Indonesia is well-known as a multicultural country. The diversity of traditions, customs, ethnic groups, religions, and beliefs have thrived throughout the nation’s history. It is evident that every culture has its own uniqueness. However, the differences should not be boundaries for Indonesian citizens to have tolerance with one another.
This sense of tolerance has grown in the Indonesian society for hundreds of years, even before religion came into existence in Indonesia. During the times when official religions hadn’t spread in Indonesia, many people were still practicing local beliefs. Some of which still exist until the present day. However, they are not officially recognized by the Indonesian government.
The existence of local beliefs cannot just be neglected that way. Although it is true that nowadays some people start to leave these beliefs as they consider necessary to practice an official religion, local beliefs still grow and develop as societal cultures. A good example of this case is Aluk Todolo, a local belief of Torajan people living in Tana Toraja, South Sulawesi.
Aluk Todolo adherents (Aluktas) believe that someone who has passed away will go to a place called puyo. However, the journey must be preceded by a funeral ceremony based on their social status before they bound for puyo. Otherwise, the soul will be lost and they are not able to reach puyo. Therefore, to avoid this, the ceremony must also be conducted in the right manner.
This manner is known as Rambu Solo. To symbolize the commencement of the funeral ceremony, people set-up bamboo houses called lantang. Afterward, relatives and siblings gather to discuss where the body should be buried. From this moment onwards, there are several ceremonies that must be followed during the funeral procession.
The first ceremony is called ma’pasa’tedong. In this phase, the buffalos which have been agreed to be sacrificed are collected in the front yard of tongkonan, the place where the body will be buried. Some ceremonies are continued by ma’pasilaga tedong, or buffalo fight. However, this is only conducted by the elites, who have high social status.
The second ceremony is called ma’karu'dusan or mapuli. It is conducted on the next day. In this phase, two buffalos will be cut by the buffalo cutter(s) (known locally as patinggoro tedong). The buffalos are usually left standing, then their necks will be quickly cut, therefore making the buffalo fall and die right away.
On the third day, there will be another ceremony. Before the ceremony starts, they will gather all the things needed in the ceremony (manombon). Next, there will be a pullout of simbuang stones, called mangriu’batu. Those stones will later be erected and planted. Some stones are also erected in a lineup. The erection of simbuang stones is called mangosok simbuang.
On this day, the family members also prepare a wooden tower for bala’kayan, the animals’ distribution. The body will also be moved from tongkonan to the barn. The barn is actually shaped like a miniature of the tongkonan. In Torajan tradition, tongkonan and barn are opposite each other and used to store paddies.
On the next day, there will be lakkian, a ceremony to move the body from the barn to a special two-leveled hut with a Torajan roof on top. Before the body is moved to lakkian, the coffin is loaded into a carriage. Then, it will be paraded through the village with music to make it sound festive. This ceremonial sequence is called Ma’pasanglo.
After they end the Ma'pasanglo ceremony, beer and water are given to the carrier of the carriage. Then, another two buffalos will be slaughtered again by the pattingoro. Finally, guests who come to witness this ceremony will be welcomed by family members.
Obviously, this funeral ceremony is not conducted without purpose. Aluktas believe that these processions are intended to show their best for someone who has passed away with a great offering for the soul of the dead. The soul which reaches puyo is determined by the quality of the funeral ceremony. The more perfect the ceremony is carried out, the more perfect the soul’s life in puyo.
Moreover, the use of buffalos itself as offerings cannot be separated from the procession. Buffalo is considered a sacred animal for the Torajan people. Therefore, Aluktas will always sacrifice at least two buffalos in this funeral procession, depending on the social status, since it is believed that the soul of the animal will also follow the soul of the dead to puyo.
Aluk Todolo used to be an old animism belief. However, during its development, Aluk Todolo is much influenced by the teaching of Hinduism and Confucious. Therefore, Aluk Todolo is considered a polytheist and dynamical religion.
Furthermore, Aluk Todolo, which many people regard as “the ancestors’ religion that is still practiced by the Torajan society”, is actually a sect of the Hindu religion in Bali. It is known as Hindu Dharma Aluk Todolo, or Hindu Alukta, for short. This is where the word "Alukta" comes from.
This is a great example of how Torajans still adhere to their ancestors’ beliefs even though they have practiced official religions. Although the identity of Torajans as Aluktas is no longer dominant, the existence of Aluk Todolo cannot just disappear, as this belief has attached to the Torajan society hereditarily.
In the present day, the majority of Torajan people are Christians. Do Christians believe in Aluk Todolo? The answer is “No”. Nevertheless, to appreciate Aluk Todolo as their culture, Christians still follow the standards and regulations of the Rambu Solo funeral ceremony.
According to Richard Niebuhr, there are five kinds of attitudes of Christians towards cultures. The attitude that Torajan Christians show is called dualism. Even though they obey God in their lives, they still take part in growing Aluk Todolo as their culture, not a belief.