“ Lombok “means “straight” or “honest”, while “Sasak ” means “reality”.
This post is dedicated to the native people of Lombok, who are known as Sasaks. Join me here, and let us see one of their traditional dwellings, called Sasak Ende Village. This is the place where Sasaks live and have preserved their tradition, art, music and culture. The village tour is a great way to get a glimpse of their life by meeting, talking, sharing, feeling and engaging in the daily activities of the locals. I quite liked their houses, tall and vernacular, made of soil and cow dung.
Majority of these traditional houses are no longer used but some villages in the southern region of the island, have not been able to change their lifestyle and they still live in the traditional way. Its good for them, firstly because if they all abandoned old ways of living, it would be a loss of culture and secondly, the government has pitched in and is helping them to live cheerfully. I enjoyed the authentic vibes about it and loved meeting the women and the kids. Be it any country, its important to safeguard the cultural assets.
Where is Lombok and who is a Sasak?
I am sure you have heard of Bali in Indonesia and many of you would have traveled there too. One of the interesting provinces there is, West Nusa Tenggara Province. West Nusa Tenggara consists of two large islands, namely Lombok Island and Sumbawa Island and many small islands called Gili. There are four districts and one municipality in Lombok Island. Lombok is a simple, not so crowded, sister island of Bali, located to its east. Majority of this island is occupied by an ethnic group called Sasaks and the most popular language is Sasak language. Indonesia has more than 300 ethnic groups or tribes but this was my first chance of meeting one such tribe. Sasak tribe is one of Malay type races and has been living on Lombok island, for over 2,000 years.
The Sasaks are popular as they are in large numbers and they have tried maintaining their culture. While their culture and houses are known by many, their marriages are also of interest. I was pretty amused to know of a very interesting pre-nuptial ritual where the man elopes with his future wife, to prove his manliness. Well, it makes no sense in today’s world but its fun to know it happens in a particular community. This activity of eloping is known as Merariq. The boy keeps the girl at his aunt and uncle’s place and after 3 days, both the parents meet and finalize the wedding. So if a girl is ready to elope, it means she is all set to marry.
Sasak Ende Village
It was good to walk around the premises and meet the locals. While the houses are interesting, one gets to see many other aspects of the villagers here, including their dance, music, weaving, food and style of dressing up . This hamlet is known to maintain the Sasak tribe’s customs. The Sasaks love to keep their traditional house in a particular way because they feel that the customs inherited by their ancestors must not be forgotten.
The houses got my first attention and my guide told me that they are called ‘Bale tani’. The build of the house is unique and it functions as a shelter, as well as it is a resident for the people who have lived in the past. Every house maintains aesthetic and philosophical values. Also only natural elements are used in the making of the house. It starts from the roof where palm fiber material is used, then the walls are made of woven bamboo and the floor is mopped with soil.
While, the house has its own features, the place and the direction of it also matters. The orientation of buildings should not face the mountain, to show respect to the spirits of ancestors. So, none of the houses are built facing Mount Rinjani. Apart from the houses, pile-built, bonnet-rice barns are also very interesting. It is a elevated structured, supported by lateral beams and has one window. I also did not miss to see the musholla (from the Arabic `musalla`) or surau, Islamic prayer room made in the same style as houses.
For every traditional village, a leader is very important. The leader is the one who is entrusted with the responsibility of upholding the ancestor’s traditional values and keeping up with the things needed for village preservation. The elders are very important for Sasaks and thus they are always looked up to for advice, by the leader.
Perisain Dance of the Sasaks
Lombok’s music, dance and theater is rooted in local Sasak culture. One of the most popular dances that I got to see in the village is Peresean, a martial art and dance form. This fighting dance, was originally held to entertain Sasak Tribe Kings after winning a war.
The tribes have always practiced it for fun and entertainment. Peresean seems like a real fight between two people who are armed with sticks and shields. The intention is not to hurt each other, but they do enact it all as true warriors. The expressions are amazing. One can hear some noises too. The fighters are called “Pepadus” and there is a referee “Pakembar”. The latter ensures that no one is hurt. The traditional music that plays in the background is called “Beleganjur.”
In the village, I also got a chance to see some musical performances too. Sasaks use drums and bamboo pipes as musical instruments.
Weaving is very important for Sasak women
Main livelihood for the community has been farming but weaving is very important for Sasak women. They weave using traditional loom to make clothes like Ikat or Songket. It was a matter of concern if the girl dint know weaving before marriage. The thought behind this is that if the crops fail in any season, the woman should be able to support the husband with financial needs. I liked the fact that Sasak tribe women have double roles in the society; as housewives and as weavers.
Overall, it was a nice cultural experience and I enjoyed picking up some more information about the island. No doubt, the beaches of Lombok and its natural beauty is alluring but its always good to know a bit about the people that make a place.
P.S. I flew via Malindo Airlines from Delhi to Bali and then used the services of Lion Air to be in Lombok.