The Festival Day
At about 7.00 am early next morning, a traditional cockfight takes place on the open-air varendah or tanju of the gawai chief. This is followed by the morning meal. After the meal, a ceremony to drive away bad spirit, similar to the previous day, is conducted. Then the old head trophy or skulls in the longhouse is taken down from their respective cluster and brought to the feast chief’s varendah (ruai) in a winnowing basket, which contains the offerings.
Shortly after the skulls have been brought to the feast chief’s varendah, one man kills a chicken and smears its blood on the sacred hornbill statue (Kenyalang) at the loft (sadau) of the longhouse. As he smears it with blood, he shouted three times. Then the statue is carried down to the feast chief varendah and is placed near the skulls.
1. Nyambut Pengabang (welcoming the guest)
When the invited guest arrives from their respective longhouse at the host-landing place, they are assembled and welcomed in the same manner as the warriors and the bards earlier. But the individual share of rice wine served to the Warleader, Penghulus and Tuai Rumah are different. Warleader are given 18 glasses of rice wine, Penghulus 17 and the longhouse headmen 12 glasses. Other people receive 8 or 9 glasses each.
2. Antu Pala dibai ngabang (old smoked skulls are brought to the feast)
If any guests brought their old smoked skulls to the feast, as custom requires, the bard who carry them will start to sing the timang antu pala chants as they lead the procession of the guests into the longhouse and along the varendah.
3. Kenyalang Lama dibai ngabang (The old sacred statues of the Rhinoceros hornbill are brought to the feast)
Descendant of past great chiefs and warleader who have kept old sacred statues of the Rhinoceros hornbill (Kenyalang) are expected to bring these with them from their longhouse to the feast. Before the statue is taken away from the loft where it is kept, a fowl must be killed and a man smears its blood on the statue whilst shouting war cries three times in succession.
The statue is then carried reverently along the path to the host longhouse. Near the longhouse, after dressing themselves at the host landing place, a bard and his team, including the host, welcome their guest similar to the previous event. A chief bard, who leads at the head of the procession, chanting their timang Kenyalang song, carries the hornbill statue. His fellow bard, who sings the chorus, follows him.
4. Ketanju lemai gawai deka nyadi (Celebration on the tanju on the eve of the feast)
At about 3.00 pm of the festival day, the feast chief waves a cock along the varendah and ask his people to spread their mats on his tanju platform and two tanju next to his on both sides. The women also decorate the tanju fence or railing with a selection of their best pua kumbu (woven tie-dye blankets). A noble warrior then kills a medium-size pig (babi sengajap), whose blood is smeared on the ritual pole (the tiang chandi or the kalingkang pole for the first stage of Gawai Burong), which will be erected at the centre of the tanju. A number of leading weavers will then decorate the pole with coloured cotton balls, an event called nali kalingkang. When the pole is raised, these leading weavers will then throw eggs and balls of glutinous rice at the pole from a distance, for according to Iban beliefs, whoever hit it and stick the glutinous rice there will become expert in weaving.
Warleader, noble chiefs of the area and their senior relations are seated in places of honour close to the tanju fence. The warriors sit around the foot of the ritual pole, and others crowd around the rest of the tanju. The bard will then come out to the tanju carrying the host longhouse smoked skulls and start chanting rituals song for the skull. After finished with this, the host rhinoceros hornbill statue is brought out together with the skulls brought by the guest to the tanju accompanied by bards who will chant the ritual song (timang Kenyalang) for the hornbill statue. After finished chanting their ritual songs, the bards then place the hornbill statue and the skulls at the foot of the ritual pole.
A miring ceremony is then conducted accompanied by gendang rayah music. First, a leading warrior and six other warriors divide the offerings into seven or more plates. Then a leading warrior recites a long prayer, nyampi, to summon Sengalang Burong and his associates to come down from heaven and join the celebration.
5. Berayah Ngelingi Pun Sabang (Dancing around the foot of cordyline plants)
After the miring ceremony, gendang rayah music is again played. At the same time, ketebong drums are beaten and steel adzes resound; this music called gendang pampat to call Sengalang Burong and his followers to come down from the sky. With repeated war cries, a band of warriors performed the war dance (ngajat rayah) around the cordyline fronds at the foot of the ritual pole (tiang chandi).
6. Antu Pala enggau Kenyalang dibai lemambang pulai ari tanju (The skulls and the hornbill statue are brought back by the bards from the open varendah to the longhouse varendah (ruai)
As the ceremony on the tanju ends, the skulls are brought to the ruai and placed in the winnowing basket with one bard left to look after the skull while the other bards enter the family room starting with the gawai chief’s own room, chanting their ritual songs called mupu ka antu pala (collections for the skulls).
As they bless each family with ritual songs from room to room, the bards are rewarded by senior lady representative of each room with rice wines, penganan buns, gold, silver, brass rings or money, which they bring back with them.
7. Kenyalang dibai Lemambang pulai ari tanju (The hornbill statue is brought by the bard from the open varendah)
The hornbill statue are brought back by the bard to the ruai and placed near the skulls. Their ritual songs accompany this and thus end the event at the tanju.
8. Makai lemai (dinner)
After all the guests have returned from the tanju to the ruai, they are served supper.
9. Nyugu babi (combing the sacrificial pig’s hair)
After the supper, the feast chief waves a cock and announces that the nyugu babi procession is to take place. A senior man of the host longhouse is selected to carry a flag and leads the procession, followed by a second senior man carrying a spear for stabbing the pig and followed by the third man carrying a plate to be used for carrying the pig’s liver. Two influential ladies follow them carrying popped and coloured rice, the second, a brass container filled with water and a comb. They are followed by a group of maidens in traditional festive attire, who are followed by young men in full festive attire adorning ceremonial swords decorated with hornbill feathers and head dresses decorated with local pheasant bird (burong ruai) feather. Gendang panjai music is played as the procession marched around the whole length of the longhouse varendah three times. This procession ends at the feast chief tanju where the first influential lady throws the popped and coloured rice to the air whilst beseeching favourable omen, luck, fortune and well being from the pig liver. The second women then pour the water on each pig and comb its hair as she prays along. This done, the procession disperses and the guest are seated again on the gawai chief’s tanju to listen to the evening chants by the bards.
Before the bard could start singing their chant, the warriors performed the ngerandang jalai, ngelalau and Berayah pupu buah rumah ceremony similar to the event at the start of the gawai eve. As soon as the warrior’s event is finished, the bards start to perform their gawai chants, which is a continuation of the first evening chants. This time the narratives (pengap) started with the God of Wind arrival, which scared off the slave of Sengalang Burong, Bujang Pedang, due to its awesome noise and might as he blows its way into their country in the dome of the sky.
The sequences of events in the narratives (pengap) by the bards are as follows:
- Bujang Pedang ninga auh ribut lalu rari (Bujang Pedang hears the sound of a mighty wind and runs away)
- Bini Sengalang Burong chelap bulu (Sengalang Burong’s wife is chilled by the wind)
- Ribut mangka ka rumah Sengalang Burong (the wind blows hard on Sengalang Burong longhouse)
- Ngiga kayu rumbang tutong (looking for hollow wood for the drum)
- Sida Ketupong Mansang ngayau (Ketupong and his friends go to warÂ looking for fresh head to be brought to the human feast)
- Menoa Besi Api (The land of the flint)
- Menoa Tuchok (The land Tuchok lizard)
- Menoa Sandah (The land of Sandah)
- Menoa Rioh (The land of Rioh insect)
- Menoa Nendak (The land of Nendak bird, white rumped shama)
- Menoa Beragai Samatai Manang Burong (The land of Beragai bird)
- Menoa Kelabu Papau Nyenabong (The land of Kelabu Papau bird)
- Menoa Pangkas tauka Kutok (The land of Pangkas bird or Kutok)
- Menoa Bejampong (The land of Bejampong bird)
- Menoa Embuas (The land of Embuas bird)
- Menoa Ketupong (The land of Ketupong bird)
- Menoa Kunding Burong Malam (The land of Kunding)
- Menoa Rintong Langit Pengulor Bulan
- Bala Ketupong nyurong lalu ngaga langkau kayau (Ketupong and his warriors erect the war hut)
- Ketupong enggau Beragai matak bala (Ketupong and Beragai led their warriors to war)
- Bala Ketupong nuntong ba rumah Beduru (Nising) (Ketupong’s troop landed at Beduru’s longhouse)
- Wa Puji (Songs of praise)
- Wa Empas (Songs of anger)
- Pulai Ngabas (Return from spying)
- Sengalang Burong nusoi mimpi diri (Sengalang Burong relates his dream)
- Mimpi Ketupong (Ketupong relates his dream)
- Mimpi Beragai (Beragai relates his dream)
- Bala Ketupong ngerampas (Ketupong’s troop start to attack)
- Datai ba tinting pangka sealing pulai nyerang (Arrive at the ridge where the warriors shout victoriously on return from battle)
- Bini Sengalang Burong nyambut igi balang (Sengalang Burong’s wife receives the precious skull)
- Aki Lang Sengalang Burong mai ngabang (Sengalang Burong leads his people to attend the festival)
- Mansa Tembawai Lama Sengalang Burong (passing the old house site of Sengalang Burong)
- Menoa Bujang Jegalang (The land of Bujang Jegalang)
- Mansa Batu Ansah (Passing the whetstone)
- Mansa pun buloh berani (passing the foot of Buloh Berani)
- Pintu Langit (Arrival at the door of the sky)
- Bala Sengalang Burong ngetu ba pintu langit ke rapit (Sengalang Burong and his followers stops at the closed door of the sky)
- Menoa Aki Ungkok (The country of Aki Ungkok)
- Menalan Sabong (The cockfighting ring)
- Ngerara rampa menoa (Appreciating the view of the landscape)
- Menoa Raja Siba Iba (Raja Siba Iba’s country)
- Menoa Burong Raya (The country of Burong Raya bird)
- Menoa Sera Gindi (The country of Sera Gindi)
- Menoa Bengkong apai Kuang Kapong (the country of Bengkong, father of Kuang Kapong bird)
- Menalan Besai (a widely cleared space)
- Menoa Bhiku Bunsu Petara (The country of high priest of the god)
- Menoa Selampandai (The country of Selampandai)
- Menoa Raja RengayongÂ Kijang (The country of Raja Rengayong the barking deer)
- Menoa RusaÂ Bunji (The country of sambar deer)
- Menoa Raja Remaung (The country of the tiger chief)
- Kendi Aji (The road junction)
- Kampong Baung (The lonely forest)
- Menoa Aki Dunju (The country of Aki Dunju)
- Menoa Durong Biak (The country of the younger Durong)
- Menoa Bunsu Petara (The country of Bunsu Petara)
- Menoa Bangkong (The landing place)
- Bala Sengalang Burong mandi (Sengalang Burong and his followers bathes)
- Bini Sengalang Burong mandi (Sengalang Burong’s wife bathes)
- Bala Sengalang Burong begari (Sengalang Burong and his followers dressed up for the festival)
- Bala Indu besanggol (The women plait their hair into buns)
- Bala Sengalang Burong niki ka rumah (Sengalang Burong and his followers walks into the feasting house)
10. Ngalu ka Sengalang Burong (Welcoming Sengalang Burong)
This event is done early in the morning with the gawai chief waving his cock announcing the arrival of Sengalang Burong. A procession is held heralding the arrival of Sengalang Burong and his followers. The gawai chief is leading the procession followed by another man who wave a cock to honour both the visible and invisible (spiritual) guests. After him walks two influential women, one carrying a plateful of pop rice and another, a plate of offerings. Behind them walk the girls and young men who wear traditional dress. The girls carry empty wine glasses, and the young men have a bottle of rice wine each. At the end of the procession walks a band of young men who play music on drums and gongs.
After they circled the longhouse varendah three times, and have reached the gawai chief’s varendah, they stopped and sit down facing the honoured warriors and guests and served them as a symbolic serving of the Sengalang Burong, his followers and other invited spirits. The host, in this instance, are represented by our spiritual heroes of Panggau, Keling and Laja, who will entertain Sengalang Burong himself, and is narrated in the pengap chant of the bards.
11. Lemambang Nenjang Sengalang Burong (The bards sing a song in praise of Sengalang Burong)
In this event, the bards faced the most honoured guest, who is sitting together with other important guest along the upper varendah (Ruai atas). This honoured guest is now representing Sengalang Burong while the others represents his son-in-laws and other followers.
After this, the night’s chants of the bards are concluded. Another nyugu babi procession is held at about 6.30 am and the pigs are sacrificed, their liver being divined by the experts. A morning meal is also served again.
Source: GN Mawar