Marapu religion in Sumba

Marapu : Ancestral Belief of Sumba

Omri Ben-Canaan Culture and Traditions in Sumba

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Marapu is a "living faith" which is still embraced by native Sumbanese in Sumba island, Indonesia. Sumbanese people who still adhere to the Marapu belief or "the teachings of the ancestors" always do ritual ceremonies and celebrations to accompany the various step of their lives. This belief is symbolized by rituals, celebration ceremonies and sacrifices in honor of The Life Creator - God as well as their ancestors.

sumba-indonesia-marapu-stone-statueMarapu in Sumba language means "The Royal Highness" mainly to refer to the spirits of their ancestors. Marapu for the people of Sumba in real world is represented and symbolized by sacred symbols such as gold or silver jewelry (but also statue or urn) named Tanggu Marapu. Those sacred symbols are stored in Pangiangu Marapu, at the top of the uma bokulu (Sumbanese house made of bamboo). Although Sumbanese people have many Marapu which names are often called, praised and even asked for help but they don't deny the existence of the God. Main purpose of the worship ceremony is not only for praising the spirits of their ancestors, but also to praise Mawulu Tau-Majii Tau (God) as the life and human creator. Recognition of the God's existence is usually expressed in some proverbs. And that can be done only in special occasions. In Marapu belief, God doesn't take part in any worldly matters and is considered as an abstract subject. Therefore, Marapu adherents are prohibited to mention God's name. The Marapu itself is considered as an intermediary between man and God. The status and role of Marapu is glorified and trusted as lindi papakalangu – ketu papajolangu which means linkage between man and God. Almost all aspects of Sumbanese people's lives are influenced by religion. Marapu is the core of their culture as source of their values, life philosophy, as well as having a major influence on their lives. Marapu is also something the people (native Sumbanese people) couldn't live without. They believe man is part of the universe and inseparable.

sumba-indonesia-marapu-sacrificesTo Sumbanese people, man's life must always be adapted to the rhythm of the universe. And people should always manage a good correlation between man and nature. Moreover, people should also maintain a balanced relationship with all supernatural powers that exist in every part of the universe. If they always maintain good relationship and cooperation between man and nature, then nature will also be kind to all human beings in the universe. This belief also applies to the relationship among alive people with their ancestral spirits.

The alive people are obliged to stay inline with their ancestral belief, to keep the linkage with their ancestral spirits. Sumbanese people believe that the ancestral spirits will always supervise them and punish their descendants if they dare to break any nuku-hara (rules) so the balance between man and nature is disrupted. To restore the imbalance caused by human activities to their natural surrounding, they must carry out various ceremonies. marapu-sumba-indonesiaThe ancestral traditions which were handed down over the centuries along with the way of life of Sumbanese people, nowadays begin to be influenced by outsider values. Younger generation has now gained a new perspective which is very much different from the traditions handed down by their ancestors.

Actually in other parts of Indonesia there are also some tribes and ethnic groups that are still embracing the same kind of animist or ancestral belief such as Sunda Wiwitan / Buhun (in West Java), Kaharingan (in Kalimantan), Pelebegu Nias (in North Sumatra), Wetu Telu (in Lombok)  and Tolotang (in South Sulawesi). However as time goes and technology advances, those beliefs are no longer followed by the inhabitants. Perhaps only native and older people are still adhering the beliefs. Moreover, animist religion or belief is not recognized by the government, as the Pancasila requires the belief in the supreme deity or monotheism - we have only one God. Indonesian law recognizes six official religions only: Islam, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, Hindu, as well as Confucian.

How do you think we should be dealing with animistic religion like Marapu? Does animism also exist in your country? [no_toc] Interested into investing in real-estate in Sumba ? Check out these Lands for Sale in Sumba