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CUSTOMS AND TABOOS OF BIDAYUH COMMUNITY

1.0 Introduction

Sarawak is located in the eastern part of the western island of Borneo. The boundaries in the east and south is Sarawak Borneo while in the north are Brunei and Sabah. Its area is 48,250 square miles which is the 1/6 of the island of Borneo. 3/4 of the Sarawak land is still covered by the forest. Only about 6% used for farming, while 18% are used by the tribes of the Punan people who live in nomadic life. Sarawak land does not have a lot of high mountains as well as on the northern island of Borneo. The highest mountain in Sarawak is Mount Murad with 7950 feet. From the face of its earth is the only wetlands which planted by mangrove trees and nipah. The largest river in Sarawak, is the Rejang River or formerly known as "Batang Rejang. Its length is 350 miles and about 150 miles of it (up to Kapit) can be passed through by the small shifts. The bulk of the land are still inhabited by people of Sarawak. These areas are covered by forest and young forest (RMJasni, 1958). Sarawak is known by the name of Land of Hornbills. The people come from various ethnic groups. There are about 30 ethnic groups in Sarawak. Iban is the largest ethnic in Sarawak, followed by Chinese, Malay, Bidayuh, Melanau and other ethnic groups. As a country with diverse races and ethnic groups, of course there are various cultures and customs being practiced. For the people of Sarawak, custom is a traditional heritage which being emphasized and so obstinate in their daily lives. According to the Sarawak Statistics 1989, the Iban forms 29.5% or 493,000 residents of this state. In terms of the number of people, Iban is the largest in Sarawak, with a majority of more than 50% of the population. The composition of the Ibans population, when combined with various indigenous tribes of other non-Muslims are classified as Dayak. Including the Bidayuh tribe, Kayan, Kenyah, Kelabit, Bisayah, Penan, Punan, Lum Bawang, Murut and various other quarters, are known as Orang Ulu. The number of tribes is not very large. Bidayuh people form 8.4% or 140,000 residents from the population. However, this division seems very easy here because the tribe will have a significant role in various aspects of social, economic and political (Nidzammuddin Ahmad Sulaiman: 1 and 2).

2.0 The Origin Of Bidayuh Community

Bidayuh community in Sarawak, is the indigenous ethnic. Bidayuh community, formerly known as Land Dayak by James Brooke, Rajah of Sarawak, which is the first early people lived in the state. According to the legend, Bidayuh community is said to originate from Mount Sungkung, Kalimantan, Indonesia (Minos, 2000). There is also a argument says that the Bidayuh people moved from south-west corner of Borneo, but when James Brooke reached in 1839, they have been concentrated in the areas where initially were the centre of the Monarchy in Sarawak (Walker, 2000). Among scholars who have reviewed the culture and traditions adapt Bidayuh community, they described the Bidayuh community as those who are conservative, not a lot of diverse and often despised as compared with the other communities (Gedes, 1973, Ridu, 1986). According to the ancients, it is believed that Land Dayak or Bidayuh was orginated from Mount Sungkong in Borneo, Indonesia. They may come to Sarawak in the eighth or nineth century (RM Jasni, 958:23). However, outsiders do not well understand about Dayak community, where they might see all Dayaks as the same in all cases. Actually, Iban, Bidayuh, Bisayah, Kanyan, Kenyah, Kelabit, Penan and Lum Bawang have own differences. More importantly, they consider themselves differ from other groups. Such perceptions are enough to put the boundary between the different tribes of the Dayak people. Michael Leigh, a Dayak political scholar facilitate the classification of them as the indigenous non-Muslims. Thus, Dayak is not only limited to Iban and Bidayuh eventhough Raja Brooke specializes the reference to the Iban and Bidayuh as Sea Dayak (1988:2).

3.0 Settlement

In terms of placement, history has showed that the Iban people, who are better known as a head hunter, like to hunt and kill members of other ethnic groups, especially Bidayuh. This activity has resulted in the escape of Bidayuh to the upstream of the hill or higher ground while Iban concentrated in the coastal waters or in the river side. The effects of this residential segregation has resulted in the Iban, to be known as Sea Dayak, while Bidayuh as Land Dayak. This classification shows their settlements were separated, and they prefer to live in the area by groups.

Bidayuh community who stay in the longhouse consists of several family groups. The position of the longhouses are far apart and separated by the type of relationships that are still not satisfactory. In addition, they are also quite difficult to receive a top leader among themselves as Dayak tribe are obsess with the local leaders. This situation further strengthen their tribal natures. This society has a tendency to leave their ancestral land even though its population has increased more and the land is not fertile (Ridu). Their attitudes to life, largely influenced by the belief that their long belief in the past, seems to cause them not eager to fight something, do not like to travel and do not have high ambitions (Low, 1848, Grijpstra, 1976). Bidayuh community is also said to be slower to adapt with the environment (Minos, 2000). According to the people of Sarawak, which is issued by the Department of Statistics, Bidayuh community is the fourth largest ethnic group in Sarawak, after Iban, Chinese and Malay. From the total of 2,001,000 people in Sarawak, total of 167,5000 is composed of the Bidayuh as in Table 1. Table 1: Estimated number of people from ethnic groups in Sarawak for 1996-2000. Ethnic Group Malay Iban Bidayuh Melanau Other Bumiputera Chinese 1996 407,600 552,100 156,100 107,200 112,900 521,100 1997 416,600 559,800 158,900 109,300 114,200 529,300 1998 425,800 567,800 161,700 110,900 115,700 536,900 1999 435,000 576,000 164,500 544,400 117,400 544,400 2000 444,600 584,500 167,500 551,500 119,100 551,500

Source: National Statistics Department of Sarawak Branch. Bidayuh community in Sarawak can be recognized as an ethnic group with limited distribution in the Kuching, especially in Bau, Lundu and sub-district of Siburan Penrissen and Padawan, and the Samarahan in Serian district. These ethnic groups are divided into four small groups according to dialect spoken. In general, accent or dialect is Bukar-Sadong in

Serian district, Biatah in Kuching district, Bau-Jagoi in Bau district and Selako-Lara in the Lundu district.

Table 2: Number of village and the dialect spoken by Bidayuh community based on the disrict. District Name Serian Kuching Bau Lundu Number of Village 126 84 43 41 Dialect Spoken Bukar-Sadong Biatah/Penyewa/Bipuruh Bau-Jagoi Jagoi/Selako-Lara

Source: Borges (1988:17)

4.0 The Belief of Bidayuh Community

Bidayuh tribe is a society who inhabited in the southwest of Sarawak, especially in the Serian, Kuching and west Kalimantan. They are comprised of four ethnics: 1. Selakau / Lara (Lundu District) 2. Jagoi / Singai (Bau District) 3. Biatah (Small District of Padawan) 4. Bukar / Sadong (Serian District)

They are mostly Christians. Only a part of the religion are Islam and animism. Unlike Iban people who live in longhouses, Bidayuh tribal people live in accordance with their

respective families. They have the village chief or headman who handles any official business. Most of the Bidayuh tribe who still live in farming villagesas farmer and work hard for their families.

5.0 The Traditions of Bidayuh Ethnic

In order to recognize the appearance of Bidayuh ethnic, most of them relatively short and chubby. Their most interesting character to note is that they wear brass rings on both sides of the feet of Bidayuh women. It is an application which is not often practiced today, but this practice is quite unique and it is no longer practiced by other communities in Sarawak. It is not only a matter of wearing some strange ring around the ankle, but the entire leg between ankle to wrist is covered with the rings which is quite heavy and uncomfortable to wear. This is practice hurts the user. This practice also spoils the muscles of their feets, but most of the Bidayuh women become slaves to this practice and thought it was a fashion. Only in this way can show that they have improved. In addition, the ring is also worn on the wrist. Women also have expertise in the art of dance in which two of them will make a circle and surround each other with their hands extended, and a length of cloth is placed on their shoulders. So, they look like two birds, large and rigid. However, there is a weird thing believed by several groups who are influenced by Hindu. This matter is forgotten day by day. Hindu groups were also found in the city of Land Dayak people. Some of them believe that the spirit in the Hindu temple and the Bidayuh people seem want to burn their death. This becomes one of the things that are unknown by the most of other communities in Sarawak (Hedda Morrisson, 19,957). They live in longhouses which have overall similarities to the Iban longhouse unless they have an open porch. However, the villages are different with other people in Sarawak in the ownership of land and roof shingles that have been separated from the longhouses of Bidayuh. Each of the longhouse has occupied with a village known as the General, which are similar to the Iban, but their leader is called The Rich not the Head-Village. (Hedda Morisson, 1957).

6.0 Customs and Taboos of Bidayuh Community

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For Bidayuh community, marriage is a way to become a member of a "Biik" or "Ramin" and enjoy the rights of members of the "Biik" or "Ramin". Bidayuh community practice monogamy only. However, remarriage after divorce is a common thing. Because of the strong prohibition against Inses, marriage outside their own families is an important rule in the community. Bidayuh community also prohibits marriage between cousins. Groups such as the Dayak Selako prohibits their members to get married with the members who have became enemy in the battle due to fear of ingestion oath, but because the first marriage between the descendants of grandmother and grandfather of their former enemies ahd occured, so the ban expires. Among Dayak Bukar-Sadong, the rules about marriage is relatively loose. Men and women could freely mingle and meet each other before they get married. The men are allowed to see the woman in her private home with her full permission but the women also want commitment from the men visit (Amran Abdullah, 1993).

6.1.2 Secrect Investigation

In this community, there is no ceremony of secrect investigation. Marriage is a common when a person is old enough and has chosen his or her life partner. As a farmer, the parents would want to have the law who can work in the garden or plant the rice pepper. They also expect the candidate of son in law will work with government or private sector to secure the life of their children and descendants. Except for illegal marriage, Bidayuh community are open with the options of their children. In the BukarSadong and Selako group, they are allowed to choose own partner whom they like, regardless of ethnic the origin.

6.1.3 Proposal

The way of marriage being conducted is different among the groups. In the group like Selako, Jagoi and Lara, marriage can be initiated by engagement. Engagement is an event of exchanging the ring among both parties. If there is a suitability among the couples, the marriage would be further celebrated.

6.1.4 Marriage Ceremony The way of marriage being conducted depends on the ability of the familys economy. In the Bidayuh community, the choice of residence after marriage depends on many factors. The main factor is economic position of the married couples. The husband who is in a position can influent the party and the wife to live with his family (Virilokal Practices) and vice versa (Uksorilokal). In the marriage which the husband and wife are stable, they can stay at home (Neolokal Practices). Dayak Selako group prohibits free mixing between men and women. The force marriage can occur through the practice known as "Batangkap. This is a practice where young men and women who regularly seen together can be brought to the village leaders so that the action can be taken. They were arrested and agree to get married after being discussed by the leaders and villagers to verify their relationship as husband and wife. It just only can be verified after the fine for the offenses have been settled. Batangkap practices are implemented on couples who face opposition from the parents. Another way is through the practice of marriage "Nyagam", when the husband is sent to the residence of the prospective wife after obtaining the consent of the woman with his belongings. Usually men prefer to marry by this way is a widower or widow. A perfect marriage in the view of Selako, Jagoi and Lara is the one which involves knowledge, roles and planning by the parents of both parties. Marriage may also involve an intermediary person who is known as "Picara" among the Selako to represent the men. Once all parties agree, the suitable day and right time will be further determined.

6.1.5 Customs and Taboos of Bidayuh Community

There are certain customs to be followed during pregnancy. That particular customs purposely for good keeping of both mother and baby fitness. It also to prevent any calamity. Below are the birth customs being practised by Bidayuh community. Once the wife get pregnant, a ceremony of treating the stomach or birayang ite will be done to encourage the baby to grow well. Only the experienced midwife is invited to perform this ceremony. As soon as finishing the spell reading, the body of the pregnant woman will be wrapped with a cloth to get rid away any dirt or bad things. After that, she will be put in the clean clothes and let the body to lay down with the face looking at the ceiling. At this time, the midwife will do some treatments on the mothers stomach. The midwife will stain the mother stomach with tumeric, coconut oil and spatter the tumeric rice while shaking the wand over the stomach in the presence of curse spells. During pregnancy, the spouses are encouraged to practise these customs;
1. Avoid of stealing because the incoming baby will be a thieft 2. Cannot eat deer meat because it might cause the baby to get mad and it will also bring

difficulties in delivering process.


3. Cannot go out during the twilight to avoid ghost disturbance or umot sanja which

will disturb the baby.


4. It is disallowed to mix with anyone who has skin disease to prevent any infection

which may lead to premature born.


5. It is disallowed to clean or set up the drain because they afraid of getting chipped lips

baby.
6. It is disallowed to spike, tighten the band or clog any hole, fearing of the child will die

on born.
7. It is disallowed to dry the ponds, wells, or rivers because the wife would have bleeding

upon pregnancy.
8. It is disallowed to refold the mat, floor layers and etc., fearing of the child might be

turn inverted inside the womb which may cause difficulties in delivering process.
6.1.6 Preparation of Celebrating The Birth

When the wife is pregnant for nine months, the husband should ensure that the wood is dry enough at home to warm the body during and after the wife gives birth. He also needs to prepare red ginger or ordinary ginger for at least 10 kati, two bottles of rice wine and a bottle of oil from a fruit for the use of his wife during childbirth later. He also needs to re-open all bond package and the cap that has been made to reduce the pain during the birth delivery.

6.1.7 Childbirth

When the wife is about to come to confinement, she will be assisted by assistants. The person is required at this time are midwife, mother or own husband o to help her installing the coal fire in the shell to funk the womens body. This seeks to dispel evil spirits from disturbing the delivery process. The midwives will read spell curse with hand holding a bowl of cold water and a bowl of burning perfume wood. At the end of each reading, she will knock down the bowl with the middle finger of her right hand for seven times. After that, she will blow water with her mouth to the body of the wife from the head up to the end of the leg, in wifes condition of lying. After finishing this process, tirusoh water will be given to the wife to drink, at least for one gulp. If there is no response within half an hour after that, betel need to be prepared and the same curse spells need to be read according to the same rules. After that, the betel is given to the wife to be chewed while waiting the time for delivery. (Amran Abdullah, 1993).

6.1.8 Cutting the Umbilical Cord

Once the child is born, the midwife will wait for the placenta comes out the mothers stomach before the umbilical cord is cut to separate her from the baby. If diagnosis is not done in five minutes, the midwife will make the event similar to that to remove the child out from the mothers womb. A newborn child is placed on the mat after his body being wrapped with a clean cloth for heating. At the same time a clean and sharp blade need to be provided to cut the baby's umbilical cord just as soon as the placenta comes out. Then the midwive will tighten the umbilical cord. The band is made 8cm, away from the stomach and the second bond is 2cm from the first bond with a woolen thread. After that, the umbilical cord is cut in the middle of the bonds with a torn. The cutting is then

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rubbed with a mixture of black oil and soot which is taken from the pot bottom. After taking a shower, the umbilical cord of the baby is cleaned with warm water and wiped with cotton to dry before swabbing with a mixture of the black soot. When it is dry enough, the umbilical cord will be removed by themselves.

6.1.9 After Delivery

After delivery, there are certain customs that being practised.

6.1.10

Feast After Birth

As a token of appreciation for the services of midwives and assistants, the family will slaughter and cook chicken to eat together as a mark of the birth. After eating, the midwives will be given a soil plate contain of rice, a little turmeric and dry coconut and cash for at least five dollars. The assistants are given the same wages except cash for only three dollars. After that, the confinement is carried out for seven day and seven night. During this period, only the midwife and assistants are allowed to enter the noble room to treat the mother and child.

6.1.11 Keeping and Grounding The Placenta The placenta is put into a small soil jar covered with ash and left at the corner of the kitchen and at a fire place in family room until the baby is able to sit and run his own. Accorfing to the tradition of Bidayuh community, the jar containing the placenta will be broken when the the baby is at the beginning of walking. If a baby girl, the jar is broken down by vessel firewood, and if the baby is boy, axe will be used. The placenta is also grounded and Bidayuh people believe this act causes the daughter knows how to do household chores and the son is capable of performing the work in the field.

6.1.12

Keeping The Umbilical Cord

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The cutting of umbilical cord and the one that has been removed itself are kept in small bamboo containers with the mouth are closed so that no air can enter. It is then hung on the crib. Dried umbilical cord must be maintained so that it will not lose because it might cause the children become craven and forgetful. After the ceremony finishes, the residential room of the child is subject to confinement for seven nights. During that time, the following works are prohibited.

1. Carrying bamboo, fern, fungi, meat and fish, preserved fish and shrimp paste into the room, as the mother and son are feared to get ill. 2. Go up to the ceiling or climb a nearby tree as the children are feared to be ill. 3. Smoking for fear that the children have a cough. 4. Rice for the mother has to be wrapped in manah leaves and eaten with salt nipah only. 5. In addition, parents are only allowed to drink alcohol or ginger water that have been boiled. Wine is not allowed as it might lead to stomachache.

Anyone who violates the prohibition, the first and second confinement in particular will be imposed with heavy fines if the mother or the child falls ill.

6.1.13 Protection from Kome Once pass the delivering process, the blades sharp bamboo will be tied together and hung from the ceiling of a house on the place of delivery. It serves as a protector for the mother and son from possible danger or evil spirit by kome and also called kok-nak(Amran Abdullah, 1993).

6.1.14 Naming The Children

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Children of Bidayuh community are called suwe. Suwe is common word for a boy and sipira for girls. These names are used to confuse evil spirits. The name will only be given when the child is two years old. However, if a child falls ill after being given the name, the parents should rename the child with a new name. By doing so, kome will not disturb their spirits. When a child in a family die after being named with their familys name, then it should be removed and a new name must be added to the actual name to confuse the evil spirits. Hence, not many among the Bidayuh community use their fathers name as the family name (Amran Abdullah, 1993).

6.1.15 Death A death in all societies should be completed in the best way. Bidayuh community also has no exception in management of the death taboos and certain customs. In short, the death traditions of Bidayuh community are as follows.

6.1.16 During Death Upon death, the corpse's families and peers will visit him. Women will sing sad songs immediately called mpesan which are the last words for the corpse. The corpse will be given a shower, spreaded with the oil, worn beautiful clothes and wrapped in new white cloth. The body then is placed on a pandanus mat. A man will be orderded to dig the grave and bring the body into the grave. Burial will be conducted when all family members and relatives of the deceased are gathered (Amran Abdullah, 1993).

6.1.17 Burial Burial is done by a village resident who is assigned to carry out the works. All the food are placed near the body will be removed. This is done when the body is taken to the cemetery. The mat where the body is lying will be cleaned and the floor is washed to remove the smell of the corpse. It also seeks to avoid the corpses spirit from coming into the room. The dead body of Bidayuh community will be burned or grounded to perform some particular traditions. (Amran Abdullah, 1993).

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6.1.18 After The Death After the funeral, the deceased's family members are not allowed to leave the house of the deceased for four days. While the villagers are not allowed to go down the field for two days. This is a mourning ceremony for the deceased (Amran Abdullah, 1993).

7.0 Summary

In conclusion, Bidayuh tribe in Sarawak is rich in customs and beliefs which are still practiced up to now same as the customs and beliefs of Malays and Chinese in Malaysia. It is similar to the emergence of a unique history that we know. Historical emergence of the tribe is very important as it is an invaluable treasure of the nation to be known by the next generation. What is more important, in our country the societies have different races and ethnics with strong mutual understanding and tolerance for binding and forming a unity as a nation. Hence, such exposures are important in understanding the culture of various ethnic groups in Malaysia. This unity in turn will create a harmonious and stable nation.

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