Types of Iban Gawai



The Gamai may be divided into three classes : —

I. Gawai Antu. The Mourning Feast.

II. The ten Feasts in which requests are made to the gods and sacrifices are offered in their honour.

III. Other Feasts given upon special occasions in obedience to some
dream, or to thank the gods for having blessed them in obtaining a valuable jar {tajau) or on recovery from some long illness.

I. Gawai Antu,

The Feast which ends the mourning for the dead. Berantu or ngant’H Sabayan ngabang. To invite the Spirits from Hades to the least — is the Dyak expression used, and in this Feast the Spirits of the dead are invited to join the living for the last
time in a friendly meal, for after the GawaiAntu there are no more periodical mournings (sabak) for the dead.

This Feast lasts a day and a night.

In the early morning a professional wailer {orang ti nyabak (See sabak) seated on a swing in the room of the bereaved persons begins a long monotonous dirge \^sabak bebutih) invoking the Spirits of the unseen world to come to the feast. The women in the room listen to this singing, but the men are all outside amusing themselves, engaged in ” setting ” cocks (nyabong)or in trials of strength (bebatak lampong). Inside the room there is weeping at the thought of those who are dead, outside there
are shouting and laughter!

In the evening as it begins to grow dark the wailer’s swing is removed to the central
hall (ruai) where he continues his invocations till dawn. An offering of food and drink is made to the deceased in whose honour the Feast be held. Then follows the abolishment of the mourning tie {ngetas ulit). The relatives of the dead are still clothed in mourning garments, the men in sober-coloured waist-cloths and the women with black rotan girdles (tina chelutn). An end of the waist-cloth is cut off iind the Una severed by the sword of a warrior who has recently returned from some expedition against the enemy.

Bundles of finery whkh have been tied up and put away are brought forth and the
bereaved then hasten to don their best apparel having been previously touched with the blood of a sacrificed fowl. The ceremony is then over and the rest of the night is spent in feasting and merriment.

The next niorning an offering of food and also various little woven baskets {bqya), sup* posed to represent the different articles a man or a woman uses in daily life, are taken and placed on the graves. These little baskets are supposed to furnish the dead with implements in Hades {Sabayan) so as to enable them to earn their living there. In some tribes, in addition to these things, monuments (sungkup) of hard wood are taken and built over the graves of the deceased. The procession to the burial ground and the placing of the offerings on the grave conclude the Feast, and friends and relations return to their homes.

II. Of the second class of Feasts, four are offered to Pulang Gana, the God of the Earth, who is supposed to reside in some rocky cavern, deep down, hidden away from mortal’s sight. All these Feasts, it will be noticed, have something to do with farming, and are in fact means of asking Pulang Gana to help them to get good crops and to make the paddy they reap last a long time.

In all these Feasts, a pig is killed and the entrails examined and pronounced to be propitious or unpropitious, as the case may be, also offerings of food are made in the central hall {ruai) and certain men who have given attention to that branch of Dyak lore ana are able to chant the invocations (pengap) walk up and down round these offerings singing their monotonous song.

As a rule one man, followed by some four or five others, starts from each end of the ruai and they sing alternately their song of praise to Pulang Gana, the men who follow simply joining in with a short chorus at the end of each verse.

This chanting lasts for several hours and is indeed the important religious ceremony connected with these four Feasts.

(i). Gawai mandi rumah, mangkong tiang or muai rumah. The house warming.
A blessing is asked upon the new house so that the occupants may get good crops and live long and happy lives.

(ii) Gawai Batu, The feast of the whetstones.
It is held just before the clearing of the farm land is begun. A blessing is adced
upon the whetstones so that they may make sharp the implements that are used for clearing the jungle.

(iii). Gawai Benih. The Feast of the seed.
This is held just before sowing. A blessing is asked upon the seed that it may
multiply and give a plentiful return.

(iv). Gawai nyimpan padi. The Feast of storing the paddy.
This is held after the reaping and winnowing is over. During the Feast, the paddy is taken up to the garret and stored in the paddy bins (gentong). Friends who are invited to the Feast assist to store the paddy. A blessing is asked upon the paddy so that it may not decrease but may last a long time.

The next six Feasts belong to this same class but are given in honour of Singalang
Burong, the God of the Heavens. They have reference in some way to going upon
the warpath and the taking of human heads as trophies. Singalang Burong is believed
to be the God of all things that do not appertain to farming and especially is he the God of War. These feasts, naturally, are not so frequently held as the four preceding but when any of these Feasts in honour of Singalang Burong is held a gteat deal is made of the event. In all these Feasts, as before, offerings are made and invocations are chanted by certain men. But in addition to these things, some special distinctive ceremony is observed in the case of each particular Feast.

(v). Gawai Burong or nikau ka Burong,
This Feast is held in order that the persons who take part in it may be fortunate in taking heads or bringing home captives when they go upon the warpath.

(vi) Gawai Enchabuh Arong, A thanks-giving Feast in honour of recently acquired

(vii). Gawai Tenyalang or Bekenyalang or Gawai Tras, The Hornbill Feast.
The wooden image of a Hornbill, brightly coloured, is set up on a long pole facing towards the country of the enemy in order that it may ** peck out their eyes” and make them easy to defeat.

(viii). Gawai Ijok or Ijau pumping or Sandong Liau,
After a man has held the Hornbill Feast several times and has been victorious against the enemy he proceeds to hold this Gawai, A long pole is set up and at the top of it a jar of native spirit (tuak) is placed.

(ix). Gawai Gajah or Begajah. The Elephant Feast.
This is held in honour of the heads taken in war by some distinguished leader. It is said, so great is the importance of this Feast, that after it has been once held,
even if new heads are obtained, no Feasts need be held in their honour. It is very
rarely observed (the last was held several years ago by JCinckang 2LS\iz.nxig Dyak living in the Undup). The wooden figure of an elephant is placed upon the summit of a lofty pole and the ceremonies observed are similar to those of the Gawai Tenyalang.

(x). Gawai ranyai or Beranyai,
This is the greatest of all Dyak Feasts. All the heads are put in a winnowing basket [chapan) with spears hung round suspended by cords. A distinguished fighting man in full war costume sits beneath the spears and another leading warrior cuts with his sword the cords to which the spears are tied.

III. Of the third class of Feasts little need be said. A superstitious people loke the Dyaks, living in constant oread of unseen powers, naturally hold a Feast and make
propitiatory offerings whenever anything out of the usual course of events takes place, when a man has had a bad dream or when a bird, considered unfortunate, has come into the house. Also upon recovery from long illness some sort of ceremony is held to appease the spirit of disease and to thank him for leaving them. And yet again when a man has been fortunate and has saved enough money to buy a valuable jar [tajau) a Feast is given, offerings are made to ii (the jar), for it is supposed to possess a soul {sawengat), and it is miplored to stay long with them and not come
to any harm].



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