The Toraja House provides shelter, manifests social standing, and reflects fundamental cosmological precepts of the Sa'dan Area of Tana Toraja. As no separate houses of whorship exixst in the traditional Toraja world, the common house may be tought of as the functional equivalent of a church. In more recent times, the Toraja house has also come to function as a symbol of ethnic identity. Miniature houses, long important as handucraft items, are kept by Toraja living outside their homeland as symbols of their identity.
Certain toraja houses are associated with bilateral extended families (ambilineal ramages). Such houses (tongkonan) are object of special care and attention by family members. Participation in funeral rituals is often times determined by tongkonan membership. These houses recall the migrations of Mythological ancestors to specific valleys and districs. Even whenthe house no longer exsist, descendants remember its name and locale and often maintain active exchange relations with fellow members of the ancestral family tongkonan.
For the traditional Toraja, the house is sacred place. Before a new house is occupied, the structure is consecrated with offerings to the agricultural spirits (Deata) and to ancestors ( to dolo). Birth and death are ritually observed in the house, but there as elsewhere in the traditional toraja world, rituals of the right (life) and those of the left ( death) are carefully separated. The general term for house in toraja language is banua. Interestingly in the indonesian/malay language, the term banua meant continent of wide expanse of teritory in a sense the toraja cosmos in its entierly is encapsulated in a great toraja hpuse. Oriented always to the north, the face of toraja house ( LIndo Banua ) looks towars the source of the Sa'dan River which waters the most fertile valleys and the most densely settled areas of Tana Toraja. The front gable is called Ba'ba Deata, it means the door of Gods.
The rice granary is conceotualized as an extension of the face of the house. Both granary and house hebe the same saddleback roof design. Ceremoies relating to agricultural spirits transpire at the front of the house or at the rice granary. Ceremonies concerned with death are held at the rear , south end side its called pollo' Banua of the house. Life side rituals are ussually oriented to the northeast and are carried out as the sun rises in the east. Funeral preparations are ussually conducted on the southwest side of the house as the sun descents in the west.