Toraja Tau Tau is significant to Torajan Funeral
Far from the idea of forever separation, death is merely a veil through which the living can connect with their deceased loved ones still well past the grave. To the Torajans, death and the completion of its rituals are important, the idea of death is embraced as gradual steps for the deceased to walk on in order to eventually unite with their ancestors. Tana Toraja, which translates to “land of Toraja”, can be found within the mountainous region of South Sulawesi. The indigenous ethnic group so rich in culture and rituals has a particularly well-known funeral ceremony, which is rather uncommon with respect to other groups in Indonesia.
Along with their extensive rituals, the creation of Tau-tau is significant to Torajan funerals. Made of carved bamboo or wood, Tau-tau are created to represent the perished loved ones amongst the people of Toraja, a reminder that even in worlds apart the dead is ever-present and protecting the living. Tau-tau is carved to imitate the likeness of the deceased, clothed and equipped with small possessions for the dead to bring, to aid their journey to the afterlife. This is unnegotiable because only until an appropriate funeral ceremony is completed can the spirit of the dead enter the afterlife or Poyo. This includes creating Tau-tau with materials that suit the social status of the person who has passed away. Otherwise, according to Aluk Todolo, the Torajan belief, the spirit will be stranded, wandering between the two worlds.
The process of creating Tau-tau is a detailed ritual, starting from selecting and felling a wooden tree according to where the deceased was placed in the social hierarchy. For instance, lower-class Torajans must use bamboo for their Tau-tau, whereas the Jackfruit tree is reserved for royalties. The carving process has to be done near the body of the deceased. Once completed, the effigy is dressed in traditional costume for the funeral ceremony, decorated with head ornaments, gold or silver pieces filled purse, and other heirlooms. After the funeral ceremony, Tau-taus are eventually placed on a balcony over the cliff, or on the outer part of the cave in which the body of the deceased may lay forever.
Whereas, the spirit is believed to continue to live on through the Tau-tau. Eternally present, guarding the land of Toraja.