Toraja’s “Bori Kalimbuang”, an ancient megalithic heritage

The Bori Kalimbung tourist spot is a UNESCO World Heritage site which is similar to Stonehenge in England with its high variously-sized standing rocks known as menhir. (photo: IO/Prive. Doc)

IO – The North Toraja area, located in South Sulawesi, is known for its preserved beautiful panoramic views and culturally rich tourist destinations. Bori Kalimbuang, for instance, is a UNESCO World Heritage site located in Poros Barana, Pangli, Bori Sub-district, Sesean District, North Toraja Regency. The tourist spot, which has been sought out since 1718, has various similarities with Stonehenge in England. Both sites have various sized tall, upright stones, which in Toraja are called menhir. The stones were moved, shaped, and then placed inside the ground by residents of the area at the time. The crafting and placing of the stones could not be done by anyone. The menhir are a wonderous accompaniment to the Toraja traditional houses or tongkonan. The menhir are very popular with local and international tourists wanting to immortalize their memories with photos. There aren’t only menhir but also balakkayan or stilted houses that are used to distribute slaughtered buffalo or pigs sacrificed in the mantunu tedong ritual. Mantunu tedong is a buffalo slaughtering ritual usually carried out in Toraja during a rambu solo’ or death ceremony but also in other Torajan rituals.

Traditional ceremonies in Toraja have attracted tourists from all around the world. The ceremonies sometimes include the slaughtering of tens to hundreds of buffalo. The placing of the menhir was not done lightly but through a long process, starting from the slaughtering the animals, the choosing of the stones from the mountains to the moving of the stones to their final destination where they were planted to about a third of their height into the ground. All of this was done by voluntarily by locals working together, in accordance with Toraja traditions which are very oriented towards family and cooperation.

The distribution of meat is done by stating the names of the most important locals to the last, during which everyone receives an equal amount. Tourists can also find a lakkian, a place for comforting the corpse during the death ceremony. Lakkian have a similar shape to a tongkonan but are smaller and have no walls. The lakkian has two floors, the first floor is used as a place to sit for the grieving family while the second is used as a place to keep the body during the ceremony.

You can find century old stone graves, baby graves, to tongkonan decorated with 1000 buffalo horns in Bori Kalimbuang. Baby graves are different from the majority of graves. Breastfeeding baby bodies are placed in the trunk of a Tarra tree which has been hollowed, with the tree than being closed off with palm fiber. Tarra trees are used for burials as they produce a large amount of sap which is believed by the Torajans to replace the mother’s milk after the baby has died.

To reach Bari Kalimbuang, you must travel around 9 km via motorcycle or car from the Rantepao area. During the trip, you will be accompanied by views of vast expanses of rice fields and the cool, unpolluted breeze. The best time to visit Bori Kalimbuang is during the morning or afternoon. After buying a Rp 10,000 ticket, you can enjoy the beauty offered by Bori Balimbuang which has more than 102 menhirs. Tourist spots are open between 08.00-22.00 WIT. (Aldo)