Why These People Live With Their Dead Relatives For Years

Torajan people pose for a photograph with a dead relative. Screenshot via National Geographic

For most cultures around the world, death spells the end to our time in the physical world. But for the Torajan people of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, the departed continue to "live" with their family after they die. 

This video from National Geographic documents the very curious case of the Torajan people and how they come to terms with death. For weeks, months, even years, they keep their relatives' and loved ones' corpses as part of the family. Throughout this process the deceased are given prayers and even offered food. Even after being placed in a tomb, relatives are sometimes given a kind of “second funeral,” called a ma'nene' ceremony, where the families clean their bodies, provide them with fresh clothes and parade them around. 

Surprisingly, the Lord’s Prayer and readings from the Bible often accompany these traditions. Torajan culture has become heavily infused with Christianity – in contrast to the Muslim majority in wider Indonesia – since in the 16th century when early Dutch colonialists sent over missionaries.

It’s unclear how long this tradition has gone on for, as many pockets of the Torajan culture were only passed down through word of mouth and not written records. However, archeologists have used carbon dating on fragments of Torajan coffin and have suggest the practise could date back over 1,000 years.

You can also read a full write-up for this fascinating Torajan practice on the National Geographic website.

 

 

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