BAU NYALE: Lombok's Annual Sea Worms Festival

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Annually, on the 20th day of the 10th month on the traditional Sasak Calendar, which falls around February each year, the Sasak people celebrate the traditional ceremony of Bau Nyale.  Bau in the Lombok language means “to-catch” and Nyale is a type of sea worm that surfaces only around this time of the year. Therefore, Bau Nyale is the festive ceremony when large crowds catch the Nyale along a number of Lombok’s finest beaches.The Sasak are the dominant ethnic group inhabiting the island of Lombok, in West Nusatenggara

Traditionally, celebrations take place at a designated place agreed by the Sasak leader and the local government.  Bau Nyale is most often held along the Kaliantan Beach, at the Pemongkong village, in the Jerowaru district of East Lombok. 

The locals believe, that the Nyale are not just regular seaworms, but are considered as sacred creatures that bring prosperity to those who honor them, or misfortune to those who ignore them. This belief was based on a legend of princess Mandalika.

Legend has it that back in its heydays, there lived a beautiful princess named Mandalika. Stories about her beauty reached every corner of the island; so that many princes fell in love with her and were eager to wed her. Competing to win her, they created an upheaval throughout the island. Seeing this, the princess was saddened and longed for peace in the land. 

To end the chaos, Princess Mandalika threw herself into the sea. Her people tried to rescue her body, but found instead an abundance of sea worms, known today as Nyale. Thus, Nyale are believed to be the reincarnation of Princess Mandalika. To this day the Nyale appear once a year on the beach, and are considered as the once beautiful princess who pays a visit to her people.

One of the most important events for the Sasak people, the Bau Nyale ceremony is a ritual where glorious tradition meets enchanting scenery. And as villagers, government authorities and visitors flock to the beach, everyone becomes part of an eventful tradition. As a chance to experience the exotic culture with a splendid backdrop of a magical view of the island, Bau Nyale is surely a celebration worth participating.

The festival also features many traditional competitions and rowing boat races. As a grand event of the people of Lombok the Bau Nyale festival also presents various art performances, such as: the Wayang Kulit (Leather puppets Show), and the theatrical play on the legend of the Nyale Princess.  

The Nyale ceremony is also known on the neighboring island of Sumba, where the ceremony is followed by the Pasola Jousting Festival.

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