Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Boats on Torajan land

A tongkonan is much more than a house, it is a meeting point, a bridge between generations, a way of life, a meeting point, a philosophy and a book of symbols.

The word tongkonan means ‘to sit in’ and it describes the place very well. Built on sturdy wooden piles, the tongkonan has a huge roof and is not built for comfort, having very little space devoted to its inhabitants. This is also the reason why many Torajans opt for building a modern house behind the tongkonan. But should there be something important to discuss or a ceremony to be prepared, the tongkonan will be the venue.

According to the Torajan myth of origin, the Torajans lived in the north and the god left a ladder permitting them to move south. So did they, but they got shipwrecked on their way. As they could not move any more, they used the hull of their boats to build the first houses, thus giving the Tongkonan roof its recognizable boat shape.

The Torajan cosmos has both a vertical and a horizontal order. Vertically, it is divided in three parts. The sky (langi) is the upper world. There are several levels in the sky and Puang Matua, the old god, lives in the upper one. He is associated to the sun and daylight. He is maintaining the balance between night and day. The ancestors for whom elaborated funerary rites have been performed and who turned into deities are also living in the sky. From there, they care for their family and for rice. The earth (lino, padang) is the middle world, the world of the people. Before, stairs led to the sky. Now, the rainbow remains the only link between earth and heaven.

The lower world, under the earth, also has several levels. This world is haunted by malevolent spirits.

On the horizontal level, the cosmos is organized as follows: the earth is a kind of huge animal whose head is at the north and whose tail at the south.

The points of the compass are sacred and associated with the human body: north for the head, south for the feet, east and west for the hands. The tongkonan also relates to these points, and colors are attributed to the four cardinal points.

North (white) being home to the creator god, it is the most sacred direction, and all tongkonans are oriented to face north and to face the rice barns (alang). The rice barns are a miniature of the house. Since rice is associated with life and riches, rice deserves to stay in a house as beautiful as that of humans. The number of rice granaries gives information on the size of the rice fields, and is therefore also a sign of status. Sitting on the platform of a rice granary is an honor reserved to guests. The main pole holding the roof on the north side is the most sacred part of the roof. The higher part of the north face of a tongkonan is the most sacred place, being the place where the gods from the upper world can enter the house.

South (yellow) is the place of ancestors and afterlife, and decorations on the south side show it.

East (red) is associated with life, so birth ceremonies and burying of the placenta (the act establishing the roots of a family) take place there. In the house itself, the hearth is on this side, food being associated to life.

West (black) is the side for the burial rites.

The multiple decorations of the tongkonan relate to Torajan philosophy, and to the social status of the family. The north face of a house is the most decorated, being the one the gods see when they look down on earth.

Buffaloes represent strength and wealth. The number of buffalo horns decorating the front post of a house denotes the fortune and the prestige of the family.

The cockerel is a symbol for bravery and greatness, and so Torajans see themselves. It is used as food and offering to the gods, and also in burial ceremonies for cock fighting. Cockerels are regarded as clever and wise. A Torajan saying goes: ‘Tulan Didiq’s cockerel knows when evening comes and dark ends’, meaning that we have to be wise and adapt to any situation in life.

The star and the sunrise symbolize greatness, and as such the Torajans.

The katik, a strange bird with a long neck representing the mythical bird of the creation, is a sign of nobility.

Spiraling motifs and tendrils symbolize creeping plants or weeds growing in the rice paddies. The express the wish for many children growing around the house.

Leaves from the banyan tree, symbolizing life and riches, symbolize the connection to the upper world.

Betel leaves, given to guest as a sign of hospitality, thank the gods for their goodness.

Symbols associated with water (tadpoles, worms, crabs) represent life, fertility and good crops.

... and traditions continue!
Tana Toraja, May 2009.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, June 29, 2009

Beauty contest?

Central-Java, June 2009.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Asmat sunset

Agats, Asmat, April 2009.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Laser life

Inside Immigrant, Jakarta, June 2009.

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, June 26, 2009

Strong left hand

Rappang, South Sulawesi, May 2009.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Demystifying Dieng

Dieng plateau in Central Java is about 1,800 m long, 800 wide and 2,100 m high. It is the caldera of an extinct volcano. It has probably been inhabited since neolithic times, and people at that time venerated natural deities they felt very close to. In the afternoon, the bright sunshine gives way to clouds and fog that bathe the whole caldera in a grey light, making it a perfect place for demons and spirits. And also a perfect place for religious rituals.

Hinduism arrived in Indonesia around the first century AD with Indian traders. It spread peacefully, cohabitated later with Buddhism, and declined in the 13th century with the arrival of Islam, remaining only in Bali and around Mount Bromo, on Java.

No archeological remains of temples before the 5th century have been found. The first information dates from inscriptions in Sanskrit using Pallava script from southern India. The first temples were probably made of wood, so none of them resisted. Dieng means ‘place of the gods’. As the dwelling of the god (or gods), the temples had to be built in such a way that religious ceremonial requirements could be met, religious statuary could be protected and a given symbolism could be demonstrated. The rites were of two kinds, consisting in showing respect to the statue and moving around the temple in a given manner.

Building a temple was also a political manifestation. The success of Hinduism, and later Buddhism, was due to their ability to provide existing minor municipalities (which came into existence most probably due to the need to organize irrigation) with a framework in which the prince found a further justification for his power. Having established his power in that way, the prince or king would later merge with the deity after his death, making the temples as much a place for the gods as a reminder of his rule.

How a temple would look like also depended very much on economic constraints, and on the importance of the people who ordered and sponsored the construction. The many temples that existed at Dieng, and of which only the foundations remain if at all, were very modest buildings put up by village authorities with small means.

The 8 remaining temples at Dieng date from the very end of the 7th century to the end of the 8th century. Candi Arjuna, Candi Semar, Candi Srikandi, and Candi Gatokaca (all of them in the picture above), were probably built between 730 AD and show big similarities with the temples of southern India. Candi Arjuna and Candi Semar were probably the first to be built and were devoted to the cult of Shiva. Candi Arjuna still contains a yoni (feminine symbol) and had a lingga (masculine principle) that was ritually bathed several times a day (see below).
Only the priest was allowed to enter the temple and use holy water. The followers moved around the temple and the holy water was carried outside by a gutter going through the north wall and ending in a makara head. Temples built after Candi Arjuna don’t have this gutter any more. Possibly contact with southern India began to dwindle, and a change in the ritual followed. Candi Semar probably contained a statue of the bull Nandi, Shiva’s mount. The entrance the Candi Semar is guarded by probably the oldest remaining Kalla (how to eat yourself) figure in Indonesia (see below).
Candi Srikandi is decoreated with reliefs: Vishnu on the north (see above), Shiva on the east and Brahma to the south.
From the later temples built between 730 and 780, Candi Bima (see below) has an architecture reminding of the temples in Orissa (east central India).
The tradition of small communities building large amounts of small dwellings for the god has survived the decline of Hinduism at Dieng. Numerous mosques and mushollas dot the plateau. Their noise level and the remarkable lack of synchronicity in the calls for prayer must have chased demons and spirits away. But also take much of the mystical atmosphere of the place…

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sleep tight

Close to Wonosobo, Central Java, June 2009.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Three firewood carriers

Dieng Plateau, Central Java, June 2009.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, June 22, 2009

Javanese fashion

Traditionally modern.

Dieng Plateau, Central Java, June 2009.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bamboo tricycle

Subang District, West-Java, June 2009.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Child labor

Stolen childhood, no school, stolen life.

Jakarta, June 2009.

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, June 19, 2009

Indonesian counting

The picture above is showing a typical control panel of a skyscraper elevator.

What is missing? 13 and many fours, as 4 in Chinese is a homonym for 死 (death).

What do we learn? First, avoid bad luck and second, that the Chinese seem to run the ups and downs of most skyscrapers here in Jakarta.

Save ride!

Jakarta, May 2009.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, June 18, 2009

New shopping perspectives

Inside Grand Indonesia Mall, Jakarta, June 2009.

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Lost in symbols

Feel the pressure ...

... and enjoy these Indonesian toilet symbols.
Toraja Heritage Hotel (frequently used by foreign tourists), Rantepao, Tana Toraja, South Sulawesi, May 2009.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Good night business

Malang, East-Java, April 2009.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, June 15, 2009

Buffalo haircut

Rantepao, Tana Toraja, South Sulawesi, May 2009.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Chinese navy

Qingdao, China, April 1986.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Dream on wheels

Cleopatra on big wheels.

Rappang, South Sulawesi, May 2009.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, June 12, 2009

Pig to market

Tana Toraja, South Sulawesi, May 2009.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Big Cat

Bukittinggi, West Sumatra, March 2008.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Icecream vendor on wheels

Three times a day we hear the icecream vendor sound doo do dooo, doo do doo, doo doo do doo do doo.

Jakarta, May 2009.

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Below the equator

Feels weird living below the equator.

Jakarta, February 2009.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, June 08, 2009

Three wheeler

Our street, Jakarta, May 2009.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Dead beggars

Ke'te Kesu, Tana Toraja, South Sulawesi, May 2009.

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Flying over Papua's Asmat region

Somewhere between Timika and Ewer, Asmat, Papua, May 2009.

Labels: , ,

Friday, June 05, 2009

A man, his motorbike and his wives

Typical household in Sulawesi?

Rappang, South Sulawesi, May 2009.

Labels: , , ,

Photo Blog Blogs - Blog Top Sites Blogarama Blog Flux Directory