Journey to the Afterlife – Funeral Festival at the Toraja in Sulawesi
Many centuries ago, ancestors of the Toraja people came across the sea in boats now symbolized in the shape of their traditional houses. The mountains in Central Sulawesi are their retreat. Here they were able to preserve their culture. Their language and song emote a special poetry for longing and mourning. With elaborate small burial houses, which are carried like sedan chairs to the rock tombs near the rice fields, their Tau Tau figures in caves and unique tree tombs, they keep their ancestors alive. We follow a wood carver of Tau Tau figures and his family in preparation of the celebrations.
For nine days, nine incarnations of Goddess Durga are celebrated in Bhaktapur. In this Kathmandu Valley, Buddhism, Hinduism and animism have merged to form Dashain. The incarnations of the mother goddess embody primordial forces of creation, both life-giving and bloodthirsty. The medieval city of Bhaktapur with its close-knit social community is strangely familiar and displays the universal beginnings of culture in the Kathmandu Valley. Together with the landscape of the Himalayas, this sheltered valley strongly emphasizes the power of its influence, but earthquakes and modernity threaten the fragile heritage.
Festival of the Matriarch - Flores Island
At the foot of the volcano, near the sea, lies the village of Beni of the Ngada.
Embellished with gold, the matriarch stands in the village square in a sacred ceremony for her house. The men serve her. Laughing, they wind the ropes and cords of palm fiber used to tie palm roofs – even during the celebration. With simple hand movements, they create their own world, with natural materials right at their fingertips. Everything is shared. Over a cup of palm wine made from coconut shells, they discuss the future. Masolaki, the old sages of the village, give a humorous speech; “our roots go deeper – by the bristle of the wild boar.”
For many hours, they stand in the water of the Ganges, candles floating down the river. Thousands of people come to the Ganges on this day in October. Many of them pray for a son – because according to ancient belief, without a son, any woman is destined to go to hell in the afterlife. Varanasi shows the conservative side of India. Here, you can witness a life that reminds of the Middle Ages, including astrologers, gurus, and charlatans. The episode follows two women and their families that represent the old and the new India between tradition and modernity.
When the full moon rises at the end of January, the largest festival of the Tamil Hindus takes place at the cave dome on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. Believers carry skewers in their bodies, yet they appear quite protected and secure within their community. In a trance, they become possessed by gods and pass on their power. There are fire and flowers, incense and music. Lord Murugan, the son of Shiva, who is celebrated on this night, is believed to be the positive energy for immediate and quick help.
Faces are lit up: Every year, the tribes from the desert meet for the camel fair with Brahma pilgrims in Brahma’s last sanctuary Pushkar in Rajastan. Just as in medieval times, trade and holy days come together for a fair and pilgrimage. Rajastan’s desert tribes live for their independence. In the high spirits of the holidays, the charisma of their people begins to shine in this special gathering place. Families get together again, and a quiet marriage market is underway. Mother and daughter from the village come to the fair – perhaps they can find a suitable match this year?
The river separates two worlds in Kyoto: to the west, the imperial palace, officials, proper citizens. On the east bank we find monks and geishas, artists, outsiders – a world of contradictions between seduction and enlightenment. How do monks and geishas get along over centuries? This episode uncovers Japan’s philosophy of sensuality and its sometimes extreme representatives: from the anarchic monk Ikkyu to travesty stars, Kinbaku bondage artists, marathon monks and sentimental Yakuzi. In the gaudy world of Japan’s pop art superstar Takashi Murakami lurks a beautiful death while celebrating life.
In no other place in India, the Holi festival is celebrated as wild and long as in Krishna’s birthplace Mathura in the north of India. Krishna himself used to celebrate the festival of colors here. Purple refers to the divine play, in which the deity views creation as a game and demonstrates radical freedom and spontaneity. Shiva’s dance and Kali’s wildness are also part of it. The spring festival is celebrated at full moon. Krishna was born in Mathura; in the neighboring village of Gokul he spent his childhood and in Barsana he found his beloved Radha. Each of these villages have their own Krishna story, and their own customs commemorating his life.
Every year during February/March, the Pasola equestrian festival takes place on the sandalwood island of Sumba. Two groups of riders go at each other with spears, while many of the participants still bear the marks of last year’s competition on their skin. Fatal accidents are rare today, but in the old days they were part of the tradition. The playing field is sacred – whatever happens on these grounds is the will of the spirits. The players follow their code of honor and restrain their passions, but the followers often unleash their joy, while the security forces keep the spirits at bay.
The sea gives a sign when Pasola can begin:as soon as a certain type of sea worm is sighted, the council of elders confirms the days of the sacred battles. With the Pasola festival, the ancestors come to visit from the spirit world and are said to bring fertility for the coming years harvest through this sacred tradition.
1 – Ogoh-Ogoh – The Balinese New Year Monster Parade
2 – Festival Of The Goddess Durga In The Himalayas – Dashain
3 – Journey to the Afterlife – Funeral Festival at the Toraja in Sulawesi
4 – Feast of the Matriarch – Flores Island
5 – In Trance for Shiva’s Son – Thaipusam in Malaysia
6 – Charisma – Encounters in Rajastan’s Great Fair in Pushka
7 – The Mother’s Prayer – Chat Mata in Varanasi
8 – Kyoto across the River – Seduction and Enlightenment
9 – Krishna is Alive! Holi Festival at the Birthplace of Krishna
10 – Pasola – Sumba Equestrian Festival
Trailer Ogoh Ogoh – Bali Monster