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The Houses of the Toraja

The Houses of the Toraja
The Houses of the Toraja

The Houses of the Toraja
The ethnic groups in the mountain regions of southwest and central Sulawasi (Celebes) are known by the name of Toraja, which has come to mean “those who live upstream” or “those who live in the mountains”. Their name is in fact derived from the word Raja, which in Sanskrit means “king”. The society is hierarchically structured: the noblemen are called rengnge, the ordinary people to makaka, and then slaves to kaunan; birth determines which rank a person will occupy.




The distinctive features of the traditional houses (tongkonan) of the Toraja are the “buffalo horns”, the roof design and the rich decoration on the walls. The buffalo is a symbol of status, courage, strength and fighting spirit.

Designed as a representation of the universe, the tongkonan is constructed in three parts: the upper world (the roof), the world of humans (the middle of the building), and the underworld (the space under the floor). The highly distinctive roofs constructed by Toraja have given rise to various ingenious interpretations. Certainly the roof is something of deep significance for the Toraja, and even today they build “modern” (in other words houses bulit with cement) houses with such roofs.





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