The Gawai Antu festival is one of the greatest and merriest and is held in honour of the spirits of the dead, at least once in fifteen years. All Ibans of the Saribas, Kalaka and Skrang feel guilty if they are unable to make a sungkup tomb hut on the graves of their relatives in their life time and which is only done during the celebration of this feast.

The Gawai Antu festival is very expensive. It takes at least two full years to prepare for it financially. A number of expensive things are needed for the celebration, such as a number of bulls, pigs and hundreds of chickens. In ad­dition, dozens of bottles of liquor, brandy, whisky, gin and arak must be pur­chased besides the tuak wine brewed by the Iban themselves in the longhouse. Prior to the celebration of the feast, two smaller ceremonies are held. One is a Gawai Beban Ramu Sungkup which is celebrated the night before the collection of the materials made from belian wood to be used in constructing the sungkup hut. The other is a ngeretok celebration held on the night prior to the making of the hut by the carpenters. To each of these ceremonies all close relatives far and near are invited to help. These two ceremonies also require a lot of meat and liquor, in addition to tuak wine.

About a week before the Gawai Beban Ramu Sungkup ceremony is held, the Tuai Rumah calls for a meeting to appoint a man to be the feast chief (Tuai Gawai). According to custom the feast chief should be a man whose deceased kinsman was the eldest in the longhouse among those who are being honored by the gawai, provided that the deceased was not a person of low rank. If the oldest of these being honored was a person of low rank, a man whose deceased was next in age will be appointed to become the feast chief. After a feast chief has been appointed, it is his duty to direct the people of the longhouse in making preparations for the festival.

That same night the feast chief and others will set the day for the beban. Once the day has been agreed upon, the chief asks the members of every family in the longhouse to cook glutinous rice for brewing tuak wine.

After the tuak has been made, invitations are sent to all of those whom the hosts wish to attend the beban ramu sungkup celebration.

On the morning of the beban day, that is the day on which the materials are collected and fashioned ready for use in erecting the sungkup huts, the feast chief will first make an offering to the spirits. Half of this offering is left in the longhouse while he brings the other half to the place where he will prepare the materials for the sungkup in the jungle. This offering is made so that the spirits of the dead may not hinder the progress of the work in the jungle.6 The people of other families also make individual offerings to the spirits in the jungle at the same time, but it is not necessary for them to make offerings in the longhouse, as this has been done collectively by the feast chief. While working in the jungle the workers enjoy themselves with tuak wine and food.

After all the materials have been collected and fashioned, they are taken back to the longhouse. They must not be carried into the building before the materials of the feast chief have been smeared with the blood of two chickens or the blood of a young pig at the foot of the longhouse ladder and have been brought into the house. The materials brought by the other man must follow the same route as taken by the feast chief, but need not be smeared with blood. The consequence of failure to observe this rule is said to be angat, or “hot”, causing ill health in the community, and the feast chief according to the Gawai Antu adat fines the offender.

While the men prepare sungkup materials in the jungle, the women collect bamboo for making the garong baskets into which the bamboo con­tainers filled with holy wine are put during the Gawai Antu festival. After the women have collected suf­ficient bamboo, they bring it home along the same path as was used by the men in bringing the other materials into the house. It is not necessary that these bamboo materials be smeared with blood, as they are considered part of the things given to the dead after the Gawai An­tu is over.

After all the materials for the sungkup hut and garong baskets are ready, the feast chief holds another meeting to set a day for ngeretok and the weaving of the garong baskets. After the day is fixed, the feast chief and others start to brew their tuak wine and begin to buy or look for chickens and other necessities, other than pigs, from their relatives and friends in other villages.

Three days before the ngeretok takes place, a few men carry invitations to other villages up and down the river requesting their attendance at the feast.

A day prior to the ngeretok day, at about 9 a.m. the feast chief waves a chicken along the longhouse galleries to ask the people of every family to make their pantar seats at the outermost part of the family upper galleries for the guests to sit on during the ngeretok day. When this is done, the men make the duran platform and the frames for cooking glutinous rice at the riverbank. While the men are making their pantar, duran and frames, people in the longhouse beat gendang rayah.

At about 4p.m. the feast chief again waves a chicken to ask the women to soak their glutinous rice in the river. When the women have completed soaking their rice, the older men of each family make their rugan (altar) at the tempuan passage of their family bilek. Here daily offerings are made from that evening onward until the end of the Gawai Antu. These offerings consist of smoked blau fish, smoked keli fish, smoked udun fish, a few slices of janggat fruit and terong (brinjals). Without the inclusion of the latter, according to Iban belief, the goddess Indai Billai, who is thought to visit the longhouse from her home in the other world during the Gawai Antu preparations, will turn the tuak wines of the feast sour.

At sunset men of each family in the longhouse perform the first ngalu antu music. It is performed at every sunset and sunrise from this day un­til the celebration of the Gawai Antu. Sera Gunting, the grandson of Sengalang Burong, originated this practice when he held a Gawai Antu celebration for his grandfather, following the teaching of Bujang Langgah Lengan, the prince of the other world. Bujang Langgah Lengan is thought to be the husband of Dara Rambai Geruda, the daughter of Raja Niram and Ini lnan of Sebayan. When the ngalu antu music is in the air, the Ibans believe that the spirits of the dead are present and are thronging around to eat the offerings and wit­ness the festival preparations.

After dinner that night, the feast chief makes offerings to the spirits of the dead. After he has made his offerings, other people in the longhouse make their’s. These offerings are placed by each owner at the spot where the carpenters will assemble materials for the sungkup on the ngeretok day.

Before dawn men and women start to cook glutinous rice at the river bank. The women fill the bamboo containers with rice while the men cook them on the frames. At this time the feast chief sits near the offering on the duran platform till the cooking of rice is ended. As the cooking starts, the people in the longhouse perform their gendang rayah music five times suc­cessively.

After the rice has been cooked and brought back to the longhouse, the morning meal is eaten. After this meal, the ngalu antu music is performed by men of every family. As soon as ngalu antu is over, the festival cock fights take place on the section of the lower gallery belonging to the feast chief, in order to please the spirits of the dead who are believed to be lingering around in the longhouse. In particular, the cockfighting leaders of the Sabayan world, Ensing Jara and Kedawa, are believed to be present.

Shortly after the cockfights are ended, the feast chief waves a chicken to ask that persons from each family to spread new mats along their section of the gallery. Having done this, he waves a chicken again to ask the hosts to arrange the seats of guests who have begun to arrive in a row (bedijir) along the family galleries. After the guests have been seated, the feast chief waves a chicken to ask the hosts to serve (nyibor) the tuak wine to the guests. After this drinking session is over, the feast chief waves a chicken to inform the celebrants that the ngeretok and nganyam event of the Gawai Antu are to start.

At this time all the carpenters started to prepare the materials for constructing the sungkup hut and the selected weavers prepare their materials for weaving the various types of bamboo baskets. The varieties of garong baskets woven by the weavers are as follows:7

1. If the deceased who is given a basket was a baby of three months or younger, the basket woven will be in the shape of buah limau.

2. If the deceased was already able to sit up when he or she died, the basket woven will be in the shape of buah melanjan.

3. If the deceased was already between five to eight years of age when he died, the basket woven for him should be in shape of buah kelapa sambut, a kind of rottan ball.

4. If the deceased had grown to bachelorhood or maidenhood when he or she died, the basket woven is called gelayan.

5. If the deceased had already joined a war expedition or had traveled a number of times to other countries on trading ventures when he died, the basket woven for him should be a garong Tunggal.

6. If the deceased had once or twice led other people on a voyage in order to trade in other countries, the basket woven for him should be a garong ranggong dua with nine tooth-shaped projections at its bottom.

7. If the deceased was a leading warrior (pugu manok sabong) when he died, he is entitled to be given a garong ranggong tiga basket with eleven tooth-shaped projections at its bottom. Its base is decorated with the hair of the enemies he killed.

8. If the deceased was a war leader (tau kayau) when he died, he is entitled to be given a garong ranggong lima called entugin with thirteen tooth-shaped projections at its bottom. Its base is heavily decorated with the hair of enemies.

9. If the deceased was a Great War leader (tau serang) when he died, he is given a garong ranggong tujoh basket which is also called mudor ruroh with fourteen tooth-shape projections at its bottom. Its base is fully deco­rated with the hair of enemies.

The garong baskets given to women were mostly gelayan type. The or­dinary weavers of pua kumbu blankets and tikai bebuah mats were given garong Tunggal type, while the leading weavers were given a red painted basket called lebor api. They were not to be given the garong beranggong, i.e. one placed upon the other as given to men, as they were not warriors and naturally have never killed enemies. The garong basket given to women thus could not be decorated with the hair of slain enemies.

The weavers of garong baskets must be women of good character. They must never indulge in sinful activities such as adultery, incestuous relationship or theft for the hands of such persons are considered to be “unclean”’ and so the work they produced is not recognized by the spirits of the dead. This also applies to those who have been selected to serve the holy wine (ai jalong timang) to the warriors who drink it as mention below. The work of ngeretok should be finished by evening. But if either the making of sungkup huts or the weaving of garong baskets is not completed that day, the carpen­ters and weavers are permitted to finish their work on the following day.

After the ngeretok is done, the feasters are free to visit their friends and neighbors, other than their relatives, to inform them that they are now preparing a Gawai Antu festival to discharge their obligations toward the members of their family who have died since the last feast was held by making a sungkup tomb hut. They also announce that a ngempi’e ceremony is soon to be held for the people of that longhouse to brew tuak wine for the coming Gawai Antu celebration. The relatives they visited give them chickens, money and beras pulut (glutinous rice).

Some days after the feasters return from visiting their neighbors, the feast chief calls a meeting to set the day for brewing ngempi’e tuak wine. If the families of the longhouse agree to hold it a day later, then the feast chief asks all of the women to pound sufficient rice for the wine.

At noon of the ngempi’e day, the feast chief waves a chicken along the galleries of the house to ask the women to begin their initial pounding of glutinous rice for tuak wine. Gawai adat stipulates that the woman who first pounds her rice be the wife of the feast chief and that she does the pounding at the tempuan passage outside her family room. The pounding must be done here as it is at the tempuan passage that the goddess Indai Billai will sit close to the offerings on the Rugan altar during the night of the Gawai Antu festival. After the feast chief’s wife has pounded her rice, the other women in the longhouse follow suit, each at her respective passage. Only a little rice is pounded on this occasion as most has already been pounded weeks in advan­ce.

Shortly after the women start to pound their rice, the feast chief waves his chicken to ask the people to make or repair the frames (raran) they will use for cooking the glutinous rice and also the duran platforms at the river bank.

At 4 p.m. the feast chief again waves a chicken to ask the women to soak their rice in the river. As the women carry their rice to the river landing place, five men perform gendang rayah in the longhouse. This music ends when the women finish soaking their rice in the river.

At 6 p.m. the feast chief waves his chicken again to ask every family to spread their mats over all the galleries of the longhouse, as a sign that the ngempi’e feast is to begin. After the mats have been spread over the floor of the galleries a ceremony of ngalu antu is started with the music of gongs and a fire is lit at the rugan altar near the daily offerings.

That night all the relatives and friends who were invited to help with the work of ngempi’e are entertained by their hosts with food and tuak wine.

At around 4 a.m. the next morning the feast chief waves a chicken to ask the men and women to start cooking the glutinous rice for the Gawai Antu tuak. As these people are going down to the river bank led by the feast chief himself, other men in the longhouse perform gendang rayah. This music ends when all the rice has been cooked. After the rice has been cooked its owners bring the bamboo containers back to their family rooms. On their arrival, the morning ngalu antu starts, followed by a morning meal along the communal lower galleries. After this, both men and women remove the rice from the con­tainers and lay it out on clean mats. After they have done this, the rice is fer­mented and put in tepayan jars. In a fortnight’s time the tuak is drinkable.

After the ngempi’e feast is over, the women and their female relatives from other villages start to make various kinds of buns, such as penganan sarang semut, penganan chuan, and penganan sepit, for the coming Gawai Antu. Each family makes at least ten to twelve tins of buns.

While the women are making buns, the men are busy with other work, such as buying bulls, oxen and pigs to be consumed together with the numerous chickens they have reared themselves for the occasion.

After the feasters are satisfied with the number of bulls, oxen and pigs they have bought the feast chief calls a meeting to fix a day for the Gawai Antu to be held. After a day has been agreed upon seven days before the festival day, four trustworthy men are asked to carry the invitation to every longhouse up and down the river.

The day prior to the celebration of Gawai Antu is called hari mantar, – a day the hosts make new seats between the communal galleries and the tempuan passage of the longhouse. At the present time, as the floors of most longhouse are made of hardwood planks, pantar seats are no longer necessary, as they were fifty or more years ago. The waving of a chicken by the feast chief to ask that the pantar be made is nowadays done to symbolize that the hari mantar is celebrated in accordance with the festival rules. Instead of making the pantar seats in the house as in the old days, the workers only repair the old duran platform and the cooking frames (raran) at the river bank, if they are no longer serviceable.

Early on hari mantar day close relatives of the feasters come before the other guests, who will arrive on the Gawai Antu day, in order to help their relatives to kill bulls, oxen and pigs, while the women help with the cooking. Most of the chickens are roasted for the guests to eat during the reception ceremony.

That night shortly after the ngalu antu ceremony, the feast chief waves a chicken to ask the women to soak their glutinous rice. As they are doing this, the men play the gendang rayah. The music continues until the soaking of rice is finished.

The dinner takes place along the lower galleries at about 8 p.m. It lasts for about an hour and the hosts serve their relatives with meats and wines of high quality. After the dinner is over, each family invites its relatives to eat various kinds of food in the family room. As they enjoy themselves with food and drink, the hosts tell their relatives that they are very happy to be able to fulfill their duty in holding the Gawai Antu and build the sungkup tomb huts for their departed parents or grandparents and in making the garong baskets.

In answering their hosts, the relatives present will say that the spirits of the departed will, after the Gawai Antu is held, bless the feasters with good luck in all the work they do, as they have not failed to respect their dead with a grand festival. They also pray that the spirits of their ancestors will not fail to give prosperity to the successive generations of their descendants in this world.

At around 4 a.m. the feast chief waves a chicken to ask the men and women to cook their glutinous rice at the river bank.8 After this, the feast chief himself leads the others down to the river bank to do their rice cooking. As he reaches the duran platform the feast chief spreads a mat on the platform where he will sit near the offering he brings from the house. As he sits here the gendang rayah music is booming in the air. It continues until all the rice has been cooked.

The cooking of rice is a very merry time, as many young men and maidens participate in the work. Shortly before sunrise the rice is finally cooked and brought back to the house in bamboo containers.

Shortly after the rice has been brought home, the hosts and their relatives take their morning meal along the lower galleries of the longhouse. After the meal is over, cocks are fought on the feast chief’s verandah. After three rounds the game ceases.

As soon as the cockfighting is over, the feast chief waves a chicken along the communal longhouse galleries to ask every family to spread new mats on the gallery and to decorate the ceiling and walls of their upper gallery with the best woven blankets hung from ropes.

Along the upper gallery (panggau) carpets are spread over the ordinary mats by the richer families, and a number of mattresses rolled with coloured carpets are carefully placed at the outermost part of the panggau for guests to lean their backs on during the feast. The poorer families cover the floor of their panggau with mats of various patterns, while their mattresses are rolled with bekuang mats or woven blankets. Above the heads of the guests along the upper galleries are hung the gold embroidered woven blankets by the rich and ordinary pua kumbu blankets by the poorer families.

Shortly after the longhouse has been decorated with mats and other valuables as mentioned above, the reception of the warriors who have been asked to drink the holy garong wine starts with a waving of a chicken along the galleries by the feast chief.

As soon as the chicken has been waved, the feast chief leads a procession of a few men and women while other men play gendang panjai music with drums and gongs. The feast chief is followed by the Tuai Rumah. Behind them walk two women who carry popped rice (letup) and a plate of offerings. They are followed by those who perform the music.

When the procession reaches the warriors at the space outside the longhouse building, the feast chief invites them to take their seats with him and the Tuai Rumah on a mat which has been spread for the occasion. As they sit here, the feast chief asks the warriors whether they have heard any unfavorable omens on their way to attend the feast. If no omens were heard, good or bad, then the Tuai Rumah only waves a rooster above the heads of the warriors with a prayer for a prosperous and peaceful festival.

If the warriors have heard or seen bad omens on their way to the feast, then the feast chief ap­peases them with offerings and wine. But if they have seen the cobra (tedong) or a coral snake (kendawang) gliding across their way to the feast, then a special reception will be made for them in the longhouse. After the warriors have drank some tuak wine and eaten a few buns, the feast chief leads the procession back to the house with music of gendang panjai played by young men at the rear of the procession.

As the procession reaches the longhouse, one young man and one dam­sel who stand at each verandah offer tuak wine to each of the warriors along the longhouse. When the procession reaches the other end of the longhouse, it turns back till it reaches the feast chief’s own ruai, where the warriors take their seats. As they sit in a row at the lower gallery they are received by the hosts in the following way.

First a glass of tuak wine is given to them, known as ai aus, to quench their thirst. After this, each warrior drinks ai untong wine, – fifteen small glasses of wine each in honour of their attending the festival. After they drink their individual share of wine, a man stands up to wave a rooster above the warriors’ heads, with the following prayers:

“On behalf of the feasters in this house, I wave this rooster above your heads to pray to your personal guardian spirits (tua*) for the prosperity of our festival. This rooster I am holding in my hands will wipe away your unsatisfac­tory dreams and the omens which you have encountered on your way to this feast. Finally I pray to the spirits of our ancestors whom we honour with this Gawai Antu festival to protect both you and us from any kind of illness or bad luck during the celebration of this feast.”

If the warriors have seen either the cobra (tedong) or the kendawang snakes on the way to attend the festival, they are to sit on wooden mortars covered with a pua kumbu blankets while a rooster is waved above their heads as mentioned above.

As soon as the warriors have drunk their wine, a procession is formed for a young man and a maiden from each family to offer more wine lavishly to these highly honored warriors (masu orang ngirup garong). This procession is applauded with shouts and music of gongs and drums while encircling the longhouse galleries three times. As the procession ends the young men pour their tuak wine into the glass in the hand of the maidens for them to offer to the warriors and others who accompany them. The drinking of this wine is enlivened by jokes and laughter.

After this ceremony is over, curried and roasted meat of pigs and chickens is brought out from the rooms for the warriors to eat with wines of various kinds. This reception lasts an hour.

Shortly after the reception of these warriors, another reception takes place for the hosts to receive a group of warriors (orang ngirup ai jalong timang) who will drink the wine blessed by the bards. This reception is similar, only that thirteen, rather than fifteen glasses of wine are given to each warrior.

After these two receptions are ended, a midday meal (merarau) is served along the lower gallery. It lasts about three quarter of an hour to give time for the reception of guests coming from different longhouses.

These receptions are similar in character to the two mentioned above. However the wine given to the visitors will be less, i.e. for the Penghulu ten small glasses, the Tuai Rumah nine glasses, Tuai Burong and other senior elders, eight glasses and the rest less than this. Receptions end at around 6 p.m., when the ngalu antu take place.

After all the guests from each longhouse have been received by the hosts, the feast chief waves a chicken along the lower galleries to inform the people that the dinner will soon be served. At this time the hosts arrange the seats of the guests along the galleries. After this, food is brought out from the family rooms and arranged in a row in front of the guests. After the food has been laid out in order, a host at each ruai gallery respectfully asks the guests to eat the food slowly so that they may have a good meal. The dinner lasts an hour.

Shortly after dinner, the feast chief waves a chicken to ask the hosts to arrange the seats of all the guests in a long row known as bedijir along the lower and upper galleries. After all the guests have taken their seats, a chicken is again waved by the feast chief to ask the hosts to serve the tuak wine to the guests along the galleries.

At about 9p.m. the feast chief waves a chicken once more to inform the people that a small procession of begeliga is to take place, when a man will speak to all the people of what things cannot be done while attending the Gawai Antu feast.

The procession is only attended by a few men led by the feast chief, the Tuai Rumah and a speaker. As they walk along the house, at each ruai the speaker warns the people not to cause any disturbances, not to disturb the women and girls in the rooms and anyone steal anything he finds in the house. If any person breaks the adat rules or commits an offence contrary to the warning of the speaker, he or she will be dealt with according to the customary adat of the feast or be fined by the Penghulu and Native District Court respectively. This warning is witnessed by all of the people present.

Shortly after the begeliga procession is over, the feast chief waves a chicken to inform the people that a grand procession of ngalu petara (welcoming the spirits) is to take place along the lower and upper galleries of the house. This procession is led by the feast chief himself, who is followed by the Tuai Rumah, the speaker and behind them a woman who brings a plate of of­ferings and another who throws the popped rice along the route.

They are followed by other women and maidens who wear traditional Iban dress. Behind them are young men also in their traditional dress and at the rear are the musicians who play music with gongs and drums. This procession encircles both lower and upper galleries of the house three or five times. As the maidens and young men walk slowly along the verandahs in their fine clothing, the guests can see the beauty of their bodies and dress as they pass them gracefully.

At the last round of the procession a senior guest from each family sec­tion of the ruai asks the feast chief why he leads such a long, grand procession with men, women, maidens and young men in great number. In answer, the speaker replies that they are welcoming the spirits of their ancestors from the other world who they have invited to come to the feast.

“We hope”, he says, “that they do not come with empty hands, but bring for us various kinds of charms so that we can easily acquire riches and live in good health in the future”.

He admits that these spirits are invisible, but says that the guests present may have been divinely inspired to give them blessings on behalf of the spirits of their ancestors Saang and Bedilang, Kaya and Bana, Linggir and Kadir and Rentap and Minggat respectively.9

“These past chiefs”, he says, “were immortally famous in leading their followers in doing prosperous work of all kinds in our country.”

In answering the speaker, the spokesmen for the guests reply that the spirits of their ancestors are truly present.

“They come here to bless your feast so that all of you can become prosperous in doing your future farming and trading. We so speak on their behalf”, they say “pray for your good health and a happy future, so that all you do in the years to come will prosper.”

As soon as the ngalu petara procession is ended, the maidens and young men begin to serve the guests with tuak wine and other drinks, such as gin, brandy and whisky, in addition to glutinous rice and meats.

When the ngalu petara participants have dispersed, the feast chief waves a chicken to inform the people that the ceremonial dance of berandang jalai will soon be performed by the warriors who will drink the ai garong wine along the galleries of the house with music of the gendang ray ah gongs. As the music is beaten, the dancers dance slowly along the galleries, in full war dress. They encircle the lower galleries seven times.

As soon as these dancers have ended their dance, a second group of warriors who have been asked to drink the holy ai jalong timang wine, per­form the ngelalau dance with the music of the gendang rayah. They dance around the lower galleries five times.

After this, the feast chief waves a chicken to ask a group of old men from each village to perform the pupu buah rumah rayah dance for the hosts to respect elders from other longhouse. They dance around the lower galleries three times only.

As soon as the berayah dances are ended, the groups of bards start to sing their timang jalong songs, began by one of the groups singing in the family room of the feast chief. In their songs, the bards mention the coming of the dead led by the spirit chief Raja Niram and his wife Ini Inan from the other world to attend the feast. They are followed by other leaders of Sebayan such as Bujang Langgah Lenggan and his wife Endu Dara Rambai Geruda, Indai Billai, Raja Abu, Raja Ngerai and hundreds of others including the spirits of those who died in the present era.

As the bards start to sing their songs in the room, the hosts outside arrange seats in three groups for the warriors who will drink the holy jalong timang wine. The first group sits in a row along the upper verandah of the feast chief, the second group sits at the upper gallery near the end of the longhouse; while the third group sits at the upper gallery near the other end of the house. In addition to these warrior drinkers, a number of honored guests are invited to sit along side of them.

Shortly before the bards bring the holy wine to the drinkers, three to five women of good character come out from the family rooms in their best dress to sit facing the warriors from the lower side of the upper gallery. As they sit here, the bards come slowly forward, each bearing a cup of holy wine in his hand. They advance towards the warriors and ladies with songs of praise. The audience is deadly quiet so as to hear the wording of the songs which relate how the goddesses, Ini Inan and Endu Dara Rambai Geruda, are looking for truly brave warriors who will drink the holy wine.

As soon as the bards end their songs they place the holy wine cups on a carpet in front of the drinkers and ladies who sit facing each other. In representing the goddesses each lady respectfully hands the wine to the drinker seated opposite. Before each warrior drinks his wine, he first draws his nyabor knife from its scabbard in order to clear the wine with its point. After he has done this, he drinks the wine with fearful war shouts.

After the warriors have drunk the holy wine, another kind of wine known as ai serarai is poured by the women into cups for the highly honored guests to drink. These drinkers are not necessarily warriors, but may be men who achieved success in other masculine occupations.

As soon as the drinking of holy wine is over, those who will drink the holy ai garong wine or elderly shamans (manang) who are present, destroy the rugan altars along the tempuan passage of the house. No young man, or in­dividual lacking special spiritual habit may do this because, according to Iban belief, it can cause a person who is not old or who lacks such power to become an idiot (mamau).

After the rugan have been thrown to the ground, a morning meal called bebungkar ruang is served to the guests along the lower gallery. For this meal the hosts bring out the meat of oxen, pigs and chickens for the guests to eat lavishly and wines of every kind to drink. It is at this last meal that a con­siderable number of people become intoxicated.

Shortly after the bebungkar ruang meal is over, all the families of widows and widowers call for the relatives of the deceased spouse to gather on their individual ruai to discuss the tebalu mansau fines to be paid to the deceased’s relatives during the Gawai Antu celebration. The amounts to be paid at this time have already been described in Chapter Two. But as these widows and widowers have kept their vow to honour their deceased spouses with a Gawai Antu festival, they are no longer required to pay these fees in money; the amounts mentioned by the relatives are only to signify that the tebalu fees are discussed according to the customary adat of Gawai Antu.

When the tebalu fees are discussed by the widow’s and the widower’s relatives at their individual ruai, the warriors who will drink the holy ai garong wine fashion the bamboo containers in which the holy wine will be placed in the garong baskets at the open air verandah outside the main building.

Shortly after the discussions of ngambi tebalu mansau are over, the feast chief waves a chicken along the lower gallery to ask the hosts and their close relatives and friends to dress themselves for the nganjong garong procession. When they are dressed in their best clothes the three warriors who will drink the holy ai garong wine are each invited to sit on a wooden mortar at one end of the longhouse lower gallery with their head-gear beautifully decorated with feathers of hornbills and their knife scabbards ornamented with the hair of enemies.

The first procession is led by the feast chief. In this procession his family’s garong basket which contains the holy wine is carried three times by a warrior who has drunk the ai jalong timang wine around the lower and upper galleries, till the baskets are handed to the drinker by the warrior. After the holy jalong timang wine has been drunk by the drinker, a warrior who heads the next procession hands his holy garong wine to any of the three drinkers to drink. These processions last several hours and are accompanied by men, women and maidens in their best modern and traditional dress. Behind them walk the musicians who beat their gongs and drums.

As soon as the nganjong garong procession is ended, a beranggap ceremony is held along the lower gallery for the guests to receive presents of glutinous rice, buns, meat and money from the hosts. These foods are eaten by the guests on their way home, so that none will be hungry.

After the beranggap is over, the feast chief waves a chicken to inform the guests that the Gawai Antu festival has now come to an end. The sungkup erected on the tanju for display are now dismantled and taken to a place out­side the longhouse to be later set up.

As the festival is ended, the guests from far away villages start for home, while the rest linger with the hosts to drink tuak wine in their family rooms. They will return later in the evening. The close relatives and well wishers stay, in order to help the feasters erect their sungkup tomb huts at the graveyard early next day. That night nothing of importance is done in the longhouse, other than for the tired and sleepless hosts to entertain their relatives and friends with food and wine.

Early next day, all the able-bodied men, women and youngsters carry the sungkup materials, food, cakes and drinks to the cemetery in boats or overland, depending on the location of the graveyard.

Upon their arrival, the sungkup materials are first smeared with the blood of a chicken before they are erected over the graves. As men erect the sungkup huts, women and maidens serve food to the workers in the cemetery. At this time a number of heavy drinkers are drunk and a lot of noise is made. This is a happy occasion particularly for those sponsoring the feast, because they have now fulfilled their duty toward the dead.

Finally, after all the sungkup huts are erected, the garong baskets are hung either inside the huts or from carved poles called tiang jegada planted closely to each of the sungkup huts. All the participants then return home. That evening most of the relatives return to their own houses, after having helped their relatives for a number of days.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s