Adat Creation: About Sengalang Burong Immediate Family Members, His Descendant and Marriage Law.
According to Iban tradition, Sengalang Burong is a descendant of a powerful god named Raja Jembu. In Iban ritual liturgy, Raja Jembu is the guardian of the sacred whetstone (batu umai) used by Iban families in farming rituals, most importantly in the gawai batu festival and in the rites of manggol that initiates the clearing of new farm sites. These stones, which are individually sanctified during the Gawai Batu, are believe to come from Raja Jembu’s throne called ‘Batu Tinggi Dedinggai’. Raja Jembu married Endu Kumang Baku Pelimbang and bore six sons and a daughter. This family forms the principal pantheon of the Iban Petara.
These gods and goddess, like human beings, have genealogical pedigrees or tusut. They have remembered ancestors and descendants, which can be found in tusut of living Iban as below:
Raja Durong x Endu Cherembang Cheremin Bintang tauka Tukoh Lawang Pinggai Bekaki >> Raja Jembu x Endu Endat Baku Kansat, Endu Kumang Baku Pelimbang >> Aki Lang Sengalang Burong, Raja Menjaya, Raja Sempulang Gana, Bikhu Bunsu Petara, Raja Selampandai, Ini Inda tauka Ini Inee & Anda Mara (Ganga Ganggai).
Sengalang Burong x Endu Sudan Berinjan Bungkong, Endu Diu Tiong Menyelong = Endu Dara Tinchin Temaga, Endu Langgu Ketunsong Ngembai, Endu Kechapah Dulang Midong, Endu Bentok Tinchin Pengabas, Endu Kechapang Dulang Mas, Endu Moa Puchong Pengabas, Endu Dara Chempaka Tempurong Alang & Ajee
Endu Dara Tinchin Temaga x Menggin (Ming, Siu or Garai) = Sera Gunting x Seri Ngiang = Sera Kempat x Ranjau (f) = Ridoh (f) x Bada = Gupi (f) x Grasi “Belang Pinggang” = Geraman or Ensoh x Tebari (f) = Beragai (f) x Chundau = Beti “Brauh Ngumbang” x Duri (f) = Talak x Pandak (f) = Badas (f) x Girik = Blaki I x Buang (f) = Penyut x Endia (f) = Sudan (f) x Salang I = Blaki II x Beremas (f) = Tur “Bayang”, Ugap & Lada (f).Ugap x Nisi (f) = Salang II x Nati (f) = Limping x Tambong (f) = Uja x Sree (f) = Nyanggau x Gindu (f) = Indoo (f) x Attat = Benedict Sandin, Lenti (f), L.F. Mawar, Gerinching (f)Lionel F. Mawar x Roselyne Petri = Gregory Nyanggau (Author).
The eldest of Raja Jembu’s family is Sengalang Burong, or known as Aki Jugu Menaul Tuntong. He is the Iban God of War and augury, the most powerful of all the Petara. Next is Raja Simpulang Gana, the owner of the earth and principal God of Agriculture. Next are Bikhu Bunsu Petara (High Priestess of Bunsu Petara) and Menjaya Manang Raja, the principal shamanic God. Selampandai or Sempandai is the creator of man and God of Smithing, who is said to have fashioned the bodies of human being at his forge. Ini Inda or Ini Inee is the Iban Shamanic goddess. Anda Mara or Gangga Ganggai is the Iban God of riches and material wealth.
Sengalang Burong died and was buried on top of Tutop hill in the Ulu Merakai, Kalimantan Barat region. After departing their earthly domain he led a migration of the Gods to the various realms in the sky. But before they depart ways, Sengalang Burong divided his parent’s property. It is in this division that whatever each one inherited determined his or her special powers as a deity.
Ini Inda received Raja Jembu’s medicine box or lupong made of a bark of enteli tree, and all its content and so became celestial healer and, with her brother Menjaya Manang Raja, whom she consecrated as the first “transformed” divine patron of Iban shamans in the first ‘Bebangun’ ceremony on top of Rabong hill. Sempulang Gana was absent searching for engkenyang plant when the division of their parent inheritance took place. When he returned, he found nothing left of his parent’s estate except for the earthen firebox belonging to the family’s cooking hearth (tanah dapor). At first Sempulang Gana was angry, but was later informed by his father-in-law, Petara Semarugah, of its value. He discovered that he had received the most valuable inheritance of them all, the earth itself. Since then, as owner of the earth, all the other gods and all human being have had to make offerings to Sempulang Gana in order to obtain his permission before farming the earth.
Sengalang Burong took for himself a powerful war-charm called igi mudan, and so became the god of war and of divination and the principal source of omen birds. When Sengalang Burong separated from the Orang Panggau at Nanga Nuyan, he led his followers to a celestial world called Tansang Kenyalang. He built a substantial longhouse with his own bilik at its centre and the apartments of his seven son-in-laws, the seven principal augural birds, at his sides, relative to one another, signifying the meanings attribute to augural signs each bird represent or conveyed. The eight augural birds, nendak, is not a relation, but a poor client of Sengalang Burong. He lives in a room without verandah attached to Kelabu’s apartment. Ketupong (Jaloh or Kikeh), Beragai and Pangkas (Kutok) apartments are on the right side of Sengalang Burong, with Bejampong, Embuas and Kelabu (Papau) apartments to his left side. The seventh omen bird, Kunding or Burong Malam, the husband of his youngest daughter with whom Sera Gunting committed incest with, Endu Dara Chempaka Tempurong Alang, had to leave the paternal longhouse after the incestuous affairs. Kunding is actually a cricket, though his name literally means “night bird”.
These omen birds are said to possess certain particularly human characteristics. Ketupong, the senior son-in-law, is the natural leader. A man of few words, he must be heeded when he makes his appearance on earth. Ketupong has two manifestations; when he speaks with a slow tik-tik-tik, is important; his fast repeated alarm cry is known as Jaloh, which indicates the message be treated with most urgency.
Bejampong is known for his swiftness and agility, is second in command. Beragai also called Burong Gaga (the happy bird), due to the “laughing” sound of his call. Beragai serves as shaman-healer (manang) in Sengalang Burong’s longhouse. The other five birds, have more or less equal power although Burong Malam have the least influence since he and his wife have left their longhouse. Nendak, being a poor hanger-on rather than a relation, carries omens of considerable less importance.Through this complicated system of omens, Sengalang Burong regulates communication between gods and man. The gods instruct man by sending birds or animals with messages sanctioning or disapproving the activities of humans.
In the course of his return journey from Sengalang Burong’s longhouse, between the sky and this world, Sera Gunting meets the spirit of the moon (bulan), the seven sisters (Bintang Banyak or Pleiades) and the three sisters (Bintang Tiga, the Orion’s Belt). From these stellar goddesses, he learned the signed that the farmers must observe to determine the time for them to clear and plant their farms. From the spirit of the moon, he learned the rule that regulate days of labor, rest and planting various crops or plants corresponding to the phases of the moon.
After the death of his grandfather, Sera Gunting led a migration to Tiang Laju Mountain, on the Kalimantan-Sarawak frontier. Here, between the headwaters of the Undup and Kumpang rivers, a few miles south of present day Engkelili town, he lived out the last years of his life, a respected pioneer and the greatest of all Iban lawgivers. With his death begins, the first migrations of the Iban to Sarawak, includes that of his followers led by Kajup.
Sera Gunting x Seri Ngiang = Sera Kempat x Ranjau (f) = Ridoh (f) x Bada = Gupi (f) x Grasi “Belang Pinggang”.
Three generations after Sera Gunting, another marriage law was modified. This involves the marriage of Gupi to Gerasi Belang Pinggang. According to Saribas narratives, her parents raised Gupi as a secluded child. She was kept in a family loft where it is made impossible for any man to court her. The family’s female slaves attended to all her needs. Despite the tight vigilance from the family, Gupi was miraculously courted by an antu gerasi in human form.
In time she conceived and when her condition became apparent, her parents brought her out of seclusion and lived as any other family member. On the eighth month of Gupi’s pregnancy, her father began to notice something strange happening. Someone had left a pile of firewood logs in front of his family’s apartment. A few night later, ginger and smoked fish were placed inside the family room by unknown person. The parents just kept quiet, as they could not guess who had put them there.
Early in the morning after Gupi had delivered her child, a very handsome young man was seen sitting at Bada’s gallery. Bada attended to the stranger and courteously asked him where he came from. The young man explained that he had come from far away country to be with Gupi when she gave birth to their child. He also said that it was him that had sent the logs, ginger and smoked fish for Gupi’s used during her confinement.
Bada in turn told him that he and his wife suffered bad reputation because of their daughter’s pregnancy and their ignorance of the man responsible for it.
“You need not worry about that”, said the stranger, “for the child is mine, and accordingly Gupi is my wife for she has made use of the things I sent her”.
“This is very good news to us,” said Bada, “for if you are really the child’s father, we are indeed very much relieved and happy”.
Bada straightaway asked if the marriage feast (melah pinang) could be held as soon as possible. The young man agreed to marry Gupi in a proper way provided that they present him the following articles:
Bunga Pinang literally means the “areca flower”.
A brass cannon to represents a bridge to cross the many rivers from his country to that of his wife.
A blowpipe to represent the rail of the bridge.
He explained to Bada and his wife why he requested these articles:
The marriage feast will be known as melah pinang. If the areca tree has no flowers, the marriage will not be successful.
A bridge is needed, because a young man coming from a far away country must cross many rivers. Without the bridge he cannot cross them and his guiding spirit will not be with him.
The bridge must be railed because without it, his guiding spirit will be afraid to cross.
After his explanation, Bada and Ridoh agreed to give the young man the things he requested. Next day a melah pinang ceremony was celebrated for the couple. Thus the traditional rules of marriage introduced by Rukok and Remi was modified and that these modifications by Gerasi Belang Pinggang and Gupi were observed by later generations of Iban.
There are other myth that is associated with the origin of divination and augury. These includes that of Jelenggai and Bunsu Bintang Banyak which taught the Iban on how to make use of the star Pleiades for guidiance when they want to farm on earth. Then followed by Jelenggai’s son named Selamuda who is married to Dayang Manis Muka (Bunsu Babi), a daughter of a wild boar chief. From this marriage, the Iban were taught on how to use the liver of the pig for divination, predict their future fate either during sickness or in hopes of obtaining riches and material wealth or other success in life. This myth thus charters the ritual practice of liver divination traditionally performed by the Iban at the outset of important undertakings.
In the generations that follow the Iban migrations to Sarawak, came another prominent Iban major law-giver named Jelian. He was an early Undop pioneer leader associated with instituting the rules to be followed in erecting a longhouse, constructing tomb-huts (sungkup) for the dead, building the “fence of fire” (pagar api) used in shamanic rituals, and lighting the nightly vigil-fires (tungkun api) during initial mourning (pana). According to some other account, he also began the practice of planting cotton used in weaving cloth (pua kumbu). Jelian is best known for introducing the “kitchen rules” or adat dapur. This rules he instituted after his encounter with the spirit of the hearth or antu dapur. The rules required that every family must prepare rice on its longhouse hearth at least twice during each lunar cycle, at the time of full moon and on the night prior to the appearance of the new moon. This rule is still observed in more traditional longhouses in the Saribas. The effect of this rule is to stress social integrity of the longhouse and the ritual interdependencies of its members and to prevent any family from absenting itself for prolonged periods or from moving from the house without first ritually compensating the others. The modern ways of life have made practicing this tradition difficult due to rural-urban migration in search for economic self-sufficiency. Compensation is usually in the form of a sacrificial pig to get rid of the longhouse hearth.
Another notable law-giver and modifier is Chief Beti Berauh Ngumbang. He is noted for his modification of the Sengalang Burong incest law as instructed by Puntang Raga and also instituted the adat tebalu or rules of the widow or widower. The modification in the form of punishment applied to the offender in incestuous relationship would save many lives and would still avoid supernatural repercussion to the people. Prior to that, any incestuous marriages are punishable by putting the couple to death using bamboo spikes. The modification to this punishment allows sacrificial pigs to be used depending on the level of the couple relationship.
Beti himself was married seven times and seven times a widower. Throughout all of these marriages and the death of his partners, he observed them with full integrity and respect. With this he instituted the rules of giving respect to a widow or widower upon the death of their partners. This rule govern mostly the behavior of the widow or widower during and after the mourning period until the completion of the final ritual for the dead is performed in the form of Gawai Antu. He instituted two types of tebalu, the tebalu mata and tebalu mansau, which is accorded to a widow or widower depending on their general behaviour or character as observed by both families within the period under observation. This rules is still observed by traditional Iban in the Saribas region to this day.
In the generation that follows, new rules cropped out to serve as guidiance for social order. One such rule is the formation of adat pati nyawa during the times of Chief Sulang. This started as a suggestion for peaceful settlement between two parties, Raja Semalanjat and Chief Kanyong, to avoid outbreak of civil war over wrongful or accidental killing, which happens during a hunting trip. This rule governs the actions to be taken and fines imposed against the culprit in cases of wrongful killing and followed as a civil law in Iban community until the arrival of modern law.
It is my hope that these traditional adat be preserved and continue to be instituted and used. The main objective, as the source indicates, is to avoid supernatural repercussion that could befell upon the community where the offence or bad omen occurs. As christain god communicates through their prophets, the Ibans gods communicate through dreams, birds and signs in nature. Preserving our natural environment should be the closest thing to our heart. If we do not protect our environment, we will lose our cultural Identity forever. We share this world with all living things and every little thing have roles to play to support life in this one and only earth….or we’re all dead.
Research & compiled by Gregory Nyanggau Mawar
Source materials: by Professor Clifford Sather & Late Benedict Sandin, published on The Sarawak Museum Journal Vol.XLVI No.67, Dec 1994.