The province of South Sulawesi comprises the narrow south-western peninsula of this orchid-shaped
island which is mainly mountainous. The seafaring Bugis dominate the southern
tip, whereas the northern part of South Sulawesi is inhabited by the Torajas
whose unique culture rivals that of the Balinese.
Tana Toraja (Toraja Land),
which lies in the north of the province is known for its unique culture and
ancient traditions. The center of tourism is Rantepao, 328 km from Ujung Pandang
by road. There are several small bungalow hotels at Rantepao, and Makale, the
The entry to Tana Toraja is marked by a gate built in
traditional boat-shaped architecture. The road passes through the mountains of
Kandora and Gandang on which, according to Toraja mythology, the first ancestors
of celestial beings descended from heaven. The majority of the people still
follows an ancestral cult called "Aluk Todolo" which governs all traditional
ceremonies. From Rantepao, side trips can be made to Kete, a traditional village
where there are handicraft and unique shops.
Behind the village there is a grave
site on a hillside. Life-size statues guard over old coffins. As roads are not
always paved, it is necessary to use a jeep or walk if the weather is good
(between May and October).
Further north, through
rugged country is Tana Toraja, often referred to as the "Land of the Heavenly
Kings". An ethnic group who believes that their forefathers descended from
heaven onto a mountain some twenty generations ago, the Torajas have a unique
culture based on animistic beliefs. Known for their grand burial ceremonies on
cliffs or hanging graves, they practice an ancestral cult even today where death
and afterlife ceremonies are great feasts when buffaloes are sacrificed in the
final death ceremony, after which the deceased's remains are placed in a coffin
and interred in caves hollowed out in high cliffs.