Rumah Budaya Sumba
Lembaga Studi dan Pelestarian Budaya Sumba
Sumba Cultural Research and Conservation Institute
(+62) 0811 189 2908


The first edition of Rumah Budaya Sumba website originates the script particularly on this part from SUMBA: Forgotten Island book depicting the thought of Father Robert Ramone, CSsR briefly explain core element of culture in Sumba.

Marapu, Funerals and Pasola

Marapu is religion unique to the island. ‘Mar’ meaning the grandfather and ‘Apu’ meaning te creator and source of life. It has animistic, spiritual, and dynamic elements. It teaches the balance of universal life through which happiness can be gained. This balance is symbolized by the ‘Ina Mawalo’ (Mother of Being) and the ‘Ama Marawi’ (Father of Creation). Ina Mawalo and Ama Marawi live in the universe and take the form of the moon and the sun. They are the husband and wife who gave birth to the ancestor of the Sumbanese.

The Marapu believe that after this temporary, earthly life comes an eternal afterlife. In death, a person enters the world of the spirits, ‘Praing Marapu’ (Marapu Heaven). And according to Marapu beliefs, all spirits consist of two elements, that is, ‘Ndewa’ and ‘Humanangu’. In this eternal heaven spirits lead a similar existence to humans and live together in couples. Marapu is said to have a mysterious and magical influence over human life.

Since Marapu followers believe in life after death, funerals are the most important and extravagant ritual of all. Normally, the body of the deceased is kept for a few days to compete several ceremonies before being buried.

However, funeral ceremonies and burials can be delayed for decades during which the bodies of the deceased are kept in the family’s home. This is especially common for people of nobility. This is due to the fact that a lot of money is needed to bury a person from a noble family. The family must save huge amounts of money to buy large numbers of buffalo, cows, pigs and occasionally horses to sacrifice.

In many tribes in Sumba the deceased are placed in the tomb in the fetal position. This position symbolizes rebirth into the spirit world. The body is then covered with the covered with the finest Ikat (hand woven cloth). The soul is then considered ready to enter Marapu Heaven (Praing Marapu). Here it is said they begin the afterlife with huge fest.

Pasola is a Marapu ritual held by the western Sumbanese to celebrate the rice planting season. The Pasola pays homage to the Marapu: to ask for forgiveness, for prosperity and for an abundant harvest. It is usually takes place during February in the areas of Lamboya and Kodi, and in March in the areas of Gaura and Wanakuka. The main ceremony begins six to eight days after the full moon.

During the Pasola, warriors on horseback throw wooden spears at the other horsemen. The rivalry is tribal and the horsemen are highly skilled both at horse riding and spear throwing.

According to ancient beliefs, the spilled blood will fertilize the land and result in a bountiful harvest. The more blood shed, the better the harvest will be. The Marapu believe that any bloodshed (animal sacrifices or men wounded/killed in the Pasola) is considered to be a symbol of future prosperity .

After all of the bloodshed and violence of the Pasola, harmony is said to be restored in the people of Sumba so that they might live happily, prosperously and contentedly together.