Month: May 2008

The Rituals of Tadau Kaamatan ( Harvest Festival )

One of the main and permanent fixture of the annual Sabah Fest is the Tadau Kaamatan or Harvest Festival celebrations at the end of May. The most easily-recognizable features of this celebration is the general merry-making, cultural performances, traditional sports, and of course, the Unduk Ngadau ( Harvest Festival Queen ) pageant.

The Tadau Kaamatan however has its antecedents in religious beliefs and traditional rituals of the indigenous Kadazan-Dusun people which are directly connected to rice planting and harvesting. If one is to delve deeper into the observance of this festival, one must understand the several rituals involved and their significance.

The Kadazan-Dusuns believe that in the days of yore the people suffered a great famine. Their God ( Kinoingan ) took pity upon them, and sacrificed his daughter, Huminodun, by cutting her into small pieces. Her flesh was sown over the land and from these sprang the first rice plants. Thus the Kadazan-Dusun community believes that the transfigured sacrifice of Huminodun is embodied as the spirit of rice known as Bambazon / Bambarayon. The Kaamatan ( Harvest ) Festival is therefore celebrated to fulfill the five major purposes :

Home-coming of Bambazon to the Tangkob ( Large rice storage container )

To restore Bambazon which was lost during careless harvesting and processing of rice through the Magavau ritual ceremony

To feed the Bambazon with special food (rice wine, fermented rice ( tandut ), eggs, salt and feathers of a slaughtered chicken

Friendship and merry-making feast.

This is me, This is my Tribe..

Kotobian Tadau Tagayo Do Kaamatan.

It is a sad reality that the true account of our Kadazan/Dusuns’ origin and historical background has been buried lost in the unwritten past. Today all that remain are social scientists’ theories and legendary tales which are yet to be married to produce focal points of dependable commonalties. The purpose of representing the legendary tales regarding Kadazan/Dusuns’ origin is for us to have at least a basis to re-visit our past possibilities wherein perhaps some scientists will burst into the unknown to clarify our origin-identity crisis.

The early Kadazan/Dusuns’ community at Nunuk Ragang lived a carefree life, enjoying the abundant supply of food and other basic necessities from the richness of nature that surrounded them. The legend relates that the Chinese adventurers from Kinabatangan and Labuk areas had their first encounter with the Kadazan/Dusuns. This was followed up by the marriage of the daughter of the Kadazan/Dusun chief to one of the Chinese heroes, who were rich enough to afford the dowry of 7 huge jars plus copper and silver wares.

Some says that the word Kadazan was a late conception by the educated locals to liberate themselves from the word “Dusun” which was regarded as low class and primitive people, the late Tun Fuad Stephens coined the word to uplift the image of the locals in 1963. Especially because Penampang was one of the nearest Tamu Centre – “Open Market”, besides being close to Towns (kakadazan). The first Tamu centre was situated in Inobong Penampang. The Bobolian or Bobohizan (priestesses) say that the meaning of ‘Kadazan’ is Tuhun – in english ‘the people’.. But according to the Kadazan folks in Penampang, they claimed that “Kadazan” exists even before their great-grand-mother was born. I also found a “Kadazan Dictionary and Grammar” book, which dated in 1958. The book has been compiled and printed in Australia and the first page i saw a picture of Kangaroo with a words of “A Gift From The Australian People Under The Colombo Plan”. When i lifted to page 9, i saw this interesting statement by the writer as quoting:- ” When i came to North Borneo in 1932 and was detailed to work amongst the Kadazan in Penampang and surrounding village”, meaning to say, the Kadazan name does exist even before 1963 ( as claimed by some). Kadazan was the name of the local community in Penampang.Same goes with the Dusuns in Tambunan, Ranau,Telupid, Beluran, Tuaran, Papar etc. They have been called Dusun all the while, but nobody knows that actually, they have their own Identity name.

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