Tuesday November 12, 2019

The Tojarans of Indonesia dig up dead relatives to celebrate Ma’nene Festival

The ritual, known as MaiNene, involves exhumed up dead family members, cleaning them and re-dressing them. Image source: dailymail.co.uk
  • Every three years the Ma’nene Festival takes place
  • Loved ones unbury the deceased, clean them, and parade them around the village
  • This practice helps them maintain the relationship between life and death

Here, rest, is an operative word. The Tojarans let their deceased loved ones rest in more than one place. Expensive burials are part of the tradition. A large space in the village is cleared out so that a proper burial can be completed. Once the body has been buried, these natives of Indonesia believe that the soul of the deceased lives on in the village for days after the death. All of these traditions seem normal, but the Tojaran people want to make sure their loved ones feel as though they are part of the family long after they have died.

In fact, every three years they up heave them from their graves, clean off the corpses and then parade them around as part of the Ma’nene Festival. The population consists of 650,000 people, many of whom are Christian or Muslim, some still practice the ancient beliefs of “Aluk Todolo.” What may come across to many as a peculiar ritual is a way that the Tojarans strengthen the bond between them and their deceased loved ones. On the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia, the indigenous people celebrate life.

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The ceremony has its ancient roots in a story involving a man by the name of Pong Rumasek. An animal hunter, Rumasek came across a decomposing body under a tree. Not having been properly buried, the animal hunter took it upon himself to do so. Dressing the corpse in his clothes, and then giving it the proper burial it deserved, Rumasek went on his way. After his actions, he was convinced he was graced with good luck. Thus, ‘the ceremony of cleaning corpses,’ or the Ma’nene Festival, was born.

Torjajan Girls. Wikimedia Commons
Torjajan Girls. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

These mummified bodies are well kept. After death the bodies are prepared with formalin. This chemical helps mummify the body, and is the initial step to making sure that later on the body can be dug up to celebrate. Once the body is dug up, loved ones dust and clean them. The family members also make sure that artifacts, such as a pair of glasses, are preserved and cleaned as well.

The clothing on the body is changed and loved ones have intimate moments with the corpses. While the corpses are out of their burial sites, coffins are either replaced or repaired. Once the corpses are dressed in their more modern attire, they are paraded around the town but only on paths that create straight lines. It is believed that by following straight lines the people will be connected with Hyang. Hyang is a spiritual being with mystical powers that only moves in straight lines.

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This ritual is considered to be one of the most important rituals in the village. Burials can be expensive, and many of the people save up money their whole lives so that they may rest in peace properly. The Tojarans also understand certain precautions must be taken when handling the corpses. Many wear masks so they do not breathe in the dust from the exhumed bodies.

The expensive aspect from this ritual does not stem from the maintenance of the corpse. Rather, sacrifices are made, and with these, the more the merrier. In one case, a tourist witnessed 17 water buffalo sacrificed for just one woman. Interestingly this woman had already been dead for over 20 years.

The practice of up heaving the dead from their graves comes across as appalling to many. When reading about the practice you come to realize that it is purely out of love and respect that the corpses are paraded around. These indigenous people see it as including the deceased into their lives long after they are able to participate.

-by Abigail Andrea, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @abby_kono


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Cricket, a Way of Life

One of the renowned cricket writers C.L.K. James summed it up perfectly, "What do they know of cricket who only cricket know"

Cricket, Life, British
Cricket writers around the world have eulogised not only the masters who played the game, but also the surroundings and the people following it too. Wikimedia Commons


Cricket, as one popularly terms it, is a way of life. The British established the game in every corner that they were present and made it into an elite sport. The famous saying, “cricket is a game for a real live man, keep fit little man, keep fit”, sums it up beautifully.

The pace and harmony with which it was played was similar to a musical symphony, wherein one was relaxed to enjoy every note or stroke in cricketing terms. Cricket writers around the world have eulogised not only the masters who played the game, but also the surroundings and the people following it too. One of the renowned cricket writers C.L.K. James summed it up perfectly, “What do they know of cricket who only cricket know”.

Cricket has evolved over times from the ‘play to finish’ to a five-day Test match. The customer, in this case, the spectator, as one commonly refers to in marketing jargon, as the king, has been at the center stage of the way the game has changed over the years. The paucity of time and the pace of life has played a major part in changing the tide of the royal game.

Test cricket, fortunately, is still revered amongst the cricketers and serious cricket followers as the ultimate form of the game, but this is changing rapidly in the fast pace digital world of today. Cricket is not just a sport anymore but has become the source of entertainment in the same vein as an action packed movie or an exciting event. Test cricket is gradually receding into a test of time and resilience, patience and endurance which is respected by fans and the people playing it has now given way to flamboyance, aggression and stardom.

Cricket, Life, British
The pace and harmony with which it was played was similar to a musical symphony, wherein one was relaxed to enjoy every note or stroke in cricketing terms. Wikimedia Commons

A cricketer is now more inclined to be known for his hitting rather than for his technique. Cricketers, as one sadly gathers, are now more focused on playing the shorter limited overs format of the game, rather than in acquiring skills to play Test cricket for their country. The only way forward, is to recognize an Indian cap, only when one plays Test cricket, maybe this would incentivise the upcoming cricketers to get serious about the conventional form of the game. An Indian cap for a T20 or an ODI player should not be given the weightage and aura of a Test cap.

Unfortunately, time and tide waits for no man. The show must go on and so cricket in any form is better than nothing at all. One can feel the cause of worry, when the modern master of cricket, Sachin Tendulkar, a quiet observer at most times, speak vehemently about the changes required for the progress of the game. The 50-overs cricket, which boasts of the aspiration of every modern day cricketer “The World Cup”, he feels, needs to be altered not only to suit the spectators but also for the benefit of the teams and the players.

A 25-overs per 2 innings is a fabulous idea as the present game of the 50 overs version has become boring between the 15th and 40th overs. The fielding side, at most times, is left to play defensive cricket, whereas, the batsmen need very little skills to accumulate runs. Breaking that monotony is a good way to keep cricketers and their support staff on their toes and gives the spectators a change of scene as well. The most important aspect is that it gives both the teams a more equal opportunity of the conditions during the match. I feel this should be tested in the Indian domestic scenario as quickly as possible.

T20 format is now easily the most popular version of the game. However, one can see that this format is also gradually losing out to the T10 and the 100 balls per side matches. The tide is changing very rapidly towards cricket becoming a home-run sport, enjoyed by one and all, for only hitting boundaries. The T20 could in the near future soon become a two innings encounter of 10 overs each.

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One’s only worry is that the very characteristics and the core values of the game of cricket are being gradually disturbed to cater to the commercial advantages of all the stakeholders involved in the game. One cannot see that as unreasonable, but the very essence of why and how the game was being played is giving away to the hit and run ways of today’s world.

A cyclone is brewing to uproot the very base of pure cricket which has stood like a pinnacle of glory over a century of time. They say “a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet”, and one hopes that cricket too lingers on in the same way in its new avatar. (IANS)