Exploring Sumba is like reading a novel since the island has so many old stories and traditions. Most of them still remain and are still preserved until today. We can see the most well-known traditions of Sumba; Marapu - worship tradition, Pasola - the ancient war ritual, and Wulla Poddu - the bitter month ritual. But wait...there is another nickname for Sumba given by the archaeologists which is The Living Megalithic Culture. It is not an exaggeration as megalithic culture has existed since 4,500 years ago and is still preserved by several tribes in Sumba.
If you travel to Sumba, don't miss a chance to see the megalithic tombs which become one of the cultures of Sumbanese people. They can be found anywhere, almost in each corner. In every traditional villages, by the side of the road, even in the courtyard of the Police office as well as in the Bupati's home office there must be a thing called Batu Kubur
(megalithic tombs). Those tombs are very unique and most of them were made with high artistic value and....high cost for sure! Each region has their own distinctiveness in decorating the tomb.
Sumbanese people believe in the concept of life after death, therefore, they could never stay far from relatives who had died and they set up batu kubur
right in front of their homes. Sumbanese traditional house and megalithic tombs are inseparable, will always be a package. In this case, people consider house as residential homes for the alive people while tombs are regarded as places for those who had died.
In Sumba, megalithic tombs are always constructed in large sizes as a form of respect to the ancestors as well as a reflection of the greatness of their owners. The tombs symbolized the social status of the owners.
For instance, in West Sumba there are large stone shaped tombs which are propped up by four legs stone table. The table topped with a stone that has been carved with various ornaments. Generally, this kind of tombs are usually dedicated for the Kings and nobilities of Sumba. Local people call it Watu pawa'i
. However, this Watu pawa'i megalith is not always built to be used as tomb, some are even built as monuments only.
The simplest megalithic tomb is called Watumanyoba
, only made of stone slab with no legs to prop and placed directly on the ground. There are various models of Watumanyoba; rectangular plates, square plates, oval plates, etc. And it is commonly used for all the commoners.
The megalithic tomb ornaments pattern in Sumba is generally shaped in three-dimensional sculptures and some also come with two-dimensional reliefs. There are also patterns which represent historical figures, animals or geometric patterns from newest era. The development of Sumba's megalithic patterns is strongly influenced by religious beliefs and the status of its owner. The wealthier the people, the more luxurious their stone tombs.
According to one of the archaeologists, Sumba megalithic tomb decorative patterns is the only patterns that really represent prehistoric times of living megalithic culture.
Other tribes in Indonesia also have this kind of megalithic culture such as Nias, Sabu, Flores and Timor but only Sumba that applies beautiful three-dimensional sculptures and reliefs.
But there is an interesting thing about this megalithic tradition. Although Sumbanese people keep firm hold on the their traditions and culture, a touch of modernization has begun to appear. In some villages in Sumba, there are tombs that made of more modern materials such as ceramic or marble tiles. Again, it shows the owner social status.
Cultures, Traditions, Beliefs....that's all about Sumba. The island that is full of prehistoric cultures and began gradually reconciled with the changing times. Ancestral traditions that have been passed down for centuries have started to be influenced by the lifestyle and the culture that comes from outside of their lives. However, the young generations of Sumba keep respectful to the ancestral beliefs on their life.
Hopefully their beliefs and cultures remain intact despite an onslaught of foreign cultures.
What is your opinion on the above megalithic culture? Have you ever seen one? [no_toc]
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