SUMBA, TRIBAL HEARTLAND
Sumba was formerly known as Sandalwood Island. It is one of the most culturally interesting regions of East Nusa Tenggara with its age-old megalithic tombs, its traditional high roofed houses on stilts, it’s beautiful ikat (hand-woven Sumba textile), sandalwood, horses and its untouched beautiful beaches.
The island has extensive grassland, making it one of Indonesia’s leading horse-breeding islands. Horses are popular not only as transport in the more rugged regions they are also a symbol of wealth and status and have traditionally been used as part of the bridal dowry.
Sumba Island is not on the tourist path due to lack of tourist facilities and accommodation of international standards. However, the visitors who do make it there find Sumba a delightful destination of rich ancient culture and a landscape reminiscent of outback Australia with small scattered villages and herds of buffalo basking in the bright sunshine.
The island is divided into West Sumba and East Sumba. About two-thirds of the islands 540,000 population live in Western Sumba where traditional beliefs and ancestral and spirit worship hold sway. The region is famous for the Pasola, a war ritual where hundreds of horsemen battle each other with spears. Here are also huge megalithic tombs and traditional thatched and peaked huts built on stilts.
Many traditional activities, all related to paying homage to the spirits, take place in the month of July through October. These include the building of Adapt houses and burial ceremonies when sometimes pigs, water buffalo, horses and dogs are sacrificed.
East Sumba, on the other hand, is famous for ikat weaving, handicrafts of Lontar leaves and sandalwood carvings and sasando – traditional musical instruments. It has a fine beach – Kuta Beach near Waingapu – that is ideal for swimming and sea sports. There is also great surfing at Kalala Beach, about 125 kilometers from Waingapu, with the best waves from December to May.
MAP & TRAVEL REGIONS :
PLACES TO GO, THINGS TO DO AROUND SUMBA
This is an event not to be missed for visitors to Sumba. It is a spectacular war ritual, which sees two teams of fighters on horses throwing wooden spears at each other. The ritual may end up bloody when the wooden spear hits the bare flesh of the participants. In the Sumbanese ancient beliefs, the spilled blood fertilizes the land and multiplies the output of the rice fields.
The festival is staged in four different districts in West Sumba to celebrate the rice-planting season, and usually takes place in February and March. The exact date and time depend on the arrival of the small Nyale fish to the coast. The priests will study the fish and from its behavior predict the outcome of the harvest. When this is done the Pasola festival begins. The fights usually start on the beach and then move further inland.