Pasola, asking for blessings from Sumba spirit ancestral

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(Photo: Pramitha Hendra)

IO – This traditional war game, called Pasola, consists of two groups of horsemen who throw javelins (wood­en spears) at a savannah. Etymolog­ically, Pasola comes from the word ‘sola’ or ‘hola’ which means wooden spear or javelin. After getting a “pa” to “pasola” or “pahola” affix, it means it becomes a game of dexterity using a javelin.

According to local stories, this unique tradition was born from the love story of a beautiful widow named Rabu Kaba. Before becoming a widow, Rabu Kaba was the legal wife of Umbu Dula, one of the three Waiwuang leaders.

His two other brothers named Ngongo Tau Masusu and Yagi Waikareri. The three brothers then said good-bye to the residents of Waiwuang, and left to go to work in a distant place.

They traveled to the southern area of East Sumba Beach to collect rice, but the three siblings never re­turned. Residents went searching for their tracks but they found nothing. Finally, the residents agreed to hold a mourning ceremony, assuming the three siblings had died.

Long story short, the beautiful widow of the late Umbu Dulla eventu­ally started up a love affair with Teda Gaiparona, a handsome young man from Kodi Village. However, because customary rules forbade their rela­tionship, the two lovers eloped and fled from the village. The beautiful widow was taken by Teda Gaiparona to Kodi Village.

Shortly after the elopement, the three brothers, Ngongo Tau Masusu, Yagi Waikareri, and Umbu Dula sur­prisingly showed up at Waiwuang Vil­lage; they soon heard the news that Rabu Kaba had been taken away by Teda Gaiparona.

Conflicts are inevitable. The three siblings, together with all the resi­dents of Waiwuang, demanded Teda Gaiparona take responsibility for taking away Rabu Kaba. Finally, an agreement was hammered out, by which Teda Gaiparona had to re­place the belis (dowry) received by the beautiful widow from the family of Umbu Dulla.

Only after this was completed, then the customary marriage could be implemented. After the marriage, Teda Gaiparona ordered that resi­dents to carry out a Pasola ritual, by which it was hoped that the grudge between the two villages could be released with war games and agility competition of throwing javelins from horses.

The implementation of the Pasola Tradition itself is actually part of the ritual of the Marapu belief (the local religion of the people of Sumba). In the Marapu belief system, the most important element is maintaining harmony between humans and their ancestors, as the spirits of the an­cestors will bring them fertility and prosperity. Well, the Pasola game is usually held as the culmination of the Nyale Traditional Festival, which is a ceremony to ask for the blessings of the gods and the ancestral spirits, so that the harvest of the year will be successful. (Pramitha Hendra)