Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Anecdote of 31st May

31st May every year, sounds like just another ordinary day for most Malaysians,
but then, it is the merry-making season for a clutch of ethnic in Borneo Island. The Ibans. The symbolic of this festival is showing that the ending of padi harvesting season by the Iban people in the rural area. Another festival to celebrate, so what? Malaysian people, mainly from the peninsular never experienced this festival due to the fact that this festival is happening only in Sarawak, the biggest state in Malaysia. If you want to know more about Gawai Dayak. This is the rite channel. I'll share some of my valuable yet authentic experience about this celebration.

Just like any other celebration, it is a time where the family members will gather, regardless of far or near, at their parent's house to enjoy this moment. This is the time for them to learn about each other, their progression in life, their new life saga if exist.

This is the time where u get to see your beautiful nephews and nieces.

Family members from young to old, shed their joyful sweats to help each other preparing food on the table. The varieties of the food are ranging from indigenous Iban's Ayam Pansuh, Chinese Thick Soup, Daging Kambing Masak Hitam, Fish Curry, and the list of cuisine goes on. The food symbolizes different culture in my family due to assimilation of 1 Malaysian ethnics. Eldest aunt married a Chinese, my mum n dad are Ibans and my uncle married a Malay.

Helping each other to accomplish mission... (The picture shows the making of Ketupat, glutinous rice packed into nicely interwoven leaves)

The rewards for the tired moment together would be mouth-watering dishes of all range of food.
(My favourite food, Kerang... mmmm) :X

This is the time to be jolly!!! Makan-makan...

After the feast, the family members will gather to wait for the midnite. This is the best moment of all. Inside rumah panjang or long house there are about 20 other families living in it. At this moment, waiting for the midnite, they will sit at the ruai, a vast area connecting houses in rumah panjang. Games and competitions will be held by the Tuai rumah, head of the long house, to kill the time. Winners will recieve hampers or even cash. Children will find this is the best moment to see other friends from next houses. During this period also, men and women will perform traditional Iban dance called ngajat. Other than that, the search for the most beautiful young lady to hold the title Kumang, beauty in local language continues.

Kids today, leaders tomorrow. Give them the right input, and you can get another dedicated person like our prime minister, Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak.

Cloaked in traditional costume, she's like the ruby of the house... (guess who is she... if correct I treat a lunch... :X... no further comment)

When the clock points at 12.00a.m., the Tuai rumah will hit a traditional instrument called Tawak, resembles to the Malay's gong. All families of the houses will gather at his ruai to drink air pengayu, a tradition which to keep the families always happy and protected. The drink is not to quench the thirst. The family members will take a little sip and then throw it away. They will wish for health and wealth for this coming years will be doubled the one before.

Young people come together to know each other...

And during this time, another meal!!! Lolz... After the drinking of air pengayu all the families will be treated with food prepared by the ladies... each house will send one representative to cook food for malam air pengayu, They come to the rumah panjang's dapur to cook together.

After the feast, the families will return back to their houses. The celebration of Gawai Dayak do not stop here. The next day, early in the morning or even after the last nite feast, friends and families can pay visits to their relatives. This will continue untill 2.00 p.m the next day, which is 1st of June. At this moment, there will be another ritual or tradition need to be accomplished. It is what the local called miring. Miring is very crucial in Iban tradition. This is to pay their respect towards their ancestors and people before them. They hope for blessing and guidance in this ritual. The famous Iban quotation known world-wide by the Malaysian is "Gayu Guru Gerai Nyamai" or can be simply translated as long life, healthy and wealthy. During this ritual, the head of each house will come to every house to perform miring. They will make something called piring, to be offered to their ancestors. Piring is mainly a plate with full of Iban traditional food-like items such as hendai, keresang, tumpi, kapuk, buah pinang, daun sirih, serdik and so on.

The left are hendai, tumpi and penyaram. While right is called sarang semut.

and many more...

Man of every house will come to one of the ruai, then the ritual will start when the owner said so, in this case is my father.

at the end of the miring ceremony, one of the man will do berbiau, swinging the chicken around and reciting something.

in the end, the chicken being used for the ceremony will be culled.

The ceremony ends and the piring made by the man will be put at the higher place of the ruai. A brush like thingy is put, showing that this house has done the miring ceremony.

Gawai is not totally over yet. After this ceremony, the visit paying activities will be continued. Just like the "Chap Goh Mei" in Chinese New Year celebration, Gawai Dayak also have Ngiling Bidai. It means the end of the celebration. The last day of Gawai Dayak will be solely depends on the Tuai rumah. He will name a day to end to celebration. Usually will be one week after 31st May. Again, Gawai can be diverge into a few celebrations, Gawai Dayak is celebrated by all Dayak. Then, Gawai Antu is celebrated by a rumah panjang if there have been a death before the celebration of Gawai Dayak. Other Gawai are Gawai lelabi, Gawai Gagai and so on.

Anyone who are interested to see and feel the sensation that gawai dayak brings to the Iban, you should come to Sarawak and visit long houses. Feel the real life of it rather than only heard from people. Get ready to be more Malaysian.


  1. Oooo.. Seriously, this is my first time see how Rumah Panjang looks like. And reading your writing about Gawai is really enjoyed me! Sarawak, waiting for me! Yeah!

  2. You need to come and see it... seriously, its different~ :3

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