Festivals are colorful and extravagant. They also attract tourists—both domestic and foreign. Indonesia as a nation with 34 provinces, 700 different languages, and diverse cultures and customs has many cultural festivals that reflect the vibrant colors of Indonesia. Almost each province in Indonesia has its own specialty cultural festivals that are wonderful to experience.
These cultural festivals are mostly held annually and open to all. Some may have restrictions for certain rituals, but you still can capture the magnificent moments that highlight these festivals.
Here is our list of festivals around Indonesia that you do not want to miss:
- Jember Fashion Carnival
Jember is a city in East Java. It’s a small city but it has succeeded as a host of a quirky and unique fashion festival, plus getting attention from fashion enthusiasts around the world. Founded in 2001, Jember Fashion Carnival has become the icon of East Java’s contemporary culture. This fashion festival is a showcase for local fashion designers for Indonesian and world fashion industry. It is also the most eye-catching festival among other festivals across Indonesia. With a 3,6km long catwalk, Jember Fashion Carnival has thousands attending each year. Dubbed as the seventh biggest carnival in the world. It is indeed an amazing and fascinating festival to attend! This year, Jember Fashion Carnival will be held on 24th to 28th August 2016. Mark your calendar!
- Festival Rambu Solo
Rambu Solo is customary death ritual in Tana Toraja, South Sulawesi. The ritual is aimed to respect the spirit of the dead, which is returned to the immortality with their ancestors in a health resort called Puyo. Festival Rambu Solo is considered to be the most awaited moment in Sulawesi, as this festival is held for days with other complementary ceremonies. Although this is practically a funeral procession, people in the area are very used to tourists coming and welcome them as regular guests.
- Dieng Culture Festival
Dieng is one of the most famous plateaus in the world. It has breathtaking views and the people are very friendly towards tourists and guests. This plateau has various cultures, where ancient tradition still has huge role in the society. A very unique ritual is the purification procession called ruwatan. Ruwatan is a ritual for children from Dieng who strangely have natural dreadlocks and are called as Anak Gimbal. In Ruwatan Anak Gimbal, the dreadlocks are cut so the children will have normal hair in the future. The cut dreadlocks are floated in a river that flows to the south, as a symbol that the dreadlocks are sent to their origin. In this ceremony, other traditional art shows such as Rodad & Lengger dance, Warokan, and Wayang Kulit (shadow puppet).
This year, the 7th Dieng Culture Festival will be held in early August for a week. Check the agenda on www.dieng.id.
Sekaten (originated from Arabic word Syahadatain) is a week-long Javanese traditional ceremony, festival, fair and night market to commemorate Maulid (the birthday of Prophet Muhammad). Sekaten is celebrated annually started on the 5th day through the 12th day of Mulud month in Javanese calendar (or Rabiul Awal in Islamic calendar). The festivals usually take place in northern Alun-Alun (square) of Yogyakarta and simultaneously also celebrated in northern Alun-Alun of Surakarta. The main event of Sekaten is called the Grebeg Muludan, which is held in 12th day (exactly during the birthday of Prophet Muhammad) starting in 8am. The main Gunungan (literally means mountain), a model of mountain made of sticky rice, sweets, various food, crackers, fruit and vegetables, is guarded by 10 units of bregodo (brigade) of Kraton Yogyakarta’s royal guards. After the prayer, the Gunungan will be picked, fought over and ripped apart by the people waiting in the square, as they believe that foods in the Gunungan brings good luck and prosperity.
- Yadnya Kasada
Yadnya Kasada ceremony is a famous festival held in Bromo, East Java. Yadnya Kasada is an offering (sesajen) ceremony for Sang Hyang Widhi by Hindu Tengger people on the 14th day of Kasada month in Javanese calendar. Yadnya Kasada is held at Pura Luhur Poten at the foothill of Bromo, start on the midnight until dawn. In this festival, Tengger people will throw sesajen such as vegetables, chicken, even money to the cauldron. If you want to attend this ceremony, it is better to get there before midnight as it gets very crowded.
Mappanretasi (from Bugis language Mappanre and Tasi, literally means ‘feeding the sea’) is a traditional festival of Bugis tribe and held every April at Pagatan, Tanah Bumbu regency, South Kalimantan. The festival symbolizes the gratefulness to God for His bless to Pagatan beach, which is also the livelihoods of Bugis Pagatan people. The main ritual of this festival is floating sesajen such as bananas, white, black, yellow, and pink sticky rice, as well as chickens. The sesajen and chickens will be taken on fishing boats, and sail to the center point of the beach. The procession continues with slaughtering the chickens and floating the sesajen.
- Festival Bunga Tomohon (Tomohon Flower Festival)
Festival Bunga Tomohon or Tomohon Flower Festival is an annual world-class festival held in Tomohon, North Sulawesi. It was first held in 2006 as a biennial event, but since 2014, government had established it as annual event. The festival consists of four major events: Tournament of Flowers (parade of decorated vehicles, participated by neighboring countries, regencies, cities, or companies), Kontes Ratu Bunga (Queen of Flowers Contest), Floriculture Exhibitions, and Art and Culture Performances. There are also other events such as seminar and talk shows, mainly about tourism. Click www.tomohonflowerfestival.com for more information about this festival.
- Festival Jailolo (Jailolo Bay Festival)
Festival Teluk Jaillolo (or Jailolo Bay Festival) is a celebration of life & culture, held annually by the Regency of West Halmahera. The festival usually consists as purifying the sea as opening ritual, and followed with other events that highlight the beauty of eastern Indonesia. It also has underwater photo competition that attracts local and foreign photographers. It is really a fun festival for divers and photographers.
- Pasola Festival
Pasola is a thanks giving ceremony to the ancestral spirit of people from West Sumba, East Nusa Tenggara, and usually held around February and March. Pasola is the name of ancient war ritual festival by two groups of selected Sumbanese men. They ride in their colorful decorated horses and fling wooden spears at each other. The war is undoubtedly dangerous, because sometimes the spears hit the participants. In Sumbanese beliefs, the spilled blood is believed to fertilize the land and multiply the output of paddy. The main activity of the festival usually starts several days after the full moon and coincides with the yearly arrival of multi-hued sea worms, Nyale, to the shore.
- Festival Lembah Baliem (Baliem Valley Festival)
Festival Lembah Baliem or Baliem Valley Festival is an annual festival held in Baliem Valley, Papua, Indonesia. This festival has been held for over 25 consecutive years, and attracts many foreign tourists. Festival Lembah Baliem is an intertribal war among Dani, Lani, and Yali tribe as a symbol of prosperity. Of course, it’s still safe for tourist to watch the festival. This festival has been very popular with professional photographers, as the war reflects the spirit that ‘Yogotak Hubuluk Motog Hanoro’ or ‘tomorrow must be better than today’.