Bau Nyale Festival
One of Lombok’s most important and popular festivals is Bau Nyale, meaning
“to catch the sea worms” in local Sasak language., the Nyale is sea worms in
a variety of colours are brown or pale cream to red and green.
Bau Nyale, or the Nyale Festival, takes place every year in the tenth month
of the Sasak calendar at a time close to the full moon, it’s celebrated in
February around 14th and 15th in the south coast beaches of Lombok. The most
popular site for celebrating Bau Nyale is at beautiful Seger Beach near
Kuta; an area called Putri Nyale (Princess Nyale) by the people of Lombok.
One week before this celebration, the accommodations in Kuta are fully
booked with local and overseas visitors who want to see the Festival
directly. The festival starts with many attractions such; Presean (people
fighting), Adu Pantun a form of traditional poetry, where young people tease
and with each other, competing to form verses in a ritual style.
The highlight of the festival is the drama which story a legend of Putri
(Princess) Mandalika, who was the princess of a large kingdom called “Yellow
Flower”. According to local myth, this kingdom was famous throughout the
land and Princess Mandalika was very beautiful, as well as being kind and
well-loved by the people of her kingdom. So many men wanted to marry her
that it began to cause trouble between the different kingdoms and the
Princess became unable to choose between them without her decision causing
Finally the princess’ father, King Kuripan, gathered all the rivals together
and instructed Princess Mandalika to choose her husband before sunrise the
next morning. Fearful of causing a war, instead of choosing one of them,
Princess Mandalika declared that, even if she loved one of the suitors, she
loved her parents, her kingdom and the people of her kingdom too much to
cause a war. Saying that, rather than choose one, she would give herself to
everyone, she threw herself into Seger Beach, declaring that she would
return each year as a sign that she would never leave her people.
Everyone searched the surrounding sea for the princess, but instead of the
princes they just found colourful sea-worms, called Nyale. According to a
local priest, or Dukun, the princess’s body had been transformed into these
sea worms, and thus they became a traditional symbol for the Sasak people.
The highlight of the ceremony occurs when the local priest or Dukun go to
the sea to observe the spawning Nyale and predict the future rice harvest,
based on the number of sea worms. A good catch is a sign that this year’s
rice harvest will also be good. Nyale are traditionally associated with
fertility, and as part of a ritualized ceremony, the sea worms are ground up
and placed in irrigation channels around fields to help ensure a good
harvest. People are collected the worms to eat them for a special annual
feast. Nyale are eaten sometimes raw when they are caught, or steamed,
fried, or made into Pepes Nyale. In this popular local specialty, the Nyale
are mixed with coconut and spices, then wrapped in a banana leaf and roasted
over the fire. The sea worm taste is delicious and rich in protein.