When travelling to the island of Flores, do not omit to put Kampung Bena, – or the traditional village of Bena – on your must-visit itinerary. Located some 18 km from the town of Bajawa, here time seems to have passed over Kampung Bena, where until today villagers still faithfully follow megalithic traditions, where sincere friendliness to strangers comes from the heart, where all around the village you will see vestiges of an age long gone when large stone monuments to ancestors were an inseparable part of daily life. The megalithic village of Bena is one of Indonesia’s rich living cultural heritage that can still be enjoyed to this very day, but should also be carefully preserved.
Safely protected in the shadows of looming Mt. Inerie, the Village of Bena in the district of Bajawa, is one of a number of traditional villages on the island of Flores that still embrace the awe-inspiring megalithic culture until today. The town of Bajawa itself is completely surrounded by mountains and a tourist attraction in its own right because of its cool mountain air.
Life in the village of Bena seems not to have changed since the megalithic age some 1,200 years ago. Here are 9 clans living in 45 houses. These are the Dizi, the Dizi Azi, the Wahtu, the Deru Lalulewa, the Deru Solamae, the Ngada, the Khopa and the Ago. Each clan lives on a different level of the terraced village, with the Bena clan in its center. This is because the Bena are deemed the oldest clan and founder of the village, for which reason the village is named Kampung Bena.
In general, the inhabitants of Bena live from agriculture tending to the many green gardens planted on the slopes of deep valleys surrounding the village. They communicate with each other in the Nga’dha language. Most villagers are Catholic. Nevertheless, they still follow the ancient believe in ancestor worship, its rituals and traditions.
The Bena follow kinship following the mother’s line, where a man who marries outside his clan will belong to his wife’s clan. While Bena women must be adept in weaving the traditional Bena cloth that have typically elephant and horse motifs unique to this village.
Today Kampung Bena counts 326 inhabitants in 120 families. However, those related to the tradition (or adat) and to the village are thousands of village descendents now living outside the core village.
Bena villagers believe that the god Zeta resides on the peak of Mt. Inerie. This mountain, which reaches 2,245 meters above sea level is overgrown with thick forests on its west side only, while its south side is planted with various orchards or gardens. To the Bena people, Mt. Inerie is the right of the mother (hak mama), while Mt. Surulaki is the right of the father (hak bapa).
Today, Mt. Inerie has become an attractive destination for mountain climbers and adventure seekers especially during the dry season that lasts from June through August. From its peak one has a spectacular 360 degree panorama on the surrounding landscape, including on the town of Bajawa to its north west. To the south lies the blue Sawu sea that breaks its waves right on the shores at the foot of this mountain. Mt. Inerie exploded in 1882 and 1970 leaving behind rich fertile soil on this already fantastically beautiful scenery. Notice the unusually large bamboo shrubs that grow around this mountain!
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