Sunday, June 26, 2022

Modern Dayaks urged to celebrate Gawai the old ways

Secara Rawak

KUCHING: Sidi Munan, president of Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA), has suggested that Dayaks in the cities and towns go back to the old ways of celebrating the Gawai Dayak festival.

“Observe the ‘miring’ as a tradition not as a religious ritual and organise community dinners like we used to do,” he said in a special interview on the festival.

“Keling (male warriors) and kumang (female princesses) beauty pageants are great ways to celebrate the Gawai festival,” he added.

Sidi pointed out that the Keling and Kumang contests were great ways of inviting non-Dayak communities to take part in the festival and to showcase wonderful Dayak traditions.

“According to Iban mythology, Keling was an Iban hero who found his true love, a beautiful lass, Kumang, after achieving and overcoming a series of hurdles and challenges.

“Today, the Kumang and Keling beauty pageants are for young women and men to participate in different districts prior to the Gawai celebration,” he explained.

Sidi said Dayaks in the longhouses still celebrated and practised the original traditional rituals and beliefs associated with the festial, especially the ‘miring’ ceremony.

“Miring ceremonies are generally performed to honour the ‘petara’ (gods), spirits and ancestors. They can be performed to make a wish or to seek success in future endeavours.”

Sidi pointed out that Dayaks in towns had a different way of celebrating Gawai.

Those who are Christians do not hold the ‘miring’ ceremony. However, they have open houses, like the Chinese and the Muslims.

Asked for his advice to young Dayaks and young Dayak families, Sidi said he hoped that young Dayaks would understand the history of Gawai.

“Gawai Dayak was conceived as a platform for Dayak unity. Keep that spirit alive!,” he urged.

He added those who did not go to Gawai gatherings could celebrate the festival at home by having family dinners.

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