Praya, Central Lombok (ANTARA) - "Bau Nyale" or catching sea worms is a traditional activity held every year by the local community around Seger Beach or the Mandalika Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Central Lombok district, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) province.

During the activity, thousands of people go to the sea to hunt for worms, which are believed to be the incarnation of Princess Mandalika, known for her clean soul and her willingness to sacrifice for the welfare of the community.

Legend has it that the kings wanted to make Princess Mandalika their wife, but she was unable to choose anyone. So, she chose to jump into the sea to avoid bloodshed.

She is believed to have jumped into the southern sea of Central Lombok, specifically from Seger Beach.

It is said that before disappearing under the high waves, Princess Mandalika said she would appear on the 20th of the 10th month of the Sasak calendar. Millions of worms come out on the surface of the sea on this day. And people believe they are the reincarnation of the princess.

To this day, the phenomenon is marked in the tourism activity calendar of the Central Lombok district government.

This year, Bau Nyale is being held on February 29 and March 1. The activity has been a part of the tradition of the Sasak people from Lombok since ancient times.

The Bau Nyale tradition sees routine participation from the people of Lombok. The legend of Putri Mandalika continues to receive support from the central government, NTB province, and the Central Lombok district government every year. It is expected to increase tourist visits and become an attraction for the development of the Mandalika SEZ.

In changing times and amid technological advances in the digital era as well as rapid development in Central Lombok, residents are still enthusiastic about preserving this cultural activity.

The government also organizes entertainment programs during the activity, bringing in national celebrities and holding rituals, before thousands of people swamp to the sea to catch worms ahead of sunrise.

This year's activity is expected to attract millennials and help preserve Sasak culture. It is also expected to increase tourist visits so the government can add more events before the peak event of Bau Nyale.

Head of the Central Lombok District Tourism Service, Lalu Sungkul, said that a number of people are still interested in the Bau Nyale tradition. Even without the presence of celebrities, the event, which is held regularly every year, is still lively.

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Myth of eternal youth
Nyale, which are believed to be the incarnation of Princess Mandalika, are caught on the 20th of the 10th month of the Sasak calendar or in February or March based on the national calendar. Consuming Nyale is believed to keep people young forever.

Nowadays, people’s Nyale catch is not much compared to the past.

Sasak traditional leader Lalu Agus Fathurahman said that Nyale is predicted to appear around the 20th of the 10th month of the Sasak calendar. There are three reasons why sometimes Nyale do not appear or only appear in small numbers. One of the reasons is human activity.

To ensure that the next generation also gets to see the Nyale, residents need to preserve the traditional customs of the Sasak tribe, which have been passed down from their ancestors.

This would require people to continue to care for and protect the sea, which is a potential gift from God. If the marine environment, including mountains and trees, is damaged, it can cause erosion and also hurt the community.

It may also trigger changes in seawater conditions, which may cause Nyale to leave their habitat or disappear. Thus, Sasak traditions and customs must be maintained by preserving nature.

Another reason for Nyale disappearance is hunting. To preserve their population, the community, including the millennial generation, will need to maintain the Bau Nyale tradition in accordance with the traditions of the Sasak people.

Preserving this culture is a shared task, and one that the future generation must take part in.

The Bau Nyale tradition begins with Sangkep Wariga, which is a meeting of traditional leaders to determine a good day for Nyale to appear and be caught by the community.

The Bau Nyale schedule may fall on different dates even though it is held every year. The main event of Bau Nyale is determined by the Sangkep Warige.

As per the result of the Sangkep Warige, this year’s Bau Nyale is being held on February 29 and March 1. Before the decision was made, a small trial was held to collect the thoughts of the traditional figures.

Then, the Sangkep Warige decided to determine the peak of Bau Nyale based on conscience for the togetherness of the Sasak people, so that Nyale could come to the surface and be caught by the community.

The results of Sangkep Warige served as the basis for the regional government to prepare activities for Bau Nyale.

Deputy head of Central Lombok district, H.M. Nursiah, said that the regional government thanked the traditional leaders, religious leaders, and youth leaders who set the Sangkep Warige based on the results of a study of natural signs.

Bau Nyale activities are expected to have an impact on economic growth and help increase tourism in Central Lombok.

Therefore, the regional government has asked the community to work together to protect the environment and the cleanliness of the waters where Bau Nyale is scheduled to take place.

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Tourist agenda
To preserve the Bau Nyale tradition, the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy has included the activity in the "Karisma Event Nusantara" (KEN).

The Central Lombok district government believes that central government support could help promote regional tourism.

The assistance provided by the central government is in the form of activity programs, including the promotion of Bau Nyale on a national scale to draw more tourists to Central Lombok.

Bau Nyale activities are usually a part of a series of events held to welcome the World Superbike (WSBK) event at the Mandalika Circuit, NTB. This year's Bau Nyale features a series of activities, including the Peresean, the Miss Mandalika event, and the Mandalika Carnival along with celebrations on the final night.

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Editor: Yuni Arisandy Sinaga
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