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Tongkonan, Toraja Traditional House

11 January 2011 2,247 views No Comment

Toraja traditional house is called Tongkonan, derived from the word ‘tongkon’ which means ‘to sit together’. Tongkonan always built facing north, which is considered as the source of life. Based on archaeological research, the Toraja came from Yunan, Tongkin Bay, China. These immigrants from China then acculturated with the indigenous population of South Sulawesi.

Tongkonan is a wooden house on stilts, where the pools under the house is usually used as a byre. Tongkonan has boat-shaped roof, which symbolizes the origin of the Toraja in Sulawesi who arrived by boat from China. At the front of the house, beneath the towering roof, mounted buffalo horns. The number of buffalo horn symbolizes the number of funerals that have been done by the family owners of Tongkonan. On the left side of the house (facing west) there are usually buffalo jaw that had been slaughtered, while on the right side (facing east) there are pig jaw.

In front of Tongkonan there is rice granary, called ‘alang’. This granary poles are made from palm tree trunks (‘bangah’) that are slippery, so the mice can not go up into the barn. At the front of the barn there are a variety of carvings, including a picture of chicken and sun, a symbol that Toraja believe to resolve any problem.

In Toraja fathom, Tongkonan regarded as the ‘mother’, while the alang is the ‘father’. Tongkonan is functioned as home, social activities, ceremonies, and fostering kinship. The inside of the house is divided into three parts, namely the northern, central, and south. The room in the northern part is called ‘tangalok’, serves as a living room, where children sleep, and also the place to put offerings. The room central section is called ‘sali’, serves as a dining room, family gatherings, place to lay the dead(seriously!), and also as the kitchen. The last room, the south room is called ‘sumbung’, is a room for the head of the family. The room to the south is also considered as the source of disease.

The bodies of the dead are not buried immediately, but stored in tongkonan(central room, remember?). Before the funeral ceremony, the bodies are deemed as ‘the sick’. To avoid rotting, the corpse is embalmed with trasitional herb, a kind of formalin, which is made of betel leaf and banana sap. Before funeral ceremony is going to be conducted, the corpse is stored in barns for 3 days. Toraja has traditional coffin called ‘erong’, pig-shaped for female and buffalo for men. For the royal family erong is made like the traditional house itself, the tongkonan.

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