Lombok Culture

Sasak … The Unique Culture of Lombok Island

The local people of Lombok, known as “Sasak”, are believed to be descendents of a Malay race inhabiting Lombok for at least 2,000 years. The original pioneers probably travelled from the Malaysian peninsula and settled on the coastal areas of Lombok as long as 4,000 years ago.

During the past six hundred years, the island of Lombok was a feudal state, with many small ruling kingdoms; some of which followed animistic beliefs, while others combined animism with Hinduism or Buddhism. At one stage the main religion on Lombok was Buddhism. Over the centuries, Java influenced Lombok to varying degrees and ruled over Lombok in the 14th century, incorporating it into the Majapahit Empire. Several small kingdoms on Lombok were ruled by Javanese nobles who had been exiled to Lombok, and today’s Sasak aristocracy still claims Javanese ancestry.

The Javanese introduced both Hinduism and Islam to Lombok, but their religious and political influence waned by the 17th century. Islam gradually spread through eastern and central Lombok, while Balinese, and Hindu, influence began dominating western Lombok. The Balinese entered Lombok from Karangasem during the 17th century, ruling the island for 150 years. Balinese influence always centred in the west, where today Balinese still constitute more than 10 percent of the population. They cleared forests and engineered irrigation systems and terraces, creating extensive wet-rice agriculture under the Balinese system of subak.

Going Native - The Lombok Way

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Traditional Culture

Traditional law (adat) is still fundamental to the way of life on Lombok today, particularly customs relating to courting and marriage rituals and circumcision ceremonies. In western Lombok you can see Balinese ceremonies and temples with colorful procession and decorative offerings. Sasak ceremonies are often less visible, though you may see colorful procession as well. Ask around and you can probably find when and where festivals and celebrations are being held.

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Marriage Rituals

Young couple in Lombok have a choice of three rituals; the first is an arranged marriage, the second a union between cousins, and the third elopement. The first two are uncomplicated: the parents of the prospective bridal couple meet to discuss the bride's dowry and sort out any religious differences. Having handled the business arrangements, the ceremony called "sorong serah" is performed.

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Castes

Unlike the Muslims in general, the Sasak in Northern and west Lombok have a caste system. There are four caste castes, the highest being Datu for men and Denek Bini for women, the second Raden for men, and Denda for women, the third Buling and the fourth Jajar Karang. In Central and East Lombok, Lalu for men and Lale for women.

Going Native - The Lombok Way

Sasak does not have greetings such as "Good Morning". A Sasak approaching a friend might ask, in the local language, " How are you?, How's your family?" simply as a form of greeting. Locals will frequently ask foreigners like this in English (it may be their only English!) as a greeting. Don't get annoyed - they are just trying to be polite. A smile and a "hello", or greeting in Indonesian, is a polite and adequate response..

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