What is the purpose of the land diving or Naghol ritual on the Pentecost Island in the South Pacific?

High above the hillside in a jungle clearing, the man balances precariously on two planks projecting from the top of 100 feet 30 m rickety looking wooden Tower. Spectators hold their breath.

Suddenly the man tosses a spray of leaves in the air. As it spirals down, he leans slowly forward and falls head first after it in a spectacular dive. But just as it seems his head is about to strike the ground, he is jerked up again into an arc which swings him to a safe landing on the hillside.

For both the man’s ankles are tied with the lianas – tough jungle vines – tethered to the top of the tower. The death-defying dive is the climax to an annual ceremony called the Naghol or Gol. It is held on Pentecost, one of 80 islands of the pacific republic of Vanuatu – until 1980 the New Hebrides.

The ritual features many diverse leaping from progressively higher platforms, the lowest around 40 ft (12 m).

Why do the Pentecost islanders risk their lives in such a bizarre and dangerous way?

The true origin of the Gol is unknown, but the participants see it as a test of courage the closer they swoop to the ground, the greater their bravery.

The ceremony has Ali Diwali Hai safety record, but sometimes it goes wrong. In 1974, one diver’s lianas snapped as they were jerked taut and he was killed. The ceremony was witnessed by the Queen and other members of the British royal family.

The tower is a flexible structure of palm trunks and bamboo, constructed around the living tree, stripped of most of its branches. The lianas that tether the divers are the real key to safety, however. They must be the right age and diameter and are cut two days before the ceremony. If they were cut earlier, they could try out, become brittle and lose the elasticity. They are also carefully cut to suit the height from which each diver plans to fall. The cutting is done by an experienced man who can calculate the elasticity of the vines.

Although the Gol’s origin is lost, a legend tells that the first driver was a woman. Her husband, discovering she was being unfaithful, chased her, intending to beat her. She climbed a tall palm, but he scrambled up after her. At the top he demanded to know why she had been unfaithful. She replied that he was a coward and dared him to jump in with her from the tree top. The husband agreed. They jumped. The man was killed, but his wife had surreptitiously tied a vine to her ankle to break her fall.


Picture Credit : Google