The LEGU GAM Festival is the largest cultural festival in the Northern Moluccas. Every year, from late March to mid-April, there is the opportunity to experience how ancestral rituals are kept alive and the rich traditions of the island archipelago are honoured. The festival is not only a special highlight for the islanders, it is frequently chosen also as one of the official ‘100 Wonderful Events’ in Indonesia.
Initiated in 2002 by Ternate’s late Sultan, Mudaffar Sjah, the festival’s intention was to promote harmony between the ethnic groups following a period of unrest in the region at the turn of the millennium and to show that harmonious coexistence is possible despite cultural and religious differences. Furthermore, this festival expresses the mutual gratitude and appreciation between the Sultanate and the island communities. In honour of Sultan Mudaffar Sjah, the LEGU GAM Festival always takes place around the time of his birthday.
A visit to this festival with its ancestral processions, rituals and dances opens up a glimpse into a little world of its own in which the western visitor can easily feel transferred into the fairy tale world reminiscent of ‘One Thousand and One Nights’. Colorful costumes and elaborate ceremonies set against a breathtaking scenery never fail in their magical appeal.
The LEGU GAM Festival was last held in March 2020, but could not be held in full due to Covid19 pandemic restrictions.
The Pawai Obor Gam Ma Cahaya Ritual is a solemn procession in which the island of Ternate is circumvented by foot overnight. The impressive procession on the eve of the festival opening symbolizes the gratitude of the islanders for Allah’s blessing.
Apart from celebrating together with Ternate’s Royal Family, the Opening Ceremony offers insights into the culture of the region. The many traditional local dances presented are not just colourful entertainment; they always contain messages.
The Khatam Qur’an tradition celebrates the milestone indicating that a child has become familiar with the content of the Koran. At this very solemn ceremony in the Sultan’s Palace, the participants read and sing together from the Koran.
The Fere Kie ritual, led by the religious dignitaries of the Bobato Akhirat, is intended to soothe Ternate’s volcanic mountain in order to protect the island from its destructive powers. At sunrise, the Sultan and his entourage climbs up to the summit of Mount Gamalama to say prayers at the crater’s edge.
Kololi Kie Mote Ngolo is the ritual of circumnavigating the mountain by sea. From the Palace, the Sultan with his entourage proceeds to the Sultan’s Harbour. Numerous festively decorated boats form a fleet, which accompanies the Sultan on his ritual island tour with music and singing. At various island locations, the religious dignitaries of the Bobato Dunia say prayers to protect the island from the destructive forces of the sea.
First half of December
The Kora-Kora Festival is another popular local festival in Ternate, build around the theme of the Sultanate’s maritime environment. Kora-Kora refers on the one hand to a traditional warship of the Sultanate, which in the past helped monitor and defend the remote island lands as part of a fleet. On the other hand, it is also the term for the means of transportation that has always been used by the Sultan and his royal guests for maritime transport. Regardless of occasion and mission, the deployment of such a fleet continues to be accompanied by many traditional religious rituals that provide a deep insight into the value system and history of the Sultanate.
The three-day festival, which has been held since 2011, always takes place at the end of the year. In addition to various cultural performances, it also includes numerous maritime competitions. As special events to be highlighted are the canoe rowing competition with traditional boats and the Kora Kora Parade.
The Korn-Kora Festival was suspended in 2020 due to the Covid19 pandemic.