The Kaamatan Festival is an annual event in the cultural life of the Kadazandusuns of Sabah since time immemorial. In its deepest sense, Kaamatan festival is a manifestation of Creator and Creation relationship, as well as Inter-Creations relationship. It embodies the principal acts of invocation of divinities, appeasing, purification and restoration, re-union of benevolent spirits, and thanksgiving to the Source of All. It is part of a complex wholesome Momolian religious system centered on the paddy rites of passage and the life cycle of Bambarayon – the in-dwelling spirit of paddy.
Appeasing is done in respect of Bambarayon, Deities, Divinities and Spirits, who may have been hurt by human wrongful, acts. Purification is performed in respect of human and spiritual needs for forgiveness followed by resolutions to make themselves worthy of the gifts of life from God. Restoration in necessary to ensure the health and well being of Bambarayon, mankind and other spiritual beings. Re-union is realised in respect of human needs to be integrated in body, mind and spirit within the concept of the seven-in-one divinity in humanity, as well as re-union of Bambarayon with human Sunduan. Finally Thanksgiving is observed as befitting for all creations to express their gratitude and appreciation for the gifts of life (through Huminodun) and all life supportive system on earth that their Creator lovingly and generously gave them.
Today, the Kaamatan festival has become one of the major national festivals of Malaysia. Unfortunately, the essence, true meanings and purposes of the Kaamatan festival in the context of its original celebrants’ (the Kadazandusuns) culture and belief system have continued to elude the thousands of celebrants each year. As an annual event in the Malaysian tourism calendar, the Kaamatan festival is more than ever before in need of new and relevant approaches in its presentation to the global society so that it is properly understood, appreciated, and respected in its historical origin, cultural significance and contextual perspectives. It must be realized that the State Level Kaamatan festival as it is celebrated today is but only a portion of the whole complex Kadazandusun traditional Momolian religion.
To the younger Kadazandusun generation, who may be experiencing various degrees of cultural dilemma, alienation and values disorientation in the light of rapid social change, it is hoped that this book may help them regain back their cultural consciousness. May they realize in time that they have much to value and be proud of in the wealth of their unique cultural heritage. Most importantly, may this book help rectify the wrong notions, negative biases and the tendencies of those who are unfamiliar with Momolianism to regard it as wholly wrong and/or given to evil in all aspects, for these predispositions have led many to label Momolian as Animism, Paganism or Kafir. It is the author’s view that it is not only wise but necessary for modern religions to cultivate a more respectful openness towards understanding traditional religions, for they too share the major universal values and truth that cannot be monopolized by any individual or single religion. For even during his time, St. Paul had written to the Ephesians:
“This mystery that has now been revealed through the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets was unknown to any men in the past generations; it means that pagans now share the same inheritance, that they are parts of the same body, and that the same promise has been made to them in Christ Jesus, through the Gospel.”
(Ephesians – 3: 3-6)
Why the new religions are readily acceptable to the indigenous peoples of Sabah is perhaps due in part to the already existing shared fundamental concepts and values within both the traditional and the modern religious belief system. Hence syncretism of the new and the old religions have become common phenomenon in the practice of modern religions today.
“Within the realism of our religious pluralism, any religion which fails to open itself to others in the spirit of inter-religious dialogue and cooperation will eventually fall into narrow-minded ghettoism and intolerant fanatism which may eventually destroy other religions, and in itself become as cancerous cell in relation to the whole organism of which it is a parasite.”(Anonymous)