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Sandung, the Traditional Cemetery of the Dayak Ngaju Tribe

Indonesia is a country with a myriad of cultures and traditions. These cultures and traditions exist at various moments such as birth, marriage, and even death. Traditions related to death that are well known in Indonesia, for example, are the hanging funerals of the Toraja tribe with the Rambu Solo ritual and the burial of the Batak tribe with the Si Gale-gale dance ritual. Apart from these two cultures, it turns out that Indonesia has another funeral culture in Kalimantan that is not widely known by the wider community.

The funeral culture carried out by the Dayak Ngaju people who adhere to the Kaharingan religion or belief is called the Tiwah ritual. The Dayak Ngaju Kaharingan people, especially in Buntoi Village, Kahayan Hilir District, Pulang Pisau Regency, Central Kalimantan Province, still maintain the Tiwah tradition. They believe that this tradition is a tribute to people who have died.

The Tiwah Ritual is a traditional ceremony originating from Central Kalimantan, especially from the Dayak Ngaju Tribe to deliver the spirits calmly to heaven. In addition, the ceremony also aims to release the misfortunes of the family left behind and release the status of a widow or widower whose partner has died so that they are allowed to choose their next life partner or still choose not to remarry.

Launching from KSMTour (, for the Ngaju Dayak Tribe, a process of death is necessary followed by further rituals (perfection) so as not to disturb the comfort and peace of those who are still alive. The spirit that will be delivered is called salumpuk liau. The bones of the salumpuk liau that will be performed by the Tiwah ritual need to be cleaned before being transferred to Sandung.

Sandung is shaped like a small house on stilts supported by two or four main pillars that are about 2-3 meters high. It is this small house-like building that is used as a storage place for human bones that have been buried in it. The Sandung building is decorated with carvings and statues typical of the Dayak tribe. On the front of Sandung, also written the names of the owners of the bones stored in Sandung.

Sandung is the last place to put the bones that have been carried out by the Tiwah ritual by the Dayak Ngaju people. Buntoi Village is still very thick with culture and traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation by their ancestors. The process of moving the bones from the grave to Sandung also requires several stages.

For the process of transferring the remains in the form of bones, the bones are taken by dismantling old graves. After that, the bones are collected at the traditional hall which is usually used for Tiwah ceremonies, so that the ritual can be carried out immediately. Previously, determine how many bones of the person to be Tiwahkan. After the bones were tiwahkan for 7 days, they were then transferred to Sandung.

β€œIn the process of removing the bones, a dead buffalo is needed as an offering to accompany the process of removing the bones. The number of buffaloes used as offerings depends on the ability of the family performing the Tiwah ritual, on average around 2-3 buffaloes for Tiwah. If they are not able, at least they have to give up one buffalo and one pig.” Said Sarianto, KPSHK Technical Officer in Buntoi Village.

According to Yosia Nugrahaningsih’s research in Buntoi Village in 2013, Sandung in Buntoi Village is always placed in front of villagers’ houses as a form of respect for their ancestors and also as a reminder for everyone who enters the yard.

Based on field visits conducted by Febrina Mawarti Andarini and Alma Tiara as KPSHK staff, there were 3 Sandung who were met directly with different placements. Some of these sandung were placed on vacant land, then some were placed next to the house along the edge of the soccer field, and the last one was placed in front of the Betang House. The brisket in front of the Betang House belongs to the Singa Jala family, the owner of the Betang House. Rumah Betang is a traditional house of the Dayak tribe which was once inhabited by a large family.


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