Pasola and more about Sumba Weave

Pasola & Wastra Sumba

From the previous article, we have discussed the traditional Sumba wedding customs and traditional Sumba funerals. Let us discuss more about the traditions and culture in East Sumba, Pasola & Sumba Weave. In East Sumba, weaving is one of the most striking figurative ikat produced anywhere. Here, the big hinggi is woven in pairs and worn as a loincloth and shoulder wrap by the men of East Sumba. The most important of these weaving villages is Prailiu which is located just outside Waingapu. Pau, known for its famous lungsi weaving, Rende and other villages near Melolo, and Kaliuda on the southeast coast, where the hinggi design is in traditional lateral stripes and characteristically features horses and roosters. Horses are a great feature on Sumba, have been exported as cavalry mounts for colonial soldiers, cherished by Sumbanese people, ridden on Pasola which we will tell you in more detail about it in this article.


Pasola is one of the customs where we can see the diversity of Sumba wastra, but at this traditional event there is no exchange of Sumba cloth. Pasola is a battle held on the southwest coast of Sumba regarding the rice planting season. The pasola tradition combines horse riding and javelin throwing skills which are held to welcome the new year in Marapu belief and the harvest.

Sola + Hola = Pasola

Pasola comes from the word “sola” or “hola” which means a type of wooden javelin which is used to throw one another from a horse that is being driven fast by two opposing groups. After getting the affix “pa” it means to be a game. So Pasola is part of a series of traditional ceremonies carried out by the Sumbanese people who still adhere to the original religion called Marapu. Marapu is a local religion followed by the people of Sumba.

Pasola games were held in four villages in the West Sumba district. The four villages are Kodi, Lamboya, Wonokaka, and Gaura. The Pasola in the four villages is carried out in rotation, from February to March each year.

The Story of Pasola

Pasola itself has a history that comes from the folklore of Sumba. According to this story, Pasola started as a beautiful widow named Rabu Kaba in Waiwuang Village. Rabu Kaba has a husband named Umbu Amahu, one of the leaders in Waiwuang village. Apart from Umbu Amahu, there were two other leaders named Ngongo Tau Masusu and Bayang Amahu.

One time, these three leaders told the colors of Waiwuang that they were going to sea. However, they went to the south coast of West Sumba to collect rice. The residents waited for the three leaders for a long time, but they had not yet returned to their villages. The residents thought that their three leaders had died, so the residents held mourning. In this sadness, the beautiful widow of the late Umbu Dula, Rabu Kaba, was caught in an affair with Teda Gaiparona who came from Kodi Village. However, the families of Rabu Kaba and Teda Gaiparona did not approve of their marriage, so they had a runaway. Teda Gaiparona took the widow to her hometown.

Later, the three leaders of Waiwuang residents returned, namely Ngongo Tau Masusu, Bayang Amahu, and Umbu Amahu who had previously been considered dead. Umbu Amahu is looking for his wife who has been brought by Teda Gaiparono. Even though the residents of Waiwuang were found, Rabu Kaba, who had kept her romance with Teda Gaiparona, did not want to return. Then, Rabu Kaba asked Teda Gaiparona to take responsibility for replacing the “belis” received from the Umbu Dulla family.


Belis” is related to Sumba traditional marriage which can be read in the previous article. “Belis” is the amount of value that the taker of his wife gives to his future wife, such as giving horses, cows, buffaloes, and other valuables. Teda Gaiparona then agreed and paid for the replacement belis. After all the purchases were paid off, a wedding ceremony for the Rabu Kaba  with Teda Gaiparona were held. At the end of the wedding, Umbu Dulla’s family advised the residents of Waiwuang to hold a “nyale” party in the form of  pasola to forget about their sadness at losing their beautiful widow, Rabu Kaba. That is the folk tale of Pasola.

Pasola Now

To this day, people come from various regions to witness the ceremony and rejoice. Everyone wore their best clothes to honor the rice goddess. The village which is the host is administratively divided into two parts, namely the top and the bottom. Men from lower villages will face off against men from upper villages. Clad in beautiful weaving wastra and sitting on handsome Sumba horses, they start throwing spears at each other in the form of a traditional war that ends in a series situation to show balance in society as well as balance in the universe. Participants can be injured, but it is seen as an accident for which there is no need for revenge.

The Pasola event will last for one full day and is the main attraction for tourists on Sumba. It is not only an attraction for tourists but also a form of devotion and obedience to their ancestors. It is a religious culture that reveals the essence of the religiosity of the Marapu religion. Where Pasola becomes the bond of brotherhood between the two groups that participate in the Pasola and for the general public. Pasola depicts gratitude and expressions of joy for the local community, because of the bountiful harvest.

Pasola can be used as a milestone for the progress of Sumba tourism because this cultural attraction is well known by many foreign tourists. This can be seen in every Pasola event there are always foreign tourists who come. This cultural heritage is an asset that must be passed down from generation to generation.

Video about Pasola © CNN Indonesia

Sumba Wastra

Wastra in the eastern and western parts of Sumba has very clear differences in types and techniques. Wastra from East Sumba often uses depictions of various animals, human figures and contains scenes from colorful traditional ceremonies. Meanwhile, West Sumba often uses motifs derived from common objects used in everyday life. Some of the motifs used to decorate the wastra are also important components of ritual exchange.

Symbols in Sumba Wastra / Ikat

Let us begin to discuss further the symbols used in Sumba wastra. We start with horses. Horses are an important symbol for the people of Sumba, where the past was when they were bred for trade. There is also a sea horse which is used in Sumba wastra.

Weaving will continue to play an important role in culture and customs in Sumba. This important role cannot be separated from the ritual of exchanging goods, where items such as wastra, mamuli, ivory bracelets are exchanged for items in the form of gold jewelry, swords, buffalo, and horses. The quality and quantity of goods exchanged indicate the high honor the giver has towards the recipient. Weddings, funerals and tourism are the main drivers of Sumba’s weaving industry today. Without wastra, the marriage cannot take place, the deceased cannot rest in peace, and the tourism industry will not be profitable.

Weaving and wearing wastra was originally only the right of the aristocrats. Nowadays, it can be owned and used by anyone who can afford it. Sumba, especially East Sumba, is one of the places in Indonesia where the home weaving industry continues to develop and produces the highest quality wastra, so that it deserves to be called a world heritage.

Credit for Pasola Folk tale:

We also have a product about Pasola. You can check here. See you on the next blog.

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