Kambira Baby Grave

Kambira Baby Graves Title Pic

21st November 2010

Kambira is a village, south-east of Rantepao that is home to one of the biggest baby grave sites in Tana Toraja. I was told the Kambira baby grave site houses up to 20 baby graves…in a tree. I wasn’t sure if I REALLY wanted to see this…but I’d read quite a bit about it and was really quite curious…

The Torajan’s bury deceased babies in a tree, each village is generally home to a baby grave tree, which serves as the grave site for the babies from that particular village.

I was curious what the Torajan’s classified as a baby…apparently one that has not as yet grown teeth. In Kambira the babies are buried inside a very big, old tree in a bamboo forest in the village. It was cool and dark, the sun’s rays were shadowed by the huge bamboo.

Kambira Baby Graves Pic Collage

This is a very old custom in Tana Toraja and still relates to the animism beliefs of the local people. The babies bodies are placed standing upright inside the tree – as local people believe that {or hope that} the babies will grow inside the tree.

They cut a hole into the tree to place the babies inside and then place a woven like door over the top of the hole to cover it. The doors are made of bark and twigs from a palm tree and have different numbers of wooden nails or pegs with rope woven around them. The number of wooden nails/pegs differs depending on the caste of the family. The ones that I saw, mostly had four wooden nails, meaning they were of average status within this particular village. One’s that have six are of a higher status.

Kambira Baby Graves Close up hole

Apparently the holes in the tree, eventually close-up by themselves and then the little woven door is not needed anymore and eventually rots and falls off the tree…leaving the sealed-up hole visable…I could see where some holes had closed up. Because of this, it made it very difficult to actually count how many babies had been buried in this tree, as some holes had completely closed and it was difficult to distinguish them compared to natural lines and marks in the old tree.

I felt sad thinking about all the babies buried inside that lone tree. I tried to think of it as a “fairy tree”…many fairies lived inside that tree, each with their own little door to their own little home inside that tree.

Kambira Baby Graves Close up

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