Sumba Island

Overview

Introduction

The western villages of this beautiful island appear untouched by time, and the people have many unique traditions. The beginning of the planting season, for instance, brings the pasola, an elaborate ritual battle between villages held to ensure a good harvest. Pasolas are held on the second full moon of the year in Kodi and Lamboya and the third full moon of the year in Wanukaka and Gaura.

One of Sumba's distinctive products is an ikat cloth decorated with amazing motifs of chickens, horseflies, winged snakes and skulls dangling from the limbs of trees—reminiscent of a time when each village had a skull tree to display the heads of its vanquished enemy.

The island has an impressive tombstone tradition, too—the enormous slab gravestones can be found in most traditional villages, although the best are at Kampung Tarung or Kampung Pasunga near Waikabubak. Sumba is promoted as "The Island of Spirits" by the national tourist board, and this is reflected in the island's impressive funerals and vivid animist beliefs—the only such beliefs in all of Indonesia that are recognized by the central government.

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