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Princess Mandalika; the Origin of Bau Nyale Festival

West Nusa Tenggara - Indonesia
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Seger Kuta Beach in Central Lombok District is one of the worth visiting beaches in West Nusa Tenggara.  This beautiful beach is located about 65 kilometres away from Mataram City. Seger Kuta is the heaven for those searching for tranquil holiday, just for escaping away from daily activities in big cities. Its turquoise water and the gentle wind are two of many features that can be found here.

Seger Kuta Beach is also famous for its interesting feature of traditional event, especially in February and March. In those months you can enjoy and take part in an adat ceremony as well as folk festival that is commonly called Bau Nyale. The phrase “Bau Nyale” is derived from the Sasak language; “bau” (catch) and “nyale” (sea worm). Well, Bau Nyale is the time when a number of both the local inhabitants and foreign tourists gather at the same time and place to catch the nyale on the beach of Seger Kuta, West Nusa Tenggara Province, Indonesia.

Amongst the Sasak people, an ethnic tribe that has been settling down on Lombok Island since hundreds years ago, there is a folk lore about the origin of Bau Nyale festival. The story is about a beautiful charming girl named Princess Mandalika, the daughter of a ruler of Lombok Island. For her astounding beauty and the wealth of her father of course, the kings and rulers from the neighbouring kingdoms were proposing to marry her. This led a competition to get the princess’s heart peaked up in a war between those neighbouring kingdoms. Such a terrible fact then really annoyed Princess Mandalika. She was afraid of more wars in term of competing to marry her. What did she do to cope with that situation? And, who’s later on appeared to be her husband? Here is the story of Princess Mandalika; the origin of Bau Nyale festival.


Long time ago on the island of Lombok, Tunjung Bitu Kingdom was a mere authority holder on the island of Lombok. It was headed by a wise and kind ruler named King Tonjang Beru. Under his reign, the kingdom and its people lived in harmony and prosperity. His wife, Dewi Seranting, gave birth to a beautifully charming girl named Princess Mandalika. She grew up in peaceful situation and she was a polite, wise, and kind girl which made everybody on the island took care of her.

The astounding beauty of Princess Mandalika came to the ear of many crowned princes from the neighbouring kingdoms. One by one they took a visit to the royal palace of Tonjang Beru Kingdom with hope to get the heart of Princess Mandalika. However, none of them could attract her attention. A series of wars then finally broke up between those kingdoms as a consequence of the competition to get Mandalika. The winner, according to their agreement, then would automatically possess the rights to marry her, but the destiny might talk different thing.

One day in the royal palace of Tunjung Bitu Kingdom, King Tonjang Beru called his daughter Princess Mandalika soon after knowing the news on the war between the neighbouring kingdoms to get his daughter.

 “Mandalika, I heard about a war competing for getting your heart will immediately break up. Have it come to your ear?” the king asked.

 “Yes, I have heard it once, Father,” Princess Mandalika answered.

 “What will you do to stop the war, Mandalika?”

 “Pardon me, Father. So far I don’t know what to do. That was my mistake. Would you please allow me to cope with that, Father?

 “Yes, of course. I think you know the best thing for this, and the best one for you!”

 “Alright, Father. After all, let me accomplish asceticism with hope I would get the best solution for this, Father,”

For several days ahead, Princess Mandalika went to a forest from nearby the royal palace. There she sought for a divine inspiration on the problem she and the kingdom was facing at that time. It was once flashed on her mind to nominate ten of the crowned princes; then from those ten nominees, she would choose one to be her husband. However, that idea was considered wrong to her lately. She got another idea; that was sacrificing herself. For her, that way was much better than sacrificing thousands of innocent people when the war broke up.

Based on the divine order she got during the asceticism, she was obliged to assembly those crowned princes, along with their people, on Seger Kuta Beach on day 20, month 10 of the Sasak calendar. On that day, all had to be on the beach before the sun rises; hence some of them had been on the beach two days before the day.

Seger Kuta Beach turned crowded on that day. Soon after the sun rose, a golden carriage shouldered by four men arrived at the location. Inside the carriage was Mandalika dressed beautifully in royal silky clothes. It stopped near a big stone; then she went down from it. She then stood up at the stone, looking at the mass. She starred at the crowded; making the heart of every single crowned prince beat so fast. They were impatient to know who the one would be her husband.

After that, Princess Mandalika spoke up…..

 “O… Father… Mother… And all of you here… I would like to announce you that today; I wouldn’t choose any one of you. My destiny lies on this beach, becoming nyale. I would emerge on several occasions along with the number of the nyale. From this, I wish that my sacrifice would be beneficial to all you for now and then.”

All were shocked to hear that announcement; including Mandalika’s parents. Just after she stopped telling her decision, she plunged into the sea, and disappeared leaving no traces at all. At the spur of the moment, the sky turned dark and the wind roared hard along with the thundering storm coming back and forth. The crowded was in panic for several minutes; and the situation turned normal again.

Some people then sought for her at the sea, but nothing they found. In a few moments, thousands of sea worms emerged from the bottom of the sea. In the present, such a kind of worm is known locally as nyale. The local people believe that the nyale is the reincarnation of Princess Mandalika. Until now, a number of people gather on Seger Kuta Beach during the Bau Nyale festival to collect nyale because they do believe in the benefit of it.


The myth of Bau Nyale which tells the origin of the festival and the early history of Seger Kuta Beach shows some moral messages. One of them is the self sacrifice of Princess Mandalika to avoid the war between the neighbouring kingdoms competing to marry her. She gave herself to the sea just because she didn’t want thousands of innocent people to be the victims of the war. By sacrificing herself, which then incarnate into the sea worms, it clearly shows that she finally give her spirit for everyone indiscriminately. 

In the present, a number of both the local people and foreign tourists enthusiastically attend Seger Kuta Beach for taking part in celebrating Bau Nyale festival. The festival is customarily held twice in a year; that are on February and March. Knowing such a potential, the West Nusa Tenggara Provincial Government issued a certificate of national cultural asset to the festival of Bau Nyale.

The festival, since the 16th century, usually begins on evening because the nyale emerge to the sea surface at that time. People gather on the beach, seeking for the nyale and tracing the south coast of Lombok Island. More than a mere hunting for the nyale, the celebration of Bau Nyale in the present also features some cultural events such as betandak (reciting pantun), bejambik (presenting gift to the beloved one), belancaran (hanging around the island with motorized boats), and of course, theatrical show on Princess Mandalika.

Not only is the festival held for a mere preservation to the cultural heritage of West Nusa Tenggara Province, but the nyale alone is also scientifically proven to bear some “efficacies”. According to a research undertaken by Dr. dr. Soewignyo Soemodiharjo, the nyale has a chemical substance that functions as antiseptic. As well, his survey, which involved 70.6 respondents, shows that the leaves used to cover the nyale during the festival can be used to substitute chemical fertilizer for increasing farming land’s soil fertility. More than that, the sea worms are also processed by the local people into Emping Nyale (nyale chips). This snack has become the most favourite crispy chip for the local people and tourists visiting the island of Lombok.

From the socio-cultural perspective, Bau Nyale functions as a means of increasing the solidarity amongst the inhabitants of Lombok Island and tourists coming from either foreign countries or outside the province of West Nusa Tenggara.

Syamsuni (sas/37/10-07)
Translated by Irfan Nugroho (ter/105/03-09)


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