Slamat Andu Gawai!

Lambe’ ichuk yuh, sorry.😄

Gawai is born when Sarawak Day was created on June 1st during the British era. They didn’t want to acknowledge Gawai Dayak, but after Dato’ Stephen Kalong Ningkan became the Chief Minister, in 1965 Sarawak Day became Gawai Dayak on June 1st every year.

Gawai is the time for prayers of thanksgiving to the spirits and gods of old after a bountiful harvest, to celebrate the end of the paddy season, time to enjoy and relax with friends and family, medicating with tonnes of pork and gallons of alcohol. Harvest time varies according to region, and some, like the Bidayuh, celebrate ‘ baru’ ba’uh’, or new rice before the formal date of June 1st. It’s a time when the community gathers to eat together the new rice that has been harvested.

So to make it easy, the official date for the festivities start on June 1st. If you live in Kuching, and want to have lots of friends to visit during Gawai, make more Bidayuh friends. The Bidayuh kampung’s are nearer and somewhat less rowdy than the Ibans (unless you happen to end up in Mantung or Rasau. Just kidding!)

A ceremony is held, with a high priest chanting and sacrificing chickens/pigs to the spirits. But with the advent of Christianity, it is dying out as the old people who knows how to conduct it are getting less and less every year. And most villages that have turn full Christian with no pagans (like mine) don’t even hold it anymore.

Before some Christian radical jumps down my throat for advocating spirit worship and idolatry, it’s about preserving culture. No one truly prays to the spirits. Why not dedicate it to the new God? Now this is a minefield.

Gawai, for me holds a new meaning for the modern generation. General fun and drinking aside, it’s about renewal. It’s the end of the cycle, where time is marked by when it is time to start farming and planting paddy (our main sustenance, life itself), ending with the harvest, the conclusion. It’s like the new year, to throw the old away and start with the new. I don’t think many realize that.

Gawai this year has been a somewhat subdued affair. Inflation, coupled with the significant loss of BN has made things less happening. But otherwise, no one can stop the ball rolling!

This year haven’t been out ‘ngabang’ (visiting) much. To Baru’, Jenan, Krian and Benuk only. The hot weather has been killing us.

I’m back in Kuching now, since I’ll be working tomorrow. T.T

I do miss the days when everyone came back for Gawai eve. Now everyone is living their own lives, busy with new families and jobs. We try to meet, but it’ll never be the same. I mean, watching a pig getting slaughtered for Gawai and having it all to ourselves is really something.

Anyway, to all Dayaks (actually, if you’re Bornean, regardless of race, Gawai is a part of our lives), Selamat Hari Gawai, drive safe, and most importantly, ENJOY!

2 comments

  1. I never know that “Gawai Dayak…was created.. during the British era”.Could somebody clarify?

    I could be wrong.Gawai Dayak was first officially celebrated after Malaysia was formed not during the British colonial era.

  2. Gawai Dayak is a grand affair in Kapit and Song.It means going back homes.Rushing homes by express boats is part and parcel of a much awaited family gathering.It doesn’t matter whether one has a good harvest of padi or not (most families do not have padi fields though) Gawai is a must for most families.Kapit will be flooded to a brim literally.Yes,Gawai is coming again in a few weeks time.Selamat Gawai Gayu Guru.

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