Hombo Batu or Stone Jumping is an ancient ritual of Nias Island, North Sumatra, with young men leaping over stone walls over two-meters tall. The tradition was born out of inter-tribal conflicts and was once potentially deadly as the walls were covered with spikes and sharpened bamboo sticks.
Centuries ago, Nias Island was divided into several regions ruled by landlords or warlords. It was not a hereditary position, nor was it gained by force, but rather through entertainment of the masses. Whoever threw more parties known as “owasa” gained the favor of local communities and became their leader. But organizing these festive events didn’t come cheap, and the island’s landlords would constantly fight each other and use the spoils of war as funding. To start a war, they needed able brave men who had to prove their worth at drafting challenges. Becoming a soldier was a big honor for the young men of Nias and earned them a higher social status in the community, but physical attributes and weapon mastery were not enough to convince their leaders. They also had to jump over a 2.3-meter-tall stone wall without touching it. To make things even harder for candidates, the top of the obstacle was covered with spikes and sharp bamboo sticks, and the jumps often resulted in serious injuries and even deaths. According to some sources, Hombo Batu was also a way of training soldiers to jump over walls during a siege and light the enemy’s camp ablaze with torches.
After the warring period ended, the stone jumping ritual of Nias Island became a rite of passing for young boys. Those who managed to pass the test and leaped over the tall obstacle were considered men and gained the attention of local girls. The ritual of Hombo Batu is still practiced today, minus the sharp spikes, but sadly the women are more impressed by men who own a car or a motorcycle than by those who can jump really high. Tourists on the other hand are always mesmerized by the bold men wearing traditional costumes who run toward the wall and use a stepping stone to fly-kick over it.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: South Nias Tourism