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TUESDAY, APRIL 10, 2012

What Is Gawai Festival All ABout?

Every year the Dayaks of Borneo, Sarawak celebrates the Gawai Festival where the word Gawai means a ritual or festival on June 1 every year. Dayak is a collective name for the native ethnic groups which consists of the Iban and the Bidayuh people. Gawai Festival is celebrated as both religious and social occasion where the Dayaks normally visit (also commonly known as 'ngabang' to the native tongue) friends and family on this day.

The manner of festivity varies from place to place. But usually the necessary preparation starts early. Tuak (rice wine) is brewed (at least one month before the celebration) and rather traditional delicacies like penganan (cakes from rice flour, sugar and coconut milk) are prepared. As the big day approaches, everyone will be busy with general cleaning and preparing food and cakes. On Gawai Festival Eve, glutinous rice is steamed in bamboo (ngelulun pulut). In the longhouse, new mats will be set in place out on the ruai (an open walkway which runs through the entire length of the longhouse). The walls of most bilik (rooms) and the ruai are ornamented with Pua Kumbu (traditional blankets). A visit to clean the graveyard is also conducted and offerings offered to the dead. After the visit it is important to bathe before entering the longhouse to ward off bad luck.

The celebration usually begins on the evening of May 31st. In most Iban longhouses, it starts with a ceremonial rite called Muai Antu Rua (to cast away the spirit of greed), signifying the non-interference of the spirit of bad luck in the festivity. Two children or men each dragging a chapan (winnowing basket) will pass each family's room. Every family will throw some unwanted article into the basket. The unwanted articles will be tossed to the ground from the end of the longhouse for the spirit of bad luck.

Around 6 pm or as the sun sets, offering (known as miring) rite will take place. Before the ceremony, ritual music (gendang rayah) is performed. The Feast Chief thanks the gods for the good harvest, and asks for guidance, blessings and long life as he waves a cockerel over the offerings. He then sacrifices the cockerel and a little blood is used together with the offerings.

Once the offering ceremony is done, dinner is then served at the ruai. Just before midnight, a procession up and down the ruai seven times called Ngalu Petara (welcoming the spirit god) is performed. During this procession, a beauty pageant to choose the festival's queen and king (Kumang & Keling Gawai) is sometimes conducted. Meanwhile, drinks, traditional cakes and delicacies are served.

At midnight, the gong is beaten to call the celebrants to attention. The longhouse Chief (tuai rumah) or Gawai Festival Chief will lead everyone to drink the Ai Pengayu (normally tuak for long life) and at the same time wish each other "gayu-guru, gerai-nyamai" (long life, health and prosperity). The celebration now turns merrier and less formal. Some will dance to the traditional music played; others will sing the pantun (poems). In urban areas, Dayaks will organise gatherings at community centres or restaurants to celebrate the evening.

Other activities that may follow the next few days include: cock-fighting matches, and blowpipe and ngajat competitions. On this day, 1 June, homes of the Dayaks are open to visitors and guests.

Traditionally, when guests arrive at a longhouse, they are given the ai tiki as a welcome. From time to time, guests are served tuak. This would be called nyibur temuai which literally means "watering of guests".

Christian Dayaks normally attend a church mass service to thank God for the good harvest.

Gawai Dayak celebrations may last for several days folks, so check us out on www.SarawakBorneoTour.com to come and celebrate Gawai with us. We have various packages including homestay programmes so your Gawai Festival experience would be an exciting one. Any inquiries you can e-mail us on Ask@SarawakBorneoTour.com.

Tags: Tuak | Gawai Festival | Sarawak | Borneo | Dayak | Gawai | Iban | Gawai Dayak | Bidayuh | Kuching City | Gawai Dayak | longhouse |

Looking Forward To Gawai

The Gawai Festival is celebrated with excitement across Sarawak, Borneo in both cities and rural villages, Gawai Festival is a multi-day cultural festival to honour the native people of the Dayak community which consists mainly of Iban and Bidayuh.
 
They celebrate Gawai Festival on the first and second of June every year. Gawai Dayak is an up-to-date version of Gawai Padi, the rice harvest festival traditionally celebrated by both the Iban and Bidayuh people, to give thanks for a successful harvest.
 
More than just a touristy demonstration of indigenous culture for tourists, Gawai Dayak is celebrated with genuine joy and enthusiasm. Weddings take place, singing and toasts fill the air, and families are reunited with one another after being separated all year.
 
The traditions celebrated during Gawai Dayak are ancient, but the holiday is not. The first Gawai Dayak festival took place in 1965 after several years of renewed cultural pride within the oppressed Dayak community. When first asked to create a public holiday in celebration of the Dayak people in Sarawak, the colonial government refused; they were afraid that other minority groups would make similar demands. Instead, the government declared June 1 as "Sarawak Day". Eventually, once Sarawak was awarded independence, the holiday was officially changed to Gawai Dayak.
 
More than just a demonstration of indigenous culture for tourists, Gawai Dayak is celebrated with genuine joy and enthusiasm. Gawai is an occasion for parties, fun and games, processions and ‘open houses’. At rural dwellings, especially in roadside villages and remote villages, guests are expected to taste tuak and eat at each household. Thus in a 30 door Iban longhouse with a family living behind each door, it means partaking in festivities over and over again. Music and dancing usually follow to liven up the mood.
 
In Kuching, celebrations start a week before with colourful street parades and cultural activities. On the eve of the Gawai, a grand state dinner is held at the Civic Centre with singing, dancing and a beauty pageant which culminates in the crowning of several Gawai Queens, one each for Iban and Bidayuh communities.
 
Obviously, Gawai Dayak is the best and the most interesting time to visit Sarawak as you can see and sample the lifestyle and its festivities. All visitors are warmly received and accepted as new friends even if they happen to be strangers. It is a happy time for all concerned.
 

For those who are curious on what Gawai celebrations is all about and want to experience it for themselves come and check out www.SarawakBorneoTour.com and see what we have to offer. You can e-mail your inquiries to Ask@SarawakBorneoTour.com for more information or book online directly.

Tags: Tuak | Gawai Festival | Sarawak | Borneo | Dayak | Gawai | Iban | Gawai Dayak | Bidayuh | Kuching City | Gawai Dayak | longhouse | celebration |

Meaning Of Gayu Guru Gerai Nyamai

You must hear a lot of the local people say Gayu Guru Gerai Nyamai during the jovial season of Gawai but what does it means? It actually means long life, health and prosperity in the Iban language The Ibans has many festivals called ‘Gawai’ but the most popular celebration would be the ‘Gawai Dayak’ (harvesting festival). During such festival, besides the customary observance of ritual, there is usually a lot of drinking of the locally brewed rice wine called tuak, much merriment and dancing called ngajat and displays of elaborate traditional costumes.

“Gawai” or festivals are often held at the end of the Rice Harvest throughout most parts of Sarawak, Borneo and this is a celebration of unity, aspiration and hope for the Dayak which mark the end of the rice harvest and usher in another year of bountiful goodness. During this festival, almost everyone dresses in traditional costumes while the elders perform traditional rites.

First celebrated on 1st June 1965, it is the feast for the eyes with its colourful rituals, traditional music, cock fighting, feasting and games. It is simply a time for merrymaking.

Tuak (rice wine) and an array of traditional food are generously served. Widespread celebrations are held not only in the main cities and towns but also in the interior settlements. Gawai is an occasion for parties, fun and games, processions and open houses.

In remote villages, guests are expected to taste tuak and eat at each household. Another popular alcoholic beverage being served during Gawai is langkau. Langkau is made from fermented rice wine (tuak) and cooked in a barrel with a little hose hanging off the top of the barrel. The alcoholic levels in langkau is much stronger and is said to be the Sarawakian version of vodka. Music and dancing usually follow suit (which consists of mostly joget or dangdut hits).

In Kuching, for instance, celebrations start a week before with colourful street parades and cultural activities. On the eve of the Gawai, a grand state dinner is usually held with singing, dancing and a beauty pageant, which culminates in the crowning of several Gawai Queens, one each for Iban, Bidayuh and Orang Ulu communities.


Obviously, Gawai Dayak is the best and the most interesting time to visit Sarawak as you can see and sample the lifestyle and its festivities of other various Dayak communities. So if all this interest you, come and check us out at www.SarawakBorneoTour.com and see what we have to offer to bring the experience of the Gawai Celebrations to you. You can e-mail your inquiries to Ask@SarawakBorneoTour.com for more info.

Tags: Tuak | Langkau | Gawai Festival | Sarawak | Borneo | Dayak | Gawai | Iban | Gawai Dayak | Bidayuh | Kuching City | Gawai Dayak | longhouse |