Living With Dead Bodies for Weeks—Or Years—Is Tradition

Torajan Funeral Ceremony Corpse

March 11, 2016 – On the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, the Torajan people believe that a person is not truly dead until water buffalo have been sacrificed at their funeral, serving as the vehicle to the afterlife. Until that time, the bodies are may be kept at the family’s home for weeks, months or years and are fed and cared for as if they were alive.


Some Torajans continue their relationship with the dead through a ma’nene’ ceremony, a type of “second funeral” in which families bring out their ancestors every few years and change their clothes and clean their bodies and crypts.


A touching family scene. Nothing that couldn’t happen anywhere on Earth. Except for one thing. Elisabeth’s husband, a former clerk in the city marriage bureau, has been dead for nearly two weeks. Here, in the handsome, melon-colored concrete house of a respected and prosperous family, Petrus Sampe lies motionless on a wooden twin bed, a red patterned blanket tucked under his chin.

Read more about the Torajan burial rituals here

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