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The Bada valley
Remote area of the megaliths

An impressive phallic symbol, carved out to express a human shape, rises from the ground. The face - several bend lines, the round eyes and a slightly opened mouth - watches to the west with a timeless expression, unmoved and ununderstandable like the sphinx. This megalithic art, massive and simple, kept it's tremendous silent power even after someone tried to brush away the natural erosion.

Old art and modern human

Together with three other megaliths and many big stone drums, Palindo - as the stone statue is named - lives in the Bada valley, which stretches up to 15 kilometers south of Lore Lindu national park. Sungai Lariang runs through the entire valley and is crossed by three hanging bridges. This river, together with it's smaller feeding rivers, is used to irrigate the terraced rice fields. Gintu, the capital of the sub district Bada, has only a few thousand inhabitants. This village controls the area with it's several government buildings, shops and a handful of televisions. There are about 10.000 people in fourteen villages.

The megaliths in Bada draw a handful of tourists and archeologists. The fierce terrain forms and impressive background for the stone pieces of art. Eroded rows of hills and low mountains at a distance of two kilometers complete the raw gracefulness of the statues. For some, the natural background wasn't enough. In 1984, the government asked the people in the Bada valley to build a giant wooden house besides Palindo, as well as a vaguely traditional building behind that. They don't serve a clear purpose. The final blow to the statue is a system of paths around the statue, complete with flat, square stones. There is also a rice shed with a damaged platform under a raised storage. The purpose of the shed is not known, but you can sit down in the shadow and watch the statue from behind.

Picture: Stone drum

The Besoa valley, at a long days walk north of the Bada valley, including leeches, also houses a number of human-like statues, as well as the big stone drums or kalambu. In Besoa they are covered in inscriptions, which are missing from the drums in Bada. One of these stone drums has a lit with five carved-out animals on the sides, looking familiar with the bronze Dongson drums, which found their way from Vietnam to Indonesia in prehistoric times.

Riddles in stone

In 1902, the first Europeans, Paul and Fritz Sasarin, entered the valley without seeing the megaliths. The Dutch missionary dr. Albert C. Kruyt reports, that sacrifices for a wealthy harvest were brought to one of the statues; when there was too little rain, sacrifices of pinang nuts were brought to the statue that is known as Tarai Roi. Other sources also report this kind of sacrifices.

Nothing is known for sure about the origin of the stones. When Kruyt reached Bada in 1908, the megalith culture was already gone. The inhabitants could not tell much more than that the statues were already here ever since their ancestors entered the valley. A final survey hasn't been done yet, but estimations of age vary from 3000 B.C. to 1300 A.D. Probably, the sculptures of Bada, as well as those in the Besoa valley, are remains from a megalith tradition which was once spread over entire Indonesia (and is still continued in Sumba). Central Sulawesi has, together with the stone statues and big drums, a diversity of stone objects which probably originate from the same culture. The Swiss archeologist Walter Kaudern, which lived in the area from 1917 to 1920, has the best story about the megaliths up to now.

However the statues in the Bada valley are completely different in size - somewhere between one and four meters - they are almost similar in style: somewhat oval with large round faces. The eyes, somewhat oval as well, are surrounded with a long bend line which marks eyebrows, nose and chin. The face is in high relief, but the arms, hands and genitals (an erected penis or open vagina) are hardly in relief.

It is suggested that the Palino is related with death. For the Toraja, about four to five days walking to the south, west is the direction of death. Linguistic and other cultural similarities between the Toraja and the populations of the Bada give this theory at least some credibility. The Bada insist on burying their dead with the head towards the west, even after their conversion to Christianity, and the Toraja used to erect megaliths as a part of their burial ceremonies until not too long ago. The Bada as well as the Toraja sacrifice a water buffalo for the spirits of their deceased.

Muddy trips

Walking in the Bada valley is something wet and muddy, accept for the period June to August. A jeep track connects several villages, wide footpaths the rest of them. Most small rivers have logs over them as bridges, but crossing Sungai Malei, with waters up to your waist will need some skills. Some megaliths can be reaches from the paths, but others require some walking through rice fields and sometimes through knee-deep mud. Walking through the rice fields looking for megaliths is a good lesson in irrigation techniques. You will see water buffalo's which 'ventilate' the soil of the rice fields. After plowing, the rice which is grown for 40 days is replanted. After that, a system of three wet days and three irrigated days follows, followed by harvest at the end. The four species of rice that are grown here have different growing times.

The 'tractor' of Asia

However they are not very rich, the inhabitants of the Bada valley still have a very comfortable life. The rice fields regularly bring in a surplus of rice, and coffee is grown to be sold. The area is now also growing clove and cacao-trees which are introduced by the government. An irrigation project, paid for by the government, enlarged the capacity of rice fields with about 1000 hectares in the 1990's. Agricultural experts have learned the people to plant rice more than once a year.

People who are looking for gold, which work in the different rivers and creeks, concentrate on Sungai Malei. According to a local Chinese shop, the gold brings in about half of the income of the valley. It is still dangerous however: in a flash-flood in 1986, 25 people that were sleeping on a river bank in the middle of the river were washed away and killed by a sudden flood.
Even before gold enlarged the local income, the people had enough money for taking a plane to other cities instead of walking for two days.

Picture: Ari Impohi

Cattle like waterbuffalos, oxes, horses, pigs and chicken are common in the valley. In trading, oxes have the same value as waterbuffalos (traditionally the highest valued possession in many parts of Indonesia); they are demanded for their meat as well as for their working power. Both kinds of animals are used in the rice fields to plow them, but waterbuffalos are more effective because they can also plow through deep mud, which is not possible for less strong cattle.
The water buffalo is perfect for agricultural circumstances as those in Central Sulawesi. It's reputation as the 'tractor' is well-earned. Entire hurdle, up to 24 animals, are navigated through the rice fields so they plow the fields with their feet.

The water buffalo is also used as bridal treasury at traditional marital ceremonies, which are usually followed by the service in church. However the nobility has mostly lost its privileged status by now, an aristocrat daughter is still worth twelve waterbuffalos, which each represent a kind of high sum of money. The less blue blood, the less waterbuffalos the woman is worth. When the family can't afford to bring up enough 'tractors', there is a solution for that by now. The Bada also accept money nowadays.

However the Bada valley regularly produces more rice and coffee than needed, it's not very easy to transport these products to the market in Tentana. By plane you pay for every kilogram of extra freight and other planes are too small to take freight. As long as the roads are not improved, less money is earned with exporting products and more money has to be paid for importing other products. This is branding to the more remote areas of Indonesia.

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