A time for thanksgiving and merry-making
NST, 14/5/2008 By : Evangeline Majawat
The Huguan Siou (Paramount Leader) of the Kadazandusuns Datuk Seri Joseph Pairin Kitingan hitting the gong to open the 2008 Tadau Kaamatan celebrations in the Klang Valley-level at Flamingo Hotel, Ampang
KUALA LUMPUR: The melodious sopogandangan (gongs) beating the ancient rhythms of the sumazau will reverberate throughout Sabah this month, signifying Tadau Kamaatan, or the Harvest Festival, is here.
|The Bobohizans, or high priests or priestesses, performing intricate and ancient rituals to restore and appease the Bambaazon.|
For the Kadazandusuns, who make up more than 30 per cent of the population in the state, May is a time for merry-making and thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest.
But more importantly, it is the time to return to one’s roots and celebrate Kadazandusun culture by continuing a tradition practiced since time immemorial.
“Early records of the British in North Borneo in the late 18th century show the Kadazandusuns were celebrating Tadau Kamaatan, even then,” said Kadazandusun Cultural Association (KDCA) deputy president and Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Dr Maximus Ongkili.
“The whole festival is essentially about being thankful for a good padi harvest. Remember, the Kadazandusuns’ staple food has always been and still is rice.”
In the 1960s, it was institutionalised as a state celebration when the first Chief Minister Tun Mohd Fuad Stephens gazetted May 31 as a public holiday.
Originally, Kamaatan honoured the rice spirit Bambaazon (See ‘The Six Stages of Bambaazon’ below). Legend has it there was once a severe draught and a great famine.
Kinoingan, the almighty God and creator, took pity and sacrificed his only daughter Huminodun to save his people.
Her body was sown as seeds throughout the land, and from these sprang the Kadazandusuns’ staple food: rice.
Red rice is considered the most sacred as it grew from Huminodun’s blood and flesh.
Huminodun is embodied in the seven-in-one rice spirit Bambaazon, and during Kaamatan, the Bobohizans, or high priests and priestesses, perform intricate and ancient rituals to salvage, rescue, unite, restore and appease Bambaazon, who could have been injured or lost during the harvest.
Six rituals are performed, but the most important is the Magavau when the Bobohizans search for and rescue Bambaazon.
Special prayers beckon the spirit back home to rest until the next planting season.
Some of the offerings given include fermented rice (tondut), seven bamboo cups of the best tapai (rice wine), eggs, banana blossom, fermented fish (nonsom) and chickens.
“With the advent of religion the ceremonies became more symbolic.
“Originally, Kaamatan was to honour the Bambaazon and give thanks to Kinoingan.
“Now, it’s about being grateful and celebrating a good harvest after all the hard work.
“It’s also a time for reunion with family and friends.”
At the end of the month, the state-level celebration will be held at the KDCA Hongkod Koisaan (Unity Hall) in Kota Kinabalu.
The most anticipated event is the Unduk Ngadau, a traditional beauty pageant.
The pageant pays homage to Huminodun, whose selfless act of sacrifice saved her people from starvation.
The winner of the Unduk Ngadau is said to embody the qualities of Huminodun, who was perfect and whole in soul, mind and beauty.
“Unduk Ngadau is not merely a pageant — it is a showcase of the Kadazandusun culture,” said Ongkili.
The contest, open to unmarried girls of Kadazandusun lineage between 18 and 25 years old, is not your typical beauty pageant. Skimpy bathing suits and catwalk struts are noticeably missing.
The girls (sumandak) are dressed in their traditional finery. Bonus points are given to those who can speak Kadazandusun. The judges pay particular attention to the traditional attire, which must be complete with all the trimmings and jewellery. The participant’s hair is even fashioned in the traditional style.
“In the past only school-leavers took part. Now, we have doctors, teachers and postgraduate students.
“About 60 per cent of the participants have tertiary qualifications.
“To me, this is an indirect reflection of the progress of the Kadazandusuns.”
In a bid to ensure the younger generations stay rooted in their culture, the KDCA is intensifying preservation and promotion efforts. This year’s Kaamatan will include an exhibition of traditional tools for padi cultivation.
Another addition to the celebration is a half-day showcase of local delicacies, such as bambangan (pickled wild mango), pinasakan (fish stew) and hinava (raw fish).
THE SIX STAGES OF BAMBAAZON
1. The Kumogos Ceremony
Before a harvest begins, the Bobohizan selects, ties and puts aside seven stalks of the best padi from a padi field. These will only be harvested after that field has been completely harvested. The seven stalks of padi are then scattered all over the field as a gift to the other spirits who may be there not to disturb the people during the harvest season.
2. The Kumotob Ceremony
The Bobohizan selects seven s talks of the best rice from padi fields which have yet to be harvested. The stalks are tied together and placed in a tadang (a special basket for keeping rice). Once this is done, the harvest can be completed.
3. The Posisip Ceremony
The Bobohizan takes the seven stalks of padi in the tadang to a rice hut. While chanting, she takes out the bundles and inserts them into a bamboo pole in the tangkob (rice container). The chants invoke the spirit of the rice to stay in the rice hut until the next planting season.
4. The Poiib Ceremony
In the rice hut, the Bobohizan carefully pours the rice into the tangkob. This process is repeated until there is no rice left in the tadang. The Bobohizan then recites chants appealing to the rice spirits to keep watch over the rice stored in the tangkob.
5. The Magavau Ceremony
This is the most important ceremony in Tadau Kaamatan. This focuses on the restoration of Bambaazon. Chants are recited and offerings made to the rice spirit. The Magavau is performed on the night of the first full moon after the harvest.
6. The Humabot Ceremony
The final stage involves a lot of merry-making and entertainment. This ceremony is celebrated at villages and districts, with state-level celebrations culminating on May 30 and 31. Traditional sports, gong-beating competitions and buffalo races are held. The highlight of the celebration is choosing the Unduk Ngadau.