The village of Todo in south-central Manggarai is not only one of the few opportunities to see the traditional ceremonial houses; in the past, Todo was also the center of the Manggaraian kingdom and the home of the royal clan.
The clan of Todo had been the dominant power in southern Manggarai long before the Dutch administration started to get involved in local politics. The clan leader was chosen to be King of Manggarai by the Dutch colonial government in 1930. The members of the clan claim that their ancestors came from Minangkabau in Sumatra hundreds of years ago, with a leader named Mashur.
There are many legends about the long journey of these travelers before they presumably entered Manggarai in Warloka. From there, Mashur and his people started a long myth-bound journey through Manggarai, before finally settling down in Todo. As Mashur took a wife from every village that he and his companions passed, the Todo clan now claims an extensive kinship network all over Manggarai. Expanding their influence and control over Manggarai, Mashur’s descendants had to face the animosity of the indigenous Manggaraian inhabitants. After years of strenuous warfare, many of the Manggaraian dalu – the territories under the local leaders before the Dutch administration – were subdued by the royal Todo clan.
In the past, there used to be nine mbaru niang (‘drum houses’) around the compang, the village’s ritual center. Unfortunately, the condition of the houses deteriorated, and by 1980 the houses were ruined forever. With the support of a resident priest who regretted the decay of the local cultural heritage, the reconstruction of one mbaru niang was taken up again in 1992. Today this icon can be enjoyed in its full original beauty.
You can begin village exploration from Watu Todo next to the big waringin tree. This ritual stone is the village’s guardian and symbolizes its power. From there, a stony path will lead you past a set of old British cannons, before you enter the compang, a circular construction made of stones and rocks.
From there, you are only a footstep away from entering the ceremonial house. The mbaru niang is conical shaped and has a massive palm-fiber roof that almost reaches to the ground. The wood-piles along the entrance are nicely carved. Inside the house you find the ritual heirloom drums and gongs. The smallest and most valuable drum, also called gendang tutung, or ‘mother drum’, is stored in a separate place.
The story is that this drum is partly made out of the skin of a young girl who was killed by her jealous suitors. Because it is so special, it will only be taken out its place for special adat ceremonies – or for desperately curious visitors who are willing to pay a high amount ofmoney to see the sacred object.
How to get there
Todo Village is situated southwest of Ruteng. The 36km trip to Todo takes about two hours by car or motorbike. From Ruteng, head north to Golo Lusang. After having passed by Golo Cala, turn right to Pongkor. Pass through Papang and Ulungali Village. From there, cross Wae Mese River over the long bridge and pass through Popo Village before ending up in Todo. Public transport from Ruteng to Todo (oto kayu or bemo, and minibuses) starts from Mena Bus Terminal in Ruteng and will take about 2 1/2 – 3 hours.
It is also possible to get there by motorbike, but be aware that the last part of the road is quite a challenge. Take the main road west for about 30km, then follow the sign to a small, rugged road and enjoy the views over river valleys and rice terraces on the way to the village.