Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Dayak community welcomes Gawai

KUCHING: It is that time of year again, when Sarawak’s rich diversity of culture is showcased at its best.

Traditionally, the Dayak community welcomes the Gawai celebrations to give thanks to the gods for another successful harvest of the paddy, while praying for another good season up ahead.

Celebrated in the State on June 1 each year, Gawai Dayak is both a religious and social occasion.

Gawai Dayak simply means a ritual or festival celebrated by the native ethnic groups of the Iban and Bidayuh people of Sarawak and neighbouring Kalimantan of Indonesia.

Even though many of the younger generation have migrated to the city and are not involved in paddy planting anymore, Gawai Dayak remains an integral part of the Dayak traditions and customs.

Evolving with time and social changes, Gawai now symbolises a time to give back, to reunite with family members, friends, the community and above all, to strengthen the understanding and appreciation of the traditions, cultures and the roots of oneself.

Although the colourful cultural extravaganza and fiesta of the Gawai Dayak runs through June until its ‘Ngiling Tikai’ (closing ceremony), it is the rituals, prayers and celebration to welcome Gawai that would be considered its highlights.

For the Iban community, be it in the longhouse or the urban housing communities, celebration starts on the eve, on May 31 itself.

During the evening, a ceremony among the Ibans, a ceremony called Muai Antu Rua (to cast away the spirit of greed) is conducted to ward off the spirit of bad luck .

Around 6pm (twilight), an offering ceremony called ‘miring’ would take place.

The longhouse chief or the most respected senior figure in the community would conduct the miring ritual by thanking the gods for the good harvest, asking for guidance, blessings and long life as he waves a cockerel over the offerings.

The cockerel would then be sacrificed and a little blood is used together with the offerings. Before the ceremony, ‘gendang rayah’ (ritual music) would be performed.

Once the offering ceremony has been carried out, dinner would then be served at the ‘ruai’.

Just before midnight, a procession along the ‘ruai’ for seven times called ‘Ngalu Petara’ (welcoming the spirit gods) would be performed.

It is usually during such procession that a beauty pageant to choose the festival’s queen and king (Kumang and Keling Gawai) would be held.

However, in this modern time, with the growing interest of the Kumang Gawai festival, the pageants would be held days or weeks earlier leading to Gawai Dayak.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Dayak community welcomes Gawai

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