North Toraja

As one of the oldest burial cliffs in Toraja, every inch of Lemo radiates a sense of stillness that is indescribable by mere words. The remains of the deceased are laid here inside giant boulders with crevices, well preserved by the spirits of the land, keeping them intact and undamaged by Father Time

Torajans are famous for their funeral rituals, which are many and varied. Exploring the region you can find tombs cut into a rock and the babies entombed in trees. Lemo is famous for a different reason. This funeral site is a place where you can see carved wooden effigies of the dead.

The village is located 11 Km to the south of the Toraja Utara capital Rantepao. The village is famous for the funeral site, which shares the same name.

To get to the funeral site you need to follow a small muddy path from the village between rice paddy fields. The path ends suddenly at the base of a large cliff. At the base of the cliff are two small beautifully painted Tongkonan.

The rugged cliff is at least 20 meters high and towers over the fields below. Carved by hand into the side of the cliff are a total of 75 small niches. The niches vary in length from two meters down to less than 50 cm.

Placed carefully in the niches are colorful wooden effigies of the dead. They sit lined up in rows staring out at the fields below. They are held in place by beams of wood, like rails, that cross their mid-section.

Lemo funeral site dates back to the 16th century. The wooden statues are a symbol of social status. Called ‘Tau-Tau’ in Indonesian, each effigy represents a Torajan noble from the area that passed away. Though most of the tau-tau only dates back to the 20th century as the wood and fabric deteriorate rapidly in the tropical climate.

At the base of the cliff in a little hut by the field lives a modern tau-tau maker. Stacked in front of the hut are small tau-tau that he carves. They serve a mementos and souvenirs for tourists who visit this ancient site in the highlands of Toraja.

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