Waruga, A Story teller of Ancient Minahasa

Waruga, A Story teller of Ancient Minahasa

Waruga- What is Waruga? This ancient stone tomb coffin of Waruga can be found only in North Sulawesi and belongs to Minahasa Tribe. The ancient graveyard is found around 16 centuries and spread around the village in the regency of North Minahasa and Minahasa. 


Waruga, A Story Teller of  Ancient Minahasa
image : cagar.kemdikbud.go.id

The Story of Waruga

Long time ago Minahasa tribe used to bury the dead people with Woka leaves. This Woka is a tree that grows in the jungle and similar like palm trees. Minahasan People will use the leaves of Woka and wrap the dead bodies and then they will make a hole in a big tree and put inside. By the growth of the culture and population in 9th century, they use the stone tomb coffin which is Waruga.

Waruga comes from two words. First is “Wale” which means House and “Ruga” which means dead body. So literally the meaning of Waruga is the House of the dead. Waruga is estimated that lasted around 1500 BC and become as megalithic burial system from Minahasa itself. The structure of Waruga is consist of two parts. First is the Hood which act as roof and the second is the body with a cube shaped. When someone die, the corpse will put inside the body of the Waruga and will face the North. The main reason is the Minahasan believe the ancestor of the tribe comes from the north

Facts of Waruga

1. Buried with Squat position

People believe when someone die they will back to mother Earth. Like when someone in mothers womb, the dead also will put in the same position just like when they were in womb before born.

2. Red Color is Taboo

Any visitors or tourist are forbidden to visit the area with any clothes with red colors. Minahasan believe the red color only belongs to the warrior and descendants of Minahasa.

3. Made by the owner of Waruga

Waruga was made by the owner itself. So starting from the adulthood they will make their own tomb coffin and when the person die, Waruga will be completed by the other people and they will carve on the Hood or the roof of Waruga, some symbols that represents what their job when they were alive.

4. Weight over 500 kg and The Position On The ground

As said before that Waruga is made from the stone so you can imagine how heavy this stone coffin is. The weight of the roof or the hood is more than hundreds kg. This measure is for the Waruga of adult. According to stories of elders, they carry the stone on the back and bring the stone to their house and make Waruga from the stone. The other fact is usually coffin will be put in the ground but Waruga is on the ground. Before christian steps into to the culture of Minahasa, Minahasan people instead bury the dead people they put Waruga on the ground and put next to their house. They believe the soul of the family member or relative will stay and give strength or protect the family member.

5. Remove Waruga with Bamboo to New Place

In highlands, when people want to move Waruga to new place they need to make a ceremony of ritual. So the spirit of the ancestor will not angry and to avoid bad luck for the people and village. In process of remove to new place,  they will not do it by excavator or any modern tools. But they will use bamboo instead and “Gomutu” a kind of palm fiber to tie the bamboo and Waruga while praying. Red color also blend in the ceremony of remove the Waruga

6. Forbidden by Netherlands in 1860

Waruga is forbidden in 1860 by the Netherlands. The reason is because in the hood or the roof of Waruga sometimes there will be a crack so the smell of dead bodies will spread. At that time the disease of Cholera  and Typhus  are spreading, so the Netherlands forbids the local people to make waruga and order all the dead bodies to bury in the ground. 

Where is Waruga?

This ancient stone tomb coffin you can see in Minahasa area in highlands. Mostly the tourist will visit North Minahasa regency. There are two main spots. First is Sawangan Village, the location is behind local people’s houses and there is always guide there that explain about Waruga.Second in “Airmadidi Bawah” its located just close with the main road but there is no guide can explain about Waruga. The graveyard of Waruga also next to a spring called Tumatenden which is believed by the local people of the place of beginning Airmadidi Village. You can see the painting carved in the wall front of the spring. You can also see Waruga in highland in Tomohon city .

Waruga, A Story teller of Ancient Minahasa
image : cagar.kemdikbud.go.id

Most of the tourism resort they will offer sightseeing of Waruga included in Highland Tour. You can see below what highland tour is.

Highland Tour

This tour package gives tourist or visitor to know the nature of North Sulawesi and the culture of local people. Tour begins by visit waruga and then continue by visiting the local market in the morning. After that the trip will continue to have lunch in Tondano lake by enjoying the fish then you visit PULUTAN village to see the pottery of local. While returning back you can stop by to see or buy the souvenirs local or traditional cookies along the streets.

You can start planning your travel to North Sulawesi and if you are interested in culture, historical and heritage I woudl like to recommend you to put Waruga in one of your list visit.

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