The Day of Nimang Pantar
The night before the festival is known as Malam Nimang Pantar. The bards bless the raised seats (pantar) erected for honoured guest with chants. Early in the morning of this day, the gawai chief wave his cock along the varendah of the longhouse and instructed every family to build a raised seat between the varendah (ruai) and passageway (tempuan) for the guest to sit on during the feast. Gendang rayah music is played three times per round during the construction work on the raised seat. The gawai chief family is the first family to erect the raised seats followed by others afterward. After the raised seat is completed, the gawai chief again wave his cock asking each family to spread their new mats on the floors along the varendah for the Nimang Pantar event.
Muai Antu Rua – casting away the spirits of greed is done after spreading of the mats along the varendah. Two young men each drag a winnowing baskets (chapan) along the passageway, starting from the gawai chief room and going to both ends of the longhouse. As they pass each room, they shouted to the occupants to throw some unwanted articles into the basket as a material symbol of casting away all the bad luck or omen. The occupants discard their useless items and say the following words:
I present this to you, spirit of bad luck.
Take these things away to your country quickly.
The two men having received those items then toss away those items at both end of the longhouse cursing them as follows.
This is for you spirit of greed and bad luck.
Take these away to your country quickly.
These spirits are then not supposed to interfere with the festival celebration anymore.
Nyambut orang nasak – welcoming the warrior who is to prepare the offerings. When a specially invited honoured warrior arrived at the clearing of the host longhouse, the gawai chief waves his cock to announce his arrival, cleared him of the bad omen he encountered in his journey to the feast, and invited him to the longhouse as honoured guest to the feast. The warrior is asked if he encounter any bad omens on his way to the feast. If he has, then 13 glasses of tuak wine (small amount) are poured out to cool off or neutralise the power of these omens. The warrior drink six glasses, while 7 glasses are drunk by the hosts, who after this will recite a short prayer while waving his cock above the warrior’s head:
Aku miau kai manok tu,
Minta ngagai Petara,
Ngasoh kitai grai nyamai lantang senang!
Enti burong kita jai,
Manok tu ngasoh iya manah.
Enti burong kita manah,
Manok tu ngasoh iya manah agi!
I wave this cock above your head,
Praying to Goad and the spirits,
To grant us health, happiness and peace.
If your omen is bad,
This bird will make it good!
If it is good,
This cock will make it better still!
A procession is then formed, led by the feast chief who carries a flag and a man with a tray of offerings. The followed by the warrior and his followers, followed by young men beating gongs and drums. As the procession marches along the varendah, young girls and men served them rice wine. The procession covers the whole stretch of the longhouse and turned back to the feast chief apartment where the guest were seated on the raised seat erected earlier.
After the warrior guests were seated, a bard waves a cock to honour the warrior, his guidiance spirit (if any) and his followers and recites a short prayer for the well being of everybody. A special rice wine called ai aus (fluid for quenching the thirst) is served. Then they are served another round of rice wine called ai untong (individual allocated share) where the amount served varies depending on the status and age with the warrior given 18 glasses of wine and others of lesser amount. Having drunk all this ai untong, they are all served another round of rice wine called ai basu (fluid for washing or cleanse oneself) which is received from the hands of women and girls amid the war cries from the audience. They are then served with various kind of food.
Niki ka Lemambang – welcoming the bards. The bards invited to grace the festival are welcome by the feast chief and his people in a similar way as that of welcoming the warrior earlier on. If they have seen a Ketupong bird crossing their path from left to right side in their journey to the festival, the omen is called raup ketupong, and must be cooled down by offering 50 glasses of rice wine to the bards. If the happening occurs closer to the bard’s house than the hosts, the bard must drink 30 glasses out of 50 glasses, the remainder being drunk by the feast chief and his friends. If the omen occurs nearer to the hosts house, then the party of the feast chief must drink the 30 glasses and the bards drink only 20 glasses.
If the bards have met a pimpin jaloh omen, the flying of Ketupong with repeated quick calls from the right to the left side of the road, the omen must be cooled down with 70 glasses of rice wine apportioned, similar to the above, between the two parties according to where the omen occurs.
After the bards welcoming reception at the pendai (landing place), the warrior who is appointed to kill a ritual piglet (manchak babi) at the foot of the stairway entrance to the longhouse, lead the procession from the landing place. Another warrior who has been appointed as tukang nasak follows him. Tukang nasak is the warrior appointed and in charge of dividing the main sacrificial offerings of the festival. Others will not be allowed to be involved in the division of the offerings. Behind the tukang nasak walk two women, one bringing pop rice which she showers along the route of the procession, the other brings yellow rice grain which she sprinkles as they walk. The bards who start to perform the first pengap song of the gawai as they enter the longhouse follow these hosts.
The procession, similar to the welcoming of the warrior event earlier, takes a turn at the end of the longhouse and proceeds to the gawai chief varendah. There the gawai chief welcome them with the customary waving of the cock above their heads. A similar ai aus rice wine is served and followed by ai untongs. The chief bard takes 80 glasses of wine, while his assistant (saut lemambang) receives 70 glasses. The rest receives 60 glasses.