Naghol (Land Diving) Festival in Vanuatu

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Land diving known in the local Sa language as Gol and in Bislama as Nanggolis a ritual performed by the men of the southern part of Pentecost Island of Vanuatu. When the first yam crop emerges in early April on the Vanuatu island of Pentecost, the southern islanders begin to build high wooden towers. Once completed, and through until about the end of May, village men and boys dive from these rickety structures with only two vines attached to their ankles to break their fall. So, it can say that naghol was the inspiration for bungee jumping.

Interesting features of Naghol Festival

  • The tradition has developed into a tourist attraction.According to the Guinness World Records, the g-force experienced by those at their lowest point in the dive is the greatest experienced in the non-industrialized world by humans.
  • To do it right, the vines should pull the divers up so near to the ground that their hair touches the soil. This is said to fertilise the ground, guaranteeing a bountiful yam harvest.
  • Though the majority of the islanders are Christian, they still adhere to the ancient beliefs. Before dawn on the day of the ceremony, the men undergo a ritual wash, anoint coconut oil on themselves, and decorate their bodies.
  • The males wear boar tusks around their necks. The men wear traditional nambas, and the women wear traditional grass dresses and are bare-breasted.Only the men are allowed to dive, but the dancing women provide mental support.Around 10 to 20 men in a village will jump.
  • The ritual begins with the least experienced jumpers on the lower platforms and ends with the most experienced jumpers on the upper platforms. The ideal jump is high with the jumper landing close to the ground.
  • The goal is to brush the shoulders against the ground. The higher the jump, the more bountiful the harvest.Before diving, the jumper can give speeches, sing songs, and make pantomimes (a type of musical comedy designed for family entertainment).
  • For boys, land diving is a rite of passage.After the boys are circumcised at the age of around seven to eight, the boys can participate in the ritual.
  • When a boy is ready to become a man, he land dives in the presence of his elders.His mother holds a favourite childhood item, for example, a piece of cloth. After completing the dive, the item is thrown away, demonstrating that the boy has become a man.

Today, tourism as much as tradition drives the naghol ceremonies, with dives taking place mainly for show, though the local people still have to adhere to traditional taboos in order to participate – failure to do so will have cultural implications for naghol divers.

Much more to see in Pentecost

Most visitors travel to Pentecost simply for the naghol ceremonies, but around the villages of Melsisi and Vanu there are good walks to gorges and waterfalls. The volcanic landscape of neighbouring Ambrym island is extraordinary.

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