Thursday, December 03, 2009


Following the traditional naming of the child, the parents begin to think of giving the child a ceremonial bath at a river. Unless this is done with offerings, the child cannot yet be merely allowed to be bathed at the river. On the eve of the festival, the child’s father must get his longhouse mates to assemble at his common room, and inform them of the proposed celebration. All the people at the longhouse are requested to be at home the following day to observe the ceremony. Those who stay at their farm huts are also called back for the occasion.

Early the following morning, the longhouse dwellers start to go down to the river in a procession led by a flag-bearer. He is immediately followed by a man who carries a fowl. The two men are chosen from the influential personality of the longhouse because the flag-bearer will be tasked to slice the water with a nyabor sword (other type of traditional sword would be used if nyabor sword is not available) while the man who carries the fowl will recite an invocation prior to the slicing of the water.

Note: Nyabor sword is the ultimate Iban warrior’s weapon that can only be made by those warriors who have killed an enemy in battle. It is considered a taboo for ordinary people to make such weapon. It’s special identity is the “Butoh Kunding” design at the ricasso lower shoulder of the sword.

They are followed by two women, walking in line one after the other. The first lady bears offerings while the second carries the baby in a sling with a hand woven blanket (pua kumbu belantan or lebor api). These two women are also selected from among the most productive and fortunate breed amongst the longhouse ladies. Next in line are the other ordinary people and they are immediately followed by those who continuously beat the musical percussion throughout the event. Their purpose is to drown away any sound made by unfavorable omen birds during the ceremony.

On arrival at the river, the appointed man starts to recite the following invocation:

“Where are you, Seragindi, the maker of water?
Where are you, Seragindah, the creator of earth?
Where are you, Seragindong, the maker of cape?
Where are you, Seragindee, the creator of day?
Where are you, Seragindit, the maker of sky?”

“This morning we are giving so and so (the child’s name is then mentioned at this juncture) a bath in accordance with our tradition. We beseech thee to confer on him fortune, Give him sharp vision, So that he will be fortunate and wealthy in his life.”

“Where are you the king of fish, the king of gemian (a kind of sea fish).
Where are you the king of semah, the king of tapah (two kinds of river fish).
Where are you the king of soft shelled turtle, the super natural king of turtle.
Where are you, the king of barbus macrolepidoius, the king of fish called kulong?
Where are you the king of crocodile, the king of soft-shelled turtle?”

“If in future if this child, grandchildren of ours, happens to capsize and sink, when he is on his journey, We beseech thee to lift him up and keep him afloat, so that he can convalesce and recuperate and free from any danger and risk.”

“Oh Hoi! Oh Hoi! Oh Hoi!
Sa, Dua, Tiga, Empat, Lima, Enam, Tuuuuuuujoh.
Ni kita Seragindi ke dulu ngaga ai ke bepati enda sebaka nanga?
Ni kita Seragindah ke dulu ngaga tanah ke betingkah nyadi kerapa?
Ni kita Seragindong ke dulu ngaga tanjong betuntong dua?
Ni kita Seragindie ke dulu ngaga hari ke terunji petang kelita?
Ni kita Seragindit ke dulu ngaga langit nungkat neraja?

Nyadi pagi tu kami meri bala anak kami mandi.
Kami endang nitih ka pekat, nitih ka adat.
Kami endang nitih ka adat kelia, adat menya.
Kami endang nitih ka adat aki, nitih ka adat ini kami.
Nya alai kami minta sida iya bidik, minta sida lansik.
Kami minta sida kaya, minta sida raja,
Kami minta sida iya jelai rita, tampak nama.
Kami minta sida lantang, minta sida senang.
Kami minta sida iya pandai, jauh pejalai.

Oh Ha!
Ni kita Raja Ikan, Raja Gamian?
Ni kita Raja Tapah, Raja Semah?
Ni kita Raja Adong, Raja Kulong?
Ni kita Raja Genali, Raja Lelabi?
Ni kita Raja Gumba, Raja Baya?

Kami ngasoh kita nyaga, ngasoh kita ngemata,
Kami ngasoh kita meda, ngasoh kita ngila,
Ngasoh kita ngiching, ngasoh kita merening,
Ngasoh kita nyukong, ngasoh kita nulong.
Nyangka ka dudi hari ila anak telesak,
Uchu ambu kami tu bisi bejalai, bisi nyemberai,
bisi karam, bisi tengelam.
Kami minta kita nanggong,
minta kita melepong ka sida.
Kami ngasoh kita nyagu,
minta kita ngintu sida.
Awak ka sida pulai nyamai, pulai gerai,
Pulai lantang, pulai senang,
Pulai nadai apa, nadai nama.”

Upon the conclusion of reciting the invocation, the flag-bearer then slices the water with his knife, symbolizing the child’s life will be blessed, pure and flow continuously until it reaches its final destination. He then slaughters a fowl a bit further upstream from the spot where the woman is bathing the baby so that the fowl blood may flow towards the child.

When the child is being bathed, the onlookers hilariously make a lot of noise. At this juncture, the gongs are not normally beaten loudly but if the children wish to hit them hard, they are permitted to do so in order to drown any of the sounds made by omen birds, which are either ominous or foretell good fortune.

After the baby has been bathed, and if he is a boy, one of the wings of the slaughtered fowl is then hung on to a shaft of a multi-pronged spear (gansai), tied with a red ribbon. If the baby is a girl, the wing is fastened on to a heddle rod used by ladies in their weaving work. Placed near to the wing of the fowl is the offering which is being put inside a rough bamboo basket (Kalingkang), and hung from the top of the bamboo that still bears leaves.

The people return home after the ceremony held beside the river is over. On their way back, the procession maintain the same order as before. The gongs are being played loudly to avoid hearing the sounds made by omen birds.

On arrival at the longhouse, the child, is wrapped up and held by the mother in her lap as she sits on a large gong placed at the middle of the gallery. A Bebiau ceremony then conducted to cast away any bad omen and to bless the child. The child is then sprinkled with water. The water which the child is being sprinkled with is the water of a stone crystal (batu kuai) that possesses the power to wipe out bad omens brought about by the omen birds. This stone crystal is placed on a large antique china plate together with dollars coins, a gold ring and rain water poured on the same plate.

After the casting away of bad omen and the water sprinkling ceremony is over, the people then begin to eat various kinds of food and drinks prepared by the host like buns, rice wine, liquor and other traditional food. Later, a luncheon is held at the child’s family gallery for the guest and this is termed as the child’s bathing ceremony luncheon.

*source ; GN Mawar Iban Cultural Heritage


on the edge said...

So interesting . In Libya the baby is bathed in water in a tub , that has gold , incense, a egg in it's shell, and a couple of other good omen things in it , while verses from the Quran is recited .

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