Asal Iban nemu adat ngulit


Serapoh learn the correct rules of mourning:


It was while they settled at Bila Dua that a chief named Serapoh started a war with the Kantu tribe. Serapoh, as mentioned earlier was the son of Retak Dai and Kelitak Darah Menyadi. Retak Dai was a direct descendant of Bejie through Telichai, whose story was mentioned earlier. Serapoh was also a first cousin of Keling, whose father, Si Gundi or Gila Gundi married, settled and eventually became leader of the Panggau People.

The war with Kantu tribe came in the following manner. At the death of his parents, Serapoh buried them in their burial ground. Misfortune soon followed, for shortly after the burial many more deaths took place in the longhouse. During this period, a stranger from an unknown country arrived at their longhouse and asked them why they looked so sad and discontented. They told the stranger that it was because of so many deaths, which caused them much despair. The stranger then asked them how they paid respect to the bodies of their dead when they buried them. They told him the things that they had done and the rules they had followed.

“It is not surprising that many of you have died, as you have no proper rules to observe mourning and burying the dead.” the stranger told them.

He said that he was a spirit named Apai Puntang Raga, and he advised them of the proper way to pay respect to the dead and the rules which they should follow in future in connection with burial and mourning. These rules, attributed to Apai Puntang Raga, are as follows:

1. Immediately after death, the corpse must be properly washed and dressed in its best dress. After this its forehead is marked with three yellow spot of turmeric, and finally the corpse is moved to the gallery (ruai), where it is placed inside an enclosure of woven blanket called “sapat”.

2. On the next day, before the funeral takes place, food must be offered to the coffin before it is placed inside a coffin. At the cemetery, the coffin must be buried deep underneath the earth.

3. When people return from the burial ground, the windows in the deceased’s room must be kept close particularly at night; for it is said that while it is dark in this world, it is light in the after world and vice versa. At the same time, a sacred mourning jar is tied up by a senior lady of the longhouse, selected for this purpose.

4. That same evening, a ritual fire must be lit in a special hut where food is placed for each of three evenings. The reason for this is fear that the dead person might stray up to the longhouse and disturb the souls of the living.

5. For the same three days, an old woman will be appointed to eat black rice (asi chelum), for black rice in this world is white in the other world (sebayan).

6. The sacred mourning jar is not to be opened except by a warrior who has managed to obtain a head; or by any man who can present a human head which he obtained in a duel; or by a man who has returned from a sojourn in enemy country.

7. After the mourning period expires, a special feast known as the Gawai Rugan or Gawai Antu must be held as the last ritual for the dead.

8. During the whole period of mourning right up to the Gawai Antu festival, no widow or widower may remarry or anoint themselves with perfumes and colored powder, or dressed themselves with colored garments. If such things happen, the offender will be brought before their respective chief and fined of being disrespectful to the relatives of the deceased.

Having thus advised them, Apai Puntang Raga vanished, and Serapoh began to observe the burial procedures and mourning rules as instructed by the spirit Apai Puntang Raga. He also began to worry about obtaining a human head so that they can perform the ritual to end the mourning period. With that in mind, Serapoh decided to go to other Dayak country in the region. He took with him a menaga jar in order to stake a wager with any man who might wish to engage him in a death combat for it. The search for challenger was fruitless as there was no one who would accept his menaga jar and the challenge. In those days, there were no enmity between the Iban people and the other Dayak tribes he visited.

Finally, Serapoh reached a certain country belonging to the Kantu tribe, where he met a man and his son. He enquired from the father whether he would be willing to exchange his son for the jar. To this suggestion the man blindly agreed, and Serapoh happily returned to his country with the young boy on his back.

On his arrival, while still some distance from his longhouse, Serapoh killed the boy. After burying the body in the forest, Serapoh went up the ladder of the longhouse and shouted victoriously, while holding the boy’s head on one hand and pointing his sword skyward with the other hand. The longhouse resident woke up to rejoice the opening of mourning jar and to mark the end of mourning period. There was no more despair due to death caused sickness or supernatural calamity or disaster. Very soon, unknown to Serapoh, he was to suffer from the fate of losing his three sons in a war he already waged with the Kantu tribe.


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