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PEOPLE & LIFESTYLE

Indonesian village digs up dead every 3 years in ritual to show ‘love and respect’ 

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The Torajan people of Indonesia proudly display their dead relatives after digging them up and dressing them in new clothes in an ancient ritual that is meant to show respect for their late loved ones.


Every three years, the tribe from Sulawesi island exhume their dead, who they wash and dress in fresh clothes and then pose for family photographs in a festival known as Ma’nene.

The ritual, which translates as ‘The Ceremony of Cleaning Corpses,’ has been going for more than a century. 

A grandosn combs the hair of his dead grandparents during the Ma'nene ritual which takes place every three years

A grandosn combs the hair of his dead grandparents during the Ma’nene ritual which takes place every three years

Relatives pose with the body of an army veteran who died more than 10 years ago

Relatives pose with the body of an army veteran who died more than 10 years ago

One of the most important events in the lives of the Torajan people, an ethnic group indigenous to the mountainous region of Tana Toraja, is the funeral.

Most save money their entire lives so they can have a respectable burial for themselves or family members.

In some cases the deceased’s funeral is held several weeks or even years after their death so the family have can have time to save up and pay for an extravagant funeral.

But the funeral is never the last time their relative’s body is seen. Whenever an elderly villager dies, their body is wrapped in several layers of cloth to prevent decay.

Then, they are dug up every three years, admired by loved ones and dressed in different clothing.

Relatives carefully dress a dead man in fresh clothes before reburying him on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia

Relatives carefully dress a dead man in fresh clothes before reburying him on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia

The body of L Sarungu, an army veteran dead for 10 years, is carefully cleaned and groomed during the Ma'nene ritual at Panggala Village

The body of L Sarungu, an army veteran dead for 10 years, is carefully cleaned and groomed during the Ma’nene ritual at Panggala Village

Another important element of the Ma’nene festival is replacing and repairing the coffins to stop bodies from decomposing.

The Torajan people live high in the mountains of Sulawesi in Indonesia. The area is so remote that many of the villages were completely autonomous until the 1970s, when the area was exposed to the outside world by Dutch missionaries.

The villagers are encouraged to marry within their family – but only beyond the fourth cousin.

In the Torajan belief system, death is not a final step, but just one step in an ongoing spiritual life.

Ma’nene festival sees bodies of dead exhumed for celebration

Relatives clean the body of Ne'Tampo, dead for 30 years, during the Ma'nene ritual at Panggala Village

Relatives clean the body of Ne’Tampo, dead for 30 years, during the Ma’nene ritual at Panggala Village

The funeral is a pivotal point of transition, and some funerals will last up to a week with elaborate celebrations.

Torajan people believe the spirit of a dead person should always return to their village of origin, a belief which has deterred many from ever leaving their home in case they die while on the journey and their body cannot be returned.

On rare occasions a villager dies away from home, family members often venture to the location and carry the body home.

: Daily Mail

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