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Pasola Festival at Sumba

Pasola Festival is the name of war ritual festival at Western Sumbanese by two different groups of men from different clans or tribes. The festival is played by throwing wooden spears to each other group while riding a horse. It is a game that requires a high skill at horse riding and spear throwing skill.

The festival occurs during February in Lamboya and Kodi. The main activity starts several days after the full moon and coincides with the yearly arrival to the shore of strange, and multihued sea worms – Nyale. The precise date of the event decided by Rato during the Wulapodu (the month of Pasola the fasting month).

Pasola is derived from the word Sola or Hola meaning a kind of a long wooden stick used as a spear to fling each other by two opponent groups of horsemen. The horses use for this ritual are usually ridden by braves and skilled selected men wearing traditional customs. In its wider and deeper meanings Pasola really not only is something worth looking on but also is something worth appreciating, for there are still other elements bound tightly behind it.

It ends up in a bloody game when the wooden spear hit the bare flesh of the participant. In the Sumbanese ancient beliefs, the spilled blood will fertilize the land and multiply the output of the paddy. Religiously speaking, the ritual battle of Pasola, is “essentially a fertility rite. Like the cock-fight, it is designed to shed blood on the earth”. Likewise the people of Sumba, within their religious traditions are “believers of the spirits of nature and their ancestors”.

Antonio Casella