Tongkonan is not just a home, it is a small universe and core of life for every Torajan
Tongkonan, a wonder of architecture from the dawn of Toraja civilization, is far from a simple abode. The traditional house represents an intricate relation between generations. It serves a dutiful purpose to uphold peace and value in the society. A Tongkonan belongs to To Ma’rapu, a family clan related by blood. To Parengnge’, an elder of such a clan is responsible to teach the extended family within his Tongkonan about the ancestral ways of life.
A Tongkonan has its own set of family law and value, executed through Tarian Pitu or seven ethnic justice systems. The lack of writing culture doesn’t seem to leave the legacy untold, since they are ingrained and passed through practice. When you venture around Toraja, you’ll notice that Tongkonan is always paired by rice storage called Alang. Alang symbolizes father that feeds his family, as opposed to Tongkonan maternal role as caregiver. A larger Tongkonan is also supported by the other elements such as watering hole, animal pen, family graves, and plantation which make the complex a small self-sufficient ecosystem.
Tongkonan yields more than just shelter. As a very significant point in Toraja community, it grows into reference points which determine human relations. To express their relations with others, Torajans say that ‘their houses are united’ or that they are ‘brothers and sisters’ in a certain house, granting themselves a profound sense of belonging and reinforcing their clan system.
The bond that links Torajan family is not merely one of blood, but of respect and affection in each other’s life. Lively atmosphere can be genuinely encountered in a Tongkonan. Members of a clan oftentimes gather to discuss important affairs like marriages, heritages, or social conflicts, enabling themselves to resolve problems through intimate and amiable way.
Circling Back to the Beginning
No matter how far a Torajan travels, his/her life will always circle back to the Tongkonan. The moment of birth, the bonding of love, and the final resting place is and always will be in a Tongkonan building, where every other family members will join in on the festivities.