Bambu Gila – The Crazy Bamboo Dance of Maluku

Bambu Gila is a mystical ritual performed in Indonesia’s Maluku Islands, where a group of strong men struggle to control a piece of bamboo from moving around like crazy as if it were possessed by an unseen power.

The origins of Bambu Gila, or Crazy Bamboo, are unknown, but it is believed the ancient ritual was once used to induce a fearless fighting mentality before going to war. Today, the once warring tribes of Maluku live in piece and this unique tradition has been reduced to a popular tourist attraction. Preparations for Bambu Gila start with a special ceremony in which the local shamans ask permission from the spirits that still dwell in the nearby bamboo forests to cut down a log for the famous dance. Crazy bamboos are  brought from Mount Gamalama, the volcanic mountain in Ternate, Northern Maluku, where the spirits are believed to be the strongest, cut to a specific size, cleaned and rubbed with coconut oil. During the actual ritual, seven of the strongest villagers are selected to handle the bamboo which supposedly starts to move by itself and becomes increasingly heavier and more difficult to control, after a ginger-chewing shaman recites strange mantras and blows incense into it. Although it’s hard to believe there are supernatural forces at work, the performers put on quite a show that attracts thousands of visitors from all over Indonesia and beyond.


Photo: Indonesia Travel

You would think seven young men would be enough to restrain a piece of dead bamboo, but after the shaman starts blowing incense smoke into the hollowed pole and screams “GILA!”  or “CRAZY!”, their strength proves insufficient. They are dragged and pulled by an unseen force, and as the rhythm set by the beating of drums becomes more alert, the bamboo gets even crazier and heavier. One by one, the men abandon their struggle, and some even faint after using all their strength to control the possessed pole. Finally, the bamboo is tamed by the shaman with more burning incense and mystical mantras.


Sources: Indonesia Travel, Indahnesia

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