Different communities living in different parts of the world have varying customs, festivals and ways of celebrating the dead. This is also true for traditions regarding the funerals and rituals carried out after that. But some of these are extremely peculiar and unbelievable for those who don’t follow them or know about them.
One of these traditions is the Ma‘nene’ ceremony, an annual festival celebrated by the Toraja community of Indonesia. Ma‘nene’ translated into English means the ceremony of cleaning corpses. The Toraja are an ethnic group of people indigenous to the mountainous region of South Sulawesi of Indonesia.
For the celebration of Ma‘nene’ festival, the people of the Toraja community exhume the bodies of dead family members and relatives that were buried when they died. Thereafter, they bathe these bodies and dress them in new clothes. These people even dig up the bodies of dead children as a part of their customs. These mummies are then walked around the village in a straight line path. If their coffins are found damaged, they are repaired or replaced.
According to the beliefs of the Torajas, the spirits of the dead must return to their place of origin. Hence, if someone dies while traveling, the family of the dead will go to the place of deceased’s death and accompany him/her back to the village. This is also one reason why people of this community, in the past, feared traveling to far off places.
This community also practices a unique ritual when someone in their family dies. They believe that a person is not actually dead until a buffalo is sacrificed at his/her funeral. According to them, this buffalo serves as their vehicle during their entire afterlife. And until they sacrifice one for the dead, they keep dead bodies in their homes for up to several years and take care of them as if they are still alive.
Through the celebration of Ma‘nene’ festival, the people of the Toraja community keep their relationship with the dead alive and term this ceremony as their second funeral.