Indonesian Pasola Festival: Fast Horses and Throwing Spears
The most famous festival of the Nusa Tenggara Province (part of the Lesser Sunda group of islands) of Indonesia is the Pasola Festival in West Sumba. Held in four different areas of Sumba Island, the Pasola is part of a series of rituals connected with the commencement of the planting season. The start of the festival is determined by the arrival of a worm called Nyale in the sea. A priest, or rato, will examine the early arriving Nyale and announce that the Pasola will soon start, generally about 6-8 days after the full moon. The Pasola is performed by two groups of men riding their horses at full gallop brandishing spears. It is a test of horsemanship and courage. Luckily the government has required that the spears are blunt.
An unusual feature of the Pasola is that when the game is complete no winner or loser is declared. The Pasola takes place in Lamboya in February and in Wanokaka in March —both interesting places to visit in West Sumba.
Sumba is unique from other places in Indonesia for another reason: their culture of animist beliefs and ancestral worship has remained unaffected by the influences of Islam and Hinduism as in other parts of this sprawling island nation. This area is also famous for its traditional villages with houses that have very peculiar steep roofs, megalithic (ancient stone) tombs and the traditional art of ikat, hand woven fabric with intricate patterns. East Sumba is the center of many of Indonesia’s most beautiful ikats.
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