kete kesu village traditional house details girl smiling from window toraja indonesia_agirlnamedclara
Travel

Toraja Trip: The Ancient Ke’te Kesu’ Village and Londa Tombstone

On my second day in Toraja, I visited lots of jaws-dropping destinations like Ke’te Kesu’, Londa, Baby Grave, a historical burial site and Christ the Redeemer statue.

But for this week, let me share with you about the ancient Ke’te Kesu’ village and Londa tombstone. Your trip to Toraja will be a cultural one, so make sure you don’t miss the two!

Ke’te Kesu’: Family Bond, Pride and Hanging Graves

solo trip travel girl tongkonan toraja traditional house kete kesu sulawesi indonesia_agirlnamedclara

If you don’t have enough money to bury your loved ones… would you sleep in the same room with the corpses and act as if they’re still alive?

Making our loved ones happy is a joy to most of us. But for the locals in Tana Toraja, South Sulawesi, Indonesia, the happiest thing is to send the deceased to heaven – even if it costs them millions.

The people of Ke’te Kesu’ are Christians and Muslims but at the same time, they’re also holding to their ancestors’ belief, animism. When a loved one dies, they believe they should slaughter a lot of animals so the animals’ spirits help to lift the soul to heaven.

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tedong saleko buffalo kerbau unik mahal toraja_agirlnamedclara
Tedong Saleko buffalo | Photo by: tirto.id

The locals would sacrifice buffaloes and pigs. However, buffaloes aren’t affordable. One normal, black buffalo costs up to 20 million rupiah (USD 1,400+).

The rare ones, like the albino or white with black spots (tedong saleko) could go up to a billion rupiah (USD 70,980+) each! The more buffaloes they slaughter, the faster the soul reaches heaven.

So, those who can’t afford the burial ceremony will have to wait for years until they have enough money. While waiting, they keep the corpse in the house and provide meals as if the person is still alive.

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Can you count how many buffalo this family has sacrificed?
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The Tongkonan’s detail is marvellous!
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Mr.Hendrik, my tour guide, climbs the Tongkonan
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One of the giant burial houses in Ke’te Kesu, Toraja.
There are 8 relatives buried here, according to the photos displayed.

The unique, decorative houses in Ke’te Kesu’, Toraja are called Tongkonan. Only noble families are allowed to build Tongkonan. Look at how many buffaloes they sacrificed! The horns are proudly displayed for others to see.

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Let’s see how it looks like inside a tongkonan!
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Sorry for the blur photo. There are a few rooms inside.
Me pretending to blow the charcoal stove.
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The window where I popped my head out from in the cover photo

In the Ke’te Kesu’ village, there’s an ancient burial site Bukit Buntu Ke’su. The cliff is about 700 years old, with caves, tau-tau (wooden dolls resembling the dead) and hanging graves.

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girl smiling sit in front of tau tau wooden dolls trapped inside cave toraja kete kesu_agirlnamedclara
Many tau-tau inside… why are they locked up?
Don’t worry! They’re not spooky… in the afternoon.
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A buffalo-shaped wooden coffin

Exploring Londa, the Square Grave on Natural Cliffs

asian girl solo traveler stand in front of londa cave grave burial toraja trip indonesia_agirlnamedclara

Some say Londa is one of the creepiest burial sites. But I didn’t feel scared at all when I explored the ancient tombstone of Toraja, Indonesia.

As you can see, the burial holes are square and there are tau-tau wearing real clothes and accessories. The appearance of each tau-tau will be similar to the dead ones when they were still alive (skin colour, eyeglasses, etc).

To understand more about Londa burial tradition, read this article.

close up shot of tau tau wooden dolls in sqare burial holes londa toraja trip sulawesi indonesia_agirlnamedclara
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local craftman carving tau tau wooden dolls in londa toraja trip_agirlnamedclara
londa natural cave burial house toraja sulawesi indonesia trip_agirlnamedclara

I hope Ke’te Kesu’ and Londa will intrigue you to visit Toraja, Indonesia! The best month to visit is August as it’s when the locals hold the famous burial ceremony.

Tourists from across the globe flock the place for the rare and amazing experience – especially to see the ‘walking dead’. Oh, did I tell you that some shop owners and assistants can speak Spanish, Italian or German? Thanks to the tourists!

For more story about Toraja or Makassar trip, you can read below:

girl with backpack walking in a jungle londa toraja trip indonesia_agirlnamedclara
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black mary jane shoes explore jungle autumn brown leaf toraja indonesia trip_agirlnamedclara
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Mr. Asri and Mr. Hendrik, my driver and tour guide for the Toraja trip

Ke’te Kesu’ and Londa really made my day! I was lucky there weren’t many people visitting Toraja in October – but I’d like to return in August, if possible!

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