By far the best-known and most dazzling festival in Nusa Tenggara, the Pasola is one of those rare spectacles that actually surpasses all expectations. It takes place in Kodi and Lamboya in February and in Wanokaka and Gaura in March; most hotels can give you a rough idea of the date. This brilliant pageant of several hundred colourfully attired, spear-wielding horsemen in a frenetic and lethal pitched battle is truly unforgettable. It occurs within the first two moons of the year, and is set off by the mass appearance of a type of sea worm which, for two days a year, turns the shores into a maelstrom of luminous red, yellow and blue. The event is a rite to balance the upper sphere of the heavens and the lower sphere of the seas. The Pasola places the men of each village into two teams in direct opposition; the spilling of their blood placates the spirits and restores balance between the two spheres. The proceedings begin several weeks before the main event, with villagers hurling abuse and insults at their neighbours in order to get their blood up. The actual fighting takes place on special Pasola fields where the battle has been fought for centuries.

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