Cultural Survival Quarterly. 7 (4). Retrieved 2007-05-18. ^ Yang, Heriyanto (August 2005). "The history and legal position of Confucianism in postindependence Indonesia" (PDF). Marburg Journal of Religion. 10 (1). Retrieved 2007-05-18.
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