Thursday, November 1, 2012


In this post I’m going to share all readers about the Iban also known as the most popular Dayak community in Sarawak for their bravery as the headhunters in Borneo during the ruled of the White Rajah Sir James Brooke in the past 200 years ago, whose are still having their pagan religion and most of them are staying in the longhouse upriver far away from the town and need to be reach for many hours either by boat or by the land transport. It can’t be reach by plane as there have no air field in the nearby area.

The Iban have no special form of worship, nor do they build any temples in honour of their gods, and yet they certainly have a religion of their own. They believe in certain gods and spirits, who are supposed to rule over different departments of their life, and they have certain religious observances which may be classed as follows :
  1. The killing and eating of fowls and pig offered in sacrifice, of which a portion is set aside for their gods.
  2. The propitiation of gods and spirits by offering of food.
  3. The use of special omens and augury.
  4. The singing of long incantations called “Mengap”, “Renong”, “Pelian”, “Besudi”, “Bebayoh”, “Sabak Bebuah”, “Bebiau”, to communicate with the gods and the spirits on certain occasions.

The Iban have only one word to name their god that is “Petara”, to denote the deity, and there is no literature to appeal to in order to explain in detail about this word. The readers have to depend upon what the Iban can tell us themselves, and also upon what the readers can gather from the different “Pengap” that is a long incantations from “Mengap” made on such semi-sacred occasions as the offering of sacrifices at feasts. These “Mengap” are handed down from generation to generation by word of mouth and never been written alphabetically as its too long and only the “Lemambang” themselves can remember the long incantations to communicate with the god. Some Iban have a very good memories especially the “Lemambang” and the “Manang” which is their witch doctor and are able to learn and repeat the long incantations for about two days without any mistakes according to what they learned without any modern technology.

The general idea is that there are many “Petara”, but the whole subject is one upon which the Iban have very hazy ideas. They cannot give a connected and kucid account of their belief. They all admit, however that the “Petara” are supernatural beings, who are invisible and have superior powers.

But Their conception of gods is a very low one, and this is not to be wondered at because as it is well known the grosser the nature of a people, the grosser will be their conception of a denty or of deities. We can hardly expect a high and spiritual conception of gods from the Iban in their present intellectual condition. Their “Petara” are most human-like beings. They are represented as delighting in a “feast of rice, and pork, and venison, cakes and the rice wine,” just as the Iban themselves do, and yet they are the beings who can bestow the highest blessings the Iban can desire.

Although the conception of “Petara” is not an exalted one, yet he is a good being, and no evil is attributed to him. He is always on the side of justice and right. The ordeal of diving is an appeal to “Petara” to help the innocent and overthrow the guilty. He is supposed to be angry at acts of wickedness, and I have often heard an Iban say that he dare not commit some particular crime because he fears the displeasure and punishment of “Petara”. He may be able to hide his wickedness from the eyes of man, but not from the “Petara”.

There are a large number of gods mentioned by name in the Iban incantations but the following are the most important deities :
“Sengalang Burong” takes the highest position in honour and dignity and is thev ruler of the spirit world. He stands at the head of the Iban pedigree, and they trace their descent from him, for he is believed to have once lived on earth as a man. It is doubtful what the word “Sengalang Burong” means “the bird chief” . The Iban are great observers of omens as is noticed in their religion. And among their omens the cries and fight of certain birds are most important. All these birds are supposed to be manifestations of the spirit son-in-law of “Sengalang Burong” who is himself manifested in the white and brown hawk which is known by his name.

“Sengalang Burong” is also the god of war, and the guardian spirit of brave men. He delights in fighting, and the head taking is his glory. When the Iban have obtained a human head, they make a great feast in his honour and invoke his presence. He is the only god ever represented by the Iban in a material form. It is a carved, highly coloured bird of grotesque shape. This figure is erected on the top of a pole thirty feet or more in height, with its beak pointing in the direction of the enemy’s country, so that he may “peck at the eyes of the enemy.”

Next in importance to “Sengalang Burong” is “Sempulang Gana”. He is tutelary deity of the soil and presides over the rice farming. He is an important power in the Dayak Iban belief, and to him offering are made and incantations are sung at during the “Gawai Batu” which meant the “Stone Feast”, which take places before the farming operations of their paddy field in May begin, and also at during the “Gawai Benih”, the “Festival of the Seed”, just before the planting of the paddy. Upon his good-will, according to the Iban belief is supposed to depend their supply of the staff of life. His history is given in a myth handed down from ancient times according to the Iban legends history.

“Sempandai” is the maker of men. He hammers them into shape out of clay and forms the bodies of children to be born into the world. There is an insect which makes at night the curious noise “kink-a-clink, kink-a-klink”. When they hear this, they say it is “Sempandai” at his work. The story goes that he was commanded by the gods to make a man. And he made one of the stone but it could not speak, and so was rejected. He set to work again and made one of the iron, but neither could that speak, so the god refused it. Then the third time he made one of the clay, and this had the power of speech. The gods, “Petara” were pleased and said to him “The man you have made will do well. Let him be the ancestor of the human race and you must make others like him.”

And “Sempandai” began forming human beings, and is forming them now at his anvil, using his tools in unseen regions. There he hammers them out, and when each child is formed it is brought to the “Petara” who asks : “What would you like to handle and use ?” If it answer, “A sword,” the gods pronounced it a male; but if it answer, “Cotton and the spinning-wheel”, it is pronounced a female. Thus they are born as boys or girls, according to their own wishes. “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground”. In this respect Iban tradition corresponds with the Biblical account.

There is a word which is often used by the Iban called “Mali” which means “Taboo”. It is difficult to find an exact English equivalent to the word. We may say it means “Sacred” or “Forbidden”, but none of these seems to be the right word to convey the full force of the word “Mali”. To the Iban mind, to do anything “Mali” is to incur the displeasure of the gods and spirits, and that means not only misfortune in this world but for all time. Even the children seem to dread the word and the little boy who is willful and disobedient will at once drop what he has in his head if he is told it is “Mali” for him to touch it or doing it. There are many things which they say it is “Mali” to do. Often they can give no reason for it except that it has always been so from ages past.

Most races of mankind believe in the existence of a class of beings intermediate between deity and humanity. The Iban is no exception, and he believes that innumerable spirits, or “Antu” which mean “Ghost” or “any bad spirit of an evil” inhabit the forest, the rivers, the earth, and the heavens: but whereas among other races the spirit seem to act as mediators between the gods and mankind, this is not the case among them, because they believe that their gods are actually present in answer to invocations and sacrifices, and that they visit those human regions and partake of the food given them. With them the distinction between spirits – antu – and gods – Petara – is very vague. There are both good and evil spirits. The former assist man, the latter do him injury. Of the gods no evil id predicated, and so it comes to pass that the good spirits are closely identified with their gods.

Any unusual noise or motion in the jungle, anything which suggest to the mind some invisible operation, is at once attributed by them to the presence of some spirit, unseen by human eyes, but full of the mighty power. Though generally invisible, these spirits sometimes vouch-safe to mankind a revelation of themselves. The form they assume in these manifestations is not anything very supernatural, but either a commonplace human form, or else some animal – a bird, or a monkey – such as is often seen in the forest. There is, however the chief of evil spirits named “Antu Gerasi” who, when been seen takes the form of a giant about ten times the size of a man, is covered with rough shaggy hair, and has eyes as big as a saucers, and huge glittering teeth.

There are innumerable stories told by the Iban of their meeting with the spirit of the jungle and sometimes it speaking to them. Such stories generally relate how the man who sees the spirit rushes to catch him by the leg – he cannot reach higher – in order to get some charms from him, but he is generally foiled in his attempt, as the spirit suddenly vanishes. But some men, it is believed, do obtain these much coveted gifts. If they gets a good harvest of paddy, it is attributed to some magic charm he has received from some kindly spirit. Also if he be successful on the warpath, he is credited by his fellows with the succour of some mysterious being from the spirit-world.

The spirit rove about the jungle and hunt for wild beasts, as the Iban do themselves. “Antu Gerasi” already mentioned is specially addicted to the chase, and is often to be met with hunting in the forest, and when seen assumes which roam about in pecks in the jungle, and are called by the Iban as “Pasun” which means a little dog used by the evil spirit “Antu Gerasi” to hunt for the human being. These are supposed to be the dogs that accompany the spirits when they are out hunting, and they attack those whom the spirits wish to be kill. Only seldom man ever seen one of these animals, but to judge from the description of them, they seem to be kind of  small jackal. It’s the same size as a squirrel but the hair have many colours. It move in group, and they will follow and bark at men, and from their supposed connection with the evil spirit “Antu Gerasi” are greatly feared by the Iban, who generally run away from them as fast as they can.

There a story that some Iban in Banting, Lingga, Sri Aman solemly told that one day when he was out hunting, he met the spirit in human form sitting upon a fallen tree. Nothing daunted, he went up and sat upon the same tree, and entered into conversation with him, and asked him for some charm. The spirit gave him some magic medicine which would give his dogs pluck to attack any wild pig or deer so long as he retained possession of it. Having given him this, the spirit advised the man to return quickly, for his dogs, he said, would be back soon, and might do him harm. This advice he willingly followed, and hurried away as fast as he could.

There are some more wonderful stories related about meeting the demon “Antu Gerasi”. It is said that a man once saw this terrible spirit returning from the hunt, carrying on his back a captured the man whom he recognized. Strange to relate, the man died the same day on which he was seen  carried by the evil spirit.

The spirit are said to build their invisible habitations in trees, and many trees are considered sacred as being the abode of one or more spirits, and to cut down one of these trees would provoke the spirits vengeance. The wild fig-tree also known as “Kayu Kara” is often supposed to be inhabited by spirits. It is said that one way of testing whether the “Kayu Kara” is the abode of spirits or not is to strike an axe into it at the sunset direction, and leave it fixed in the trunk of the tree during the whole night. If the axe be found on the next morning in the same position that meant there no spirit in there, but if the axe was found has fallen to the ground that meant the evil spirit is there and has displaced the axe.

The tops of the hills are favourite haunts for spirits. When they fell the jungle of the larger hills, they always leave a clump of trees at the summit as a refuge for the spirits. To leave them quite homeless would be to court certain disaster from them. According to their belief the evil spirits far out number the good ones. There are many strange customs connected with the Iban belief in spirits. As all illnesses are caused by the spirit, it is necessary that these be propitiated. When there is any great epidemic in the country – when cholera or smallpox is killing its hundreds on all side – one often notices little offering of food hung on the walls and from the ceiling, animals killed in sacrifice, and blood splashed on the post of the houses. When one asks why all this is done, they say they do it in the hope that when the evil spirit, who is thirsting for human lives, comes along and sees the offering they have made and the animals killed in sacrifice, he will be satisfied with this things, and not take the live of any of the people living in their longhouses or villages.

As a matter of fact, this offering of sacrifices to the evil spirits is a frequently recurring feature in their life. The gods are good, and will not injure them, and so they worship them at their own convenience, when they wish to obtain any special favour from them. But the evil spirits are always ready to do them harm, and to take the lives of victims, and therefore sacrifices must constantly be made to the spirits, who will accept sacrificial food as a substitute for the lives of human beings.

From what has been said it will be seen that the spirits are to them not more apparitions which come and go without any special object, but have definite power, and can either bestow favours or cause sickness and death. Therefore they rule the conduct of the Iban, and receive religious homage. They are indeed a constituent and important part of their religion.

 The sacrifices offered by the Iban are known as two kinds called the “Piring” and “Genselan”. The “Piring” is an offering composed of sticky rice cooked in bamboos, cakes, eggs, sweet potatoes, plantains, or other fruit, and sometimes a small live chickens. If the offering be made in the house these things are put on a brass dish called “Tabak”. If the occasion of the sacrifice requires that it be offered elsewhere, a little platform is constructed, consisting of pieces of wood tied together with cane, and fixed on four sticks struck in the ground. This platform is known as “Para Piring” or the “altar of sacrifice”, and the offering is laid on it. It is covered with a rough roof of palm leaf, and looks like a miniature native house, and is decorated with white flags. It is the most flimsy thing imaginable, and soon tumbles to pieces. The god or spirit is supposed to come and eat the good things provided, and go away contented. It is no use arguing with them that he can see for himself that his offering is eaten up by fowls, or pigs, or boys, who are full mischief, and have no fear of spirits. They says the spirit eat the soul or spirit of the food; what is left on the altar is only its outer husk, not its true essence.

In one occasion done at Temudok, Saratok where the Iban put up a little shed, with offerings of food, at the landing place on the river bank. There was an epidemic of cholera at that time, and the spirits of disease were supposed to eat these offering and go away contented. Among the offering was a little live chicken, that was tied to the “Para Piring” but which managed to get loose. Some of the school boys stand behind me asked if they might catch the chicken which was running about in the grass and rear it. I did not like to allow them to do this, because I though they would resent the boys interfering with their sacrifice. But my friend a catechist told me that they had done their duty in making the offering and what happened afterwards to the things offered did not matter. So the boys caught the chicken and reared it. I spoke to them about it afterwards, and they did not seem to mind their “altar of sacrifice” being disturbed and robbed of its offering.

In the “Genselan” occasion there is always some animal slain, and the blood of the victim is used. The person on whose behalf the offering is made is sprinkled or touched with the blood to atone for any wrong he may have done, and the house or farm upon which the blessing of the gods is desired is also sprinkled with the blood. This kind of sacrifice is very often offered on behalf of their farms, and they think their paddy field will come to maturity without some application of blood. The fowl is waved in the air over the farm, then it is killed, and the blood sprinkled over the growing paddy. When there is an epidemic, the “Genselan” is often offered to the spirits of disease, and blood is sprinkled on the post of the house and on the ladder leading up to it.   

On most occasion the victim of the sacrifice be it pig or fowl, it is afterward eaten. But if the sacrifice be to given for the “Sempulang Gana” at the commencement of the farming, the pig and other offering are conveyed with the beating of gongs to the land prepared for receiving the seed. The pig is killed, its liver and gall examined for divination, the body and other offering put in the ground, and some “Tuak” the local Iban rice wine was poured upon them, a long invocation is then made to the “Sempulang Gana” the god of the land. If a fowl to be sacrifice for adultery, its body is thrown away in the jungle. For all ordinary sacrifices a fowl suffices, but on great occasions a pig being the largest animal the Iban domesticates is killed.

Anyone may offer these sacrifices. There does not seem to be among the Iban any priestly order whose duty is to officiate at religious ceremonies. Any man who has been fortunate in life, or known the form of address to be used to the deities on these occasions, may perform the sacrificial function. All that the Iban hopes to get by his religious ceremonies is material benefits – good crops of paddy, the heads of his enemies, skill in craft, health, and prosperity. Even when there is some idea of the propitiation for sin, as in the slaying of a victim after an act of adultery, the idea of the Iban is not so much the cleansing of the offender as the appeasing of the anger of the gods, because in their anger the gods may destroy their crops or otherwise give them trouble. There is no idea of seeking for pardon for the offenders. It is merely a compensation for wrong done, and a bargain with the gods to protect their material interest.

The longing to communicate with the supernatural is common to all races of mankind. The Iban has a special means of bringing this about; they has the custom which is called “Nampok”. To “Nampok” is to have a sleep on the top of some mountain, or other lonely place, in the hope of meeting some good helpful spirit frpm the unseen world. A cementery is a favourite place for them to do the “Nampok”, because they think there is great probability of meeting spirits in such places. The undertaking requires considerable pluck. The man must be quite alone, and he must let no one know of his where abouts. The spirit he meets may take any form ; he may come in human form and treat him kindly, or he may assume a hideous form and attack him.

The Iban man are doing the “Nampok” for one or two reasons. Either he is fired with great ambition to shine in deeds of strength and bravery, and to attain the positon of a chief, and hopes to receive some charm that they called “Pengaroh” from the spirits, or he is suffering from some obstimate disease, and hope to be told by kindly spirit what he must do in order to be cured. It can easily be understood how the desire would in many cases bring about its own fulfillment. The unusual surrounding, the expected arrival of some supernatural being, the earnest wish acting upon a credulous and superstitious imagination in the solemn solitude of the jungle – all would help to make the man dream of some spirit or mythical hero.

The Iban has no temple erected in honour of some god to which, like the ancients of the Western World, he can make a pilgrimage. He has no altar before which he can spend the night in order to receive revelations in dreams, but he goes instead to the lonely mountain top, or the cementery where so many heroes of the past have been buried, and makes his offering and lies to rest beside it. The circumstances are different, but the spirit and the object in both cases are the same. The story often told of a miraculous cure is also similar in each case.

There are certain rocks in different parts of Borneo which are called by the Iban as “Batu Kudi” by means “The stones caused by the wrath of the gods”. A story is related in connection with each. The following are some of those mythical stories :
  1. In the bed of the Sesang River, next to Kabong town in the Kalaka District there is a rock which is only visible at the lowest of the ebb-tide. It is called the “Batu Kudi Sabar”. The story goes that in olden days the inmates of the Iban house tied to a dog’s tail a piece of wood, which they set alight. They all laughed at the sight as the dog ran off in fright, dragging after him the burning torch. Suddenly there was darkness, and a great storm came on. There was thunder and lightning, and torrents of rain, and the house and its inmates were turned into this large rock. A family consisting of three person managed to escape. They did not join in the laughter at the dog, but ran out of the house and hid in a clump of bamboo. They saw all that happened, and told the tale.

  1. On the bank of the Krian River in Saratok, the Kalaka District just above the Temudok longhouse is a large rock called “Batu Kudi Siap”. It is said that the people in an Iban  longhouse held a feast to which many invited guests came. An old woman who was living alone in a farm hut, and had not been asked to the feast, dressed up a cat in finery, “like a young damsel going to afesat,” tied a piece of wood to her tail, and placing her before the people said : “Here is a girl come to you to ask for a light.” The people laughed at the cat. Instantly there were darkness and a terrible storm, and the house and all the inmates were turned to stone. A similar tale is told of “The Batu Kudi” at Selanjan.

  1. There are “Batu Kudi” in the Gerenjang River, in Saratok, the Kalaka District, as well as in the Undup and Batang Ai Rivers , in the Lubok Antu District, of which the following tale is told : Two girls were standing in the water catching fish with a fishing basket that they called “Pemansai”. A small fish that they called “Empelasi” has jumped out of the basket, and hit the breast of one of the girls. She laughed, and said : “Even my lover would not dare to touch my breast as you do.” Her companion also laughed at the fish. There was a storm accompanied by lightning and thunder, and both girls were turned into rocks.

  1. In the Saribas River in the Betong District, there is a “Batu Kudi”, of which the following tale is told : Some men and boys were watching a monkey crossing the river on a creeper which hung low down over the water. The tail of the monkey touched the water, and one of them laughed, and said : “The end of his waist cloth that they called “Sirat” is wet; why was he so foolish as not to tie it round his waist ?”  At this remark all of them laughed, and a terrible storm came on, and they were turned to stone.

There is a similarity about all these stories. In each some animal is made fun of and laughed at by human beings. This incurs the displeasure of the gods, whom anger is shown in the same way – a terrible storm, thunder and lightning, and the turning of the offenders into stone.

There are, however, other “Batu Kudi” of which different stories are told, but these are not so common. For instance, in the Skrang River there are two large black boulders which are said to be a brother and sister who were guilty of the crime of incest : and in the Sebuyau River there is a collection of rocks said to be the inhabitants of a whole village, who were guilty of a serious breach of the law of hospitality, and refused to give food and shelter to some travellers. The moral of these mythical tales is good. All sin is displeasing to the gods, and will meet with deserved punishment, but specially are they angry when they see human beings ill treat and ridicule dumb animals. These “Batu Kudi” are not worshipped. Offering of food are sometimes seen hanging near them, but these are not made to the “Stone os Wrath”, but to the gods of whose displeasure they are the testimony.

The Iban belief in a future life was mentioned in the Burial Rites. But it is no gloomy Tartarus, nor in a happy Elysium, that lies before him. It is simply a prolongation of the present state of things in a new sphere. The dead are supposed to build houses, make paddy farms, and go through all the drudgery of a labouring life in that other world. This future life does not, in the mind of the Iban, mean immortality. Death is still the final and inevitable destiny of a man. He may live many lives in different spheres – he may die as often as seven times – but in the end he becomes annihilated, and absorbed into air, or earth, or certain jungle plants.

To sum up, the Iban worships his gods. There are good spirits ready to help him, and evil spirits eager to harm him. He has omens and divination and dreams to encourage or warn him. The traditions of his ancestors, handed down by word of mouth from generation to generation, are his authority for his beliefs. He makes sacrifices to the gods and spirits, and invokes their help in long incantations. He believes he has a soul which after death will live in another world a future life differing little from his existence in the flesh.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

"Ngerapoh" - The Iban Funeral Custom


The Death Of Garik And The Beginning Of "Ngerapoh"

ln the days of Sera Gunting the son of Menggin, who led the first immigration of the Ibans from the Kapuas valley towards Sarawak, there was another man named Kadam who lived by the upper Marup River in the vicinity of Tiang Laju mountain, not far from the present town of Engkilili about 300 kilimeters from Kuching to Sibu by road..

When he was eighty years old, Kadam went to stay in his farm hut to protect his padi from being invaded by wild boars. His son Garik did not want him to go to the farm, because of his great age, but he went anyway. After several days, Garik went to visit him at the farm. But when he came to his father’s hut he found that he was not there, although all of his belongings were properly put away inside it. Garik went to another hut nearby where a woman was staying. He asked her whether she had seen his father, and she said that she had not seen him. Garik began to be worried. He stayed in is fathers hut that night, as there was not enough time before dark to return to the longhouse. He found that his father’s rice in the cooking pot had became mouldy.

Early in the next morning, after he had taken his food, he returned to the longhouse and told the people that his father was not in his farm hut. He begged for help from the people to look for his father again for avsearch and rescue. All the people in the longhouse went with him to the farm. They found that Kadam had left the hut about three days earlier. After they had looked for him around his farm hut, they walked along the edge of his padi field. At the end of a track leading not far away from it, they found his headless body, already decomposed and eaten by worms, lying in the bush. They knew that he had been killed by enemies. Strictly obeying customary procedure, Garik and his friends did not move Kadams corpse elsewhere. Tbey just let it decay on the spot.

In ancient times no Iban would touch or move away the corpse of a person who was either killed by enemies in the battle field, or murdered in a farm hut, or dead of a natural death alone in the open space. If a person was murdered as the how the way Kadam was, he could only be left to rot where he fell. Besides this, everyone was forbidden to look too long at his body. If a person died alone in a hut, the hut must be destroyed, and if a man died fighting on the road side , his corpse must be covered with leaves. All these taboos were to be observed strictly in order to prevent one from dying before ones time and another..
Some days later Kadam began to appear to many people. They saw him sitting on steep lands by the river bank, watching the people who bathed. He also appeared on the uncovered verandah at night outside the longhouse, and he often appeared at the wide space outside the longhouse in the day time. And the members of his family often heard him coming into their family room at night. He also went up to the loft, for they often noticed the marks his fingers left in the padi grains in the padi bins.

After he had appeared many times to many people, his son Garik had a dream. In it, he saw his father come and sit down on their own communal verandah (ruai). On seeing him Garik said, are you still living, father? No, I have died, replied his father. He told Garik that he lived a very hard life in the other world as he had no axe, cooking pot, clothes and other things for him to use and wear. Due to this hardship, he said, I have been wandering about as most of the time that  you have seen, Garik told him that he would willingly provide these things, but he did not know where to send them. His father said, everything such as axe, knife, cooking, pot and clothes which you give me should be put inside a jar, and this jar then buried in the cemetery ground.

In the morning Garik told the people of his dream that night. As his father had told him, he placed the collection of things in a “Rapoh Jar” which he buried in the cemetery that same day. After these things had been buried, his father never again reappeared to human eyes or demanded more things in a dream.
Later it was known to Garik and the people of his house that his father had been killed by a Kantu warrior by the named Jugam who lived near the mouth of the Ketungau River. After Garik buried his fathers articles inside a “Rapoh Jar” in the cemetery, henceforth the Ibans called that kind of burial of the deceased’s belongings to be “Ngerapoh”. This system of burying articles to give them to a dead person who died far away from his own home was followed by Ibans of the past ages.

How Jiram Rentap - The Iban Warrior Have His Death "Ngerapoh"

The best example of this “Ngerapoh” burial to be recorded here was the one made by Jantan, well-known Iban Chief of the upper Paku in the Saribas District, who died in about 1839. While Jantan was an Iban Chief of the Paku watershed, his brother-in-law, Jiram whose nick-name was Rentap, was one of the leading warriors in the lower part of the same river. In the year when Jantan and his followers were farming at the Ngiau lands, they began to build a big warboat; and Jantan also asked Rentap to build another warboat as large as his. They built these boats at Ulu Ngiau in the upper Paku River.

After the boats were completed, Jantan called for a big meeting in his house, to discuss which settlement that they would attack. In this conference all the warriors appointed Rentap to become their war- leader to attack the Kanowit tribe on the Rejang River. They did not want to waste time attacking the people of Sarikei and Binatang Rivers who had been regularly attacked by Mujah Buah Raya of the. Julau and Igoh Apai Lamban of Ulu Binatang. These two war chiefs were Saribas migration leaders who had settled in those parts of the settlement. Jantan doubted whether it was safe to pass so many hostile people in the Rejang  River on their way to attack the Kanowit tribe, who lived along the right river bank of the Kanowit River near its mouth. But in spite of Jantan’s hesitation all the warriors were determined to attack with Rentap as their leader. At the conclusion of the agreement Jantan and Rentap invited all the Paku and Anyut warriors as far as the people of Nanga Salamoi down river to join the war expedition (Ngayau).

Hearing that the Paku Ibans under Rentap were preparing to raid the Kanowit tribe, the Bukitans who lived in the Julau River sent messages to warn the Kanowits of the coming attack. When they received the message, the Kanowits instantly called the Rejang people to come and reinforce them. After the arrival of the Rajang’s the warriors of the two tribes started to fortify themselves in many different ways. They collected two long semambu canes which they placed across the rivers, below the surface of the water, at Nanga Kanowit. Both ends of these canes were tied to big trees, whose lower trunks had been partly cut so that they could be felled quickly when the enemys boats passed them.

Early the next morning when it was still dark Rentap’s and Jantan’s boats entered the Kanowit River. When they passed above those canes, the Kanowit warriors cut through the trees which lifted up the canes turning the boats upside down. Rentaps and Jantans boats were instantly capsized, and all the warrior’s weapons were lost in the river. The Iban fighters swam to the shores to save themselves. But when they landed they were attacked by the enemy who killed them easily as they had no more weapons with them to defend themselves. Out of all these warriors only very few could escape to the jungle to save themselves.

As they fled aimlessly in the forest, Rentap and many others died of starvation at Nanga Pakan in the Julau River. Before he died Rentap told his brother-in-law Jantan to lead the survivors returned back to their Paku settlement. He also asked him to look after the welfare of his wife and particularly to help bring up his fatherless children. After Jantan and his friends had buried Jiram ‘Rentap’ in the ground they left the place and wandered through the forests, seeking the way home. Eventually when they came to the range of hills between the Julau and Krian rivers, they were able to see in the distance the summit of Bukit Tengalat on the left bank of the lower Krian below Nanga Melupa. On seeing this they knew where they were. The walked towards it and crossed the Krian river; from Tengalat hill they went to the Rimbas, and so returned to their home in the Paku river.

On their arrival home, Jantan told the people about their defeat by the Kanowits. All were sad to hear of this tragedy. Jantan and the other elders thought it was proper to honour the death of Jiram ‘Rentap’ and his deceased warriors with the ‘Ngerapoh” burial in accordance with the custom begun by Garik when he buried the articles of his father, Kadam, killed by the enemy long ago. The place where Rentaps and his warrior’s rapoh were buried was on and around the top of Bukit Rapoh, near the Danau longhouse in the upper Paku. Today a number of the jars that were used can still be seen at that spot.

Friday, February 18, 2011


The Iban is a part belong to the Dayak race in Malaysia and live in the state of Sarawak located at the eastcoast of the Borneo Island. They also known as the Sea Dayaks during the reign of the Brooke’s and the British Colonial before as they are the most dangerous tribe in Borneo and so daring in their war battle just to have the head of their enemies as their war trophies. The word Dayak is a Land Dayak or Bidayuh word, and “before proceeding to elucidate how the word Dayak came to be misrepresented and it must first of all deal with the favourite meaning of it that it is the corrupted form of the Malay word “Darat” which means inland or up-country. This is an impossibility.”
The generic term Dayak (or properly called Daya by themselves) in many dialects simply means inland although among many of the branch tribes the term is not known as being referable to themselves. Some of the interior populations even as far off as Brunei are called “Ka-daya-n”. Then again the Matu or Melanau name for inland is “Kedaya.” The Descriptive Dictionary of the Indian Islands says that “Dayak or more correctly Dayak is a word used by the Malays as a generic term for all the wild races of Sumatra and Celebes, but more especially of Borneo where they are most numerous. It seems to be equivalent with them to the European word savage. And some author informs us that “the word Dayak is only applied to the race in Borneo who are living in much barbarism.” But almost in the same breath they adds “the Sea Dayaks are not at all savage race as may be proved later on.”
The Iban’s is belong to the Malayan race as the evident from the root-forms of their language which are synonymous with the root-forms of the Malayan language. Both languages admit prefixes. If there is at the Iban grammar is similarity will be at once indentified with the Malay grammar. More likely Sumatra where Melayu originated as a small kingdom. Neither the Iban’s nor the Malays of Sarawak may be called the aborigines of this part of the island of Borneo. Three or four centuries ago they were driven to migrate into the island. The Iban’s appear to have migrated before the Malays. We can conjecture nothing satisfactorily as to the causes of their migration other than the compulsory conversion of Mohammed’s successors, or famine, or war.
It is clear the Iban’s were once upon a time in the Malaysian Peninsula. This is proved from the arts of spinning, weaving and colouring cloths, which they have possessed for many generations back independently of their neighbours the Malays of Sarawak. But the aborigines roughly speaking of thispart of the island are quite ignorant even of the art of spinning. The Malays, it may be presumed, were once what the Dayak are now, in matters of civilization perhaps dates from the time of their conversion to Mohammedanism. The proof of thisis that they have not yet been thoroughly purged of their once heathenish rites, in the belief in witches and so forth.
It may be presumed that the word Dayak was also known to the Sea Dayaks before they migrated into this island. It is a word of the Land Dayak whom we may roughly call one of the aboriginal races of Borneo. But the word, according to the pronunciation of both the Land and Sea Dayaks, has been corrupted in the spelling by the introduction of the final K, which is not at all present in the native pronunciation of the word. The word Dayak or properly speaking “Daya” answers to the Malay word “Orang”, which means a man, or the people. If “Darat” could be at all corrupted it would not receive that form of corruption, but its corrupted form would be “Dara” or “Dar”, for both the Sea Dayaks and the Malays pronounce their “r”. Futhermore, when we come to explain the phrase Dayk Undup, Dayak Skrang, etc, by which each tribe of the Sea Dyaks call itself, the word “Darat” will not only appear ungrammatical, but also absurd.
The misrepresentation of the word Dayak, it may be presumed, had accidentally cropped up, and was retained in force through the mere carelessness and ignorance of the Dayaks to have allowed themselves to be thus called; the Malays call themselves “Laut”. But with reference to the Malays their nationality is known and therefore no question is necessarily raised to investigate their proper nationality. With regard to the Sea Dayaks there is no light as yet thrown upon the matter which will lead us to any satifactory conclusion with reference to their nationality.
The word “Daya” which is a word of the Land Dayaks meaning a man, or the people, gives us no assistance whatever towards the investigation of their nationality. But from studying their peculiarity and habit it gives one just a chance to surmise, without the aid of their tradition, that they once had a name to express their nationality; but for what cause or reason their fore-fathers had allowed it to die out in such a mysterious manner is better answered by ourselves. The presumption manner that may be taken is this, that the peculiarity of the Sea Dayaks up to the present day is to call themselves by the place or river they remove to.
If the Dayaks account of their migration could be even relied upon, it still gives us no help to trace it beyond the island of Borneo. They unanimously affirm that their fore-fathers had removed here (i.e. the lower part and mouth of the Batang Lupar river) from the very source of the Batang Lupar or the main river. The Sea Dayak after their migration into this part of the island of Borneo and after having touched at certain unknown localities, must have separated themselves either on account offamily discord or from choice. Before this had taken place they all must have divided themselves into tribes and this resulted in the different forms of dialects now spoken in the Sea Dayaks tribes.
The divisons of the Sea Dayaks tribes are these; Batang Rejang, Katibas, Kanowit, Krian, Saribas, Sebuyau, Balau, Batang Ai, Undups, Skrang, Lemanak, Kumpang, Engkari, Kubau, Engkerebang, etc. If these tribes are to be subdivided again they will number five or ten times as many. The Sea Dayak, although divided into various tribes, yet speak only one language, and this one language is the Malayan language. It is significant fact that the Malayan language is the mother language of various tribes of people. It is also a fountain of which the richness extends far and wide. It is not to be wondered at if hundreds of Malay words are found in the Sea Dayak language. It is not assuming a privilege for argument but merely asserting a self-evident fact. If the Sea Dayak language is carefully compared we shall find many Sanskrit words used and admitted as genuine Dayak words.
Of various tribes of Sea Dayaks, each tribe adopts its own idioms, pronunciation, and adds foreign words to its language to enrich it. To one who is not thoroughly conversant with the Malay and the Sea Dayak languages it would be difficult to detect their identity. The peculiarity of tones and pronunciations which each tribe has habituated itself to, to suit its own taste would at first sight to a stranger appear unintelligible; and it would appear impossible to distinguish the language of one tribe from another.
The Sea Dayak language is like some other languages growing rich in its vocabulary; aas the people come in contact with foreigners they adopt their words. The Malayan language has adopted many Sanskrit words which were introduced perhaps under the Majapahit Kingdom. The Malayan language also has adopted many Arabic words which came about dating from their conversation to Mohammed’s faith. But the adoption of the Sanskrit words into the Malay is prior to the Arabic. This appears more convincing in affirming the migration of the Sea Dayaks into the island of Borneo, and their being once upon a time in the Malayan Peninsula, because the Sanskrit words are found in their language.
The Malays before their conversion to Mohammedanism had no letters of their own, and what they have now are made up out of the Arabic alphabet. To suit the tone of their language they have to name their letters accordingly. With reference to the Sea Dayaks since the Gospel of Christ has been preached to them, the Bishop and his Missionaries have been able to form letters for them out of the Roman alphabet. To suit the tone of their language they have also to pronounce their letters accordingly. It is difficult to form one’s opinion or judgement between the two languages (the Malay and the Sea Dayak) as to which is the richer and more expressive. Both languages claim classical forms. When the Malay language is spoken grammatically it is not only expressive but exceedingly musical. It is also with the Sea Dayak language when it is spoken grammatically.
The above named tribes of the Sea Dayaks have descended from one family, which they are able to prove from their genealogy. Some of the people are extraordinarily gifted with good memories. Although we allow a limited amount of credit to traditions, yet we must admit that they have their foundations upon which their stories are built. The Dayaks have their own rules of logic in their own courts of law, which are more approximate to axioms than proverbs. To listen to their advocates in defending or pleading cases in their own courts is certainly worth while, if one is conversant with their classical language. They are a political race, more so than the Malays or Chinese. With them all offences are finable. Apologies are not accepted in their society.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Gawai Antu also known as The Iban Feast Of The Departed

This transcript was written by the late Mr. Henry Gerijih. Words that are in the bracket is the usage of the Iban language. Any translation from actual oral communication will be typed using Times New Roman and italicised. We hope by sharing this transcript you will have a better knowledge on our customs and practices during the Gawai Antu festival.

The Meaning Of Gawai Antu
Gawai Antu is the greatest of all the Sea Dayak feasts for the dead, celebrated in honour of those that have died since the last Gawai Antu feast was held. Sarapoh, who was taught by the spirit Puntang Raga, originated this feast. As the feast is expensive there is no fixed date for the celebration. It would take at least one or two years to prepare for the ceremony financially. The Gawai Antu ceremony has strong significance to every Sea Dayak heart. Those who fail to celebrate it from negligence are considered disloyal to the religious duty of marking the graveyard with sungkup. Thus all Dayaks for every generation should celebrate at least once in a lifetime.

Ai Garong and Ai Jalong Timang
Before proceeding further, it is necessary to explain in full the qualification demand of the “brave” who are to be selected to drink the sacred libations offered to the spirit of the dead. The most sacred ai buloh or ai garong as it is sometimes called used to be lavishly thrown away at the foot of the house ladder at the termination of the Gawai Antu.
Later as time passed by, men were inspired by the spirit in dream to drink the ai garong, if they have completed the following deed in battles. They must have taken the head (bedengah) of an enemy. They must have picked out the brain of the enemy from his skull (udah ngerok) and then eat it to entitle them to handle the offerings of the Gawai and the Gawai Burong festivals. The man who has done these things is known as tau nasak. By these rules, they must have drunk the ai jalong timang wine on a previous occasion before they are entitled to drink the ai garong wine.

A war leader is the highest rank amongst the Sea Dayaks. Due to his exalted status he is not to drink the ai jalong timang which is to be drunk by his leading warriors. The ai jalong timang that is offered to the soul of a dead hereditary chief or war leader (which no ordinary warrior would dare to drink) is to be drunk only by any war leader present. As far as the sacred ai garong is concerned, he who has not completed the above deeds or has not been told to do so in a dream must not drunk it merely for the sake of fame. Not to confuse the two sacred wines – ai garong and ai jalong timang, the former is traditional, while the latter was recently invented and has become a feature of the Gawai Antu in the Saribas and Krian areas only.

After the fall of Sadok in 1861, all the principal war leaders of the Saribas and Krian held a historic meeting to honour their brave warriors in one of these feast. At this gathering, it was agreed that it was vitally necessary for them to honour these warriors by declaring that they alone should drink the wine ai jalong timang at future Gawai Antu. The Balau, Undup, Lemanak and the Ulu Ai Dayaks do not drink ai jalong timang, which only originated from the Saribas and Krian Dayaks. Other Dayaks only drink the traditional sacred ai garong originated by Sarapoh following his teaching of the spirit Puntang Raga. Today, only the descendents of past war leaders and leading warriors are selected to drink ai jalong timang.

Summary of the Gawai Antu Ceremonies
The following description is based on observation at five different Gawai Antu celebrations. Four took place in the Saribas district and one in the Ulu Krian district.
1. Preliminary meeting.
2. Beban: Preparing wood for the making of sungkup.
3. Ngambi buloh : Collecting of bamboo for the nganyam ceremony.
4. Ngeretok: The making of sungkup3.
5. Ngalu Antu: A welcoming ceremony for the Gods and spirits at dark and dawn on several occasions (including cock fighting).
6. Nganyam: Preparation of miniature baskets.
7. Minta manok: Begging for chicken.
8. Mandok: Preparation for making tuak rice wine.
9. Tubai Gawai: Fishing with derris root.
10. Second meeting: To discuss date for holding Gawai.
11. Ngambi Ngabang: Invitation is send out to guest for the celebration.
12. Mantar and Ngeraran: Preparation for the Gawai.
13. Niki Ka Orang Ngirup Buloh: The welcoming of the warrior.
14. Makai Lemai: Supper.
15. Bedigir: Seating of guests.
16. Begeliga: A lecture by the senior hosts or the Feast Chief ( Tuai Gawai).
17. Ngalu Petara: A procession to welcome the Gods and spirits.
18. Ngerandang Jalai: A dance in order to clear a path free from the spirits of the departed.
19. Ngelalau: A dance performed by the brave to enclose the path.
20. Berayah pupu buah rumah: A dance performed by one old man from each village to lead the spirits along the cleared and enclosed path.
21. Nimang Jalong: The lemambang sing songs to bless the sacred wine, which shall be drink by the brave.
22. Muai Rugan: Destruction of the tabernacle.
23. Bebungkar Ruang: The eating of meat with wine after the destruction of the tabernacle.
24. Ngambi Tebalu: Ending of the mourning period undergone by widows and widowers.
25. Nganjong Buloh: The drinking of the sacred wine ai garong.
26. Berangap: The presentation of food and money to the homeward bound guest.
27. Nganjong Sungkup: The erection of monument in the graveyard.

Preliminary Meeting
The headman of the longhouse will hold this meeting to inform the longhouse occupants of his intention to celebrate the Gawai Antu. At this meeting, he will formally tells the members of the longhouse that he has a mind to celebrate this festival. If everyone agree, the headman will invite everyone to farm collectively on the hilly ground. The reason for this is to enable every family to plant crops other than rice such as pumpkin, cucumber, various kinds of gourds, black and brown glutinous rice. All these things are needed for the offering of the Gawai Antu with the exception of nyeli, which is used in the making to rice wine.

At this meeting the chief descendant of the eldest deceased person will be appointed the Feast Chief (Tuai Antu) provided that he is not of the lowest class of family in the longhouse. If such a barrier obstructs this appointment, then it will be given to the descendant of the next oldest deceased person. Upon this appointment, it is the duty of the Feast Chief to direct the households to undertake the various stages of work for the festival till the end of the feast. Immediately after the harvesting season, the Feast Chief will hold another meeting to assess the amount of grain harvested. If everyone agreed on the quantity, the festival will be celebrated according to plan. Having confirmed this the Feast Chief will immediately discuss the date of Beban, which is the preparation of wood for the making of the sungkup

In the early morning of the Beban day, the Feast Chief will first offer a sacrifice to the spirits. He will then be the first to leave the longhouse to the area where the collection of wood will take place. The sacrifice was offered so that the Beban may be done as quickly and successfully. It is important that every family begin the Beban on the same day under the directives of the Feast Chief. When all the workers have arrived at the appointed spot, the head of each family must first make an offering similar to the one offered by the Feast Chief and leave it at the longhouse. Without such an offering, the work would be slowed down by the invisible interference of evil spirits.

While the Beban is in progress, the host often invites the voluntary workers to pause in order to refresh and stimulate themselves with all kind of drinks. The Beban ceremony is usually accompanied by the sound of shopping and merry shouts of the young, which is deafening sometimes and could last the whole day. As soon as everyone has finished preparing the wood, the host will direct his men to take it home. However, they must not take it straight into the longhouse before the Feast Chief is ready. Before the Feast Chief bring home his wood, he must first sprinkle it with the blood of two chicken (which is equivalent to one pig due to the total number of chicken legs). Simultaneously, the Feast Chief will smear the blood from the chicken to the foundation post of the longhouse to protect the longhouse from being cursed by the spirits of the dead. Having done this, the Feast Chief will bring his wood into the longhouse followed by all the others using the same route.

Collecting of Bamboo for the Nganyam Ceremony
A day after the arrival of the wood, the most senior woman of the Feast Chief family will call for women’s meeting to fix the day for the collection of bamboo. This bamboo will be used to weave decorated baskets and various other kinds of bamboo baskets for the dead. When the day of the collection of bamboo, the most senior woman will lead the women to collect the bamboo. After the job is completed and being brought back to the longhouse, it is not necessary to smear the bamboo with blood (genselan) since it was included (during the “ genselan” for the wood) as part of the material already collected for the feast.
After the wood and bamboo have all been collected and kept in the longhouse, the Feast Chief will call for another meeting (known as baum ngeretok) to fix the day for the making of sungkup and weaving of the bamboo baskets. Once the date is fixed, the chief will direct every family to go out for the traditional begging of chicken ( minta manok) from the neighbouring longhouses that they intend to invite to do the work of ngeretok.

Ngeretok – Making of the Sungkup
When the day of the ngeretok comes, the first thing the Feast Chief must do is to erect a special platform and a frame which will be put over a fire for roasting glutinous rice on the river bank. From the outset of the making of the platform and frame, a band of young men at the longhouse beat gongs to a rhythm known as the “ gendang rayah”. The gendang rayah is a special music played to summon as well as to amuse the Gods and Spirits. The musical performance must not stop until the work on the platform and frame is completed. Eventually at about 5 p.m. of the same day, the women will come together to the riverbank to soak the glutinous rice. Simultaneously, the old men at the longhouse will start to erect the sacred tabernacle known as “ rugan” on which the offerings will be placed daily until the termination of the whole Gawai Antu feast. The offering will consist of black, brown and white glutinous rice; each mixed with pieces of pumpkin gourd and the flower of the telasih6 plant. Besides all these mixture, the most important item is the smoked black fish such as the “ belau7” fish and keli (catfish). These fish is customarily considered as the favourite food of those who have died.

Ngalu Petara
This is event mark the welcoming ceremony to the Gods and Spirits. It is performed at dusk and dawn on several occasions (including cockfighting). At about 6 p.m. of the same day (day of the Ngeretok ceremony), Ngalu Antu starts with the sound of gongs beaten by every family. At this moment the ghost of the dead comes and is being welcomed by the living. Sometimes that night, the Feast Chief will be the first person to offer a sacrifice to the spirits, which shall be followed in turn by the others. These offerings must be placed individually by each family close to the place of constructing the Sungkup, which will made on the following day. At dawn the following day, five-session gendang rayah will be played again. It is during this time the men and women gather on the bank of the river to roast glutinous rice. The women will fill the bamboo containers (usually a few hundreds) with glutinous rice while the men roast them. Before the anyone start to roast, the Feast Chief will go down to the erected platform and spread a mat on it and put a betel nut box on top as a gesture of welcoming the Gods and spirits. The roasting period varies ranging from 3 to 7 hours. Immediately after the first batch of rice has been roasted, an early breakfast is serve in order to leave sufficient time for another Ngalu Antu ceremony which usually takes place at 6 p.m. Having completed this task, a traditional cockfighting begins on the communal verandah of the Feast Chief.

Cockfighting is said to be the favorite game of the dead, the spirits and the Gods. After the third fight, the game will be ceased although the young men may continue it on the open space outside the longhouse.When the cockfighting is over the Feast Chief will walk along the longhouse with a roaster in his hand to direct all the families to spread new mat on their verandah and await the arrival of guest swho will attend the ngeretok ceremony.Immediately after the arrival of the guests, the Feast Chief once again waves the cock (miau) along the verandah. This gesture is to inform the host to arrange the seating of the guests in line according to their rank and achievements in life. After the guests have sat down in order, a cock isagain wave by the Feast Chief to direct the host to serve the guests with wine. This act of serving wine is called nyibur.After nyibur is served, the Feast Chief will again wave the cock to announce that the work ngeretok is to begin. At this time the hosts and guests will work together to shape, design and fit the materials for the sungkup. This work is to be done throughout the day according to the size and decorations of each sungkup individually. If the work is not completed in one day it can be continued on the following day or even longer.

Nganyam – Preparation of Basket
While the men are busy carving the sungkup, the women shall start to weave (nganyam) all types of curious sacred baskets. The shapes vary in accordance to the age of the departed. For the children, ball, fruit and varieties of toy are woven. A decorated basket known as gelayan, which has eight tooth-shaped projections on which it stands is the only thing to be woven for any ordinary dead men and women. If the deceased is a man of rank, who had always been lucky in life and who had been wealthy enough to purchase valuable old jars (tajau) or had kill an enemy in battle (bedengah), he is entitle to be given the fantastic garong tunggal basket, which has nine projections for its stand. If a deceased was a leading warrior he is entitled to be given a ranggong dua basket, which also have nine projections for its stand. The lower side of this basket is decorated with hairs of the enemy to show that he is an honoured brave man. If a deceased is a war leader, who successfully led a few wars in his lifetime, he is entitled to be given a ranggong tiga basket, which also has nine projections for its stand. The lower side will also be covered with the enemy’s hair, but more thickly than the ranggong dua basket. If the deceased was a really great and celebrated war leader, he is honoured with a basket called entugin. The entugin is made of five baskets place one upon another. It will have thirteen projections for its stand and be heavily decorated with enemy’s hair.

On certain occasion the Dayak like to honour once again an ancestor who has already been honoured at the last Gawai Antu. This is permitted but is rare and only done to honour the most famous or war leader or hereditary chief of the tribe. On this second feast the deceased is entitled to be honoured with seven baskets neatly woven together known as ranggong tujuh (sometimes called Mudor Ruroh). The ranggong tujuh will have fourteen projections for its stand and be thickly decorated with the hair of the enemy. If the deceased has twice been honoured at the Gawai Antu, his grand children are still permitted to honour him again for a third time. However, this sort of honour can only be permitted to be given to a war leader or hereditary chief of the tribe. For his third and last memorial, he is entitled to be honoured with nine baskets called ranggong sembilan (sometimes called sandau liau). This basket will have fifteen projections for its stand and is also heavily decorated with the enemy’s hair. It is a rule in weaving these baskets that no women of loose character are allowed to weave. The baskets, which are to be decorated with the enemy’s hair, are only to be woven by the most expert and elderly women of the tribe. In the evening after the ngeretok and the nganyam ceremony are over, the guests shall return to their respective villages. Beginning that night, after the departure of the guest, every family must light a fire on the rugan (tabernacle). This fire must continue until the completion of the Gawai Antu.

Minta Manok – The Begging of Chicken
After the ngeretok comes the time for the families to beg chicken again from the neighbouring villages whom they intend to invite for the Gawai Antu. The act of begging chicken is a traditional custom during Gawai Antu. It has been in existence since the ancient time of Kedawa, who lost his way and found himself in the other world while following this custom. The host family must carry out this tradition even though they have enough chicken for the occasion. If the host family fail to follow this tradition, they will be criticised by their relatives as an insulting act.

Empie – Preparation of Rice Wine
When the begging for chicken is over, another important work known as empie will start. During noon on the day of this ceremony, the Feast Chief will walk along the verandah of the longhouse with a cock in his hand to announce the making of a platform and frame for roasting glutinous rice. The roasted glutinous rice will be use for the preparation of the rice wine (tuak). This work can be done at the same place where the ngeretok has been carried out. Minor repair may be done to the platform.
At about 4 p.m. on that day, the Feast Chief will again wave his cock to direct the women to soak their rice in the river. As the women soak the rice, the young men at the longhouse will start to beat the gongs to summon the spirit of the dead. The music will continue until the soaking of the rice is over. After the soaking of rice, the Feast Chief will wave the cock to direct all the families to spread the mat on their individual verandah. Having done this at 6 p.m. the music of ngalu petara, which begin. The evening meal will be serve after the ngalu petara ceremony ends. The rest of the things that need to be done during the empie are similar to that of the ngeretok ceremony. After the glutinous rice have been roasted in the following morning, an expert will be asked to sprinkle it with yeast to initiate the fermentation of the tuak.

Tubai Gawai
After the empie ceremony is over, the Feast Chief would direct the households to go fishing using the derris root (tubai) at selected stream . The catch of this tubai fishing is smoked, pickled or salted to preserve it for the feast. Please bare in mind, it is illegal to use derris root to fish today. For the purpose of this ceremony, the fish shall be bought from the fish market. Pigs and cows are also served together with the fish. Simultaneously, the women are busy preparing traditional cakes and buns of various kinds and colours. They often invite women from neighbouring villages to help them.

Second Meeting
This meeting is held to discuss the appropriate date for the Gawai Antu. Today, it is usually held in the month of December to coincide with the Malaysian school holidays. When all the necessary things have been made or bought, the Feast Chief will call the second meeting to discuss the right date for the Gawai Antu. It is essential to give at least a week notice to the guests. This is to give the guest ample time to fix their headgear feather and hair on the scabbards of their swords. In the modern time, the guest will be inform at least a year before the actual date to give ample time to take their day off from the office.

Distribution of Invitation Cards
Early the next day a few trusted men will go out to all the selected villages ( rumah panjai ka semakai enggau orang ka ngintu gawai) to inform them that they must come to the feast as early as they can on the fix date. The women and children are similarly and heartily welcomed to witness the fullfilment of the Gawai Antu.

Mantar and Ngeraran
On the day before the arrival of guest, the host longhouse will erect the platform and frame to roast glutinous rice. The location for the roasting is usually situated at the riverbank. The gendang rayah is to be played continuously during the construction of the platform and frame until the job is completed. Beside the construction of the raran, it is a custom for the nearest relatives of the host to help in the slaughtering of pigs and cows for the Gawai Antu.

Ngerendam Beras
Later in the evening, the women will begin to soak their glutinous rice in the river as they did during the previous ceremonies. The relatives of the host who have come early will have the night to themselves. The young men will be enjoying themselves with the wine and traditional dance until dawn. It is a practice in modern Gawai Antu that no modern dance is allowed during the feast.

Ngelulun Asi – Roasting of Glutinous Rice
This event takes place in the early morning where both men and women will go down to the river bank to roast the glutinous rice as has been done during the past two ceremonies. Immediately after the glutinous rice has been roasted, an early meal is served at the verandah of the longhouse. After the meal, the Feast Chief will wave his cock to announce the commencement of the traditional cockfighting on his verandah. The cockfighting is normally ceased after the third game although the young men outside the longhouse can continue it.

Beranchau and Decorating the Longhouse
After the traditional cockfighting is over, the Feast Chief will again wave his cock along the communal verandah to direct the entire household to spread new mats on the floor of their individual verandah. Besides these mats, the outer walls of the verandah will also be decorated with all kind of pua kumbu designs. The wealthier families will hang their gold embroiled blankets above the seat of honoured guests. While along the upper part of the outer verandah, rolled-up mattress is placed for the guest to lean against.

Niki ka Orang Ngirup Buluh Enggau Ngirup Jalong - Welcome The War Heros
All the men who has been appointed to drink the sacred wine ( ai garong or buluh) will be asked to dress themselves and to assemble at a clear space outside the longhouse. The Feast Chief will honoured these men with a procession along the verandah. As the procession starts, the young men beat gongs and drums of various sizes. The procession will move slowly along the verandah headed by the Feast Chief carrying a flag occasionally shouting, “Receive, receive this guests with respect”. Eventually each guest will receive a glass of rice wine from the hands of the women who are standing on their individual verandah.

Biau Pengabang - Welcome The Guest
Upon completion of the procession, the Feast Chief will be politely invited the guest war leaders to sit at the seats of honour at the Feast Chief’s verandah. Trays containing traditional cakes, buns, and other kinds of offering are place in front of the warriors. As they sit down, the Feast Chief will hold a cock and wave it above the heads of the warriors and guests with the following enchantment;  
“Sir, I stand here to honour your arrival at my feast. Following the tradition of our ancestors, I respectfully wave this cock above your heads. If anyone of you have heard any unsatisfactory omen, has been disturbed by an unfavourable dream or bad luck will be changed to good through this cock. Indeed, although you have come here visibly alone, the host of the spirit of your ancestors invisibly attends you. They also, I honour with this cock. Finally I pray to those spirits whom I now welcome, that you and we may both be well and live long with blessing and prosperity.”

Ai Aus
Having spoken these words, the host will offer the guests the wine known as ai aus (to quench the thirst).

Ai Untong
After that another wine, known as the ai untung (individual share) is served to each guest in amount according to age and rank. The senior one of these who will presently drink the ai garong gets fifteen glasses followed by the next man and so on down to the youngest who will drink five glasses of this wine.

Ai Basu and Masu Pengabang
After the ai untung is served, another wine known as ai basu9 (washing wine) will be served to the guest of honour from the hands of the young women. Before that, the young women accompanied by the young men will walk in procession along the verandah to the beating of the gongs and drums. After the procession, the young men will pour the wine from the bottle to the glass, which will be handed by the maidens to the guests.

Kendawang and other Omens
Eventually at about 10 a.m. the remaining guests begin to arrive from various villages. On the arrival of each group of guest, the family who have been chosen to entertain them will greet and welcome them on the cleared space outside the longhouse. The representative of the host family will ask the leader of the guests whether they have heard any unfavourable omens during their journey to the feast before the group is being honoured with a procession, After the reply from the guest leader, he will then honour them with a procession similar to the one given to the war leaders. However, if any guest has met the snake Kendawang (cylinderphis) on his way to the feast he and the rest from his village will be asked to sit upon a wooden rice mortar at the host’s communal verandah. While sitting on the mortar, the host will honour them by the waving of a cock above their heads to welcome the God Keling, Bunga Nuing, Laja and their followers from Gelong10 Batu Benang and Panggau Jila Isang. The type of respect render to the guests are similar with the exception of the amount of wine served which will be in accordance with the individual rank and work of life. The welcoming of the guests will only be interrupted by the midday meal, which must be served to the guest. The last group of guests should not arrive later than 6 p.m. Otherwise, they will be in conflict with the next ceremony of Ngalu Antu, scheduled to take place right after dark.

Makai Lemai - Dinner
After the guest (including a considerable amount of strangers present) have all arrived and being honoured dinner will be serve at about 7 p.m.

Bedigir – Seating of the Guests
Immediately after dinner, the Feast Chief will wave his cock to arrange the seating of the guests in order of precedence or bedigir. When the seating arrangement has been completed, the host will serve another drink known as nyibur.

Begeliga – A Lecture by the Senior Host
At about 10 p.m., the Feast Chief and other senior members of the host longhouse will walk along the verandah informing everyone present at the feast about the regulations of the longhouse. The regulations may contain the followings:
1. If any one punch another because of drunkenness, he shall be deal with according to the Gawai Antu festival rules. The nature of punishment may vary from one longhouse to another.
2. If in the event that any person destroy anything such as the sacred basket or any other items made for the dead, the offender will be asked to pay for the damage.
3. If anyone found stealing, the offender will be asked to return the item(s) to the longhouse headman. Should the offender fail to do this, he will be brought to the court of the tribal chief. In most modern feast, such an offence will be refer to the Police.

Ngalu Petara – A Procession to Welcome the Gods And Spirits
After the termination of begeliga, the grand procession of welcoming of the Gods and spirits is held. This procession is called Ngalu Petara. At this procession men are expected to wear their best customary dress with sword on their hips. Women wear kain tating11, sugu tinggi, bangles and other ornaments. The Feast Chief will lead the procession followed by the village headman and senior members of the household. Then come the men and women, boys and girls. At the end of the procession, walk a band of young men beating gongs and drums. This procession will encircle the verandah for three times. Finally on the third round of the procession, the Feast Chief or his deputy will halt at each family verandah to honour the sitting guests with the waving of cock in their presence. He will politely tell the guests that the purposes of this processing is to welcome the Gods and spirits. Below is what he will say.
“Welcome with this procession the spirits of our ancestors, the spirit of Orang Kaya Pemancha, the spirit of Sang and Bedilang, the spirit of Minggat and Rentap, the spirit of Awan and Buban, etc. bring with them blessings and prosperity.

After this a guest of rank on each verandah with answer the host with the following words.
“Sir, indeed as you said the spirits of our fore father and the God of the universe have all come with us to attend your feast. They bring with them blessing so that although you lavishly spent so much money to celebrate this feast and yet in the near future they will recompense you two or three fold. The spirits of the dead that you now honour with this feast like wise will bless your future with prosperity. As for us, we pray that you will become prosperous in your undertakings. We wish by the blessing of the spirits of our fore father that you and all of us may be able to earn our daily needs with ease.”
Soon after the Ngalu Petara ceremony it will be followed by the ceremony of Ngerandang Jalai.

Ngerandang Jalai
Ngerandang Jalai is a dance performs to clear a path free from spirits of the departed. During this ceremony all those who have been appointed to drink the ai garong wine will perform a dance known as berayah which is done to the gendang rayah music.

After Ngerandang Jalai is over, it is followed by Ngelalau in which all those who are appointed to drink the ai jalong timang dance and they will create a spiritual path for the lemambang who will walk along the verandah. Ngelalau is a dance performed to enclose the path cleared during the Ngerandang Jalai ceremony.

Berayah Pupu Buah Rumah
After Ngelalau is over, an old man from each village has to dance along the path, which has been cleared and railed by the braves. They are to lead the spirit to dance in order that the lemambang may venture as they sing.

Nimang Jalong
At about midnight another meal is served on the communal verandah. After the meal, a few group of lemambang will start to sing the sacred song of Nimang Jalong as they walk along the verandah. In the invocations the lemambang will mention the journey both over land and boat from the other world under the leadership of Niram Raja Sebayan, Ngerai, Sedalong, Langgah Lenggan, Kedawa Abu, Kedai, Indai Bilai, Ini Inan and Dara Rambai Garuda to attend the feast of the living. The following paragraphs briefly describe the contents of the invocation. Along the way over land, these immortals pass the various settlements of the spirit birds, the ancient site of longhouses and farmlands which they had farmed and where they were still living. Passing these, the female will weep, remembering the work they did there during their lifetime. As they journey on, they eventually reach the famous landing place on the river of the under world. From there, they will go on boat to pass the various settlements of the spirits representing he frogs, tortoise, fishes and so on until they came to the landing stage of the living who are holding he festival. n arrival the leaders take their followers to bathe.

After bathing everyone dress in his or her est to prepare for the procession to the longhouse. On their way pass fruit trees of various kinds until they reach a most beautiful site where the ranyai palm are growing. This palm usually bears ruits considered by the dead as head trophies. Here (according to the Nimang Jalong song), the oddess and women of dead urged the brave warriors to slash the ranyai fruits with their decorated words to test their bravery. As these palms were habitat of the wasps (to guard their safety) before he actual cutting of their fruit took place, the successful young warriors were first asked to throw way the wasp nest, which hung from the trunk and fronds of the palms. Having done this the bravest warrior will start to cut down the ranyai fruit while the cleverest woman blankets weavers ready to receive the falling fruits with the best of their home made blankets or pua kumbu. After nyelai ranyai, Niram recommended the continuation of the procession headed by Abu to the longhouse. On arrival they were invited to come up. However, the dead won’t allow them until they have the finest cock, which has won a fight in the cockpit waved over them.

After the welcoming of the dead has ended, those brave appointed to drink the ai jalong timang wine are asked to sit at the honoured seats of the upper verandah. Each drinker is accompanied by a man renown that drinks a special wine known as ai serarai. When the lemambang is about to announce the arrival of the dead from the other world, the women of fine character (usually those who have weave during the Nganyam ceremony) and rank come out of the rooms on behalf of the goddess Ini Inan, Indai Bilai and Dara Rambai Garuda to hand the jalong timang wine to the drinkers. The women who offer this wine must be carefully selected or else the drinker might refuse to drink from the hand of one deemed to be unworthy.

Muai Rugan
Muai Rugan is the act of destruction of the tabernacle used for the sacred offerings. After the braves have drunk the ai jalong timang wine, specially selected old men or the manang (medicine man) destroys the tabernacle. No young men dare to destroy the rugan, an act that could cause insanity at a later age.

Bebungkar Ruang
Bebungkar Ruang is a special meal eaten with wine after the destruction of the tabernacle. After the destruction of the tabernacle the host will serve the guests with meat especially reserved and which are only to be taken with wine. Another name for this ceremony is makai dagin.

Ngambi Tebalu
Ngambi Tebalu marks the end of the mourning period undergone by widows and widowers. Eventually at day break, the morning meal is served and after this meal a band of old men will be asked to perform the Ngambi Tebalu Mansau ceremony. This ceremony is held in order that old men may release the widows and widowers who have taken a vow not to marry before their sacred promise has been legally and religiously removed from them in accordance with the custom of ngambi tebalu mansau during the Gawai Antu. While the old men are busy with this ceremony, those who have been appointed to drink the sacred wine ai buloh are asked to cut, shape and fit the bamboo containers with the baskets in which they will be placed.

Nganjung Buloh
Having done that, these bamboo containers are to be filled with the sacred wine. While this is being done, the Feast Chief will wave a cock along the verandah to announce the procession of each family for the nganjong garong ceremony. Shortly after the Feast Chief has wave the cock, those who have drunk the ai jalong timang wine will assemble again. The Feast Chief’s family will lead the nganjong garong procession followed by the rest of the families. The families for this procession will be represented by men and women who wear their full dress and walk in line behind the brave men who will hand a decorated basket of the wine to the man who will drink it. The procession is to be done in three rounds along the verandah. Grand are the appearance of the handler and the receiver of the sacred ai buloh wine the sound of war cries, gongs and drums of the individual procession.

Berangap is the presentation of food and money to the homeward bound guests. Immediately after the nganjong buloh ceremony is over, a midday meal is served to the guests. After the meal, berangap starts whereby the hosts present all kinds of cakes, buns, etc to the guests as a provision for them on their way home. Immediately after berangap, the guests will start to disperse and only the nearest relatives will stray behind to help with the undoing of the sungkup huts and other monuments on the bare platform outside the longhouse. These huts will be removed and places somewhere on the open ground near the house.

Nganjung Sungkup
Early the next day, the household and the remaining relatives and guests will erect the sungkup and other wooden materials upon each individual’s graveyard. The sacred baskets will be hung in the sungkup. During the nganjong sungkup, all kinds of food and drink, which have been specially kept for this occasion, are continuously served to all that are present at the graveyard. In the evening of the same day, the erection of the memorial hut ends. This also marks the ending of Gawai Antu.

1 Bedengah indicates a man who have been to war and have killed an enemy as well as detaching the enemy’s head from its body.
2 Buluh meaning bamboo is the receptacle in which the most sacred ai buloh or ai garong is served. Jalong Timang nowadays offered in a porcelain cup, which replaces the earthenware bowl used in the past.
3 The Sungkup is essential to the Gawai Antu. It is made of belian ironwood. The carpenter who is also a close relative of the family carves it. If a family have more than one deceased to honour then the Sungkup will be erected on the graveyard of the older one. The size runs about 6 feet long and 4 feet wide. Its height is roughly 3 feet with four finely carved “wing” (or the pamanjat) arched to the ends of the roof. The top of the wings are 6 to 7 feet off the ground. The special baskets are tied to the wings.
4 Nganyam is the weaving special baskets, which shall be used to cover the bamboo use in the drinking of the ai garong.
5 These wines are form of tuak and the difference is entirely in treatment at the drinker’s taste.
6 Telasih is a kind of flower, which produces edible seeds. It will expand on contact with water.
7 Belau and keli are top quality fish of the headwater which also occur abundantly in the river of the dead or the Mandai where they are called the semah sebayan. The fish commonly called ikan semah is not the same as these “semah” in the under world.
8 In the ancient time if a great war leader or a hereditary chief of the tribe died his people will declared certain stream and a piece of land to be taboo. A year before Gawai Antu took place, this land was farmed and the stream fished. The products from the stream and land will be use for the feast. The abolition Tubai Gawai as a right is due to rules made by the Brooke to protect the supplies of fish with arising human population. Today the use of tubai is considered illegal.
9 Masu pengabang literally means “to wash the guests” but it do not mean to pour water over the guest. It is represented by pouring the tuak from a bottle to a glass and handed by the maiden to the guest.
10 Gelong is the place name for the homeland of Keling, God of War and his associates.
11 Kain tating are short tabular skirts decorated with hanging silver coins. On these occasions on cloth is worn above the waist but silver and other ornament.
12 The dance berayah is only done by the elite who may number up to about half a dozen in line along the verandah, each with sword or pedang ilang but rather gentle movements especially of the arms with shouts to show there are brave men. The purpose of these dance is to lead the spirits to the feast.
13 Ai Serarai is another special wine differing from the others. It is drunk at the stage and is to be drunk by men qualified for the earlier ai jalong timang plus one or more others not so qualified and who are chosen by the leaders present to be honoured.
14 This is the strict mourning for the widows and widowers only and who should not remarry until this relief at Gawai Antu though with the consent of the relatives of the deceased earlier relief can be obtained in association with normal ulit for relatives other than widows and widowers supported by tebalu mata. The proper and socially best way was always to retain widowhood until the full rite as described in these transcript.