Sunday, June 01, 2008

Celebrating Gawai Dayak

Gawai Dayak, recognised as a festive celebrated in Sarawak on June 1 every year, is both a religious and social occasion.

It has become part of the events under the Sarawak Tourism Board to promote tourism. It has an “Open House” concept to receive guests in our multi -acial society. Such visit is commonly known as “ngabang” in the Iban language.


During the British colonial rule, the government refused to give recognition to the Dayak Day. This disappointed the Dayak community because the festival was their source of national pride and a way to reciprocate social hospitality extended by other races during their festivals.

After numerous requests, the first Chief Minister of Sarawak, Datuk Stephen Kalong Ningkan and his Cabinet, our present Chief Minister, Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud, Tun Abang Haji Openg, who was a member of the Council Negeri, at that time, persistently pushed through the proposal to recognise Gawai as a festival.

Gawai Dayak was formally gazetted on September 25, 1964 as a public holiday in place of Sarawak Day. It was first celebrated on June 1, 1965 and became a symbol of unity, aspiration and hope for the Dayak community.

Since then, the Dayak community have been celebrating June 1 as a thanksgiving day to mark a good harvest and a time to plan for the new farming season.

Meaning of Gawai Dayak

“Gawai” means a ritual or festival while “Dayak” is a collective name for the native races in Sarawak namely the Iban, Bidayuh, Kayan, Kenyah, Kelabit, Murut and other ethnic group. A combination of the word “Gawai Dayak” means Dayak Festival.

Continue reading (incl. pic) at: Celebrating Gawai Dayak

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