The Central Lombok regency administration in West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) is gearing up for the Bau Nyale Festival, a folk celebration that celebrates the annual appearance of nyale sea worms at Seger Beach in Kuta village, Pujut district.
“We have prepared a series of events and the supporting infrastructure [has been put in place] at the location. This year the Bau Nyale Festival, held on March 3 and 4, is expected to draw more than 50,000 people,” Central Lombok Tourism Office head Lalu Putria told The Jakarta Post recently.
For the people of Lombok, the Bau Nyale Festival is an age-old tradition that is closely related to the legend of Princess Mandalika.
According to legend, Tunjung Beru kingdom’s Princess Mandalika was a very beautiful woman. Her father, King Seg held a contest for men to fight over his daughter for her hand in marriage.
“Mandalika was against the fighting and bloodshed between the kingdoms in her name. So she dived into the sea, advising the community in Lombok to live in peace. Mandalika also said that she would return on the 20th of the 10th month of the Sasak calendar.
It so happened that on that long-awaited date only the glowing nyale worms could be seen and so the people believed the worms to be the incarnation of Princess Mandalika,” said Putria.
Seger Beach has always been the venue of the festival because the princess is believed to have disappeared into the sea there.
This year, the 20th of the 10th month of Sasak falls between March 3 and 4 and the nyale worms will leave their habitat in the coral reefs between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. local time, during low tide.
Even up to the current day, the community on Lombok believe that if a person catches a worm, it bestows positivity and good luck upon their life. According to the legend, a woman could become as beautiful as Mandalika if she eats the worm, while men are blessed with vigor. The nyale worm can be eaten raw or cooked.
The Central Lombok regency administration has set up special tents for use by guests during the event in anticipation of the large number of visitors.
Visitors can also attend a series of events during the festival this year, such as a cultural parade, which will involve thousands of participants from 139 villages across 12 districts in Central Lombok, all dressed in Sasak traditional attire and accompanied by traditional Gendang Beleq music.
Although the event is focused on Seger Beach, the Bau Nyale tradition is also undertaken on nearly all of the beaches along the southern coast of Lombok Island, stretching 99 kilometers to the southern coast of East Lombok.
Putria said Lombok International Airport in Pujut district, Central Lombok, would facilitate foreign and domestic arrivals. The number of tourists arriving for the festival, he added, had increased from 180,000 in 2011 to 257,000 in 2012 since the Lombok International Airport was opened in 2010.