Every year, a week after the end of Ramadan, the Indonesian villages of Morella and Mamala hold Pukul Sapu, a unique ritual that has men from the two villages beating each other across their bare backs with rattan broomsticks.
There’s nothing like a good beating to strengthen the bond between members of a community, at according to the people of Morella and Mamala, two villages in the Maluku province of Indonesia. Seven days after the end of Ramadan, the local young men take part in Pukul Sapu, an ancient ritual that translates as “Beating Brooms”. A fitting name, considering it involves participants hitting each other with strips of rattan across their backs until they are all covered in bloody scars. Before the actual beating begins, the men gather to receive the prayers of the village elders which are supposed to provide protection from serious injury during the proceedings. Wearing only short pants and headbands, the brave men enter the arena and split into two groups, facing each other. They then take turns in hitting each other across the back and chest with hard rattan brooms, with the one taking the beating lifting his arms into the air to proudly display his bloody wounds. This is not a mock battle, and the traces left by each lash is more than enough proof, yet the participants take the beating without so much as a flinch or cry of pain.
Photo: Radar Ambon
As soon as the beating ends, the bloodied bodies of the young men are rubbed with a magic oil, that is said to fix even broken bones in just two or three days. The soothing ointment allegedly heals their wounds without leaving a trace. Its curing properties are well known around Maluku Islands, and they’ve apparently caught the attention of Indonesian and foreign scientists. Despite its violent nature, Pakul Sapu is regarded as an opportunity to strengthen the brotherhood and friendship between the villagers of Morella and Mamala.
Pakul Sapu is not some obscure little village festival. Every year, it draws thousands of spectators from all over Indonesia and abroad, including many VIP guests, government officials and local administrators.