WARNING: Very Graphic Content
Whether it be celebrating their birthdays, the day they died, or visiting graves on special days, most people have rituals to commemorate dead relatives.
It’s not likely though, that many people have experienced the ritual of digging up a relatives body before washing, grooming, and dressing them up in fancy new clothes – and that’s what villagers in the Indonesian province of Toraja do.
Every three years, the tribe from South Sulawesi exhume their dead.
As part of the ceremony, locally called Ma’nene, or The Ceremony of Cleaning Corpses, skeletons are exhumed and damaged coffins are fixed or replaced before the mummified bodies are walked around an area by following a path of straight lines.
For Torajans, the death of the body isn’t the final event. Instead, death is just one step in a long, gradually unfolding process, National Geographic reports.
And one of the most important events in the lives of the Torajan people is the funeral – it is seen as a pivotal point of transition, and some funerals will last up to a week with elaborate celebrations. Most save money their entire lives so they can have a respectable burial for themselves or family members.
But the funeral is never the last time their relative’s body is seen. Whenever an elderly villager dies, their body is wrapped in several layers of cloth to prevent decay. Then, they are dug up every three years for Ma’nene, admired by loved ones and dressed in different clothing.
According to their ancient belief system, the spirit of a dead person must return to his village of origin, a belief that has deterred many from ever leaving their home in case they die while on a journey and their body cannot be returned.
On rare occasions a villager does dies away from home, family members often venture to the location and carry the body home.
While this may not be a ritual the Western world will adopt anytime soon, it’s no doubt an interesting practice.