February-March: enthralling Pasola Jousting Festivals 2017 on Sumba Island

3 Feb 2017

The most thrilling annual traditional war games will yet again be held on Sumba Island, East Nusa Tenggara, where the breath-taking Pasola Jousting Festivals will get underway in the upcoming month of February and March. Annually taking place in several villages on the island on different dates, this year the spectacular festival will be held on 18th February at the villages of Lamboya and Hamaba Kalaiyo, 20th February at Bondo Kawangu Village, 21st February at Rara Winyo Village, 17th March at Maliti Bondo Ate Village, 18th March at Waliha Villlage, and 20th March at the Wainyapu Village.


The exact dates when the staged battles will take place are determined by village elders at full moon rising sessions, known as "naalbukolo". Here the Ratonyale plays a most important role to decide on the dates. It is difficult to estimate when exactly the Pasola jousting events will be held since the fights are not only organized as entertainment but are part and parcel of, and an inseparable ritual from the local belief called Marapu.

The Pasola jousting festival takes place on a broad stretch of savannah, and is witnessed by all villagers, the Paraingu Kabisu (communities) of both competing groups and by the general public and tourists alike. During the ‘war games’, opposing teams run into each other on horseback, saddle-less, throwing blunt spears - called hola - to each other to unseat or hurt their opponents or horses. Fallen men or horses may not be attacked, but any blood flowing is believed to fertilize the soil and benefit the next harvest.

The word Pasola itself is derived from the word Sola or Hola which is the name of the blunt spears used to throw to the opposing groups of horsemen.


Image via tenunkoe

Although this tradition may seem to be full of violence, yet Pasola is about maintaining peace, not hostility. This war games are thought by some to have been invented as a sort of dispute settlement mechanism -a bellum pacificum or peaceful war through games.

The tournament forms part of the traditional Marapu belief on Sumba, where Pasola forms an inseparable part of the annual ritual, held in conjunction with the Bau Nyale ritual (similar to that in Lombok Island) or the arrival of seaworms along the shores of Sumba, which normally occurs in February and March.

Once better known as the Sandalwood Island, Sumba, in the province of East Nusatenggara, - adjoining the islands of Komodo and Flores, - Sumba Island is also known worldwide as a surfer’s paradise. The large rolling Sumba barrels usually appear between May through October when waves can be either very high and strong or very flat as breaks are directly exposed to wide open ocean swells.

Although as yet less known on the tourist map, surprisingly, the island of Sumba has a number of luxurious, well frequented resorts. The Nihiwatu Resort, for example, describes itself as “the ultimate in privacy, exclusivity, views and romance”. It is also recognized as the World’s Top Private Hotel . Additionally there is the Sumba Nautil Resort both in the south west of Sumba, another favorite with surfers.

Garuda Indonesia and other airlines have direct flights to Sumba from Jakarta and Bali.


Image Source: tenunkoe.org

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