The vast archipelago of Indonesia is home to many traditions and cultures. Separated by the sea, each island has their own language, customs, and way of life. The Indonesian culture is formed by the indigenous people as well as influences from China, India, Europe, and the Middle East. It varies from traditional to contemporary. Religions also have impacted cultural assimilation, creating the most diverse society in the world. When discovering Asia, don’t overlook an amazing Indonesian adventure. Go island hopping and find out the uniqueness of these 10 best Indonesian traditions.
1. Kasada (East Java): harvest offering ritual
Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing
Exploring Bromo is incomplete without enjoying the annual Kasada ceremony. It’s always held on 14th of Kasada (according to the ancient Javanese calendar) at Mount Bromo. The purpose of Kasada is to commemorate the sacrifice of Raden Kusuma (the son of Jaka Seger and Lara Anteng, people respected by the locals). The Tenggerese people will carry up all of their offerings (the harvest and poultry) to the peak and throw them in the crater. Meanwhile, some performances like Jaranan are held in the village.
Address: Mount Bromo, East Java
2. Rambu Solo (South Sulawesi): Toraja's funeral ceremony
Rambu Solo is a traditional funeral ceremony held by the Toraja people. The aim of the ceremony is to address the spirit of dead people. They believe that a spirit will return to heaven, Puyo, with their ancestors. The ritual begins with animal slaughtering (normally buffalo and pig). The social status depends on how many animals are sacrificed. The highlights you should see during the ceremony are buffalo fighting, singing, and line dances.
Address: Tana Toraja, South Sulawesi
3. Ngurek (Bali): body hurting ritual
Ngurek is an extreme Balinese tradition held for religious purposes. The worshipers will hurt themselves by stabbing their body with a traditional knife called “keris.” During this ritual, participants are thought to become possessed. Ngurek or Nguying tradition aims to serve “Sang Hyang Widi Wasa,” the god. You can watch this unique tradition in almost all villages across Bali.
Address: Almost all villages in Bali
4. Pasola (Sumba): war reenactment with horses
Pasola is one of the exceptional traditional ceremonies of the Sumba people in East Nusa Tenggara. It’s always held every year from February to March. The aim of the tradition is to get God’s blessing for a better harvest. Pasola literally means a “war play.” It occurs between two groups of men dressed in traditional costume, holding blunt wooden spears all while riding their horses. You can enjoy this ritual along with the crowd in an open public space.
Address: Sumba Island, East Nusa Tenggara
5. Fahombo Batu (Nias Island): jumping over boulders
Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing
Fahombo Batu (stone jumping) is the feature of Nias Island’s culture. It’s performed by a young man who dresses nicely in traditional costume. He should jump over a 2 meter (6.5 ft) pyramid of stacked boulders. During the jumping procession, the visitors can enjoy the man showing his skill from a distance. If the local young man can challenge himself to jump over the stones, it means that he has reached maturity.
Address: Pulau Nias, North Sumatra
6. Kebo-Keboan (Banyuwangi): asking for rain festival
Kebo-Keboan is another unique tradition in Banyuwangi, which asks for rain. The ceremony is always held during the dry season and is held in all Osing villages. The participants dress like buffaloes by smearing their body with oil and wearing two horns on their head. The locals believe that a buffalo symbolizes power. The buffalo men march and dance excitedly along the street.
Address: Banyuwangi, East Java
7. Tabuik (West Sumatra): welcoming Islamic new year
Tabuik is actually a religious-related tradition in West Sumatra. It aims to welcome Muharam, the first month of the Islamic year. Locals carry a Tabuik (a colorful coffin-shaped object made of rattan and bamboo) and float it through the sea. It also commemorates the death of Mohammed’s grandsons named Hasan and Husain. This tradition is a mixture of cultural practices between Tamil and Minang people.
Address: Padang, West Sumatra
8. Bakar Batu (Papua): cooking on hot stones
Bakar Batu was formerly just a cooking on hot stones ritual for Papuan people. Now, it’s not just cooking but also a festival for celebrations like weddings, giving birth, or public events. Bakar Batu has a deeply symbolic nature of gratefulness and an aim to strengthen relationships. All villagers gather, light fires on piled stones, and cook yams or wild boar wrapped in banana leaves. Finally, they eat this meal together.
Acara Bakar Batu
Address: Baliem Valley, Papua
9. Bambu Gila (Maluku): the crazy bamboo dance
A numinous tradition native to the Maluku is held by a group of men carrying bamboo. The locals believe that the bamboo has mystical powers and can become possessed. The traditional musical instrument is also played during the ritual. The music makes the bamboo dance sideways and the men carrying the bamboo follow the bamboo’s dancing rhythm.
Address: Ternate, North Maluku
10. Peresean (Lombok): rattan sword fighting
Peresean is a fighting tradition between two men from the Sasak tribe in Lombok. They use a rattan stick as a sword, and a shield made of buffalo skin. The fighter is only allowed to attack the opponent’s back and shoulders. Traditional musical instruments such as a gong, kendang (traditional drum), and seruling (traditional flute) are played in the background.
Address: Kampung Sasak, Lombok
Experience unique cultural celebrations in Indonesia
When thinking of Indonesia, you must associate it with a beach adventure, mustn’t you? While the beaches in Indonesia are wonderful, they certainly aren’t the only captivating attraction. Discover the local traditions and cultures of the diverse Indonesia. The harvest offering ceremony, the unusual funeral ceremony, and the young man jumping over a boulder are proof that Indonesia is so rich in culture. Time your visit to Indonesia to witness the country’s uniqueness.
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