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.