The Jakarta Post
The Pasola war game ritual observed by followers of Marapu ancestral belief in West Sumba, East Nusa Tenggara, was performed in several places on Sumba Island.
The thanksgiving ritual, usually held seven days after full moon, was held, among others, in Wanokaka.
With participants on horseback throwing wooden spears, the ritual began with a long procession in Marapu traditional village.
A number of ethnic chiefs called Rato went to Wanokaka Beach in the evening of the event to see nyale, sea worms that appear once in a year on the occasion of the Pasola ceremony.
The presence of these sea worms is believed to be capable of forecasting agricultural and village conditions for the year, besides indicating the arrival of ancestral spirits to give consent to the Pasola ritual activities.
The March Pasola saw Sumba warriors competing amid downpours. Even the Nyale worms normally showing up on the Pasola Day could not be spotted on the shore.
Local people believed the anomaly of this sacred ritual resulted from its delay to avoid coinciding with Christians’ Sunday prayers. At the suggestion of the regional administration, the centuries-old Pasola observance had to be put off.
“Sumba people embracing Marapu faith believe the absence of nyale on the shore and the heavy rains during the Pasola war game were due to the violation of the exact time. The event then became just an ordinary cultural event for tourism purpose rather than a sacred ritual of Marapu adherents,” said Frans, an East Nusa Tenggara cultural activist.
Yet even without nyale, the Pasola performance on the million-horse island was very cheerful, with horse-loving Sumbanese displaying their fighting skills and valor in the spear clash arena. None of them felt they had won or lost in this “battle.”