Erong is a special wooden coffin used by the ancestors of the Toraja tribe as a burial place in the past. This ancient coffin is an implementation of ancestral beliefs about the journey of the soul and life in the next realm after death.
Only aristocrats or ordinary people who are economically capable can use erong. Erong type used was adjusted to the social strata concerned. The arrangement of erong placement in the liang (funeral complex) also refers to the same thing.
There are three types of erong, namely boat-shaped, buffalo-shaped and pig-shaped. The selection of these three forms is related to the ancestors’ belief that the journey of the spirits to Puya (world of spirits) must go through a container as a vehicle to get there. The choice of boat shape is based on a belief that the arrival of the Toraja ancestors arrived by boat. Therefore, a trip to Puya will also use a boat.
Meanwhile buffaloes and pigs are used because these two animals are sacrificed at the rambu solo’ ceremony (a traditional ceremony of death). In traditional beliefs, ancestral spirits will reach puya if there is provisions that are brought along in the form of sacrifices offered. The minimum number of buffalo and pigs that are sacrificed in accordance with the social strata.
Of the three types of erong, there are simple shapes and some are complicated accompanied by carvings. There are a variety of unique carvings found on the outside of the erong like carvings of humans attracting dragons, humans attracting buffalo and others. The shape of the erong and carving shows the social stratification of the erong owner.
Erong in the form of a large boat and has a lot of carvings, is used by a nobleman (tana’ bulaan) who was once a leader, rich, and brave. While other types of erong such as small boat-shaped erong without carving, buffalo-shaped erong and pig-shaped erong, used by level 2 nobles (tana’ bassi) and ordinary people (tana’ karurung) are economically capable.
The servant or kaunan (tana’ kua-kua) group is not made erong although they are buried in the same place as the nobility and ordinary people, but they are placed at the bottom of the cave without a burial container.
Erong layout on the burrow or burial cliff is not haphazard but adjusted to the social strata. Erong aristocrats, the shape of a large and carved boat will be in the highest place of all erong. Then underneath followed by another erongs from the nobility, then at the bottom is a simple-shaped erong without carvings belonging to ordinary people.
Over time, the grooves that initially hung will fall one by one to the bottom of the cliff or cave because the erong itself or erong buffer is weathering. The site owner’s family or the tomb then collect the erong flakes and their contents in one place at the bottom of the cave.
In Erong, there is also a tomb that is included, namely goods owned by the owner of erong during his lifetime, including gold, silver, currency, ceramics and other valuables. But now it is certain that these objects have long been lost and were stolen by antique seekers in the past.
Now in almost all ancient Toraja sites that have erong, the only remains that can be found are the erong itself, the skull and bones of the owner of erong, as well as several other relics such as kandean dulang (place to eat in the past) and other items that cannot be stolen.