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The origin of the name “Toraja” and “Toraya”

In the beginning the inhabitants who inhabited the mountains in the north of South Sulawesi named their area as Tondok lepongan bulan tana matari’ allo, meaning a country whose form of government and society had a roundness like the moon and the sun. They came to be known as to (people) Lepongan Bulan or people from Lepongan Bulan.

That said, the name gradually changed when they began to establish relationships with people outside the Lepongan Bulan area. Trade relations occur with neighboring countries such as Luwu’ and Sidenreng. A noble relationship with Gowa through Lakipadada.

The mention of Toraja as a tribal name began when two Dutchmen, Nicolaas Adriani, a linguist and theologian, and Albertus Christiaan Kruyt, a missionary and ethnographer, used the name in their scientific writings.

The use of this name was then followed by other writers both scientists, missionaries and officials of the Dutch colonial government. The name was then used officially until now.

Then where did the words “Toraja” or “toraya” or “Tana Toraja” come from? In some of the literature, it is mentioned several meanings and the origin of the name Toraja.

toraa or toraya

The word “Toraja” in the Toraja dictionary is called “Toraa” or “Toraya”. “Toraa” consists of two words namely “to” meaning people and “raa” means generous. So “Toraa” means generous person. Meanwhile, the term “Toraya” comes from the word “toraya” which consists of “to” meaning people and “raya” means honorable or king, so “Toraya” means honorable person or king.

Another opinion says that “toraya” comes from the words “to” and “maraya”, “to” means “tau” or person and “maraya” means great, noble or great person (nobility).

to raja

The next version mentioned that the word “Toraja” consists of two syllables namely “To” and “raja”. “To” means “tau” or person and “raja” means great man or nobleman. This is in line with the recognition of some of the kings in South Sulawesi who said that their ancestors came from Toraja.

This is the true understanding of Toraja when related to the origin of the descendants of the kings in South Sulawesi. History mentions, the Toraja royal blood has close links with several major kingdoms in South Sulawesi in the past including the kingdoms of Luwu, Bone and Gowa. (Please read in the literature on Toraja ancestors).

to raya

Another understanding of the origin of the word “Toraja” or “toraya” quoted from a literature (Gasong, 2013) follows: Hundreds of years before the arrival of the Dutch colonial, the Toraja people have had a high culture in various fields such as buildings, carvings, jewelry making, agriculture, weaving and trade. Specifically in trade, the barter system has been used by Torajans several centuries ago such as the exchange of basic necessities. This activity was carried out at the nearest boat port at that time, namely in Bayo or Bajo which is located between Siwa and Pa’tedong in southern Palopo.

People from Tanah Lepongan Bulan (Lepongan Bulan is the first name used by the ancestors of the Toraja people to refer to their area, at that time the word “toraja” or “toraya” was not yet known) went to trade by carrying their goods to Bayo on foot for days day by going through Batualu, Tabi, Lempobatu and continuing to Ranteballa, Basse Sangtempe’ in the south and out in the village of Raya as the gate of the Lepongan Bulan at that time.

They are similar and both wear loinclocks with people in the Kingdom and the language and accent are somewhat different from each other. Different but not noticed by Bajo people who speak Luwu’ who are almost no different from the Toraja language used by To (people) Lepongan Bulan and are good at Bugis. Because of their association all barter traders who came out of Raya were considered by all residents of Raya. It is also possible that Tobayo did not know whether the village was large or small.

Likewise, of their inhabitants, of course they cannot distinguish which to Pantilang, to Tallulembangna and others, so that all of them are only known as people from Raya or Toraya who gradually are known and referred to by outsiders such as the Bugis who call by the name of Toraya or Toraja according to their habits which still means Toraya as well.

That is the origin of the name Toraya or Toraja which comes from the name of a place that used to be the gateway for barter trade between the Toraja people and the Buginese boat through the intermediaries of the Bayo or Bajo people in South Palopo.

So “Toraya” or “Toraja” comes from the name of the population Raya or Toraya (Toraja) which is now commonly referred to and written in Toraja. Through the interpreters who were mostly Bugis at that time and conveyed it to the Dutch who then used it in government by naming the Toraja settlement area as Toraja Landen or in the Toraja language called Tana Toraja, and in the end the area that was called Lepongan Bulan was changed to Tana Toraja.

to riaja

In another version, the word “toraja” is a reference to the Bugis Sidenreng of people from the mountains to the north of the Sidenreng kingdom. They call “to riaja”, “to” meaning people, “ri” meaning from and “aja” meaning up or north. So “to riaja” means people who live in the land above, in the north or mountains.

Sidenreng Kingdom at that time was one of the trading partners of To Lepongan Bulan (Toraja) besides Luwu Kingdom.

to riajang

Another possibility is the mention of Luwu people who call “to riajang” which means people who reside in the west, “to” means people and “riajang” means west. The territory of the Toraja was indeed in the west of the Luwu’ kingdom at that time.

According to tradition, the Toraja ancestors named the kingdom of Luwu’ as kadatuan matallo or kingdom in the east. While the Lepongan Bulan (Toraja) region is called the kadatuan matampu’ or kingdom in the west.

tau raya

The word “toraja” may also have come from Makassarese people in the Gowa sultanate who used to refer to a nobleman who came from the northern mountains namely Lakipadada. When he went wandering and arrived in Gowa, people did not know where he came from, but he looked and behaved like a nobleman.

Public opinion in Gowa says that the foreign aristocrats came from the south. So people call it “tau raya”. “Tau” means people and “raya” means south.

All versions of the naming above are acceptable although there are some differences. One general conclusion can be obtained that Toraja is a country of nobles in the mountains north of the peninsula of South Sulawesi.

Although the name “Lepongan Bulan” is no longer commonly heard in everyday language, but in traditional cultural ceremonies or rituals the mention of this name is very frequent. The name has been immortalized by the Toraja people as a title to flatter their ancestral land as “tondok lepongan bulan tana matari’ allo”.

Toraja people are more familiar with the word “toraya” which refers to two functions, namely to refer to the region (Toraya) and also the person (Toraya). The word “Toraja” is used in Indonesian and by people outside ethnic Toraja. While the word “Toraya” is used by the Toraja people themselves in the Toraja language both in daily conversation and in the high language of Toraja (Toraja literary).

Reference : Bibliography 043

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