A Bidayuh Legend: Origin

(Photo source: Mattias Klum)

You can find many texts on the migration of prehistoric humans across early landmass. So instead of going into the boring hypothetical assumptions that litter other anthropology books, let me tell you a story.

In a remote corner of the world, an island lie quietly among the seas and oceans. It was lush and green, great rivers snaking all over its land, high mountains running down its middle, like a very dry and old backbone. Deers, pigs and beast of many kinds roamed the thick forests. Birds flew the air, cruising in the wind that came down from the mountains. No one lived there but the animals, except for one man, the first Land Dayak.

His name is Tenabi. He lived at the foot of Bukit Suit and Baru. He had a wife named Kitupong, but she died during childbirth. Yet, tenabi conceived a child in the calf of his leg. When it matured, his calf burst, and a baby girl was born. When she became a woman, Tenabi married her and had three children.

They had a daughter named Timuyau, a son named Padat and another named Tiruah. When the grew up, the moved out of the family home and ventured to find a place to call their own. They finally settled at Sinyang and Bukit Saki. They both got married and had children. All seemed well.

One day Padat’s son walked by Tiruah’s sugarcane field. He felt hungry and stole some. Tiruah’s son was furious when he found out that someone stole the sugarcanes his father planted. So he set a trap. Padat’s son came again the next day to steal some more, not knowing of the trap that lay in wait. Just as he was about to get to the sugarcane, he got caught in the trap and beheaded.

Padat was both sad and angry, desiring for revenge. He moved his family to Sikangan and launched an attack on Tiruah and his family. Tiruah, managing to escape in time, didn’t want to fight his brother, moved away and settled at Inikabut, on the right branch of the Sarawak River.

There, Tiruah’s son, Sikaya, fell in love with a spirit named Sekama. They both got married and had two children, a boy and a girl. Soon their children grew up and got married. They were blessed with many children, Bena, Bungu, Bibawang, Biatah, Singai, Bikirup, Baang, Bratak, Peninjau and Puruh.

Based on an article by Dr. John Hewit (The First Land Dayak).

For the unfamiliar, the grandchildren of Sikaya and Sekama is the ancestors of the Bidayuh. Some of the names are based on real places where many Bidayuhs came from.

“Bi” means “people of” and Dayuh, “land”. The British termed them Land Dayaks, but upon the Amendment of the Constitution, it was changed to Bidayuh.

Bidayuh is not pronounced as Bi-da-yooh. It should be Bi-da-yeh  (uh as in urn/learn). That’s how the natives pronounce it. A dead ringer for who’s one and who’s not.

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