Indonesia Expat
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Top Unusual Traditions You Can Only Find in Indonesia

Unusual Traditions in Indonesia
Top Unusual Traditions You Can Only Find in Indonesia

Besides its breathtaking nature, like beaches, mountains, and historical sites, Indonesia is also well-known for its richness of cultural traditions.

As a nation with hundreds of cultural traditions, Indonesia has never failed to show its uniqueness; every region and every tribe has their own traditions, starting from the most fascinating to the most extreme ones. No wonder there are many visitors heading to Indonesian regions to explore the traditions particular to the place. 

When it comes to traditions, people usually refer to traditional dances and music. For some people, seeing those acts might not be as exciting as they thought. Therefore, Indonesia Expat has summarised some unusual traditions in Indonesia that you can see in the following list.

Carok in Madura
Carok in Madura
Carok Extreme Fight

The term “Carok” refers to a murder committed as an attempt to take revenge on a person or group. However, Carok has a different meaning for the Madurese people because this is done for the sake of their dignity. This tradition is carried out by two people fighting each other using sickles. The purpose of this fight is to solve certain personal problems which are usually related to wealth, the throne, and women. Even though this tradition is harmful, the Madurese people consider it a normal thing.

Kebo-keboan in Banyuwangi
Kebo-keboan Tradition in Banyuwangi
The Locals Dressing as a Buffalo in Kebo-keboan Tradition

Kebo-keboan is a ritual that is held by the Osing tribe in Banyuwangi to invoke fertile rice fields and abundant harvests. This tradition can be seen each year in Alasmalang and Aliyan villages. The Kebo-keboan ritual takes place on Sundays between the 1st and 10th of the month of Sura – the first month in the Javanese calendar. People choose Sunday because they are not working on that day while the month of Sura is chosen because this month is considered a sacred month in the Javanese belief.

Ma’nene in Tana Toraja
Ma'nene Tradition in Tana Toraja
Cleaning and Putting Clothes on the Ancestors’ Bodies are the Parts of Ma’nene Tradition

The Ma’nene tradition is the Toraja people’s way of honouring their ancestors. According to them, their spirit never leaves the family. Therefore, they have a tradition to dress and change the clothes of their dead relatives and take them home. This tradition is usually carried out by people in Pangala and Baruppu villages in South Sulawesi.

Usually, Ma’nene is done after the big harvest in August. However, some people do it in September, at least three times a year. This tradition begins with family members coming to Patane or a family graveyard that looks like a house with the aim of taking the bodies of their deceased family members. After that, the body is removed from the grave, cleaned, and have new clothes put in it. 

Debus Martial Arts in Banten
Debus Tradition in Banten
Debus Tradition in Banten

Debus is often found in the Banten region. This tradition is classified as extreme because it uses sharp objects such as machetes or knives that are rubbed or stabbed into the human body without causing any injuries.

In the past, Debus was used as a means of pumping up the enthusiasm of the people of Banten against the colonials. Now, it is still preserved as a martial art which is exhibited at certain events, such as art events or traditional ceremonies.

Pasola in Sumba
Pasola Tradition in Sumba
Pasola War Games

Pasola is an agility game done by throwing a wooden javelin while riding a horse. It is a hereditary tradition for the people of Wanokaka District, West Sumba Regency, East Nusa Tenggara. This tradition is held to welcome the planting season. In ancient times, people believed that if there is an accident when Pasola is going on, it will be a good sign for agricultural products.

Ikipalin in Wamena
Ikipalin Tradition in Wamena Papua
Family Members Cut Off Their Fingers to Show Sadness

The Dani tribe in the Baliem Valley, Papua, has an extreme way of expressing their sadness. When a family member or relative dies, they cut off their finger. This is done to prevent the catastrophe that caused the loss of life from happening again.

Ikipalin is done using a sharp object, such as a knife, axe, machete, or something else. However, for women, cutting the finger can also be done by biting it off. Once it is cut, the finger is wrapped with strings until the blood stops. Fortunately, now many people are starting to leave this tradition since the Dani tribe has opened to the outer world.

Omed-omedan in Bali
Omed-omedan Tradition in Bali
Omed-omedan Tradition in Bali

In Indonesian, omed-omedan means tarik-menarik (pulling each other). Omed-omedan is a unique tradition where the youth hug and pull each other alternately between the two groups. This is a tradition in Banjar Kaja, Sesetan Pakraman Village, Denpasar, in welcoming the New Year of Caka. This event has been carried out since the 18th century. The event is held regularly every year as a form of togetherness and kinship. However, this tradition may only be carried out by young people who are new college students or those who are not yet married.

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