GAWAI BATU (WHETSTONE FESTIVAL)

GAWAI BATU (WHETSTONE FESTIVAL)

Shortly before the initial clearing (manggol) of land for farming, the Tuai Rumah and Tuai Burong will call a meeting to discuss the celebration of the Gawai Batu or Whetstone festival. This feast, is agreed upon, should be held late in May or early in June. It is not a yearly festival, but is held once in approximately four years, when the growth of padi is deficient and harvests are abnormally declining.

For the Gawai Batu, a group of lemambang (bards) is invited to sing their pengap songs in which the deity Raja Simpulang Gana is called upon to bless the whetstones belonging to the farmers of the longhouse. In addition to the bards, an old man who is a successful farmer is invited to clean and oil the whetstones early on the festival eve.

The bards arrive at the longhouse in the afternoon of the festival day. On their arrival, the Tuai Burong in the space in front of the longhouse receives them. From there they sing their songs along the path and up into the longhouse, where they encircle the communal gallery before they take their seats along the section of the gallery belonging to the feast chief (tuai gawai). Here a shrine has been erected onto which are placed the whetstones and charms to be blessed during celebration.

That night, after dinner and the berayah dances are over, the bards start to sing their pengap chants along the communal gallery. These continue through the whole night, with occasional pauses for food and drink.

Early next morning a sacrificial piglet (babi dipeda atau) is killed, the liver of which is examined by the bards and experts present. The condition of this liver foretells the fortune of all of the farmers in the community for some years to come, till another Gawai Batu is held in the longhouse.

Early next day after the feast is over, every family head starts to do the initial clearing (manggol) of bush on their farm land.

http://gnmawar.wordpress.com/adat-iban/part-1-iban-adat-law-and-custom/

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