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The Ma’nene Festival: An Odd Tradition Practiced in Indonesia Every Three Years

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Every race and religion observe traditions that some people may find outrageous. However, before we begin to criticize and react violently, we must first try to understand why they practice certain rituals.

Warning: Contains Graphic Content

The Torajans from the mountainous region of Tana Toraja on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia, practice a tradition that other nations may find very peculiar. Every three years for the past century, they exhume the bodies of their deceased loved ones—both young and old—then clean and dress them in fashionable clothes.

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Photo credit: Sijori Images/ Barcroft Media

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Photo credit: Sijori Images/ Barcroft Media

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Photo credit: Agung Parameswara

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Photo credit: Agung Parameswara

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Photo credit: Agung Parameswara

This is part of the sacred Ma’nene Festival or the “Ceremony of Cleaning Corpses.” Contrary to what others might think, it is actually a celebration of life and a means to strengthen their bonds with the dead. The Torajans believe that by doing this, the spirits of the departed will bless them for their kind gesture.

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Photo credit: Agung Parameswara

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Photo credit: Agung Parameswara

Apparently, an animal hunter named Pong Rumasek was trekking the mountains when he discovered a human corpse decaying under a tree about a hundred years ago. He dressed the cadaver and then gave it a proper burial. Rumasek later attributed his good fortune to the kind act he did for the abandoned corpse. Since then, the Torajans adopted the Ma’nene.

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