Ma’ Nene’: The Unique and Extreme Ancestral Tradition of the Toraja People

Ma’ Nene’: The Unique and Extreme Ancestral Tradition of the Toraja People

Indonesia's natural beauty and cultural richness are precious gifts that have been preserved to this day. The Indonesian people should take pride in and maintain the cultural heritage passed down through generations, ensuring that the diverse cultures of Indonesia remain preserved and do not fade away with time.

One region in Indonesia that is particularly diligent in preserving its culture is Toraja. Toraja is an area on the island of South Sulawesi, now divided into two regencies: Tana Toraja Regency and North Toraja Regency. The word "Toraja" itself consists of two syllables, "To" and "Raya". "To" comes from the word "tau" meaning “person”, while "Raya" is derived from the word "marau" meaning “big”. Therefore, Toraja means noble or great person.

The Toraja culture encompasses various unique customs, ranging from natural beauty, cultural tourism, traditional foods, Toraja coffee, and arts and crafts, to celebrations and ceremonies. One of the distinctive and unique celebrations and ceremonies of Toraja culture is the Ma’ Nene’ tradition, which is still preserved by the Toraja people to this day. It can be said that this culture is quite extreme and perhaps not found in other cultures.

DOK. Direktorat Kepercayaan terhadap Tuhan YME dan Masyarakat Adat
Image: DOK. Direktorat Kepercayaan terhadap Tuhan YME dan Masyarakat Adat

Ma’ Nene’ is one of the many customs in Toraja. This ceremony is a form of respect from family members for their ancestors who have passed away. The ceremony involves visiting the graves of deceased ancestors, cleaning the corpses, and replacing their clothing.

According to Rismayanti Rismayanti and Yosaphat Haris Nusarastriya in their journal titled "Upacara Adat Pemakaman Mengenang Leluhur (Ma’ Nene’) di Toraja, Lembang Bululangkan Kecamatan Rinding Allo Toraja Utara", Ma’ Nene’ is an activity in traditional ceremonies that combines death rituals, art, and even the love and affection of the Toraja community for their ancestors.

In the Ma’ Nene’ procession, family members clean the corpses and replace their clothing. This procession holds meaning and values that illustrate the strong bond between the surviving family members and the deceased ancestors. In other words, Ma’ Nene’ could be considered a commemoration of spirits or ancestors. This tradition is generally carried out by the community of Baruppu' Village, North Toraja, every three years.

Before its implementation, several preparations need to be made, including prayers and the necessary items for the corpse during the Ma’ Nene’ procession. The purpose of the Ma’ Nene’ procession is an expression of gratitude from the family members to the ancestors.

Additionally, the Ma’ Nene’ procession is carried out during the rice harvest season, making this tradition also a way to thank the ancestors for protecting the family members from danger and ensuring the successful growth and abundant yield of the harvested crops.

The Ma’ Nene’ procession has become one of the cultural attractions for tourists visiting Toraja. Although this tradition can be considered something rarely found in general society, it can still be observed during important times and moments in the Toraja community.

Lucky tourists may witness the Ma’ Nene’ procession directly performed by family members. Generally, tourists can watch the Ma’ Nene’ procession where the corpse is removed from the Patane (the modern graves of the Toraja people) and the coffin, and then the corpse is taken out and the attire is changed.

For the Toraja people, especially in Baruppu' Village, North Toraja, this procession is a sacred event that is part of the customs and traditions preserved and passed down through generations. However, for visiting tourists, especially international tourists, this procession might seem extreme and unusual.

This culture is embedded in the value system of the Toraja community. In the book titled “Toraja Implikasi Budaya dalam Pemekaran Daerah” written by Muh. Idris Patarai, Suaeb Ibrahim, and Ibrahim Tasbih, it is stated that the cultural value system of Toraja is a collection of inherited and practiced traditions that support each other and form the distinctive characteristics of the Toraja community.

This is what makes Toraja one of the many cultures in Indonesia that remain preserved and handed down to this day.

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