Sumba and Lombok Bau Nyale

Bau Nyale : Sea Worms Hunting Festival…between Sumba and Lombok

Omri Ben-Canaan Culture and Traditions in Sumba

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Basically, Bau Nyale is a very famous catching sea worms tradition in Lombok - West Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia, which falls around February each year and celebrated by the Sasak people. Bau in the Lombok language means "to-catch" and Nyale is a type of sea worm that surfaces only around this time of the year. Therefore, Bau Nyale is the festive ceremony when large crowds catch the Nyale along a number of Lombok's finest beaches. The Sasak people are the dominant ethnic group inhabiting Lombok. And the Bau Nyale ceremony is a ritual where glorious tradition meets enchanting scenery.

Traditionally, celebrations take place at a designated place agreed by the Sasak leader and the local government. Bau Nyale is most often held along the Kaliantan Beach, at the Pemongkong village, in the Jerowaru district of East Lombok. 

bau-nyale-festival-lombok-sumbaBut don't be mistaken! Nyale also exists in West Sumba. Really? Yes, there's a Nyale tradition too at West Sumba, East Nusa Tenggara. Though the name of the tradition is similar but both Lombok and Sumba have different purposes and ways of celebrating the Nyale. In Lombok, Nyale tradition commemorates the appearance of Princess Mandalika who became Nyale. In Sumba, the Nyale ritual is held to predict the coming harvest.

Normally, the ritual is taking place between February and March just before the Pasola Jousting Festival. To welcome the Nyale usually people in West Sumba have to do various rituals some months before. One of the rituals should be conducted in each inhabitant's house, the night before the ceremony performed. Several rituals performed are, for instance, chicken cutting and making ketupat. These rituals are closely related to the activities of Pasola to see the good and bad luck of someone who will participate in Pasola - the ancient war ritual. sumba-ritual The priest (called Rato) will take a look into the roasted chicken and ketupat. If blood is still flowing from the chicken intestine and ketupat is overcooked then people will believe it as a bad sign. That is their family members who participate in Pasola, will receive hazards such as sustained injuries or even death. As the night wore on, the Rato who is in charge for the ritual go to the sea to observe the appearance of the full moon. Usually this ritual is done by praying on the tomb stone and facing toward the full moon. By facing toward the moon, Rato ensures the accuracy and position of the moon, as well as the state of the ocean waves on that day. The Rato priest is responsible to check the appearance of the Nyale worms and makes predictions for the coming harvest. bau-nyale-tradition Once Nyale (sea worms) already seen, all the people who had gathered since early morning can start the hunt. They usually celebrate Nyale ceremony at Wanokaka beach, West Sumba. The number of Nyale (sea worms) appearing on that day will determine the fate of all the villagers, the crops result, reduced pest and whether they will live in fortune. A good catch is a sign that this year’s rice harvest will also be good. They believe that the more you catch the wealthier your life is. Nyale are traditionally associated with fertility, and as part of a ritualized ceremony, the sea worms are ground up and placed in irrigation channels around fields to help ensure a good harvest. sumba-lombok-nyale-sea-wormAfterward the Nyale would be cooked and consumed by the villagers. Even they do not hesitate to eat them alive. The raw Nyale is considered having much more nutrition especially protein than the cooked ones. Nyale are sometimes also steamed, fried, or made into Pepes Nyale by the local people. In this popular local specialty, the Nyale are mixed with coconut and spices, then wrapped in a banana leaf and roasted over the fire. sumba-lombok-pepes-nyale This tradition is so exciting...hope someday I can attend and see the ritual! What about you? Have you ever witnessed this sea worms catching festival? And wanna try the delicious Nyale in Sumba? [no_toc]   Interested into investing in real-estate in Sumba ? Check out these Lands for Sale in Sumba