PASOLA: WARRIORS, HORSES, AND BLOOD Muhammad Fadli


Isolated at the remote southernmost part of the Indonesian archipelago, Sumba is the kind of place where everything it possesses are seemed out of place of our time. Sumbanese men refuse to leave home without machete hanging on their ikat; chewing betel nut is the thing that cheers them the most; and the megalith culture of ancient belief called Marapu still find its place very much within the Sumbanese heart despite being registered mostly as Christian. 

The way the Sumbanese fertile their land seems out of place too. And it is through one of the bloodiest tradition in Asia that notoriously came to be known as Pasola. Held annually within February and March at villages around West and Southwest Sumba, Pasola represents two battling sides of horsemen galloping at full speed and throwing spears at each other. This is a remembrance of Sumba not so distant past, where warriors from a certain village fight againts another on the horseback. Nowadays, it is both ritual and extreme sport practiced at the same time.

Like Christmas, the day when the Pasola about to commence is one of the most anticipated time for the Sumbanese. The schools usually will be suspended for few days so the children can appreciate their own culture. Families will visit the village of their origin to pay homage for the dead relatives, while pig, chicken, and dog are slaughtered to feed them all. On the final day, dressed at their best, thousand of spectators will pack at the edge of the grass field shouting at their celebrated warriors.

Pasola possesses a real danger toward its participants. Although death is very much a rarity nowadays, thanks to the introduction of the blunt spear in the early 80s, fatal injuries still do occurs. But rather than viewed as a bad occurrence, the Sumbanese believe any bloodshed will guarantee a good upcoming harvest. Thus, there will be no revenge between the participant after Pasola ended. Borrowing what is written in Lawrence Blair book based on his Indonesian adventure titled Ring of Fire, “Pasola probably one of the few ancient festival where ones can witness a glimpse of our earliest beginnings and the origin of war, where the warrior still looks his opponent in the eyes.”

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