Thursday, June 11, 2015

Mount Kinabalu: The sacred - and dangerous - mountain

To the local community living at its foot, Mount Kinabalu is seen as the resting place of their ancestors.

The mountain, the highest between the Himalayas and New Guinea, sits in Kinabalu Park which became a Unesco World Heritage site in 2000.

The Kadazan and Dusun communities have long held the mountain as a sacred place.

According to the Global Diversity Foundation, locals believe their loved ones must be buried facing the landmark when they die so their spirits can see the mountain as they start their journey to the afterlife.

The charity said: "Although many have since embraced formal religions, Mount Kinabalu is still a venerated sacred place, a source of their identity and spirituality."

The establishment of the park in the 1960s restricted access for villagers, and the mountain's popularity with tourists grew.

Traveller manual Rough Guides said: "Although there are other hikes within the park, the prospect of reaching the summit fires the imagination of Malaysian and foreign tourists alike."

Since 2010, an annual pilgrimage has been made by local villagers during which a ritual known as monolob is performed, asking the mountain spirit to keep those who climb it safe.

In recent years, efforts have been made to gather knowledge and history from elders to ensure the mountain's traditions are not forgotten by the younger generations.

Mount Kinabalu, which can be seen from the west coast, is revered by locals as "aki nabalu" or the home of the spirits of the dead. It dominates the 290 square miles of Kinabalu National Park.

It sits in a region which boasts powerful ecology, flora and geology.

The impressive sights from Mount Kinabalu's 13,435ft peak entices tens of thousands of climbers but there is also danger in the beauty.