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Published: September 17th 2010
He was very nervous. Something was different. He'd been led by the nose many times but this time there was a large number of people watching and an overwhelming smell of blood. So, when the man staked the rope to the ground he bucked, reared up and pulled on his leash and tried to get away. But, the man reassured him so he stopped protesting so much.
Minutes later there was a sudden flash. A knife slashed across his throat and blood spurted out of the buffalo's throat. He felt weak. He staggered a few steps but his strength collapsed as the blood surged at high pressure from his throat. After a couple of staggers the buffalo collapsed with a thud but he wasn't finished yet and tried to get up again. It was in vain, he had no strength left but he did manage to raise his head as he felt the man wipe his bloody blade on his hide before he lost consciousness. His body continued to twitch for several minutes as the ground and the Buffalo's feet were bathed in blood.
The sacrifice of Buffaloes is one of the highlights
of the Funeral Ceremonies of High Class Torajans in Tana Toraja, Sulawesi. Although the majority of the people in Tana Toraja are now Christians they retain many of the traditions of their animist past.
The Buffalo that are killed are worth a lot of money - a prize animal can cost as much as a small car. Your social status is measured by the number of Buffalo that you kill, the more that are sacrificed in your honour the greater will be your survivors social standing. As a result it can take a family a long time to save up for a funeral.
The extended family returns from afar.
The funeral I attended in Tana Toraja was for an old lady who had died 5 years ago. Her body had been kept in the family home for all that time. It was only after the funeral that she would finally be laid to rest. The family houses or Tongkonan are also very distinctive, they have roofs in the shape of a ship in remembrance of the Torajans seafaring ancestors; although they have lived in the mountains a long way from the ocean for
many generations. The Ceremony itself was set to last a week and in that time maybe thousands of guests would attend. I met a number of the extended family of the deceased and had some interesting chats with some of them. One woman had lived in New York for 8 years and her nephew had graduated from an American University.
I spent my holiday in Sulawesi, visiting the islands biggest city Makassar and experienced the unique culture of the people who live in the mountainous region of Tana Toraja. It was also a much more pleasant climate than I'm used to in Cirebon which has to be one of the hottest, stickiest and most humid places in Indonesia. I love my air-con in my house but in Toraja I didn't need it. Bliss!
The panoramic photo at the start of this blog is a picture of the Makassar seafront.
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