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The reason I went to Sumba was that I was invited by the son of one of
the leaders of Tarung village (who lives in Australia). I came for
Wulla Podu, “the Sacred Month”, a time when 20-30 separate
celebrations are held. The only problem was that nobody knew the
exact date when Wulla Podu would start as it depends on the moon. It
starts from the time the moon appears in the sky till it disappears a
month later. As my time was limited (due to a funeral in Egypt) we had
to sort of guess when to go and cross our fingers. Even when we
arrived they still did not know the date. The sky had been overcast
and they could not see the moon. But it appeared we came only 2 days
too early.

In the first two weeks the main events are receptions held for wild
pigs that hunters have killed and brought in to Tarung village as
sacred offerings. People go out every day hunting in the forests. By
late afternoon the people of Tarung are listening for the sounds of
the hunters singing and yelling in the distance - then they know that
the hunters are on their way in with a pig. The hunters and the pig
are received with much celebration and fine speeches in traditional
poetic language.

The second important ceremony is “Dekki Kawuku” (Fixing The Day) for
the major ceremony to be held at the end of the sacred month. The date
is not fixed until the full moon has appeared in the sky. Then there
is a meeting of the leading priests to decide on the date. They still
need supernatural forces to confirm their decision so they send off a
posse of priests on horseback to the sacred grove of Ubu Pede to get
approval. For Dekki Kawuku the men and the horses are all dressed up
in special colorful clothes and set off on their mission.
Traditionally no-one was allowed to follow them or even to look at
them, but these days the rule is that everyone must stand back 10
metres and watch from a distance. No-one is allowed to stop them or
interfere with their ride through the town so the priests are escorted
by a team of young men on motorbikes. Their job is to stop all the
other traffic so the horseback priests can pass and return safely back
to Tarung. Celebrations in the village continue right through the
night many special dances and songs that have to be sung. This lasts
till early morning and is followed by a 4 day rest before they dance

Due to circumstances we could not stay the entire month but I was
happy to spend a very full week in Tarung. One night we slept in the
village and my husband and I were greeted with a "Nobba ceremony" when
the ancestor spirits were advised of our visit we were adopted into
the tribe…a magic experience. We listened to the long poetic speech of
the priest speaking to the ancestors and received the traditional
welcome gift, 'kolaka'. Both of us were given traditional sarongs, but
the best part was the warmth and love of the people.

General info.

Wulla Podu, known also as Bulan Pemali in Indonesian is a cultural
ritual which is very mysterious, unique and hence very interesting.
Wulla Podu ritual held strictly and sacredly only in November each
year, lasting 30 days from the first day of the new moon to the last
day of the lunar month. During Wulla Podu ritual all other
celebrations are not allowed, especially if they involve beating gongs
or making loud noises. Even funerals are postponed until the month is
over. At the peak of the ritual cultural events will be held together
with various popular games.

We attended the Wulla Podu ritual held at Kampung Tarung, in the
center of Waikabubak town but other Wulla Podu celebrations are held
at Kampung Bondo Maroto, 4 km away to the east of Tarung and at
Waibangga about 12 km to the North. Sumba is an island in East Nusa
Tenggara Province, Indonesia with an area of 10,710 sq km, bordering
Sumbawa in the northwest, Flores in the northeast, Timor in the east,
and Australia in the south and southeast. One of the beaches is
overlooking the Strait of Sumba, located on the north part of the
island. In the east lies the Sawu Sea and the Indian Ocean in the
south and west.

The island itself consists of four districts: West Sumba, Southwest
Sumba, Central Sumba and East Sumba district. This time we’d like to
write about Wulla Poddu ceremony that lasted for a month, which is
also the holy month for Marapu believers who live in West Sumba.
Marapu is a local religion of people on the island of Sumba. This
religion is a belief that worships the ancestors. People say that even
today more than half of Sumba population embraces this religion.

Tarung Village, Sumba, Indonesia, 2011
©Ingetje tadros

(Text by David Mitchell)
Date: 2012-01-09 14:17:45

Wulla Podu Sacred Month tribes Sumba Indonesia Tambolaka people Festival travel Asia Indonesia Tarung Tarung village island Indonesian island remote remoteness journey event ritual father priest spirits spiritworld celebration culture tradition tribal tribo ethnic adornments pig horse Ubupede sacred holy family community Waikabubak Umarato Anakalang rites limestone funeral Waitabar Nobba Ceremony Dekki Kawuka dance dancing music kolaka betel nut pinang sirih welcome gift kapur Wanokaka Lamboya Kori moon full moon hunting wild pigs Fixing the Day Bulan Pemali Ingetje Tadros

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