The Torajans are an ethnic group indigenous to a mountainous region of South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Their population is approximately 1,100,000, of whom 450,000 live in the regency of Tana Toraja. Most of the population is Christian, and others are Muslim or have local animist beliefs known as Aluk To Dolo.
About Toraja in brief
The Torajans are an ethnic group indigenous to a mountainous region of South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Their population is approximately 1,100,000, of whom 450,000 live in the regency of Tana Toraja. Most of the population is Christian, and others are Muslim or have local animist beliefs known as Aluk To Dolo. The word Toraja comes from the Buginese language term to riaja, meaning ‘people of the uplands’ In the early 1900s, Dutch missionaries first worked to convert Torajan highlanders to Christianity. Today, tourism and remittances have made for major changes in the Toraja highland, giving them a celebrity status within Indonesia and enhancing Toraja ethnic group pride. The Dutch missionaries’ presence in the highlands gave rise to the Torja ethnic consciousness in the Sa’dan Toraja region, and this shared identity grew with the rise of tourism in the TanaToraja Regency. In the 1930s, Muslim lowlanders attacked the Torjans, resulting in widespread Christian conversion among those who sought to align themselves with the Dutch. Between 1951 and 1965, southern Sulawesi faced a turbulent period of Islamic separatist movement against the Bugis and Makassarese Muslims. The population of Darul Islam fought for an Islamic state in 15 years. In 1950, only 10% of the residents of the Darulul Islam movement had converted to Christianity, and 15% had fought for a form of Islamic state.
In 1957, the Dutch granted Tanatoraja a regentschap, and it was recognised in 1957 as one of the regencies of Indonesia. It was first a subdivision of the Luwu kingdom that had claimed the area. Over two centuries, they ignored the mountainous area because access was difficult and it had little productive agricultural land. Since then, South SulAWesi has four main ethnic groups—the Bugis, the Makassarse, the Mandarese, and the Torajes. The Dutch saw the animist highlanders as potential Christians, and introduced Christianity to the area in the early 20th century. In 1946, theDutch granted the regent a regentchap and in 1957, it was recognized as a regency. In the 1970s, it became an icon of tourism and was exploited by anthropologists and tourists. The Torajas are renowned for their elaborate funeral rites, burial sites carved into rocky cliffs, massive peaked-roof traditional houses known as tongkonan, and colourful wood carvings. The Indonesian government has recognised this animistic belief as Aluc To Dol. It is also known as ‘Toraja’ or ‘Aluk’ in the local language. The people of the highland have a strong sense of identity, and are known for their complex rituals and social hierarchies. Before Dutch colonisation and Christianisation, Torajins, who lived in highland areas, identified with their villages and did not share a broad sense of Identity.