According to tradition and culture of the people of Malagasy, they believe that the spirit of the dead does not leave the immediately thus settling with the left of the deceased and it is mandated that the family will treat their dead ones with care till the spirit passes into another afterlife after the body must have mixed with the earth.
The Malagasy tribe are the Austronesian ethnic group of the island country of Madagascar which are in two subgroups: the “Highlander” – The Merina
Sihanaka and Betsileo of the central Highlands around Antananarivo, Alaotra and Fianarantsoa, and the Coastal Dwellers elsewhere in the country.
The Famadihana Festival which usually occur in every five to seven years comes up mostly in the dry winter season – June – September and can stay up to a week since to them, is the most important ceremony of the people.
Famadihana which mean “the turning of the ancestors’ bodies”.
It is a sacred ritual-cum-family reunion in which the family and relatives unwrap the burial garments covering the corpses before wrapping them back in a fresh silk shrouds.
The celebration starts with the guests coming in, drinking, greetings, and dancing with their forebears while the festival closes at sunset when the bodies are returned to the tomb facing upside down while the crypt is closed till the next five or seven years.
The drummers, and group of people playing trumpet, and flutes “Sodina” escorts the villagers to the village tomb.
This sacred practice reportedly began in the 1820s after the repatriation of soldiers’ debris and it gained popularity during the tomb transfer after the building of tombs in stones using kiln. Although it went on decline due to the early missionaries that discouraged the practice calling it devilish and outdated and the government of Malagasy happened to forbid the practice to be extended to any individual lost through plague, even though reports had it that the people still ignore the order.
During the ceremony of Famadihana, people are invited to eat the local meal of “Varibemenaka” made of rice and beef which sometimes can be substituted with pork.
They believe that it was on this occasion that children gets to meet and unite with their ancestors.
The first day of the celebration – the Fidirana – “The entry day,” while the second – “the wrapping day” is known as the “Famonosana.”