Saturday February 24, 2018

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

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The ritual, known as MaiNene, involves exhumed up dead family members, cleaning them and re-dressing them. Image source: dailymail.co.uk
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  • 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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70 years after Independence power reaches Elephanta Isle near Mumbai

An unseasonal 'Diwali' has suddenly been ushered on the island, which used to be plunged into darkness after dusk in the absence of electricity at the three villages

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The power connection is also expected to speed up work on the proposed 8-km long ropeway connecting Mumbai directly with Elephanta Island running above the Arabian Sea
The power connection is also expected to speed up work on the proposed 8-km long ropeway connecting Mumbai directly with Elephanta Island running above the Arabian Sea. Wikimedia Commons
* Elephanta Caves is a UNESCO World Heritage site
* An unseasonal ‘Diwali’ has suddenly been ushered on the island
* The official is hopeful that now, the Islanders can get better educational institutions, boost tourism
Seventy years after Independence, a 7.5-km long undersea cable has finally brought electricity to the world-famous Gharapuri Isle, which houses the UNESCO World Heritage site Elephanta Caves, about 10-km from Mumbai, a top official said here on Thursday.
The project to electrify the island, thronged daily by thousands of Indian and foreign tourists, has cost a total of Rs 25 crore and was completed in 15 months, said Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Co. Ltd. Regional Director Satish Karape.
“This is India’s longest undersea power cable which took around three months to lay. Plus, we have installed a transformer in each of the three villages, six streetlight towers each 13-metre tall with six powerful LED bulbs and provided individual power meter connections to 200 domestic and a few commercial consumers. Intensive testing over past three days has been successful,” Karape told IANS.
A function will be held at the island later in the day when renowned social reformer Appasaheb Dharmadhikari will formally ‘switch on’ the power supply in the presence of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, his ministers Chandrashekhar Bawankule, Jaykumar Raval, Ravindra, and other dignitaries.
Inhabited since the 2nd Century BC, the island has seven big and small rock-cut caves temples carved between 5th-6th Centuries AD.
Inhabited since the 2nd Century BC, the island has seven big and small rock-cut caves temples carved between 5th-6th Centuries AD. Wikimedia Commons
Karape said that of the total project cost, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority gave Rs 18.50 crore while the rest had been borne from the MSEDCL’s own resources.
The 22-KV cable has four lines, including one exclusive standby line, to ensure 24×7 high-quality power to the Islanders with sufficient excess capacity to take care of future requirements for more than 30 years, he explained.
An unseasonal ‘Diwali’ has suddenly been ushered on the island, which used to be plunged into darkness after dusk in the absence of electricity at the three villages — Raj Bander, Mora Bander and Shet Bander — housing around 1,200 people, mostly engaged in fishing, farming, boat-repairs and tourism-related activities.
Since the past few years, however, the villagers managed with just three hours electricity courtesy power generators provided by the state government, but these were expensive and unreliable.
The previous Congress-Nationalist Congress Party regime had initiated the proposal, but it fell through as the tender attracted a single bid, and later the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena government revived the proposal almost two years ago.
The 22-KV cable has been connected directly with the MSEDCL’s Olwa sub-station, Panvel Division in Raigad on the mainland, Karape said.
Since a small dam exists on this 16-sq km island, a water filtration plant can be set up to provide safe and clean drinking water to the locals and tourists, who now rely on bottled mineral water.
Since a small dam exists on this 16-sq km island, a water filtration plant can be set up to provide safe and clean drinking water to the locals and tourists, who now rely on bottled mineral water. Wikimedia Commons
The official is hopeful that now, the Islanders can get better educational institutions, boost tourism — probably with the overnight stay, subject to other governmental clearances — install a lighthouse on the isle’s hilltop, and even power the Elephanta Caves if the Archaeological Survey of India permits.
Since a small dam exists on this 16-sq km island, a water filtration plant can be set up to provide safe and clean drinking water to the locals and tourists, who now rely on bottled mineral water.
The power connection is also expected to speed up work on the proposed 8-km long ropeway connecting Mumbai directly with Elephanta Island running above the Arabian Sea, planned by the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT), and billed as a boon to nearly two million tourists who visit it annually.
Inhabited since the 2nd Century BC, the island has seven big and small rock-cut caves temples carved between 5th-6th Centuries AD. It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
The island also has two large British-era canons atop the hill.
Presently, the thickly-forested island abounds in monkeys and other creatures, is accessible only by an hour-long voyage by motorboats and launches from Gateway of India or Raigad, with the compulsory return in the evening.