Paying Homage to the King of Banawa: Sulawesi

Bearing gifts, a group of Tobaku and Sarudu traditional leaders approached the house of Datu Wajar Lamarauna, son and heir of the late king, Adam Ardjad Lamarauna. As per custom, the gifts included betel nut, a sack of rice, 14 eggs, four black and white chickens and a white cow.

Dressed in bright-colored clothing and traditional rimless caps, the men from Tobaku (Donggala regency, Central Sulawesi) and Sarudu (North Mamuju regency, West Sulawesi) had come to convey the condolences of the Tobaku and Sarudu peoples over the death of the Banawa king.

The melodious tunes of a traditional bamboo ensemble
accompanied the ceremony.

“We call this tradition of paying homage to the king and his family melae tobaku sarudu,” said JH Tarro, chief of Tobaku’s traditional council.

King of Banawa (centered in Donggala regency, Central Sulawesi), Adam Ardjad Lamarauna, passed away on November 16, 2006, in Jakarta.

“At that time, we weren’t able to attend the funeral ceremony. So we are visiting his now family to show our sympathy,” said Tarro.

He said the melae tradition was important in maintaining a good relationship with Banawa. The relationship between the three Sulawesi entities is unique: a large majority of the Tobaku and Sarudu are Christian while the royal families of Banawa are Muslim.

“The traditional leaders, who are here today to pay their homage to the late king, are all Christians,” said Tarro.

He pointed out that social and cultural differences between his people and the Banawa lineage — including religion — had never been considered important.

“That’s one of the main reasons we’ve never experienced religious conflict.”

In retrospect, he said, the religion-linked bloodshed in Poso could also have been avoided if the people of Poso hadn’t forgotten their common traditions and customary institutions.

Meanwhile, Banawa heir Datu Wajar remembered his father, “the people’s king”. “When he was a regent, my father initiated an infrastructure development project that ended the Tobaku’s geographical isolation.”

Tarro said everyone in Tobaku and Sarudu valued traditions such as the melae and hoped they would help them maintain good relationships with other groups.

The kingdom of Banawa was founded in 1667 and originally known as Pujananti. The kings of Banawa include La Bugia Mpue Uva, Lasabanawa I Sangga Lea Dg Paloera, Lamarauna Mpue Totua, La Gaga, Laruhana Lamarauna, Laparenrengi Lamarauna and Adam Ardjad Malarauna.

At an intimate meal at the conclusion of the melae, the Tobaku and Sarudu leaders and Banawa royals shared traditional delicacies.

Tarro explained the significance of the special food items. “We don’t want to put an unnecessary burden on the mourning family, that’s why we bring our own meals.”

Ruslan Sangadji