Archipelago diaries |

Sacred Indigenous Festivals Across Indonesia

Archipelago Diaries | 27 July 2018

Indonesia has more than 300 ethnic groups, or 1,340 indigenous tribes. This diversity makes Indonesia one of the richest cultures in the world. The cultural representations on the international stage make the traditional events a unique tourist attraction.

Lembah Baliem Culture Festival is one of the most intriguing and exotic festivals in Indonesia.
Photo courtesy of Pesona Indonesia/NOW!JAKARTA

In collaboration with local governments and the Ministry of Tourism, a number of religious events and ceremonies have been introduced to the public through festivals, some of them incredible authentic. NOW!JAKARTA highlights a few traditional festivals:

Lembah Baliem Festival, Papua
Lembah Baliem Culture Festival is one of the most intriguing festivals in Indonesia. Hundreds of indigenous Papuan men from different tribes fight in traditional uniform (koteka and headgear) and paint their faces with white powder.

Lembah Baliem by Garda Nasional.

Held in the mountains, the festival takes place over three days and includes tribal war attractions and the indigenous cultures of Lembah Baliem, the old mountain region of Papua.

Pasola Festival, Sumba
Pasola is part of a series of traditional ceremonies to welcome the harvest and planting period on the island of Sumba, West Nusa Tenggara. Held in four villages in West Sumba, Pasola is a game war using a horse and a spear as a weapon.

Pasola Festival by David Metcalf

Although Pasola's peak appears to be violent, this tournament is part of Marapu's traditional beliefs in Sumba, where Pasola is an integral part of annual rituals held alongside Bau Nyale rituals (similar to Lombok Island) or the arrival of snow storms along the coast of Sumba. Read the story of Pasola Festival by Stephanie Brookes and David Metcalf.

Dieng Festival, Wonosobo
The event is held by the Central Java Tourism Office and the residents of Dieng Plateau, in August. The main attraction of Dieng Festival is the ritual of the cutting of  dreadlocks, fireworks festival, 5000 flying lanterns, Jazz di Atas Awan (Jazz in the clouds), film festivals, and performances of traditional art.

Dreadlock cutting ceremony at Dieng Festival by gettyimages.

Reog Ponorogo Festival, Ponorogo
This festival originated in Ponorogo, where the city becomes the home of Reog, a group of performances where people use traditional costumes and gigantic tiger or peacock masks. Reog Festival is typically organised to welcome the Islamic new year.

Reog Ponorogo by Indonesia Travel.

The National Reog Festival is held in the Ponorogo City Square which showcases the series of performances that creates a narrative. The interesting part about Ponorogo is the spiritual and its astral involvement when the players act rather like they are ‘possessed’.

Rambu Solo Festival, Toraja
Rambu Solo is a funeral ceremony in Tana Toraja, Sulawesi. This customary ritual leads the deceased’s spirit to the spirit realm. The ceremony creates a mystical atmosphere and is often filled with foreign tourist visiting Toraja. Buffalo slaughter or Mantunu is part of the Rambu Solo ceremony where around 24 to 100 buffalo are slaughtered to signify death.Ra

Rambu Solo Ceremony by Indonesia Travel.

Tabuik Festival, Pariaman
Pariaman city, West Sumatra is home to the traditional Minangkabau, a tribe in West Sumatra. Pariaman has a unique festival,Tabuik, a customary ritual which involves two community groups, Pasa and Subarang. During the Islamic month of Muharram, Pariaman society makes a tabuik (the embodiment of a legend named Buraq who carried a coffin on his back).

Tabuik Festival by Visit Pariaman

According to local mythology, Buraq is a half human and half horse creature. In keeping with Islamic tradition, people of Pariaman Minangkabau celebrate Tabuik near the beach in coastal areas as they gather to commemorate the day of Imam Hussein’s death or Asyura’s warning which falls on the tenth day in the month of Muharram.

Gawai Festival, Dayak
This traditional festival was held originally based on the mythology surrounding the God of rice which is popular among the Dayak tribes in West Kalimantan. In the gawai Festival, several ceremonies take place in the city and lamin (long house).

Gawai Festival by David Metcalf.

The offerings of food are dedicated to the god of rice for the sake of good harvest. There is a poet who reads a special incantation for this ceremony and sheds the blood of a rooster on the offering materials. Read the story of Gawai Fetsival by Stephanie Brookes and David Metcalf.

Yadnya Kasada Ceremony, Tengger
Inherited by legends of Roro Anteng and Joko Seger, Yadnya Kasada or (Kasodo) is one of the largest annual rituals of the original tribe of Tengger in Bromo. During full moon, Tengger Hindus throw offerings to the crater of Mount Bromo, including vegetables, fruits, livestock, and money.

Yadnya Kasada Ceremony by Indonesia Travel.

All of that is a form of gratitude for the welfare that is considered given by Mount Bromo throughout the year to the surrounding community.