East Nusa Tenggara: The Pasola and Nyale tradition

Pasola and Nyale tradition

The Pasola tradition is a tradition carried out by the Sumba tribe on Sumba Island, precisely in West Sumba, East Nusa Tenggara. A game of dexterity with each other throwing a javelin made of wood. Uniquely this game is carried out between two groups of horseback who are running fast. This tradition is part of the traditional ceremony of the Merapu religion (Sumba local religion) which is usually held every year between February and March in turns by four villages (Kodi, Lamboya, Wonokaka and Gaura).

The name Pasola comes from the word “Sola”. Sola is a type of wood javelin which is used to throw each other off a horse by two opposing groups. Pasola is a tradition game that combines the agility of riding a horse and throwing a javelin which is carried out as a form of welcoming the new year and harvesting in Merapu beliefs.

When the Pasola Tradition carried out?

The Pasola Tradition will begin with the Nyale Customary Ceremony which is a ritual in the belief of Merapu as a form of gratitude for the gifts that are obtained. The Nyale ceremony is marked by the arrival of the harvest season and abundant sea worms (Nyale) or out on the coast. The determination of the start of the Nyale Ritual is also very unique, there are several conditions that must be met.

At first the Rato (Tribal Leader) predicted the release of nyale in the morning, then in the afternoon by the Assembly of the Rato examined its shape and color. If the sea worms are fat and healthy and colorful, they believe it is a good sign and the harvest will succeed this year. Conversely, havoc is believed to come if the nyale obtained is thin and fragile.

Pasola held or not depends on the nyale obtained. As for the implementation, Pasola took place in a wide expanse of fields witnessed by all residents from both competing groups and the general public. The Pasola tradition has now become a unique entertainment that is able to attract many Aasing and local tourists who all enliven it.

Pasola was followed by more than 100 young men from each group, they were armed with a spear tipped with a diameter of 1.5 cm. Although blunt, this game cannot be separated from the victims. The matter is believed in Merapu’s belief, that the victim has received punishment from God for having made a mistake or sin.

Pasola’s game is very interesting, here the audience can see first-hand the Sumba Knights who are facing each other which then spur the horse agile while throwing a javelin at the enemy. The knights deftly avoided the opponent’s javelin.

The event was increasingly noisy by the whinny and thumping of thunderous hooves and shouts of participants and spectators. Uniquely if there is blood flowing, it is considered beneficial for soil fertility, which means the harvest will be successful. As for death, it is believed that there had previously been a violation of adat norms.

The Pasola tradition is not just mere entertainment. This is a cultural heritage which is a form of devotion and obedience to the ancestors. A religious culture as an expression of the core religiosity of Merapu religion. Besides that, it also functions as an interwoven fraternity of the Sumbanese community, especially between the two groups of participants.

Furthermore Pasola is also an expression of gratitude and expression of community joy associated with abundant harvests. With the growing popularity of this tradition, the progress of Sumba tourism has also increased. This attraction has become a magnet that can attract tourists to visit Sumba, both local and foreign tourists.

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