Gawai Burong

Preparation for the Festival

1. Aum gawai – to discuss preparations for the gawai including fixing dates (nempoh hari), allocation of communal farm (bumai bedandang) where a portion of the harvest is allocated for ceremonial needs and setting time to begin brewing of the rice wine (tuak) which usually occurs about a month before the festival itself.

2. Nutok bram tuak – pounding and preparing glutinous rice for making rice wine.

3. Ngaga raran – erecting of cooking rack. This is done in the afternoon, after completed preparing the rice wine. The gawai chief waves a cock along the varendah (ruai) to announce the time to build the cooking racks for the rice, usually at the upper landing place of the longhouse. Gendang rayah music is played three times per round in the longhouse during the construction of the rack.

4. Ngerendam beras – soaking of the glutinous rice. This is done at about 6 p.m. after the gawai chief waves a cock to announce the event accompanied by gendang rayah music played for five times per round in the house during this event.

5. Ngelulun asi – Roasting of the rice in the bamboo. This is done in the afternoon of the next day, after the gawai chief waves his cock and make announcement. He leads a group of elders carrying offerings (piring), which he placed in a special platform called duran. After placing the offerings properly, he will sit near them until all the work at this stage is finished.

6. Sabong gawai – festival cockfighting is performed at the feast chief’s platform (tanju). Several fights are conducted there and it will be continued elsewhere on nearby clearing if the participants are still enthusiastic.

7. Makai pagi – morning meal are done to initiate the beginning of the festivals and are done along the varendah (ruai) of the longhouse.

8. Ngelumpang asi – taking the rice out of the bamboo is done after the morning meal with the feast chief waving his cock making the announcement. The rice is taken out of the bamboo and placed on a large mat where it is mixed with yeast (ragi) to start the fermentation process of wine making. The rice are then placed inside large jars and its top covered with clean clothes. Gendang rayah music is played three times per round. After this, other preparations take place like making of rice flour cakes, preparing domestic livestock for the next two weeks. The festival chief also organise a group of people to collect mandatory items from the jungle or river to be used for the offerings (piring) and these are:

  • Pisang Jait (wild banana fruit);
  • Engkudu and trong fruits;
  • Lengki palm leaves and its shoot;
  • Banjang palm leaves and its shoot;
  • Batak shoots, flowers of buot, tepus, sengkenyang and others planted on the padi field; and
  • Smoked gerama crabs, kusing bats and fish with white scales.

9. Ngambi Ngabang – sending out invitations is done after materials of the offerings above are ready. A meeting is held by the gawai chief to confirm the number of longhouse to be invited. Four trusted men are sent out to send the invitation carrying a number of strings with knots (temuku tali), where each knot represent a day before the guest are to attend the feast. The guest untie one knot every day to remind them of the feast day. Meanwhile, a day before the big event, the women folks prepared the following items for the piring:

  • Cook white, yellow and black glutinous rice;
  • Fry penganan iri buns;
  • Cook sungkui cake;
  • Cook hard boiled eggs;
  • Cook ketupat rice; and
  • Fry popped rice (letup) and sago flour.

Photo of the Sengkenyang plant.

4 thoughts on “Gawai Burong”

  1. i always love to know Iban culture n what they celebrate..the order n the meaning of each celebration..
    my mum had taught me a few..which i dun really i need to see it n try to understand this very moment..when ever i have the chance..i would ask either my mum or any aki n ini for explanation..
    with u doing this..its very helpful..

  2. Shirlene, the ones that really follow our old custome (adat) are rare occasion these days. Hence, it is good to attend to one if you have the chance.

  3. I enjoy browsing your website. I would like to know something regarding the pokok engkenyang pl.

  4. Updated the post with a photo of the sengkenyang plant. The photo was emailed by one of my friend, Leban Dagang.

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