We all have peculiar rituals that we perform to help bring us comfort and good fortune. Whether it be praying, or buying a lottery ticket, we know what works for us.
That is no different for this Indonesian tribe from South Sulawesi, who exhume the bodies of their dead loved ones, before dressing them up as part of a yearly festival called Ma’nene, which translates to ‘The Ceremony of Cleaning Corpses’.
The bizarre annual event is like nothing you have ever seen before, and something you’ll never want to see again…
The bodies are exhumed, washed and dressed, before being paraded around the local area by their proud relatives. The tribe believe that this ritual brings them good luck for their forthcoming harvest.
The strange ritual began many centuries ago, after an animal hunter found a decaying corpse. The urban legend tells the tale of the hunter, who dressed himself in the clothes found on the corpse, before giving the body a proper burial. The hunter believed that after the burial he was blessed with good fortune. The Troajan people have adapted the story over the years and now use it as the basis for an annual festival in which they celebrate their dead.
Preparations for the festival begin shortly before the event, with the exhuming of the bodies. Once extracted from their graves, the bodies are then left to dry, before being washed and dressed in new clothes. No corpse is sacred from the event, with the bodies of babies and children also being included.
From the moment the festival begins, all participating are expected to smile broadly for the whole day, as sadness and mourning is strictly not allowed. It is a celebration and the bigger the joy, the better the harvest.
Once the corpses have been dressed and washed, they are taken for a walk through the village, in straight regimented lines. Then, after the walk, the villagers sacrifice buffaloes and pigs as an offering to the higher powers, to ensure that their loved ones walk free into heaven.
To explain the peculiar festival, one villager said:
“It is our way of respecting the dead. There is no mourning. It is a moment of joy for us because we reunite with our dead relatives. We try to honor them and in return get their blessings for good harvest.”
Funerals are the most important thing for the Troajan people, who often spend their whole lives saving so that they can afford a respectable burial for themselves and family members.
In some cases, the Troajan people will wait weeks, sometimes years, after the death of a family member whilst they earn the funds to pay for a lavish ceremony. But, despite that, the funeral is not the final farewell.
Not only is the festival a celebration of the dead, but also a time for family members to repair the coffins to stop their loved ones decomposing. The Troajan people believe that death is not the end, but just one more step closer to a spiritual life. So, funerals are a true celebration, and can sometimes last for weeks.
The Torajan people believe that the spirit of the deceased should always return to its village of origin. Which is a belief that has stopped many of them from ever leaving their home, in case they die whilst on the journey and their body cannot return.
This reclusive attitude of the Torajan people, meant that they were not known to exist until the 1970s, despite having lived high up in the mountains for centuries. The area is so remote that many of the villages were not known to exist until they were exposed to the outside world by Dutch explorers.
Now they have been exposed, explorers and photographers cannot get enough of them, especially during the festival. We think that we may just stick to Glastonbury!