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THE FULL MOON FESTIVAL OF THE CENTRAL SULAWESI KAILI PEOPLE

The full moon with all its luminous glory elicits admiration. Science tells us that the Moon is Earth’s natural satellite, which go through phases in the night sky. However, before science came up with that explanation, our ancestors viewed the moon as more than just a celestial object with ever-changing phases.

Many legends, myths, folktales, as well as supernatural occurences and forces are associated with the full moon. Some believed that the full moon signified new birth, perfection, and a sign of good things to come. Therefore they have to celebrate it with a traditional rite. Others associate full moon with lunacy and disaster. They also performed rituals during full moon, with a different intention, to repel evil.

Today, there are many full moon festivals around the world. For instance the Tsukimi or moonwatching tradition of Japan, Chuseok in Korea, Zhongqiu and Cap Go Meh in China, the Buddhists’ Vesak, the Ramayana Dance, the Balinese Purnama ritual, and ritual fasting for some Muslims. However, not all of these are celebrated widely. Different societies celebrate full moon in different ways, but whichever way it is celebrated, the festivals are a spectacle to behold.

Central Sulawesi has its own full moon festival. Parigi Moutong Regency is this year’s host for the full moon (Vula Dongga) festival. Edy Subianto, curator of the Vula Dongga festival, said that according to Kaili folklore, every full moon, celestial maidens descended on Earth and secretly took rice from people’s homes to be pounded into powder. The next morning, people discovered that their rice is gone.

It happened every full moon. Until someone had the idea to prevent the celestial maidens from descending. During the next full moon, as the celestial maidens were descending, the Kaili people were ready. They banged on things and make a loud noise that scared the celestial maidens away.

In time, the Kaili modified their tradition. Every full moon in mid-August, the Kaili people celebrated with a cultural week. The first Vula Dongga Festival was held in 2004. This year, under the Ministry of Education and Culture’s Indonesiana Gaung Sintuvu Festivals, the Vula Dongga Festival would take place for four days, 11 to 14 August 2018, in and around Masigi Park, Parigi Moutong, Central Sulawesi.

The Vula Dongga Festival would begin with a cultural parade with delegates from eight regencies in Central Sulawesi as well as a special guest delegate from Lampung Utara. The parade would start from Patriot Bambalemo Square to Masigi Park, a 30-minute walk covering three kilometres.

At Masigi Park, a host of entertainment events accompany the arriving parade. The performers are Pontanu mass dancers from Sanggar Seni Parigata, the 45-strong Vinculos orchestra, and creative music by Parigi Etno Fussion.

For three days, Vula Dongga Festival will be held in Parigi Moutong, showcasing art and ritual performances, as well as traditional games.

“In the past, during full moon, when the adults make noise by beating utensils, children also came out to play,” Edy said.

Children under 18 years old would play traditional games such as tilako (stilts), nogasi (spinning top), take dende (hopscotch), nojapi-japi (coconut leaf fight), and mohanta (wooden sword fight). Young men play the nosivinti or iron fight. This game tests the physical strength and kuntau (Central Sulawesi traditional martial arts) skills.

“Nosivinti would usually hurt its players, bruises at least,” Edy added.

Therefore at the end of the game, the sando (shaman) is ready to perform healing rituals. For the wounded nosivinti player, the sando performs the nejila ritual. Nejila in Kaili language means “to lick”. The sando licks a leaf which is used as a healing medium. After chanting mantras, the sando waits until the leaf emits blood. Afterwards the player is healed.

Besides nejila, the Kaili people also have the balia healing ritual. The balia is performed to heal sicknesses caused by magical powers. Unlike the nejila, the balia involves fire as a purificating medium. The sando summons healer spirits into a mediator’s body. The mediator would prove that he or she has been possessed by walking on fire, touching fire with bare hands, putting fire into shirt pocket, and even playing with fire.

The Gaung Sintuvu Festivals are held in four regencies in Central Sulawesi: Palu Salonde Percussion in Palu City on 10–14 August 2018, Bunyi Bungi Festival in Sigi Regency on 30 August–1 September 2018, the Padungku ritual in Poso Regency during September and October 2018, and the Vula Dongga Festival in Parigi Moutong Regency on 11–14 August 2018.

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