Friday, October 21, 2005

Tadau Ka'amatan

The Kaamatan or Harverest Festival is celebrated annually by the Kadazandusun community which is the largest indigenous community (600,000 - 700,000 or about 25% of total population) in Sabah. Its special characther as acultural showpiece was officially recognised in 1960 and it has remained the major celebration that is government funded.Kaamatan Festival?

Through the enlightened eyes of the Bobolians the Kadazandusun genesis and divine concept of creation, sin, repentance, love and salvation was revealed as the philosophical foundation of the annual Kaamatan Festival.First there was nothing but Kinoingan and His wife Sumundu. Out of love, they created man, the universe, heaven and earth, and everything seen and unseen, known and unknown.In the beginning, all was well in the heavens, and the world was pure and beautiful until Kinoingan’s own son Ponompulan rebelled and corrupted the hearts and minds of mankind on Earth, seeking to use all creations as tools and agents of his evil designs. Disappointed and angry, Kinoingan banished Ponompulan from the heavens and cast him to the Underworld Kolungkud.Then to discipline mankind for their sinful ways, Kinoingan delivered the seven plagues, the last of which was a prolonged severe drought followed by seedlessness and famine threatening to destroy the earth.

The Seven Scourges:
1. The First Scourge: War over lost Tataba & Kolian Pinogitigurasan
2. The Second Scourge: Plague Rapit
3. The Third Scourge: Dispersion & Migration Minogiurias
4. The Fourth Scourge: Locusts Minonombilalang
5. The Fifth Scourge: Deluge Minalagob-podluyud
6. The Sixth Scourge: Drought Minabpagadau
7. The Seventh Scourge: Seedlessness and Famine Pudsoh om Lous

Out of compassion, Kinoingan’s Daughter Ponompuan entreated Her Father’s mercy to forgive humankind and consented to Kinoingan’s design that She be the sacrificial symbol of the greatest love of all. This in essence is socio-spiritual redemption within the traditional worldviews of the Kadazandusuns.Kinoingan thus sacrificed His only Daughter so that the people could have food. Her body parts were cut to pieces and planted as seeds and became food resources of the world. Her flesh and blood became red rice, and her sacred spirit became the Seven-in-One, the Rice Soul, fondly called Bambarayon by the Kadazandusun Bobolians.

Huminodun in Bambarayon and Bambarayon in PaddyBambarayon is believed to be embodied in all parts of the paddy plant and its related products. During the course of its season it is inevitable that paddy is damaged and parts become physically and spiritually severed and strayed from the Seven-in-One msytical Paddy manifestation of Huminodun: Som-puun, Son-guas, Son-rawoh, Son-gi-ih, Son-wawar, Som-putul and Som-bilod. This can happen naturally, unintentionally and innocently or through abuse and neglect.

Why Magavau?
Thus, immediately after harvest, Bambarayon’s severed and dispersed mystical components have to be brought home, to be appeased, healed and re-united again as one. So Bobolians perform the Magavau and Modsu’ut Ceremony, traveling through the levels of the spirit world to pursue and rescue the strayed parts of mystical Bambarayon. Whole again, Bambarayon rejuvenates and ensures the bounty of the next harvest. To thank Kinoingan for Bambarayon and to commemorate Huminodun’s loving sacrifice, the commemorative Kaamatan Festival is thus held.As the paddy grains are children to Bambarayon, the Bobolians view the Kaamatan Festival celebrants as children of Huminodun and alternatively children of Bambarayon.

Kaamatan Festival Symbol
Toguruon:The Seven-in-One Spirit, attributes and symbolic objects of fully integrated holistic Bambarayon.Zandi Rosinim Pigis (once a student Bobolian) from Kampong Pantai Tambunan shared that the following are the normal objects used to symbolize the existence of the Seven-in-One Spirit of Bambarayon:

1. Pohinopot (Ohinopot)
2. Pohinomod (Ohinomod)
3. Pokotiru (Otiru)
4. Potingudan (Oudan)
5. Podihuntun (Ompidot)
6. Polikambang (Olikambang)
7. Potinoud (Otinoud)

Self realizing, Self determining, Self preserving, Self generating, Self integrating, Self copious, Self purifying.

Dokuton (Clay), Gagamas (Knife), Pangasaan (Sharpener stone), Solunsug (Bamboo conduit), Pinudsu- pudsu (Paddy mound), Nangkob (Paddy barn replica), Rilibu (Winnower).

The above symbolic objects are considered to correspond to the seven spiritual attributes of Huminodun in Bambarayon. Bits and pieces of the above objects are wrapped together inside a black cloth container and hung together with the seven ears of paddy on a bamboo pole to be left in the paddy fields until the harvesting is finished. This symbolizes the ideal integration of all the seven spiritual components of the mystical body of Huminodun in Bambarayon and is referred to as Toguruon meaning "the One that many join for completion and fulfillment".

Essentially, this is the holistic rice soul (Sunduan do Parai), Bambarayon in its Seven-in-One complete form. This is the reason why the Bobolians have recommended that the Toguruon be used as Symbol of the Kaamatan Festival. As soon as harvesting is completed the Toguruon is put inside a basket, brought home and placed on top of paddy tangkobs or torutips granaries.

Kaamatan Rites
Through the Kaamatan Rites, the Kadazandusuns maintain their socio-spiritual practices of:
  •  Momulangga to establish and maintain peace and harmony
  •  Miulung to share their harvest and express their self-determination
  •  Magavau & Moginakan to receive holy communion by consuming new rice and drinking new rice wine, which in essence is Divine Huminodun herself
  •  Mominodun to beatify Huminodun in Unduk Ngadau
  •  Monugandoi to sing praise and thanksgiving to Kinoingan
  •  Monoguli & Monolimbagu to renew and live a better way of life
  •  Mononglumaag to usher health and prosperity.

By the observance of the principle of kakatiu,every Kaamatan Festival celebrant must feast according to his or her needs, and forbidden to glut and waste any of the offerings served.To waste food and/or to get drunk and lose one’s composure during Kaamatan Festival is regarded as dishonor and sacrilege to Huminodun for which the guilty will have to face both the Kadazandusun Hukum Adat (Traditional Laws) and socio-spiritual justice from Libabou.

Over the years, the Kaamatan Festival has evolved and transformed into an epitome expression of the multi-cultural souls of the indigenous peoples of Sabah. Throughout the month of May, Kaamatan celebrations are held annually at the family, village, district and State levels.

Kaamatan Festival Month Launching

On May 1st of each year, the Kaamatan Festival Month of May is launched from a pre-chosen district in Sabah. This ensures the participation in action by the numerous ethnic communities within and around the Kaamatan launching district to promote their unique cultural heritage as well as multi-cultural peace, understanding and harmony.

Kaamatan Finale

Comes 30th and 31st of May, Sabah’s indigenous peoples, domestic and foreign tourists, and people from all walks of life commune at the Cultural Unity Center (Hongkod Koisaan) for the final days of the Kaamatan Festival celebration.The natives put on their finest traditional costumes displaying a rich potpourri of cultural attires, designs, motives and colors.Hands reaching hands in friendship, all celebrants, guests and visitors alike are welcomed; new relationships are established, while past and current brotherhood are renewed and further strengthened among peoples of all races, creed and cultural traditions in the true spirit of Kaamatan.

Kaamatan Festival at National Level

The year 2001 of the new millennium marks yet another milestone in the Kaamatan Festival’s history. For the first time Kaamatan Festival is being celebrated at the National Level with financial allocations from the Federal Government. It now depends on all Malaysians to make Kaamatan as the newest opportunity and venue for the multi-cultural expressions of their harmonious unity in diversity at national level.

National Kaamatan Festival Open House

Besides this the Federal Government has since last year also begun to organize the National Level Kaamatan Open House celebration, where local culinary delights, beverages, cultural arts and performances continue to be encouraged to be promoted.

Traditional Music and Dances

To the multi-sounds and tempo of traditional music, multi-ethnic cultural dances are performed to show guests and visitors the rhythm of life that they too can experience for a moment in time by their participation in action.

Traditional Sports

Outside the main hall, traditional sports are held such as: Mipulos (Arm Wrestling), Mipadsa (Knuckle Wrestling), Monopuk (Blow Piping), Momolositik (Catapulting) and Migayat Lukug (Tug of War), never failing to amuse and entertain the cheering crowd of spectators.

Multi-ethnic Traditonal House Receptions

At the various traditional houses with ethnic designs, appointed judges struggle to maintain their soberness as they judge the creative decorations, arrays of cultural artifacts and the cultural reception of guests into each of the ethnic houses

Local Handicrafts Sales Exhibition

All around are cheap sales of local products, where one can have the best of choices and great bargains in purchasing the finest native handicrafts direct from the producers themselves.

Agronomy & Industrial Products Sales Exhibition

Government and private sectors, farmers, industrialists and artisans converge to exhibit and sell their products making up a lively Kaamatan Trade Fair.

Kaamatan multi-ethnic Culinary and Beverage Delights

For those who would rather have Kaamatan as a feast day, numerous varieties of unique traditional food and beverages await them. There is the Linongot, Ombuyat, Borot, Soko Kinapa, Hinava, Tivak Kinapa, Kulupis, Tuhau and Sambal Mangga; the various local deserts and delectable rice and coconut wines -- tapai, bahar, lihing and montokou for drinks, all completely free for as long as they last. The only forbidden thing is to glut, to waste, and to lose self-discipline in drunkenness.

Huminodun’s Beatification in Unduk Ngadau

At noontime, something stirs to move the crowd towards the main hall packing it to its full capacity. But of course, who would want to miss the main highlight of the Kaamatan Festival -- the moment of beatification of Huminodun in Unduk Ngadau.Lest we forget, the Unduk Ngadau Queen selection is never meant to be just another of those Beauty Queen Contests. Here, feminine sensuality and bold exhibitions of the physical endowments of contestants do not determine the winner.

Beyond physical beauty, concealed in piety and attired decently in full traditional costumes, the Unduk Ngadau must satisfy the judges that in her most natural self she portrays the best potentials to resemble beatified Huminodun, the Kadazandusun Queen of love and compassion, the ultimate symbol of perfection and purity, as reflected in the ancient Momolian Rinaits:

"Were your beauty light, it would be as the blazing sun, and my eyes would not withstand to gaze at your transfigured face; Were your piety and might measurable in terms of height,Tthey would reach the noon sun and yet stand firm and upright; For you are divine, symbol of perfection, purity and sacrificial love. "In the words of the Late Bobolian Odu Miada Gumarong: "Kohunduk do tadau kabalangkason di Huminodun", which means, "The radiance of Huminodun’s beauty is such that it can shame the eyeball of the sun and cause it to drop"

Once crowned, the reigning Unduk Ngadau is expected to be about the will and ways of Huminodun for a year, living an exemplary lifestyle in caring and serving the less fortunate, championing causes for the poor and the needy and doing other benevolent work deemed attributes of Huminodun.Comes the next Kaamatan Festival, the Unduk Ngadau Crown, along with its honor, dignity and responsibilities will then be passed on to the new Unduk Ngadau and thereafter to the lines of succeeding future Unduk Ngadaus, to keep alive always, Huminodun’s divinity in Unduk Ngadau, in Paddy and humanity itself.

Huminodun’s Everlasting Kaamatan Message

Huminodun’s message, soft and gentle, shall always be the highest joyful thoughts, the clearest words of truth and the profoundest feelings of love.To understand Huminodun as Soul of Unduk Ngadauis to understand the Kaamatan Festival;Huminodun is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow…So too, Unduk Ngadau will always be -- The Soul of Kaamatan,Enduring where and when all else perish, like Love endures, For Huminodun in Unduk Ngadau is Love. The numerous indigenous ethnic groups are divided into three main families - Dusunic, Murutic and Paitanic - in addition to several other groups. Of these, there are around 30 who produce rice and therefoce celebrate the kaamatan.

From the Dusunic family, they are the Kadazandusun (From Penampang, Ranau, Tambunan, part of Keningau, Papar, Membakut and also Tindal Dusun of Kota Belud), The Rungus, Kimaragang, Tabilong, Tatana, Bisaya, Kwijau, Lotud and Eastern (Labuk) Kadazan. The Murutic family includes Tahol, Timogun, Gana, Nabay, Bookan, Paluan, Okolod, Kalabakan and other. While the Paitanic family consists of the Orang Sungai groups of the upper Kinabatangan, The Tombonuo, Abai Sungai and Lobu.Each has its own name for the harvest rituals and festivals.

The Rungus Call it moginakan, the Kadazandusun refet to it as kokotuan, kaamatan or moginakan while the Timogun Murut name it orou napangaan nanantob.The indigenous groups mentioned above are mainly farmers who are predominantly wet and hill rice cultivators, living on the northern and western coastal plains and the area around Mt. Kinabalu, with the east coast. The Murutic groups live in the deep interoprs of Sabah and areas bordering Sarawak and Kelimantan. Until recently they were remote and isolatedsubsistence formers, practising swidden agriculture and hunting.

The animistic religious system of the Kadazandusun centres largely on their staple food, rice, and rituals to maintain the balance and harmony between man an his environment to provide conditions for successful rice cultivation and harvest. Rice is an important source in creating wealth and status in the traditional societies. Though modernisation and conversion to other faiths have removed or diminished many of the religious customs and practices, those which continue to be practised are considered definite features of the Kadazandusun identity.


Since time immemorial, the Kaamatan has been celebrated by every Kanazandusun famiy ini their homes and villages to thank the sprit of padi, the Bambarayon/Baambazon/ Toguruwon for a bountiful hervest and to pray to their Creator Kinoingan for another abundant hervest the coming year. Said to take place on the first sighting of the full moon sawang afther the rice harvest, the Kaamatan usually lasts two to three days. To understand the Kaamatan, one must look at activity of padi cultivation of the Kadazandusun which is bound up with their rligious beliefs. Historically, rice cultivation is the lifework of the Kadazandusun. Its cultivation is primarily of the Kadazandusun's family needa as well as to fulfil spiritual obligations, and is not for sale.

Generally, during the riceproduction cycle and including the harvest festival celebration, the villages in the kampong or villages practice mitatabang. This describes the spirit of co-opeation among the villages in the production of rice. From the clearing of the land for padi cultivation, to planting, keeping vigilance and maintanance of the fields and reaping the harvest, the villagers labour as a team in turns to do all of the work. A kind of calendar is set up whereby each family would know their turn to do certain tasks. Everyone works for the common good. Ritual ceremonies are held almost daily and in turns.

At these ceremonies, the house owner has to provide a feast for the occasion. The villagers who have taken part in the arduous tasks of the day come together at his or her house owner but the almost daily get-together for ritual ceremonies reinforces. their relationship with one another and their shared responsibilities in the production of rice for themselves as well as for spiritual purposes. Padi cultivation is full of spiritual significance for the Kaamatan becouse they believe that rice has a spirit and thus padi or rice is always treated with respect.

In the rice production districts of papar and Putatan, it has been recorded that the traditional rice ceremonies are very elaborate. These rites extend from the planting to hervest, the first five being to ensure the well-being of the crop in its successive stages, and the sixth being in its successive stages, and the sixth being the hervest festival (see accompanying article on Papar Ceremonies, 1895).

In the Papar tradition (witnessed in 1920 by Rutter), the sixth ceremony called togongok takes places when all the rice has been stored. The whole village is in celebration in joyous thanks giving. Heirlooms of bamboo musical instruments are brought out and beaten in rhythm to produce high notes supplied by the smaller bamboos and deep pitches from the longger ones. The older the bamboos are , the more they are volued and the better the tones they produce. Neighbouring villages are called to join in the festivities, which include mock fights, drinking, dancing and eating. A few days later, the guests reciprocate by having the hosts over to their village for a 'return match'.

In the district of Penampang, the rice crop is checked before the harvest may begin. A priestess or bobohizan goes to check the rice heads in the padi field. If teh crop is ready to be hervested,, she will select seven of the best rice heads and leave them in a protected area where they will remain until the rest of the crop is harvested. Sometime a protective ring of lesser rice plants is left around these seven stalks. When the hervest is completes, these remaining heads are cut and brought ceremoniously to the home of the owner of the rice field. This symbolises the homecoming of the rice spirit bambarayon or bambaazon which is believed to take up residence in the rice barn. The hervested rice is then stored in a circular bin made of tree bark called tangkob inside the barn.

The monogit pa'ai is then performed. This is a ritual procession of several female bobohizan led and followed by a male each holding a ceremonial sword. Each woman holds onto the shoulders of the person in front of her and chants ritual verses called magavau (see accompanying article "Magavau - Highlight of the Kaamatan") to summon home "missing" parts of the men trimphantly cry out -this is called pangkis. It is said that the magavau of the olden days was carried out in the padi field on the night of the first full moon afther the harvest. It is accompanied by offerings of rice grains, pickkled fish, eggs, salt, fermented rice, a sacrificial chicken and chicken feathers.

In the Tambunan district, the men organise group hunts to have sufficient meat for the harvest celebration while the women brew rice wine ore tapai. During the celebration, the magawau is performend by priestesses called bobolian in the rice field. The priestesses chat to the rice spirit, which is thereafther followed by the harvest celebration of eating, drinking and magarang dancing to gong music.

Meanwhile, the Lotud Dusun of Tuaran do not have large-scale feasting and merriment un the their rice ceremonies, even afther the harvest, The are eight ceremonies at the time of the rice hervest. One of them, monuras take place in the padi field where a iglet is scrificed. While the rite is being carried out in the field, priestesses calledtatagas then perform the ceremonical traditional art of self-defence called bosilat in owner's house. Only one night of celebration occurs which involves consuming soup and dringking bahar or coconut toddy.

The Timogun Murut in the interior of Sabah celebrate a harvest festival which they call orou napangaan nanantab. However, the actual nae for the festival afther the harvesting season is ansisia. Perior to the community celebration, each Murut family will donate some rice to the headman or leader of teh community for making into tapai or as cooked rice during the feast. One cane also donate money to buy meat and fish and other food. On the eve of the mansisia gfestival, all the people will atted a banquet in the tulus or longhouse or house of the leader of the village.The next day, the mansisia is celebrated with many activities. The highlights is the tapai dringking session called pansisiaan. It is customary for all the villages to dring the tapai.

The mansisia celebration is a time of thanksgiving for the harvest and to partake of every neighbour,s contribution to the feast. All fermers enjoy a day off to watch and participate in the dance, music, drink tapai and other activities.The Murut Tahol (Tagol) called their festival napangaan nongotom/nalaparan. Traditionally it was celebrated between two to seven days. The festival is ce;ebrated on a moderate scale today in turn in every village and on a larger scale at the district level. There will be sspecial guests, cock fighting and a tapai dringking session in the evenings. The dringking session is enlivened with the lansaran (a spring platform for dancing) gamnmes. The menfolk will stand in the centre of the lansaran will the womenfolk go round at the edge of it, all the while singing in succession.

The Rungus, like their Kadazandusun counterparts believe in the bambarayon or the spirit of rice. They also have various ceremonies during the cycle of rice producation. When a boutiful harvest is reaped, they honour bambarayon by a series of ritulas conducted by priestesses called bobolian. Mogigigivit or mongulok is held in the rice fielda to thanks the rice spirit where chickens are sacriticed. The ceremony continues to a special storage hut where the newly harvested padi is kept. Hre, prayers are chanted and each participant drinks some tapai or rice wine.

Another ceremony called the magahau is also performed as part of the harvest rites. In this thanksgiving rite, pigs are sacrificed and the blood is used to ritually cleanse household tools, jars and gongs, which tey belived are inhabited by spirits. The pigs are then prepared for cooking. Treditional dishes cooked from yam stalks, young benana pith, fresh water snails, fish, rice and tapai are then served to celebrate the harvest. To round it off, aritual dance called the mongigol sumundai is performed along the corridor of the lounghouse where nightlong festivities take place.

There is another celebration among the Kadazandusun called moginakan that is like the "mother of all celebrations". This take place on in five or seven years. It is to celebrate all harvests, not only of padi. This celebration is usually hosted by the wealthy who own many jars,entensive padi fields and proeesee more money. The moginakan is a relatively costly feast involving large crowds and many bobolian. Those who come to celebrate are realtives, friends and neighbours from far and nar. The moginakan becomes a meeting place to reinforce family and ethnic ties and traditions besides giving thanks to Kinoingan for a beautiful harvest.

The bobolian as they are called in Tambunan or bobolian in Penampang or tantagas in Tuaran are vitually all female priestesses or ritual specialists. Amongs the Rungus and Kadazandsusn from Papar, men may also occasionally be skilled as ritualists. Becoming one takes many years of apprenticeship. One must learn to chat all the long ritual verses or rinait (in a ritual language) which recount the creation of the world, the action of the deities, migrations of people and the rationale behind socisl and cultural more and morals. Spirit mediumship is also a prerequisite for becoming a ritual specilalist in most communities.

Traditionally, the Kadazandusun community in Sabah celebrated their harvest festivals at their respective kampung or village. However, as the harvesting time differed from location to location, there was no differed from location to location, there was no fixed or standard day for celebrating. It was not untik 1956 that the idea of elevating it to a district and state level celebration was mooted by the Keningau Native Chief, OKK (Orang Kaya-Kaya) Sodomon. OKK Sodomon tabled his proposal on 5-7 November the 6th Annual Native Chiefs Conference. He wanted to have the local government officially recognise the Hervest Festival.

The proposal was for a three-day holiday at the various districts of the Kadazandusun and Murut communities. The manner of celebration was left to the individual districts. The proposal was debated and agreed upko. The dates for the celebrations were fixed for 24, 25, and 26 April of each year, irrespective of a full moon sighting or sawang.The "stste" level celebration was not adopted untile June 1960. Though the efforts of the Society of Kadazans in Penampang, Particularly thelate Tun Fuad Stephens, the Native Harvest Festivel Holiday celebration wasapproved and declared by the goverment. If would not restricted to the bnatives of Sabah alone, but to all "who use the good earth of Sabah for growing their food". The news was heartily welcomed by many indigenous groups all over Sabah. Two days were set aside for the annual celebration. Thus, on the 30th June to 1st Juky 1960, the first State-wide Kaamatan or Native Harvest Festival as it was called then was held. The fist celebration Kaamatan began in Penampang, on the morning of 30th June 1960, with a High Mass and a percession of the Holy Euchharist in the nearby St. Michael's Church.

Through the missionary efforts of the St. Joseph's Foreign Mission Society of Mill Hill, quite a number of Kadazandusun were converted to Roman Catholicism, particularly in Penampang, Papar and Putatan. The Papar mission was founded in 1881, followed by Putatan.When the State-wide Kaamatan was celebrated in Penampang in 1960, a size able number of Kadazandusun there were Catholic Christmas and it was then not not suprising to find some Catholic elements included in their celebration.Fourteen villages or Kampung in the district participents in the celebration, which was held at the field or padang of the St. Michael's. School.

Traditional dance and music were perfomed. State and community keaders from various districtrs of Sabah attended the festivel. Three buffaloes were sloughtered to feed the crowd and over a hundred jars of tapai felowed to quench the people's thirst. There was non-stop dancing of the sumazau to vbeauty queen contest or Unduk Ngadau, Orang Tua (elders) and Native Chief,s Traditional Dress Competitions, traditional games and football matches.The first North Borneo lavel Kaamatan was a significant step towards achieving greater uniyt of the native peoples. Its major impact on the Society of Kadazans Penampangresulted in the formation of a new Kdazan Cultural Association (KCA) to incorporate other indigenous groups such as Dusuns, Muruts, Rungus and other.

From the first state Harvest Festival, the KCAQ organised subsequent festivals celebrated annually. Since the festival have changed in response to requests from members thoughout the State. The shifthing or venues allowed for greater participation and involvement of the various indigenous groups at the areas concerned in the organisation of the Festivel. However, roving venues proved to be costly and the different dates each year impractical for organising the Harvest Festival. In 1986, the KCA resolved to have the dates of the Kaamatan fixed for the 30th and 31st May each year. 1st May would be the launching of the month-long Kaamatan to begin at the district and kampung level which would climax with the State level celebration on the 30th and 31st May.

At the 1986 biannual Congress of the KCA, the name Kaamatan for the Festival was formally adopted. It was felt that the name Kaamatan more aptly reflected the celebration, which was basically a festival after the harvest. Since then the festival was been called Pesta Kaamatan or Kaamatan Festivel.On 22nd february 1989, the KCA resolved to also fix the venue for the State level Kaamatan. The decision was made based on the cost factor and the fact that Kota Kinabalu is the gateway for the tourism industry in the State. The Hongkod Koisaan ("Unity Centre") or the Kadazan Cultural Centre Building at Penampang not far from Kota Kinabalu was then chosen as the venue.

Nevertheless, since the Kaamatan is a goverment-funded event, the organisation of the festivel has in recent years been taken overby the a State-level Committee headed by aMinister and assisted by various bodies anf agencies such as the Sabah Museum. Since 1996, the venue has also moved to another venue, the Sabah Cultural Centre at Dongonggon, Penampang.The Kaamatan Festival has become not only a turist event and attraction, but significantly, it continues as a celebration of acient traditions and culture, which is unique traditions and culture, which is groups involved, the coming together once a year strengthens bonds with other races and reinforces their ethnic identity.

Rice-wine competitions, tradisoonal dance competitions, cultural shows, singing contests, the mangavau ceremony and unduk ngadau or Harvest Queen competition.MagavauMagavau or maga'au in the context of the Kaamatan refers to the orduous task of the bobohizan or priestesses in searching and recovering, as well as bringing home the lost , stolen or strayed bambaazon or rice spirits. As babaazon is believed to be embodied in very part and form of rice, it is imperative that the main mystical body of bambaazon is intact or whole. Strayed, lost and stolen rice spirits can occur when pests and natural disasters strike the rice plants or due to the carelessness of man during the harvesting, transportation, winnowing, punding or miling prosesses of padi. Children can also affect the bambaazon's well-being if they throw away rice wine to waste.

When the bobohizan cuts the first ear of ripened padi to mark the beginning of the harvest, she recites a long beckong prayer to invite the mambaazon to return home to the household's rice barn to reside untile the next season when the rice gains are needed for planting in the nursery. When harvesting is done and the padi is winnowed and stored in he barns, many parts of the bambaazon's mystical body are still believed to be scattered far and near.The babohizan are therefore summoned to perform the magavau. The magavau may be performed at the household level. If it is performed at the village or communal lavel, it is more elaborately planned by the elders comprising the headman, chief bobohizan and an informal council of elders. The date chosen for the magavau should be soon afther the newly heaversted rice has been stored in the barns or better yet, coincide with the first full moon apperance, as in the old days.

In the old days, te magavau wsa performed in the rice fields. The chief bobohizan and her entourage would leave their communal long houses and walk though the harvested rice fields to serch, salvage and gather back any strayed bambaazon and plead for their return to the main body.The magavau is enacted in the annual Kaamatan celebrations. The ritual dance, which comprises of male and female bobohizan depicts the part where they leave their houses to begin their journey to the open rice fields in the full moonlit night.They form an unbroken line, with the man in the front waving their warrior swords to symbolise their determination to flight if necessary in order to recover the lost part of bambaazon. Each women holds on to the shoulders of the one in front of her and chants ritual verses beckoning the stray bambaazon to return home. When one is recovered the man cry out trimphantly - This is called pangkis.

The procession of babohizan is an unbrokhen line to ensure orderliness (in the open fields to prevent stumbling) and to maintain a oneness in spirit when deep in prayar.When one bobohizan has to answer nature's call, the one behind her has to immediately move up to replace her position by puttiing her hands on the shoulders of the one front her.

The ritual parphernalia used in the magavau ceremony are:

  • A Piece of bamboo or sanggoh.
  • 7 pieces of young coconut or ngiur leaves coconut shell or hosungon or babaung.
  • Some fermented wine or tapai on a piece of simpur leaf.
  • A branch of lemon leavers or Kohopis leaves or limau kapas.
  • A CombA few drops of coconut oil
  • A bunch of hamba leaves for fixing the hair
  • A suonggoh plant
  • A winnowing tray or Tapan hihibuh
  • 3 gantang riceA bowl of pickled fish or hamak
  • A piece of banana flower
  • Few slices ginger
  • Few slices lime or kohopis
  • A Basket
  • A grass mat or bundusan
  • Some rice wine or tapairice wine or toddy or tuak


During the Kaamatan Festival, a beauty queen, Unduk Ngadau is selected in a pageant that is the highlight of the celebration. Unduk or tunduk literally means the shoot of a plant while ngadau or tadau means the noondy sun. Taken together, Unduk Ngadau refers to the sun at this brightest, representing the zenith of youth where beauty transcends physical attributes, where sterling qualities of strength, beauty, courage and love are unrivalled and at their peak. When translated to the Unduk Ngadau beauty pageant that takes placea in the Kaamatan celibration, the beauty queen selected from the "fairest" of them all has deeper significance than what is apparent.

The origin of the Unduk Ngadau lies in the Kadazandusun legend of Huminodun or Ponompuan (also known by various other names), Kinoingan,s only beloved daughter who was sacrificed to become food for the people (See accompanying article on the Legend og Rice). Her body parts were transformed into food - her head gave rise to coconut, her flesh - padi, her blood -red rice, her fingers - ginger, her teeth - maize, her knee - yams and other parts to form avariety herself to save the homans her mother had created. it is thus her noble qualities of courage, compassion, her beauty and sacrifice that the Unduk Ngadau is ideally based.

The beauty queen is said to represent or meant to embody all of these qualities or come close o personifying the mythical Huminodun as the ideal woman.The bobohizans of Penampang recite Huminodun in their inait or ritual prayers:Were you beauty light,if would be as the blazing sun,And my ayes would not withstandto gazeAt your transfiguared face...Were you piety and might,Measurable in terms of height,If would reach the noon sun,And yet stand firm and upright..."The origin of the Unduk Ngadau pageant owes much to the original costume competitions which were held at the village and district leval festivals.

In 1958, the Society of Kadazans decided to develop a cultural beauty pageant for woman. At that time, it was felt that young unmarried Kadazandusun women were very shy, and that prading in public in their traditional costumes would help them to overcome their shyness. This item became a regular feature of Harvest Festivals thereafter.District level winners would represent their districts at the state level. The state level competition is usually held on the second (main) day of the festival. As one of the many conditions, all beauty queen contestants in the pageant must wear an authentic traditional costume from one of the cultures in the district they represent. The winner of the peageant is also required to undertake some form of charity work in the district she represents for one after her crowning.

prepared by : Nisha


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