The Sumbanese call their land Tana Humba, meaning homeland. The ancestors are believed to dwell within eight spheres of heaven, and it is understood the spirits have come down to bring civilisation to the homeland. Locals believe that their ancestors arrived on the northeastern coast of the island and that in ancient times a stone bridge connected Sumba to the islands of Sumbawa and Flores. A natural disaster is said to have destroyed the bridge, and so isolated Sumba from its neighbouring islands.
Each of the clans living in Sumba has built up a specific social structure with complex rituals and other traditions around birth, marriage, initiation and funerals. To this day, these rituals and traditions are still practiced much as they were in the past.
Each clan, mountain, tree, animal, forest, lake and coastal area is believed to have its own spirits. The spirits of nature and the ancestral spirits take on many forms including huge carved objects, and megalithic stones, and are reflected in the special towering and ornate Sumbanese houses used for worship. According to Daniel, these are designed to represent reaching up to heaven.
Sumba Island is only 50 minutes flight from Bali and offers the traveller a glimpse into a very old culture which has not yet been drawn into the modern world. A sense of balance and respect for all things pervades the culture. It is sustained by unique rituals such as the Pasola which seek to maintain a peaceful and productive relationship with the heavenly spirits and keeps tradition very much alive on the island.
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