There has existed a firm belief in close ties between the living and the dead. The belief constitutes the most fundamental foundation for Malagasy religious and social values. The idea of the dead as beings to be respected is popular in Madagascar.
Famadihana, an exhumation or the bones returning ceremony, does not occur outside the central highlands and the attitudes of the Merina and Betsileo. During the ceremony, all family members get together, dance, and sing to celebrate the turning of the dead. Famadihana is a huge familial festivity where people alive can meet the dead. They exhume their dead ancestors to re-pack their bones as well as to give thanks for the blessings they have bestowed from the spirit world with great influences on the living.
They give thanks for the blessings which they have bestowed from the spirit world. The practice of the Famadihna is an opportunity to unite the souls of the family members.
Famadihana may last several days in every seven years in any given family. Each day, the family prepares rice with fat meat which is derived from zebu cattle, for the guests. To prepare for the special feast, the Razana’s family sold zebus to save money to honor this event. It is a great feast with drinking gasoline-like rum and dancing to accordion music.
The scene was very dark except light from candles. With raffia mats tucked under their arms, young men transport the sacks of bones up from the tiny staircases of the tomb into the daylight.
The relatives of the dead tenderly stroke their shrouds, pour rum on the decomposing bones, and then re-pack the rests and bones of the Razana into new layers of Lambamena. Meanwhile, they sing songs, laugh, and cry.
The family exhumes their dead ancestors to re-wrap their bones.
The young men carry the sacks of bones up from the tiny staircases of the tomb into the daylight.
The bones can be repacked in new layers of Lambamena.
People dance in accordion music and drink gasoline-like rum.
They sing songs, laugh, and cry.
Your Beliefs – A Matter Of Life & Death
Tombs and Burial