Early Iban Migration History – Part 1
Myth and History – Early Migrations and the Origins of Iban Culture
In ancient times, when the island of Borneo was still only sparsely inhabited, those who dwelled there lived in fear of many kinds of demons, dwarfs and spirits. These beings might either look after men or else punish them with death if they broke taboos.
As spirits (antu) were everywhere, men had to be very careful in what they said and did. They could not speak arrogantly when they fished the river or hunted the forests. If they did so, boasting that they could easily obtained fish or game, their efforts would come to nothing. Similarly, an individual was strictly forbidden to mock other living things; if he did so, the spirit would destroy him with kudi, a violent supernatural storm in which a culprit and all his belongings were turned to stone (batu kudi). Houses and human beings believed to have been petrified in the past can still be seen in many places in Sarawak.
Migration from Kapuas River mouth upriver: Where the Ibans meet the Arab Traders.
In these very early times, because of the presence of spirits all around them, settlers in Borneo frequently discussed the nature and dwelling place of the gods and spirits, to find the best way to worship and pay respect to them. The Muslim missionaries had already started to arrive to trade and spread their Islamic teachings to this part of the country. They had already established their foothold in the islands of Sumatra and Java and gradually weakened the Hindu Majapahit Empire. It was at about this time, at a place called Ketapang in Northwest Kalimantan, there lived a very famous Iban ancestor named Bejie. The Muslim missionaries had frequently spoken of the almighty god named Allah whose abode is high in the sky. The people began to believe that this god is living above all other deities of this world. On hearing this, Bejie thought of an idea to visit the almighty Allah in the sky to ask god personally about the best way for his people to worship and pay respect to god. He called for a large meeting of his people to discuss the construction of a stairway, on the tallest enchepong tree in the country, to reach heaven. They all agreed to his proposal hoping that they could reach god’s house in heaven.
The ladder was constructed from ironwood (belian) trunk. The base of the ladder was planted at the base of the enchepong tree branches to reach the next branch. Eventually, after some years, the top of the ladder stood above the cloud. As Bejie and his men, all dressed up to visit almighty Allah in the sky, made a final climb to heaven. As they proceed up the ladder, the enchepong tree unfortunately gave way due to the sheer weight of the ironwood ladder. Its root had been rotten and eaten away by termites throughout the construction period. As the ladder collapsed, Bejie and his followers fell headlong to the earth. The ladders landed on various rivers throughout the west-central Borneo. Any ironwood trunk which may be found inside many rivers, are known as “Tangga Bejie”, and it is a taboo to use it to construct any part of the longhouse as it would bring bad omen to the house owner.
Before the construction of the ladder, Bejie had assigned his brother named Bada to lead his people. Bejie had also begot a son named Nisi whose praised name was “Bunga besi enda semaia makai tulang”. Nisi begot a son named Antu Berembayan Bulu Niti Berang who was the father of Telichu, Telichai and Ragam. Ragam was the mother of Manang Jarai (or Manang Tuai – the first Iban shaman).
After the death of Bejie, their people moved to Kayung. There were other Iban along the coast at the time, especially at Trusan Tanjong Bakong and in general around the mouth of Kapuas River. After Bejie’s descendant had settled there for quite sometime, Arab traders arrived in large sailing ship from Jeddah. They do barter trade with the Ibans exchanging clothes and spices for rice and jungle products. This was the first time the Iban had ever seen woven clothes. Before then, they had only lion clothes and skirts made from barks of trees.
As more Arab traders and Muslim missionary came to trade with the Ibans, many Ibans were converted to this new faith. Soon, divisions began to appear among the Iban leaders between those who adopted the Muslim faith and those who still followed traditional beliefs. Those who chose to follow traditional ways of life began to separate themselves and moved up river in large number. Those who were prepared to accept Islamic teachings, stayed at Kayung. They began to call themselves the Malay of Pontianak, Sampit, Kayung, Sukadana and Sambas. In time, they began to marry new Malays who had come to trade in Kalimantan, especially the traders from Minangkabau in Sumatra.
Due to the tolerances of the Iban people, no reported incidents were recorded in their songs with regards to this manner of separation or with Muslims in particular. This tolerance has been the major factor that contributes to the prosperity and harmony of the Iban people living together with other people of different races and religions to this present day. Infact, the Ibans thrive well under this circumstance because they are hardworking people, a tribute found in the pioneering spirits of their ancestors. Only those who were crazy for power and wealth brought major conflict to this country, not the tolerant and resilient Ibans.
The Ibans then moved further up the Kayung until they reached a place called Ulu Landak. After settling there for sometimes, some of them migrated up the Melawi River. After settling along the banks of Melawi River for three generations, their leaders, Raja Ningkan, Sagan-Agan, Bedali and Jugah called for a large meeting to discuss further migrations. They agreed to migrate and separate from their relatives, and they built many large boats with the help of those who wished to remain behind. It is also to be noted that all the material wealth or properties that the Iban people value today is the same as that which was valued by the people of Malawi in the past, especially the old Chinese jars and brasswares.
From Melawi, they separated and moved to the Sintang River where the passed a large areas of farmland. They looked for the owner of the farmland and were told that the farmland owner had moved to Pontianak and that they could farm there that year only as the informer could not guarantee that the owner would not return to reclaim the land. They started to plant padi that year and had a bountiful harvest. After the harvest, they left the area to live at the mouth of Sintang River for one year.
From Nanga Sintang, the Iban went up the Kapuas where they meet other people. They found that not many people had settled along the right bank of the Kapuas River, as majority of them preferred to live along the more fertile land of the left bank. From the main Kapuas River, they went up the Sakayam tributary. From the mouth of this river, all lands on both banks are owned by the Mualang Dayaks. It took them two full days to reach the first Mualang Dayak Longhouse from its mouth. They stayed only a few nights in the Mualang Dayak Longhouse.
In their conversation with the Mualangs, Jugah and Bedali told the Mualangs the story of their movements since they left the Kayung settlement. They told the Mualangs that they had separated from their relatives who had been converted to Muslims by the Arab missionaries to avoid conflict and religious persecution. They told them that they had lived in the Melawi and had migrated down the Sintang River to look for new lands in which to settle. They asked the Mualangs whether they might give them land to live on. The Mualangs told them that although there was still a lot of virgin forest on both banks of the Sakayam, as the Iban had seen, all the land belongs along both banks had been claimed by them from its mouth up to the settlement they had reached.
The Mualang further told the Iban that all the lands above their settlement belonged to the Chengkang Dayaks, and then further up to Balai Kerangan, the land belonged to the Sebaru Dayaks. All land beyond that belonged to the Remun Dayaks.
The Iban told the Mualang that they did not want to migrate further and wished to settle alongside the Mualang there. The Mualang agree only if the Iban agreed to live in the same longhouse with them. The Iban finally agreed to live in the same longhouse with the Mualang. They lived many years with them, and a great number of them intermarried, becoming Mualang.
After the Iban had greatly multiplied; they separated from the Mualang and moved to the Sanggau River. Here they lived much closed to the Bugau Dayaks. After some years of staying there, the moved to Semitau under their chiefs, Raja Ningkan, Jenua, Jugah, Rawing, Jimbun, Sagan-Agan and Jengkuan. All these chiefs were brave men. Due to their bravery and aggressiveness, all other Dayaks were afraid of them.
The Story of Chief Jimbun and the Spirit Crocodile:
One day while the Iban were settled at Semitau under the leadership of various chiefs, a chief named Jimbun visited the abode of the crocodile spirits which prey on human, just as the man from Sungkong had visited the abode of the spirit tigers related later in this article. Chief Jimbun was making knife in a hut near the bank of the Kapuas River. While he was doing this, his daughter went to the river to bathe where she was suddenly caught by a crocodile. Hearing a loud splash in the river, Jimbun stood up and look out toward the river where he saw his daughter’s leg appeared on the surface while her body was beneath the surface of the water. Sensing the danger his daughter was in, he immediately jumped into the river and followed the crocodile as far as a place called Tubai Raong pool. There the crocodile had carried the girl into a huge river pocket under an over-hanging bank. This river pocket was a well known abode of crocodiles. Being a very brave man, Jimbun dived deep into the river pocket. There he found to his surprise that he had arrived at a large longhouse. As he walked along its inner passageway, he saw an old man reclining near a hearth to warm himself. This old man was herd grumbling, “It is you who are guilty. You have caught a daughter of a man. Due to your sin, if a man chooses to take revenge on you, you will be justly killed by him”. As Jimbun came nearer, he asked the old man what he had been grumbling about.
“Don’t you hear the noise in that room?” the old man asked. “It is the noise of the people who are eating the daughter of a man whom one of them had caught while she was bathing in the river.”
Jimbun told the old man that it was his daughter who had been caught by a crocodile. He asked whether he could kill a guilty person, who had killed his innocent daughter.
“Don’t do that now as there are too many people in the room. You may kill only those who are guilty, but not the others.” He advised Jimbun to poison the slayer of his daughter with the poisonous bark of a tree which Jimbun must collect at Bukit Bulan, opposite the crocodile longhouse. He directed Jimbun to place several pieces of this bark on the door of the house that night in order to poison the slayer of his daughter as well as those who had taken part in consuming the girl’s flesh.
Jimbun then went out to the Bulan Hill to collect the bark as instructed by the old man. After bringing it back, he hid himself in the bushes outside the longhouse.
Late in the evening, after the people in the longhouse had gone to sleep, Jimbun took the poisonous bark and placed it at the door of the slayer’s apartment. He also placed the bark elsewhere in the house, so that it would be touched by other people who were actually crocodiles. As soon as he had done this, he hid himself again. From his hiding place he heard the growls and cries of many people dying by poison. In the morning, there was a deathly silence in the longhouse. Jimbun went in and saw many bodies lying dead all over the longhouse. After he was satisfied with the result of his revenge, he met the old man, who was still alive. The old man sent him to the road junction which would lead Jimbun back to his own house at Semitau Tuai.
Shortly after he had left the old man, all of a sudden Jimbun found himself miraculously standing on the bank above the bathing place of his longhouse people. His fellow men saw him there and they were very happy for his safe return.
Soon after Jimbun’s return, the chiefs named Sera Gindik and Empangai called for a grand conference to plan for a new migration from Semitau to the Batang Ai region in Sarawak border. All those who attended the conference agreed to the migration plan. The Iban living at Semitau then made preparations to move to the Ketungau region, a true right tributary of the Kapuas. It will be from Ketungau region that they will send scouts to the Batang Ai to survey the suitable land for farming. The scouts returned to inform them that there are plenty of land for farming as well as the abundance of fish in the rivers and plenty of game in the forest.
On hearing these reports, the Iban were very pleased. The wasted no more time at the Ketungau region and migrate quickly to this new country. Before their separations, they agreed not to become disunited to avoid being beaten by other tribes like the Bukitans, Seru, Ukit, Kantu and other tribes they encounter in their migration journey.
From the Kapuas, the Iban ascended the Ketungau River to a place called Bila Dua. Here they intended to settle for a time at Tapang Peraja. As they were about to land their boat at Bila Dua, they heard the call of an omen bird, Bejampong (crested jay), from the right hand bank of the river. On hearing this, a council of chiefs was held and it was declared that they should stay there in temporary huts for seven days to honour the call of the omen bird, Bejampong. Afterwards, a second meeting was held to discuss the implications the Bejampong augury. In this meeting, Chief Sagan-Agan assured them that they should not leave that place until they have stayed there for three farming years.
The Story of Telichu:
Telichu and his younger brother Telichai loves to hunt animals for food. They owned a number of dogs they trained for hunting down animals. They were soon became expert hunters and spent many days in the jungle away from the comfort of their longhouse. They do not need to plant rice as they could barter trade their smoked or fresh meat for rice grains with their fellow people.
As the brothers grew into adulthood, Telichu physical appearance became noticeably very strange from that of his brother Telichai. His body had grown to be very hairy and as big as the trunk of a Tapang tree when they hunt in the jungle alone. His eyes were as big as saucers with ears as big as a winnowing basket. His height was as tall as the sibau raras tree. He also began to consume raw meat from the game he caught. Telichai became very frightened as the result of his brother’s strange transformation. It was only when they arrived home from their hunt that Telichu’s appearance began to transformed back to normal again. As time went by, Telichai began to feel the fear of going out hunting with his brother. All these fear were not told to his immediate family and their people. During the night of the full moon or thunderstorm, Telichu became restless and would go out hunting alone.
One full moon night, Telichai decided to follow Telichu on a hunting trip. Before they left, Telichu instructed Telichai to tie a yellow band around his wrist. Telichai asked him the purpose, to which Telichu replied, “With the yellow arm band, I can recognize you from other animals.” Telichai dared not asked any further.
When they left their house and entered the forest, Telichu’s appearance began to change into a hairy demon. They both separated to hunt after agreeing to meet at their base camp after they have caught their game. Telichai caught a wild boar and brought it back to their camp. There, he heard his brother Telichu was already there with his game, sitting in the shadow of full moonlight. Telichai then light up the camp fire to process his kill. It was then that he saw his brother sitting quietly, eating a freshly killed game he had caught. He had fully transformed into a demon huntsman, most feared by the Dayak.
Telichai nervously asked his brother the cause of his strange appearance. He answered that he had turned into an Antu Gerasi, a type of demon that hunts the unfortunate souls of human beings who disobeyed the warnings revealed to them in dreams and omens. He also told them that he could no longer live with them. He also taught Telichai how to protect themselves from these demon huntsmen by burning the bark of a lukai tree during the night of full moon and during thunderstorm. It is during these nights that the demon would come out to roam the earth and feed on souls of the unfortunate human.
Before they went their separate ways, they divide their hunting dogs equally. Those that followed Telichu into the demons’ world turned into a type of lizard called Pasun. The Ibans believed that, if they hear this Pasun lizard nearby, a demon huntsman is not far away and they should quickly abandon their work activity and return home to burn lukai bark. It was because of this incident that the Iban people believe that the present day Antu Gerasi is the descendants of Telichu.
After losing his brother, Telichai married to Endu Dara Sia Bunsu Kamba, the inheritor of a Tajau Rusa Jar. She came from a marshy country full of maram palms. They begot Si Gundi, Berenai Sugi, Lalak Pala, Kurong Mayang and Retak Dai. Si Gundi also known as Gila Gundi, migrated to his wife’s family at Panggau Libau and begot a son named Keling who became the greatest hero of the Panggau Libau and the most legendary hero to the Iban people. Retak Dai married to Kelitak Darah Menyadi, a sister of Lemambang Sampang Gading, and begot a son named Serapoh, under whom the Iban cultural heritage developed further.
Serapoh learn the correct rules of mourning:
It was while they settled at Bila Dua that a chief named Serapoh started a war with the Kantu tribe. Serapoh, as mentioned earlier was the son of Retak Dai and Kelitak Darah Menyadi. Retak Dai was a direct descendant of Bejie through Telichai, whose story was mentioned earlier. Serapoh was also a first cousin of Keling, whose father, Si Gundi or Gila Gundi married, settled and eventually became leader of the Panggau People.
The war with Kantu tribe came in the following manner. At the death of his parents, Serapoh buried them in their burial ground. Misfortune soon followed, for shortly after the burial many more deaths took place in the longhouse. During this period, a stranger from an unknown country arrived at their longhouse and asked them why they looked so sad and discontented. They told the stranger that it was because of so many deaths, which caused them much despair. The stranger then asked them how they paid respect to the bodies of their dead when they buried them. They told him the things that they had done and the rules they had followed.
“It is not surprising that many of you have died, as you have no proper rules to observe mourning and burying the dead.” the stranger told them.
He said that he was a spirit named Apai Puntang Raga, and he advised them of the proper way to pay respect to the dead and the rules which they should follow in future in connection with burial and mourning. These rules, attributed to Apai Puntang Raga, are as follows:
1. Immediately after death, the corpse must be properly washed and dressed in its best dress. After this its forehead is marked with three yellow spot of turmeric, and finally the corpse is moved to the gallery (ruai), where it is placed inside an enclosure of woven blanket called “sapat”.
2. On the next day, before the funeral takes place, food must be offered to the coffin before it is placed inside a coffin. At the cemetery, the coffin must be buried deep underneath the earth.
3. When people return from the burial ground, the windows in the deceased’s room must be kept close particularly at night; for it is said that while it is dark in this world, it is light in the after world and vice versa. At the same time, a sacred mourning jar is tied up by a senior lady of the longhouse, selected for this purpose.
4. That same evening, a ritual fire must be lit in a special hut where food is placed for each of three evenings. The reason for this is fear that the dead person might stray up to the longhouse and disturb the souls of the living.
5. For the same three days, an old woman will be appointed to eat black rice (asi chelum), for black rice in this world is white in the other world (sebayan).
6. The sacred mourning jar is not to be opened except by a warrior who has managed to obtain a head; or by any man who can present a human head which he obtained in a duel; or by a man who has returned from a sojourn in enemy country.
7. After the mourning period expires, a special feast known as the Gawai Rugan or Gawai Antu must be held as the last ritual for the dead.
8. During the whole period of mourning right up to the Gawai Antu festival, no widow or widower may remarry or anoint themselves with perfumes and colored powder, or dressed themselves with colored garments. If such things happen, the offender will be brought before their respective chief and fined of being disrespectful to the relatives of the deceased.
Having thus advised them, Apai Puntang Raga vanished, and Serapoh began to observe the burial procedures and mourning rules as instructed by the spirit Apai Puntang Raga. He also began to worry about obtaining a human head so that they can perform the ritual to end the mourning period. With that in mind, Serapoh decided to go to other Dayak country in the region. He took with him a menaga jar in order to stake a wager with any man who might wish to engage him in a death combat for it. The search for challenger was fruitless as there was no one who would accept his menaga jar and the challenge. In those days, there were no enmity between the Iban people and the other Dayak tribes he visited.
Finally, Serapoh reached a certain country belonging to the Kantu tribe, where he met a man and his son. He enquired from the father whether he would be willing to exchange his son for the jar. To this suggestion the man blindly agreed, and Serapoh happily returned to his country with the young boy on his back.
On his arrival, while still some distance from his longhouse, Serapoh killed the boy. After burying the body in the forest, Serapoh went up the ladder of the longhouse and shouted victoriously, while holding the boy’s head on one hand and pointing his sword skyward with the other hand. The longhouse resident woke up to rejoice the opening of mourning jar and to mark the end of mourning period. There was no more despair due to death caused sickness or supernatural calamity or disaster. Very soon, unknown to Serapoh, he was to suffer from the fate of losing his three sons in a war he already waged with the Kantu tribe. Thus starting the Iban headhunting culture, aggressive political dominance and territorial expansion over other tribes.
Dayak War with Kantu Tribe:
When the Kantu people heard of what Serapoh did to a Kantu boy he had adopted in exchange for a valuable menaga jar, they got very agitated by the act and at once gathered themselves to form a troop to invade the Iban country and take their revenge on Serapoh. At this time, the Iban were in the middle of their farming season and Serapoh farm had been badly damaged by wild boar. He ordered his three sons, Chundau, Sampaok and Bada to go out to the farm to assess the damage. At first all his sons refused to go out to the farm and told their father that they had bad dreams the previous night. Their father was adamant to their excuses and ordered them to their farm at once. His three sons did as their father had instructed and proceed to the family farm. While they were inspecting the padi field along the edge of the farm, the Kantu warriors who had laid an ambush fell upon them and none escape.
When the brothers did not return for midday lunch, his father sent her daughter named Remi to take food to her brothers. As she came to the edge of the farm, she called for them, but no one answered. She went to the top of the hill and found the corpse of one lying headless. She ran on down the hill and midway, she found another corpse lying headless. From there she ran down to the bottom of the valley and found the last one lying headless. She then went home in terror to tell her father of the tragedy. The longhouse resident then sounded an alarm by beating brass gongs to warn the other longhouse member who were working in their respective farm of the intruders. When they have all returned home, Serapoh organized a search party to bring his three dead sons back and to track where the intruders had came from. Once they knew that the intruders had come from a Kantu territory, they returned home to organize a funeral for the three slain brothers.
During the funeral that evening, Remi took a nyabor sword and climbed to the roof of their longhouse. In her sorrow, she sat there and wailed out calling for her brothers as follows:
“Oh! Indeed it is sad that my elder brother Chundau was killed and is lost; he will no doubt turn into a great nabau snake, whose back is piebald!”
“Oh! Indeed it is sad that my elder brother Sempaok was killed, whose legs had sunk in the mud; he will no doubt take the form of a gibbon (empliau arang)!”
“Oh! Indeed it is sad that my brother Bada was killed, he will soon become a crocodile which opens its wide mouth!”
That night when everyone was quiet and asleep, a man came quietly to Remi’s bed and woke her. In surprise, Remi asked who the stranger was. She felt that his hair was as sharp as the quill of a porcupine; his nails were as sharp as knives, and his legs were as strong as a weaver’s beam. The stranger told her that his name is Damu (“hairy in the nostril”), and that his nickname was Rukok (“cobweb in the hollow of a bamboo”), a spirit that inhibits the sugar cane plant, whose smell is that of sinang. “I am Bujang, a great leader on the war path. I am also called Bujang Bula who carries his belongings in a basong basket; also known as mischievous bachelor who often goes first at the head of warriors. I came here because I heard you crying inconsolably late in the night.” (Damu ke bebulu idong nensang ka lubang, Rukok ke bejulok apok papong tengkiong, nempuah bau sinang, Bujang pasak jalu, pematak bala nyerang)
In her soft, gentle voice, Remi replied, “I am bound to weep sorrowfully, since I am now left helpless after the death of my three brothers who were killed in a raid by the Kantu people.”
“Oh! You need not worry about it,” said Rukok. “I am here in order to marry you, if you will consent.”
“How can I marry you when I am in sorrow,” replied Remi.
After a long conversation, Remi told the man that if he wished to marry her, he must seek permission from her father. Rukok then went outside to the gallery (ruai) where he waited for the aged Serapoh to come out from his room. In the early dawn, Serapoh came out and lit a fire at his fireplace on the gallery to warm himself. Rukok moved over and sat close to the old man, who immediately asked him who he was and the purpose of his visit. Rukok told him that he had came to ask permission to marry his daughter Remi. This request surprised Serapoh very much.
He immediately related to Rukok his sorrow after the death of his three sons. “If you are willing to pay me an honorable bride-wealth, then I will consent to your marriage with my daughter,” Serapoh said.
Rukok then asked Serapoh what should be an honorable bride-wealth for the marriage. Serapoh then said that he would give his consent to the marriage after he had collected as many Kantu head as possible. Hearing this, Rukok told Serapoh not to worry, as he is obliged to fulfill his wishes.
A few days later, Rukok set out with his brother-in-law named Sampar, the only surviving brother of Remi, and a few selected warriors to attack the Kantu people. Under Rukok leadership, the Iban successfully defeated the Kantu tribe and looted their country. The enemy heads were presented to Serapoh and with it the ritual to end the mourning period for his sons were performed and thereafter, Rukok and Remi’s marriage were solemnized.
After a very successful first raid, Rukok led three more major raids to other Kantu longhouses. Besides these wars, he also led numerous kayau anak, or smaller scale raids, against other tribe who allied themselves to the Kantu people. The Kantu, as well as their neighboring allies, were subjugate by Serapoh’s men and surrendered.
After the submission of the Kantu tribe, Rukok then started to teach Sampar on the proper conduct of war by a war leader as follows:
1. If a war leader leads a party on an expedition, he must not allow his warrior to fight a guiltless tribe which has no quarrel with them.
2. If the enemy surrenders he may not take their lives, lest his army be unsuccessful in future warfare, fighting empty handed war raids (balang kayau).
3. The first time that a warrior takes a head or captures a prisoner, he must present the head or captive to the war leader in acknowledgement of the latter’s leadership.
4. If a warrior takes two heads or two captives, or more, one of each must be given to the war leader; the remainder belongs to the killer or captor.
5. The war leader must be honest with his followers in order that in future wars he may not be defeated (alah bunoh)
When Rukok had finished giving those instructions to Sampar, he presented him with various charms for war expeditions.
Some days afterward, Remi gave birth to a son whom they named Menggin or Meng. Immediately after the birth of their son, Rukok told his family that he wished to return to his own homeland, because all of their enemies had surrendered. He told them that Sampar was old enough to become their leader in his place. Before he left them, he taught the Iban to observe strictly the following rules:
1. No one is allowed to commit adultery
2. If a man commits adultery with the wife of a war leader, he is to be fined fourteen jabir, which is equivalent to $14.00 and the woman is to be fined the same.
3. If a man commits adultery with a well known warrior’s wife (bini manok sabong) he and the woman are to be fined 12 jabir, which is equivalent to $12.00 each.
4. After a person’s death, the wife or husband of the deceased is to be known as balu, widow or widower.
5. If a person has sexual intercourse with a widow or widower it is a great sin called butang antu. The offenders are to be fined in accordance with customary law.
6. No widow ar widower may remarry until after his or her deceased spouse has been honoured by the payment of a small fine made to the relatives of the deceased, later given back, in a ritual called ngambi tebalu mata’ within about six months; or ngambi tebalu mansau after the feast of Gawai Rugan or Gawai Antu.
7. If a widow has sexual intercourse with a widower, it is a great sin, berangkat antu. The offenders are to be fined in accordance with customary law.
8. Any person marrying a widow or a widower is also committing a great sin, also called berangkat antu. They are to be fined heavily too.
9. If a widower marries a widow within the tungkun api period, that is within a week after the death of their partner, this union is called berangkat tulang, which is the greatest of all matrimonial sins. The offenders are to be fined heavily.
10. When a man marries a woman, her family must always demand a marriage fee from him, called the bunga pinang.
Before he finally left for his own homeland in the spiritual world, he then begged them to look after his son as he was growing up. Menggin grew up, half-human half-demon, during the peaceful era after the Kantu-Iban war. He was an adventurous person and known to be able to travel between human world and the domain of Iban God of War, Sengalang Burong, at Tansang Kenyalang, a daughter whom he met and married and begot a son named Sera Gunting. Their adventures will be told in another chapter of this article.
Story of Menggin or Meng:
When Menggin, son of Remi and the spirit Rukok, was growing up, he never went on any war expeditions, since the enemy had all surrendered to his father and his uncle Sampar. He was very fond of playing and developed great skill in shooting with his blow pipe. This particular skill would soon changed his life forever; first, an adventure with his blowpipe led to his marriage to a daughter of Sengalang Burong; secondly, he enjoyed a long life span that lasted for seven generations after he won a blow pipe shooting contest with the spirit that owned a stone charm with a power to make a person an immortal being.
One fine day, as he sat on the open verandah (tanju) of the house, he saw a very beautiful bird flying nearby. It was not like any other birds he had seen in his life before. Its feather was glittered in golden color and its bill shone like a pelaga bead. Its eyes were bright as glass, shining against the leaves of the tree. Instinctively, Menggin would not miss such a rare opportunity to own such a bird. He immediately took up his favorite blowpipe and went in pursuit of the bird. As he was within shooting range of the bird sitting on top of sibau tree, he shot at the bird but missed it. The bird flew away and perched on the top of a durian tree. He followed it again and took a shot at it, but this time it just grazes its leg. The bird flew again and this time it perched on top of a rembai tree which grew near the path leading to the landing place of their longhouse. This time his shot hit the bird and he saw the bird fell to the ground.
Menggin hurriedly ran to the spot to pick up the bird. As he arrived, he was surprised to discover a piece of kain kerabaya, a fine quality clothes used as a woman’s sarong. The bird was nowhere to be seen. He picked it up, folded it and kept it in his bamboo dart case (temilah) for safe keeping. He did not tell anyone about what had happened.
Three day afterwards, people saw a very lovely lady taking her bath at the landing place. Hey had never seen such a beautiful girl before. After she had bath, she walked to the longhouse and her beauty glittered the path she passed by. On her way along the gallery, she was invited to enter the apartment she passed by, but she refused until she reached Menggin’s apartment which is in the middle of the longhouse. Menggin’s mother Remi invited her in. She too was astonished by her beauty as she could not recall anyone’s daughter who was as beautiful as her guest. Her only suspicion, judging from her beauty and good manner, the lady guest could only be coming from an aristocrat family.
As she sat in conversation with Menggin’s mother, she enquired where Menggin was. Remi replied that Menggin was sitting at his accustomed place on his gallery outside. She went to their door and called Menggin to come in as the lady visitor wished to meet him. As Menggin entered the apartment, she straightaway asked him where her sarong was. Astonished by the lady’s asking, Menggin replied that he did not know anything about the sarong she had asked for.
“Certainly you know about it,” the lady insisted.
Then Menggin remembered a piece of finely woven cloth he had found three days earlier and which he had kept inside his temilah. He took out his temilah and drew out a piece of cloth and handed it to the lady. After she received the cloth, she went to their dressing compartment and put on the cloth. After she had dressed herself, she sat on a beautiful mat which Menggin’s mother had spread out for her and started a conversation with Menggin’s mother.
Later that evening after dinner, everyone in the longhouse came over to Menggin’s room to entertain the beautiful lady visitor as is customary practice of the longhouse resident. When the people asked her about her visit, she told them that she came from a far away country to look for her cloth, which had been taken away by Menggin a few days earlier. She further said that she would like to marry Menggin if he agreed. “If not,” she said, “I will go back to my father’s longhouse tomorrow”.
On hearing this, Menggin’s mother was very happy and pleased to give her consent if Menggin wanted to marry the lady. She immediately called Menggin to come in and asked him what he thought about the lady’s request. Menggin said he would be delighted to marry the lady if his mother and his uncle approved.
His uncle, Sampar, gave his approval, saying” It is in this same manner Menggin’s father came to us from a unknown country to marry Remi. Their marriage has given us peace and prosperity, for all our enemies had surrendered to us under his leadership. Such a marriage must be lucky and a fate by god.”
They were solemnized that very same night in a simple marriage ceremony (melah pinang). She also told Menggin’s family that her name was Endu Dara Tinchin Temaga, Endu Cherebok Mangkok China, and that she was the eldest daughter of Sengalang Burong. They lived together happily and in due course, their baby boy was born whom they called Sera Gunting or Surong Gunting. This man, born of human, demon and god parentage grew up to be the most famous of all Iban pioneer leaders in history, for instituting the Incest Law of Sengalang Burong, The Iban System of Augury and the procedure of celebrating the Iban Bird Festival.
Six months after his birth, while the child was sleeping during the day, his mother laid him in a cradle and wrapped him in a beautiful woven blanket called a pua labor api. As the child slept soundly, Dara Tinchin Temaga told her husband that she wished to come down to the river to bathe. But when she had gone for quite sometime, the child began to cry. He cried inconsolably, which worried his father very much.
When Menggin tried to amuse him, the child cried the more, and at the same time pointed his tiny finger towards the river. Menggin then took up the child and carried him in the direction in which he pointed. When they reached the bathing place by the river, his mother was nowhere to be seen. The child continued to cry and pointed his finger towards the path, which Menggin followed. At night fall, they stopped traveling and Menggin built a temporary hut for their shelter. The next day they set on their journey again following the direction his son is pointing.
Early on the third day, they came upon a shore of a very huge lake. The thought of crossing it troubled Menggin even more. He did not know how they could cross the lake without using a boat. But his son kept pointing across the lake. While thinking of what to do, he stepped down to the lake to test its depth, and to his surprise, he found that it was only knee deep. He quickly picked his son in his arm and walked through the lake until they reached the opposite bank.
At the other side of the lake, the child is still pointing his finger down the path until they finally came to a very fine wide road along which they walked. After some time, they reached a landing place where they saw many people taking their bathes. Among the bathers, Menggin saw his wife, Dara Tinchin Temaga, and he happily handed her their weeping child. She immediately gave bath to Sera Gunting in the river. After bathing, she breast fed him and and at the same time she advised Menggin what they should do while living in her father longhouse. She told Menggin the following thing:
1. He and their child should not sit down until they reached the part of the gallery where there were many smoked heads (antu pala) hanging from the beam.
2. They should not sit close to the old man with grey hair, because he often grew annoyed with people whom he did not know. She explained that the old man is accustomed to sit on a hanging seat made of tree bark, and that he was her father, Sengalang Burong himself.
3. At dinner time, when they come into the room, they must follow a fly, which would direct them to their food and plates.
4. They should know that all the people who would eat with them were all Sengalang Burong’s slaves.
5. At bedtime, they should follow a firefly into the room which would direct them into their mosquito nets.
After she had given him these instructions, Dara Tinchin Temaga went first to the house. Her husband and child came after and took their seat as she had directed them to. Sengalang Burong watched them sitting there and looked fiercely at Menggin. He thought Menggin resembled a man searching for padi grain, as he looked so thin. Sengalang Burong then ordered one of his slaves to bring out betel nut and sireh leaves for the visitor to chew.
Through the evening, Menggin talked with Sengalang Burong’s slave on the gallery. When the time for dinner came, he and his son went into the room and followed a fly which showed the way to their food and plates. Likewise at bed time, they followed a firefly which showed them to their mosquito net. They did this routine throughout their stay at Tansang Kenyalang. From the day of their arrival until the day he returned to his own country, Sengalang Burong never spoke one word to him. Menggin helped his wife and her family on the farm while he lived with them.
During the farming season, Menggin observed that whenever Sengalang Burong slave met with an animal such as slow Loris (bengkang) or tarsier (ingkat) on the farm, they said that the animal was a slave of Raja Simpulang Gana, who had come to help them. When this happens, they stopped work for one day in honour of Raja Simpulang Gana, the deity of the earth and agriculture.
By this time, Sera Gunting was beginning to walk and talk. One day he climbed to his grandfather’s seat. Surprised, Sengalang Burong asked how he dared to come to his place. The boy replied that it was because he was his grandson and asked why he would not speak a word to him or to his father. Sengalang Burong took him in his arms, but would not admit hat the boy was his grandson. Sera Gunting told him that he really was his grandson, the son of his eldest daughter and Menggin.
The Trials of Sera Gunting by Sengalang Burong:
After Sera Gunting told Sengalang Burong that he was indeed his grandson, he could not believed his ears, even though he had grown to be very fond of the child. This bond had grown into special affection for the child as the child had kept him accompanied and happy through out their stay. But still he refused to believe Sea Gunting. He said to Sera Gunting, “If you are really my grandson, you will have no trouble with the various trials which I will ask you to perform.”
For the first trial, Sengalang Burong poured a potful of millet grain from his seat through the spaces in the floor to the ground below and asked Sera Gunting to pick them up. Sera Gunting went beneath the house and picked every single grain and took them back to his grandfather.
Still not satisfied with that, Sengalang Burong poured onto the ground a bottle full of kepayang oil and asked Sera Gunting to gather every drop of it again, filling the bottle to the brim. Sera Gunting went down as ordered by his grandfather and recovered all of the oil. He gave the bottle full of kepayang oil back to Sengalang Burong. Even with this, the old man would still not accept the boy as his grandson. So he sharpened a nyabor sword and place it on the ground with its sharp edges facing upward.
He ordered Sera Gunting to step and walked on the sharp edges of the sword. The boy jumped on it and walked unharmed to the amazement of the old man. But still the old man was not convinced by his feat, so he set up a final trial for the boy. This time he ordered Sera Gunting to climb a very tall tapang tree at midday to collect honeycomb from one of its branches. The boy climbed the tree and took the honeycomb as ordered. Even when he received the honeycomb brought back by Sera Gunting, Sengalang Burong still would not bring himself to believe that the boy was his grandson. Sera Gunting then decided punish the old man for his stubbornness. He summoned the bees down from the tapang tree and commanded them to attack and sting his grandfather.
The bees flew into the house and stung the old man. He ran to hide in his loft, but still the bees followed him there. After he had be stung thoroughly by the bees, and no where else to escape, Sengalang Burong decided give in to Sera Gunting and formally admitted that the boy was truly his grandson. At this submission, Sera Gunting happily commanded the bees to return to their hives on the branches of the tapang tree.
From that day onward, Sera Gunting dared to approach Sengalang Burong and talked to him as grandson and grandfather. There are definitely a lot of things the old man had wanted his grandson to learn, but he was still much too young for understand the ways of life. Unfortunately, some days later, a cannon fire was heard from a distance, marking the return of Ketupong from a trading expedition overseas. When they heard this, Dara Tinchin Temaga talked to Menggin and begged him and their son to return to their human world, as her true husband had returned home. She also told Menggin that they will never be able to meet again in his life time. She also told him that their son will be the only person from the human world to know the path to his grandfather longhouse.
Early next morning, before the arrival of Ketupong at their landing place, Menggin and Sera Gunting left Tansang Kenyalang. When they arrived home, they found that Remi and Sampar had been very worried about them because they had been missing for a very long time. They told them that they had been living in Sengalang Burong’s longhouse, the father of Dara Tinchin Temaga. When they heard of this strange country and people, Remi and Sampar were extremely happy for their son and grandson to be blessed with such a rare opportunity to live very close to God.
That night the whole household began to celebrate the return of Menggin and Sera Gunting, because they had thought that they were lost and had died. Almost every evening afterwards they gathered to hear the stories of their experience in the house of Sengalang Burong. They began to live their normal life in the world of human.
Sera Gunting Second Visit to Sengalang Burong Longhouse:
Soon Sera Gunting reached young manhood and learned to do various kind of man’s work. He also carries the burden of shouldering a title which was naturally being accorded to him as the grandson of God Sengalang Burong. Of course, he cannot perform the same feat in the human world as what he had easily done in the spiritual world. As time goes by, he found that in many ways he was unsuccessful in a lot of ventures that he pursued. Due to this, his fellow men began to criticize him and label him unworthy of being a grandson of Sengalang Burong.
As Sera Gunting pondered these criticisms, he began to believe that he had been unfortunate in all his ventures because he had not been given any charms by his grandfather, Sengalang Burong. One day he told his father, granduncle and grandmother that he wished to make another visit to Tansang Kenyalang and asked for those charms from his grandfather. Except for his father Menggin, who knew that only Sera Gunting can actually travel to Tansang Kenyalang from the human world, his grandfather Sampar and grandmother Remi, were reluctant to give their consent.
“There were a lot of strange things I observed during our first visit to your grandfather longhouse,” Menggin said in their family conversation that evening, “but I failed to ask for an explanation. This visit by Sera Gunting would be a good opportunity for him to learn directly from his grandfather all the knowledge he needed to be successful in life and to lead our people in this world. Don’t worry about us here as I can still look after your grandmother and support your granduncle.”
Hearing his father’s assurance and encouragement, Sera Gunting was very happy and made preparations to go for a long journey. His grandmother was still concerned about his safety in his journey and asked him to behave himself as he travel and lives with the people of Tansang Kenyalang.
In his travel, Sera Gunting met a spirit of a dead branch of a tree who asked him why he would not fall to the ground. Sera Gunting replied that he was on his way to visit his grandfather Sengalang Burong and would ask him for an answer to his question. He traveled on and came upon a payan bamboo spirit who complained to him that it cannot bear any shoot and would remained single forever. He told the payan bamboo spirit that he came to visit his grandfather Sengalang Burong and promised to seek for an answer to his plight. He journeyed on until he came to a huge lake. There he met the spirit of the lake who told him that it could not flow to the sea. Sera Gunting told spirit of the lake that he is on his way to his grandfather Sengalang Burong longhouse. He promised to seek an answer to his plight too.
From thence he walked again. Presently he met the spirit of a senior sister of the seven stars known as the Bunsu Bintang Banyak (Pleiades). She begged him to stay for a while. While there, she asked Sera Gunting the purpose of his travel. He said, “I am visiting my grandfather, Sengalang Burong”, he said, “to seek answers to my luckless life. When I farm, I am unable to obtain enough rice grain to feed myself, and when I go to an expedition, I never succeed in taking an enemy’s head. This has brought shame to me for I failed to live up to my name”.
Hearing his plight, the spirit of the Bunsu Bintang Banyak began to teach Sera Gunting how to observe the celestial sign and recognize the correct timing to start padi farming season. She taught Sera Gunting how to be guided by the location of the Pleiades stars as it travels in the sky. “If you see that our position is inside the centre of the sky in the early dawn, human must start sowing immediately. If you start later when we are located outside the central halo in the sky, your farm will not grow properly.” Sera Gunting was happy to have learned the star sign to guide their farming season and will bring this knowledge to humankind when he returned to earth.
Sera Gunting then came to a dwelling place of the spirit Bintang Tiga (The Orion). Sera Gunting stayed there for a while. In their conversation, Sera Gunting again told the Spirit of Bintang Tiga the purpose of his travel as he had done at Bunsu Bintang Banyak place. There the spirit of the Bintang Tiga told him that if humankind cannot follow the location of Bintang Banyak due to various reasons, they could still start their farming season when Bintang Tiga is at the central halo in the sky. This is because Bintang Tiga is always traveling fifteen days after Bintang Banyak. Sera Gunting was again very pleased with the knowledge imparted by the Bintang Tiga spirit to him.
From the place of Bintang Tiga, Sera Gunting traveled on until he reached the dwelling place of the spirit moon. During his short stay there, Sera Gunting similarly relate the purpose of his travel and what he had learned previously from other celestial spirits to the spirit of the moon. The spirit of the moon then gave Sera Gunting another piece of celestial advice that humankind must learn about the moon. He said, “The moon lived and die temporarily every month. If the moon dies during a start of your planting season, you must stop work for two days in honour of the moon’s death. But if it is full moon, you only need to stay away from work for one day only. This observance is known as pernama rerak rumpang. Should anyone not cease their work during these time, a member of their family will die, which is known as berumpang ruang bilik”. Due to this injunction, Iban to this day still observe these edicts.
After he had received these instructions from the spirit of the moon, Sera Gunting continued his journey towards Tansang Kenyalang, which is located in the dome of the sky. When he arrived at their landing place, he saw many people taking their bathe. He joined them and everyone gazed at him for they did not know where he had come from. After he had dressed himself up, he went up to the house. As he reached his grandfather’s gallery, he straight away went to embrace the old man who was sitting in his usual hanging seat. Surprised at this, Sengalang Burong furiously asked who this young stranger is, who dared to show such behavior in his house. Sera Gunting then told him that he was his grandson coming to pay him a visit. Sengalang Burong was very happy to have met Sera Gunting again as he had missed him so much after such a long period of time. Hearing this excitement from her room, his mother, Dara Tinchin Temaga, came out to meet him. She too felt happy to see him again as he had grown to be a handsome young man. She then made arrangement that Sera Gunting must stay with his grandfather and aunt Endu Chempaka Tempurong Alang, Sengalang Burong’s youngest daughter, who was then still unmarried. Sera Gunting begged his mother not to worry about him for he had come to acquire some knowledge from the old man.
Sengalang Burong grew to like Sera Gunting, and as he wished to have a very long personal conversation with him, they even ate their meal together all the time. In their private conversation, Sengalang Burong asked Sera Gunting what he intended to learn from him this time. Sera Gunting then related all his misfortunes and troubles he faced in the human world.
“Grandfather, if I joined a war expedition,” he said, “I’m unable to take an enemy head. During farming season, I failed to obtain enough rice grain to feed our family. Because of all these, I’m ridiculed by everyone. They say that I am your grandson for nothing. I am ashamed as I have not lived up to your name. It is my hope that this visit would enlighten me with all the knowledge I hope to learn so as to live a successful and respected life in human world”. He also told his grandfather about the plights of the dead branch, payan bamboo and the lake he encountered on his journey. In reply, Sengalang Burong explained to him their plights as follows:
1. The dead branch cannot fall to the ground because a huge jar is stuck beneath it. If this jar is removed, the dead branch will fall easily.
2. The payan bamboo cannot produce shoots because a large gong was placed above it. If this gong is removed, then it’s shoot can easily comes out.
3. The lake cannot flow down to the sea because its huge root is obstructing its mouth. If this root is cut away, then the water can easily flow down to the sea.
Having been told all these things, Sera Gunting then asked his grandfather for charms to ensure success in all his future undertakings. Sengalang Burong did not reply, but instead, asked Sera Gunting whether his people observed the calls of the omen birds. “If you never listen to the call of omen birds, no amount of charms will make your work prosper”, said Sengalang Burong, “and these omen birds are all my son-in-laws; Ketupong (Rufous Piculet), Bejampong (Crested Jay), Embuas (Banded Kingfisher), Pangkas (Maroon Woodpecker), Beragai (Scarlet-Rumped Trogon), Kelabu Papau (Diards Trogon), Burong Malam (literally means night bird but is actually a cricket) and Nendak (White-Rumped Shama).
Only when you draw water from the river (nyauk), you need not harkens to the omen birds – because the river will never dry up”, he said.
Then Sengalang Burong explains the system of augury to Sera Gunting. “Look!” said his grandfather, “that gallery on the right closest to mine belongs to your uncle Ketupong, the next belongs to your uncle Beragai and next is that of your uncle Pangkas. On my left side, closest to mine is the gallery of your uncle Bejampong, followed by your uncle Embuas and your uncle Kelabu Papau. Attached to Kelabu Papau’s apartment is your uncle Nendak’s dwelling place. The call of your uncle Nendak is not as effective as your other uncles. His call is only good as traveling omen and need not be observed unless this bird flies across the road”. Nendak is a poor client who lives in a room without a verandah attached to Kelabu Papau’s apartment.
“Before you start farming”, continued Sengalang Burong, “you must go out to seek a tambak burong. This is a twig or plant you plucked out with your hand the moment you hear the call of an omen bird. This plant is then brought to the land where you wish to farm that season to be used in a ritual like manggol”.
Sengalang Burong then relate the basic guidelines on how to apply omen birds in farming, as below:
1. When you start to farm, listen to the call of Ketupong, which must be followed by the call of Beragai. This omen foretells that you will obtain a plentiful harvest that farming season and great happiness will ensue.
2. If you start to farm with the call of Embuas and followed by Bejampong, it foretells that your farm that season will be undisturbed and its results plentiful.
3. If you start to farm with the call of Bejampong, it must be followed by the call of Embuas, it signifies that your farm will be properly burnt.
4. If you start to farm with a call of Ketupong and later followed by a call from Bejampong, it foretells a very bad luck for that season and it is called burong busong, as my son in laws have disrespectfully spoken across my gallery.
5. If you start to farm with a call of Beragai and later you hear a call from Bejampong, it also signifies bad luck as it brings sorrow to your family in that season.
6. If you start with a call of Embuas and later you hear a call of Pangkas, this is known as dua matahari (two suns), which means death will occur within the family.
7. If you start to farm with a call of Beragai, and later you hear a call of Kelabu Papau, it also signifies that death will soon come to your family.
8. After you have finished your work of ngundang panggol (visiting the offering made at the preliminary clearing stage of a farming season) you may hear a call of Kelabu Papau which signifies that evil spirit will not bring you bad luck; rather your farm will be safe from their attack.
9. Within the period of seven days during ngundang panggol, you must not hear the call of any omen birds, other than Nendak, which is not very harmful.
10. If during the nebas and nebang (clearing and felling) you hear or meet a mouse deer, barking deer, ingkat, bengkang or belengkiang (lizard), it means that the slaves of Simpulang Gana will assist you in your work.
11. Any animal seen approaching from the front, while a person is working his land is called a laba, which means good luck is coming. But if any animal approach from behind, it is known as burong nyubok and it brings bad omen most unexpectedly.
Sengalang Burong also told Sera Gunting that all omens observed during a farming season would also signify future success in war, marriages, obtaining wealth and reputation. He adjured Sera Gunting to remember all the auguries he had explained.
Sera Gunting Joins a War Expedition:
Sometime during his stay at Sengalang Burong’s longhouse, his uncle Ketupong held a meeting to plan a foray. After it had been agreed that an expedition would take place, Sengalang Burong told Sera Gunting to join his uncles in order to study the omens that warriors observed while on an expedition. In addition to that, Sengalang Burong lent Sera Gunting his own charms called Pengaroh Mali Balang Kayau, the most effective charms for a war expedition. Besides this, he also gave him a boar tusk charm (taring babi), a sugar cane shoot stone (batu tebu) and a deer horn (rajut tandok). Having equipped Sera Gunting with these charms, Sengalang Burong gave him his most ancient “nyabor” sword of which he said, “no one who has ever used this sword before has failed to obtain an enemy head”.
So with these charms, and his grandfather’s weapon, the young Sera Gunting joined his uncles to learn the proper conduct of a war expedition. A short time after they have left the house, he saw his uncle Beragai step off to the right side of the path, where he laughed and return. Responding to this, Ketupong commanded their warriors to halt and perform ngusok rituals (chewing betel nut). This omen is called sandik belantan chawit and signifies that enemies will be struck with a sword from the left hand side to the right hand side of the body similar to the manner fine clothes are worn over a left shoulder.
From there they walked rapidly until they reached a place where they would spend the first night of their expedition. This practiced is called langsi malam diau sahari, literally means “vigilant by night, silent by day”.
On the third day, they walked on again until they reached a place where they would spend the night and waited another two days to observe langsi dua hari. After the two days halt, Pangkas went to the right side of the path where he uttered a war cry. The warriors said that Pangkas is respecting the langsi. After he had shouted, the warriors were very happy as it signifies that their expedition would be a successful one. With this assurance, the warriors marched on rapidly to the enemy country.
Near the enemy country, Bejampong stepped to the left side of the path to give a war cry and returned to the main. Sera Gunting was told that this is a very good omen as it weakens the enemy.
They then continued their march into the enemy territory and at about noon, Embuas stepped to the left path and started to weep and returned to the main path again. Sera Gunting was again told that this is a very good omen as it signifies the weeping cry of the enemies over their dead warriors.
From there they journeyed again until Kelabu Papau jumped to the left side of the path and coughed and rejoined the warriors again. Sera Gunting was told that this omen signifies that the enemies would not be able to see them when they attacked, because Kelabu action would blind them, which is called madam ka suloh mata munsoh (literally means, switching off the visions of the enemies).
Early in the evening, they reached the enemy longhouse where they halted and observed their enemies until midnight. At midnight they moved in and surrounded the enemy longhouse. Finally, at dawn they attacked, while most of the inhabitants were still sleeping. Sera Gunting killed three enemies within a very short time. After the enemies had surrendered, the warriors looted the house and returned home victorious.
After Sera Gunting had returned from this successful expedition, Sengalang Burong told him that it was not necessary to teach him about the omens of war. “You have seen and learnt enough about these omens used in war expeditions,” he said. This war omens which Sera Gunting learned have been observed by successive generations of Dayak war leaders.
Sera Gunting learned the Incest Law:
During this second visit by Sera Gunting to his grandfather Sengalang Burong longhouse, he stayed with his grandfather and his youngest aunt, Endu Dara Chempaka Tempurong Alang, and not with his mother. As they were of the same age, they played, ate and worked together. Living in this manner, they began to have strong affection for each other and began to fall in love. Sengalang Burong warned them that, as they were aunt and nephew, they must not live as man and wife, which they appeared to be doing in the old man’s eyes and which they strongly denied. A month later, Endu Dara Chempaka Tempurong Alang was found to be pregnant which alarmed the whole of Sengalang Burong’s household.
On hearing this, Sengalang Burong summoned a large meeting in order to enquire into the case. At the meeting, he told those present that his daughter had conceived and that the man responsible was his grandson, Sera Gunting. He told his audience that this is a serious misconduct and strictly forbidden by the rule of Iban law called Pemali Ngudi Menoa.
He asked everyone’s opinion as to what would be a just decision. All present replied that it was for him to judge, because he had settled all similar matters in the past. Sengalang Burong said that according to the law, both transgressors should be put to death.
“But in this case”, he continued, “As Sera Gunting was a complete stranger to us, their lives may be spared. But the child to be born must be killed in order to wipe away the wrath (kudi) of God and the universal spirits.”
Sengalang Burong went on to explain the reason why we would not have them killed by “pantang enggau aur”, or impalement by bamboo spikes, which is the prescribed punishment. This was because, “if they were killed, Sera Gunting would not be able to pass on to mankind how a future crime of this kind should be settled.”
He then went on to explain the rules of incest and marriage as stated below:
First cousin is permitted to marry, and so are cousins of same generation. Besides father and daughter, nephew and aunt, niece and uncle, mother and son, brother and sister, grandchildren and in-laws, an incestuous relationship, which is totally forbidden, the following persons of different generations (see table below) are NOT permitted to marry unless they undergo the besapat ka ai and other related ceremonies depending on seriousness of the offence:
1. A and P are first cousin
2. B and Q are children of A and P
3. C and R are children of B and Q
4. D and S are children of C and R
5. E and T are children of S and S
6. F and U are children of E and T
If a man and woman in categories 1 and 2 wish to marry (e.g A marry Q or P marry B), they must each produce half of the following items:
1. Eight pigs of medium size
2. Eight nyabor sword
3. A fine of sigi rusa – equivalent to eight ringgit
4. Eight beads, axes, plates, bowl.
5. One woven blanket (pua kumbu)
6. One fathom of calico for a spiritual rail
7. Eight ranki (shell armlets)
8. One kebok (jar) known as a cage for the soul of the bride and bridegroom.
If the man and woman have lived together before paying the above fines due to poverty, they are not permitted to marry. But if they continue to live together, they will incur the penalty of death by bamboo spikes. If, however, the fines are subsequently paid, they must partake in a ceremony known as besapat ka ai, in which they are dipped in the river, which has been spilt with the blood of four of the eight pigs. These four pigs are killed immediately upstream from where the couple is dipped. The blood of the remaining four pigs is for pelasi menoa, purification of the land.
When a man and woman in categories 2 and 3 wish to marry (e.g. B marry R or Q marry C), they are ordered to produce one each of the items mentioned for categories 1 and 2 above. One of the pigs is to be killed as an offering to the water spirit (antu ai), while the other is to be killed on land as offering to the spirits of the earth, hills and sky. This ceremony is known as bekalih di darat.
When a man and woman in categories 3 and 4 wish to marry (i.e. C marry S or R marry D), they must produce one fowl and two knives. During the marriage ceremony, after the fowl is killed, the bride and her groom must bite a piece of iron to strengthen their souls.
When a man and woman in categories 4 and 5 wish to marry (i.e. D marry T or S marry E), each must bite a piece of salt during the ceremony to strengthen their soul.
For categories 5 and 6, the man and woman at their marriage must each fell a fruit tree in order to wipe away the bad fortune that might otherwise disturb their future lives.
For category 6, the child of a man or woman belonging to this category at the ceremony, both must have a fighting cock waved over their heads and bite a piece of steel to strengthen their souls. This is the least and the last of the taboos of incest for inter-generational marriage.
Sengalang Burong went on to warn Sera Gunting that if the incestuous persons are not dealt with according to these rules, very heavy rain will fall, the rivers flood, and pests will destroy the farms and plantation and landslides will occur.
Before he pronounced his final judgment on Sera Gunting and his aunt, Sengalang Burong ruled that no one should mention the proper names of his or her parents-in-law. “Anyone guilty of this,” he said, “will be cursed and be unfortunate in all his deeds, all the days of his life”.
After he had finished teaching Sera Gunting the laws of incest, Sengalang Burong demanded that the child born of Endu Dara Chempaka Tempurong Alang be killed at birth and that Sera Gunting must return to the world of men in order to tell his people what they should do in cases of incest. Sengalang Burong also told Sera Gunting about the various stages of the Gawai Burong festival which war leaders should hold in order to invite him and his people to attend.
Sera Gunting returned home shortly after this. On his journey home, he passed by the lake and cut its huge root which had prevented its’ water to flow to the sea. Then he passed by a payan bamboo and took a huge gong, which had prevented its shoot to grow. After that he passed by a dead branch and removes a large jar that had prevented it from falling to the ground. All these items he took back home with him.
When Sera Gunting arrived home, all were surprised to see him carrying laden with a jar and a gong. His family was very happy to see that he has returned home safely from Sengalang Burong longhouse. That night they summoned everyone to come to their gallery to hear what he had to tell them. After they had gathered together, he told them his journey to his grandfather longhouse, what he encountered and what he had learned from the Spirit of the Bintang Banyak (Pleiades), the spirit of the Bintang Tiga (The Orion) and the spirit of the moon. He also told them the commandment of his grandfather, the system of augury and omen birds used for farming and used in war expedition, the incest law and the procedure of conducting the bird festival.
After he finished propounding all the laws and regulations he had received from Sengalang Burong, he asked everyone present whether they accepted these commandment. Everyone all consented to live harmoniously under these laws. “If you agree to obey the laws of my grandfather, I will lead you accordingly,” said Sera Gunting.
Shortly after this, Sera Gunting married to his fourth cousin, Seri Ngiang, the daughter of Laja and Endu Tali Bunga. They begot a son they named Sera Kempat.
Soon after the birth of his son, Sera Gunting celebrated the first stage of Gawai Burong, or Bird Festival, called Enchaboh Arong. Enchaboh arong is an initial festival used by Iban to celebrate the newly acquired head trophies, the spoils of wars or profits from business ventures. As the years went on, he celebrated various stages of the Bird Festival. The detail articles of the Iban Bird Festival Procedures are written separately in an article named Gawai Burong and Pengap Gawai Burong.
Sera Gunting became the most notable leader of Iban adat, religious practices, pioneering and migration activities. After celebrating the last stage of Gawai Burong, the Gerasi Papa stage, the house in which the feast was held must be abandoned after the festival is over and before the leaves decorations used in the festival had withered. The reason for this was for fear of evil spirit which might haunt the soul of the living. For this reason, this last stage of Gawai Burong must be held in an old longhouse. The statue of the Gerasi papa demon must be removed from the open air verandah to the ground immediately after the feast is over. Failure to do so, will results in a massacre of the inhabitants by the Gerasi Papa demon.
Sera Gunting began to lead his followers to migrate to the Batang Lupar territory. He left Merakai and build his commanding longhouse on the spine of Tiang Laju mountain, between the head waters of Undup and Kumpang rivers, a few miles south of present-day Engkelili town. Sera Gunting died here in the ripeness of old age and was succeeded as chief by his son Sera Kempat.
Menggin Meets the Antu Gayu:
While his son Sera Gunting was away at Sengalang Burong’s house, Menggin often went to hunt in the forest, with his favorite blow pipe. There were many things in his mind as he set out on his hunting trip. He would be more cautious about the birds he would shoot down learning from his past adventure. He was also thinking about his son’s journey to his grandfather house. He knows he well looked after there for he had seen their affection for each other when they there before. He was also thinking if he would live long enough to see his son’s return and to be able to know what’s their future would be. He also ponders if he would ever meet his lovely wife again in his life time. He never wished to remarry after his separation with Dara Tinchin Temaga. A hunting trip would give him a chance to escape daily life activity and allows him to ponder the uncertainties in his life. His only companion was his favorite blow pipe he had used when he first met his wife a very long time ago. He would always ask his blow pipe, “What would you bring me today. I wish it’s something for my worried mind.”
One day, as he was searching for game in the forest he met a man who, like himself, was armed with a blow pipe. In the course of their conversation, each man claimed to be more skilled with his blowpipe than the other. After a vehement argument, they agreed to settle their argument with a blow pipe shooting contest, in which each person would shoot seven darts each onto a nearby rock. Whoever failed to make his dart penetrate and stick onto the rock was to be killed by the winner.
Menggin was extremely worried least he should be the loser. As they were preparing to shoot, he noticed a pudu tree a few yards away, and there upon asked his opponent to wait while he eased himself nearby to urinate. He approached the foot of the pudu tree and secretly pricked its bark with the end of his dart to let the latex out. He then applied the latex from the tree to all the points of each of his seven darts. He then rejoined his opponent to start the contest. They both shot at the rock and all Menggin’s seven darts stuck to the stone while his opponent’s dart fell to the ground. Seeing that none of his opponent’s dart stuck to the stone, Menggin drew out his knife to kill the stranger as they had agreed earlier. The stranger at once protested as he had taken the agreement as a joke.
He was kneeling on the ground to beg Menggin to spare his life in exchange for valuable jars and brass gongs. Menggin then asked the stranger what his name was. He told Menggin that he is the spirit of longevity, Antu Gayu. On hearing this, Menggin said that he would only spare the stranger his life if he would give him his prized possession, a charm that possessed the power of longevity. The stranger at first protested that he does not possess such a charm, but Menggin threatened to kill the stranger first and search his belonging later. Hearing this, the stranger finally agreed to hand over his prized possession to him to save his own life. The stranger then told Menggin that the charm is called ubat buah dilah tanah, literally means a “charm of the fruit of the land tongue”.
After receiving the charm, which was as big as a hen’s egg, Menggin tasted it and found that it was very bitter, so he spat it out. He tasted it for the second time, and found it to be very sweet and spat it out again. The third time he tasted it, he found the taste to be sour. The stranger then told Menggin that as long as he never reveals to anybody the reason for his longevity, he will never die. The Antu Gayu then disappeared into the forest with his blowpipe.
Menggin continued his hunt for game in the forest to be brought home with his favorite blowpipe. He knows very well that he will still be alive to see his son’s return from the house of Sengalang Burong. His favorite blowpipe will always be with him as long as he lives.
Menggin lived to such a great age that span seven generations. Every generation consistently asked him the reason for his longevity, but he refused to satisfy their curiosity. Finally, he told them the story. As he spoke, he grew weaker and weaker, appeared to be aging quickly and his body became smaller and smaller. Before he disappeared, he decreed that when he died, no mourning period need to be observed for anybody who lived exceeding fourth generations of living descendant. The stone which the Antu Gayu gave to Menggin is still in the possession of Santap’s grand-children in Bugau territory to this day. At the time of his death, Menggin was living with Berdai family, the wife of another famous Iban Chief and War leader named Betie “Bujang Brauh Gumbang”.
The arrival of the Orang Panggau and Orang Gelong:
The orang Panggau and Gelong were believed to have been coming from the island of Java. The island of Java had seen the expansion and development of three major religious empires; the Buddhist, Hindu and Islamic Empire. It is only natural that the social, cultural and religious development of the Javanese people had been very much influenced by this religious diversity. They were more organized, civilized, cultured and their way of life was more structured than the other indigenous people in Borneo at that time. It is no wonder that they were well known for their weaving skill and the very fine materials they used in weaving clothes. They have the appreciation of materials wealth like owning brassware and jars as a symbol of social status and wealth. They were more advance in iron work compared to other Dayak group in the area. They have a proper social structure, a council of elders for decision making body, code of conduct and many more attributes which is not found in other Dayak group. They came under the leadership of their chief named Tambai Ciri Aka’ Ati Nabau Besirang. He was the father of Apai Sabit Bekait, the hereditary leader of the orang Panggau. They migrated eventually to Kalimantan Borneo, possibly to escape persecution by Muslim rulers, towards the end of Majapahit era. There they started living together with other Sea Dayak group who was under the leadership of Telichai, a descendant of Bejie. They settled first at Semitau Tuai on the banks of Kapuas river. Much later, they moved further upriver to a place called Semitau Lempa where they lived for many decades. Eventually, as their number multiplied, they migrated to a place called Tampun Juak. Many fruit trees that they planted at this site are said to be still growing there to this day.
While they lived at Tampun Juak, the Dayak people suffered many misfortunes. First, they were disturbed by the magical appearance of large quantities of dung or excrement which scattered everywhere in the country. This caused disease to spread amongst the Dayak population, from which many died. Those who survived the epidemic were largely the hero people of Panggau Libau and Gelong, who know how to look after their hygiene and health better than other Dayak group in their time.
Shortly after this disaster, other strange things happened. A great number of tortoises came out of the water and attacked the Dayak people, killing a great many of them. Some months later, many kenyulong or garfish shoot out of the water and attacked the Dayak people, again killing many people.
Shortly after these strange attacks, some of the inhabitants of Tampun Juak were killed by sharp needles (duri /thorn /jarum). No one knew where these needles came from. They could only guess that they must have been thrown by God to kill human beings. As a result of all these troubles (penusah tu), the chiefs Keling and Tutong led a further migration to Nanga Sekapat, a true left tributary of the Kapuas River.
The People of Tansang Kenyalang:
Another group that arrived in Kalimantan during the period was the Raja Durong’s group. They too were thought to have escaped persecution in the hand of Muslim rulers at the end of Majapahit era. They migrated from Sumatra, bringing along with them the Hindu tradition practiced during the Majapahit era, like religion and method of worshiping, agricultural knowledge and methodology, shamanism, the conduct of war, established social order, council of elders for major decision making body, all of which were later adopted and followed by the Iban people of Borneo. These traditions are still being practiced in the Iban Gawai Burong and some other rituals today.
Raja Durong married to Endu Cherembang Chermin Bintang and begot a son named Raja Jembu. Raja Jembu was married to Endu Endat Baku Kansat and begot seven children. Sengalang Burong was the eldest son of Raja Jembu and Endu Endat Baku Kansat.
This group settled at a place called Nanga Nuyan, which was soon became the centre and melting pot of all major Dayak Iban group, including the orang Panggau Libau, Gelong and the Bejie groups. Social, political and economic interaction occurred and their population multiplied quickly. With large population, conflicts and divisions began to appear in an egalitarian society which led to splits, power struggle, enmity, war and further migrations. One such enmity was between Sengalang Burong, the hereditary chief of Raja Durong’s group, and a legendary demon named Nising or Beduru. It ended in a war where the “demon” Nising was slain and his people defeated. This saga-epic (ensera) is always mentioned and narrated in the chants by the bards during the grand Gawai Burong festival.
After the war, Sengalang Burong then moved to Bukit Tutop where he died of old age. He left behind a legacy of a system of augury, bird festival procedure and instituting the incest law to the Iban people, through his grandson, Sera Gunting. From Tutop Hill his followers migrated to a place called Tansang Kenyalang, a heavenly place located at the dome of the sky. He was regarded as the God of War and is still worshiped by the traditional Ibans to this day.
Detail articles on Sengalang Burong have been written in two books called Raja Durong and Gawai Burong by Benedict Sandin.
Power Struggle in Panggau Libau:
Before Keling became the leader of the Panggau Libau people, his father Si Gundi, the eldest son of Telichai and Dayang Sia Bunsu Kamba, a descendent of Bejie, left his family to marry a Panggau Libau damsel named Laing. Laing was the eldest sister of Sinja (mother of Laja), Nawin (mother of Sempurai), Sinjong (mother of Tutong – chief of Gelong clan), Apai Sabit Bekait and Ribai. They were the most powerful and influential family in the Panggau Libau clan. The Panggau Libau and the Gelong clan were considered semi-god by other people as they were the only people who survived the supernatural disaster and diseases that killed many Dayak people during that time.
Si Gundi, being the eldest son of Telichu, is considered half-man and half-demon and the only person brave enough to win the heart of a Panggau Libau damsel. Being the eldest son, he has the leadership quality and trait to win the love, respect and most of all, acceptance by the Panggau Libau people to be their leader, especially his brother-in-laws, Ensing Gima (father of Laja), Si Ganti (father of Sempurai) and Beddang (father of Tutong and Kumang). Soon, Si Gundi was appointed leader of the Panggau Libau people by the council of elders. This, naturally, create jealousy and enmity between Si Gundi and his brothers-in-law, Apai Sabit Bekait, who was the original hereditary leader of Panggau Libau clan and his brother Ribai. As the leadership struggle between the two groups worsened, a war broke out within the clan. Apai Sabit Bekait and his followers attacked and destroyed Si Gundi’s longhouse at Lembang Muang. Si Gundi and Ensing Gima were both killed defending their longhouse, while Beddang was captured by Apai Sabit Bekait’s trusted warrior named Tedang during the raid. For this reason, Apai Sabit Bekait and his followers became the principal enemies of the Panggau People. Ribai and his followers, not wanting to be involved directly in the internal conflict, migrated across the sea. Keling, Laja, Sempurai and Pungga were all away traveling abroad during this time, seeking knowledge and life experience. Many saga-epic (ensera) story of Keling’s adventure were told in many Iban literature and songs. After the attack on Si Gundi’s longhouse, Apai Sabit Bekait quickly escaped to the spiritual world in the sky, between heaven and earth, where he built a strong and tight fortress to prevent any retaliation by Keling and his followers from Panggau Libau and Gelong.
On his return from overseas adventures, Keling was immediately appointed the leader of Panggau Libau people, replacing his father. He immediately organized his people to migrate to the spiritual world in order to keep track of Apai Sabit Bekait whereabouts and to exert revenge upon them. But before they left the human world, he taught his uncles and cousins of the human world how to play the percussion gendang rayah music on gongs and drums so that, even after their separation, humankind might continue to summon these spiritual heroes to this world, should they seek assistance from them or inviting them to celebrate the cycle of Gawai festivals. In the course of these rituals, the Orang Panggau act as the ritual hosts and attendants, sending out invitations and receiving the gods on behalf of their human host.
Keling and Laja were the best known of the Panggau-Gelong heroes. Laja is the principal companion of Keling as well as his second-in-command. His chief task among the heroes is to smoke the trophy heads (nyampu antu pala) which they bring back from the battlefield. The other principal warriors under Keling command were Sempurai and Pungga. By some account Sempurai was said to be of demon ancestry, a descendant of Telichu, hence his violent temper and unpredictable nature. Some tales said that he was the son of the most dreaded demon named Beduru or Nising (an arch enemy of Sengalang Burong – an Iban God of War). He was captured when he was still a baby, in an epic battle led by Sengalang Burong himself, and was adopted by Si Ganti also known as Ngingit Lemai. His adopted mother, Nawin, is a younger sister of Keling’s mother.
By some other account, another reason that the orang Panggau and Gelong should leave the human world was to avoid destructive conflict with human kind due to violent behavior of Sempurai. This violent behavior has no match in the human world as he and the Panggau Libau people have the super human magical power and capabilities. As such, they could no longer live side by side with each other.
After they had become well established in Nanga Sekapat settlement, Sempurai, whose honorific name (julok) was “Bunga Nuing”, became very violent. Sempurai was a trusted warrior, the first cousin of Keling. If he played games with children, he threw them in the air so that they landed far from the play ground. If he happens to pass by a group of damsel, he openly pinched their breasts. If he met a pregnant woman, he would kick her womb. After some time, Sempurai’s bad character was reported to Keling and Laja. They scolded him and told him to curb his aggressiveness. This makes Sempurai’s behavior even more violent. He argued and eventually quarreled openly with his cousin Laja. Laja is also Keling’s first cousin, his most trusted warrior and his second-in-command. He was the son of Ensing Gima who was killed together with Keling’s father in a war with Keling’s uncle and arch enemy, Apai Sabit Bekait. His mother, Sinja, is a younger sister of Keling’s mother.
One day, Sempurai and Laja quarreled from morning till dusk. During their argument, a precious charm belonging to Laja was split from the phial (a small glass bottle for keeping liquid medicine) in which it was kept. This caused a damsel named Kelinah or Indai Abang, to become very annoyed. She felt that it was not fitting for men of such status as Sempurai and Laja to show such a bad example to others in the village. She suggested that they must be separated and live elsewhere in order that the people of Nanga Sekapat settlement might no longer be made to fear and witness their fierceness. When Keling heard this, he at once led the migration of his Panggau Libau followers, taking the Batang Panggau Libau river with them into the spiritual world. He replaced the Panggau Libau river with a new one, known as Batang Ketungau, now situated in Northwest Kalimantan border.
Seeing that Keling and his followers had migrated, Tutong also led a migration of his Gelong people and followed Keling and the people of Panggau Libau to a spiritual world as he would not want to be left behind when the Panggau people attack Apai Sabit Bekait. Tutong also would not want to be left behind to rescue his father Beddang, who was captured by Apai Sabit Bekait’s trusted warrior, Tedang. Tutong’s sister, Kumang, had also pledge that she would marry anyone who rescue her father from captivity. Tutong similarly took along with them the Batang Gelong river. In their haste to follow Keling and his people, he forgot to bring along a very high hill called Bukit Gelong which is still located in the upper region of the Ketungau River and can clearly be seen from the Kalingkang range on the modern political boundary of Sarawak and Indonesian Kalimantan.
After the spirit heroes has separated from the humankind, the Dayak people began to re-organize ourselves under the leadership of the following men: Bui Nasi, Putong Kempat, Litan Lengan, Pulang Belawan, Bejit Manai and Retak Dai (father of Sarapoh). They moved from Nanga Sekapat to Lempa Entaya, where they built a number of longhouses. After they had lived at Lempa Entaya for a number of decades, they migrated to a placed called Sungkong. There they became more developed that their forefathers and progressed in many fields like arts, crafts, medicine, basic tools and utensils. They also increased greatly in numbers.
The Iban and The Spirit Tiger:
One day, an incident happens to a man from Sungkong, which would lead to a better understanding with nature and the development of poison as tools for hunting. While the children were playing and roaming over the ground around the village, a girl was caught and carried off by an unknown kind of animal. This incident troubled the Dayaks as non of them dared to pursue and kill the animal that had carried off the girl.
Next day, moved by sorrow for his missing daughter, the girl’s father went into the forest to track down the animal that had carried his daughter by following drops of blood left by his lost child. He brought along an ipoh plant poison with him. Ipoh latex is extracted from an upas tree and is usd by the Ibans to poison the tips of blowpipe darts. The trail of blood finally led to the mouth of a small cave. Standing there, he wondered how he was to get into a very narrow passageway. Finally, he crept in and moved painfully until he reached the other end of the tunnel where it came out into an open space. There he saw an open pathway which he followed until he reached a longhouse. In order not to be seen, he hid himself in the bushes in the bushes near the path waiting for nightfall. From his hiding place, he observed that the resident there behaved in a human like manner even though their appearances were like tigers.
After dusk, he crept slowly and carefully beneath the longhouse and hid inside a chicken coop. As he sat there, he overheard the conversation of a group of youth in the longhouse. They said that they would go again the next day to hunt the children of men.
“We need not worry,” they said. “Men can never find our whereabouts as they will never be able to come to our settlement”.
An old man spoke in reply, “You must not kill the children of men again. Be satisfied with the one you have slain”. He warned them further, “if you slay their children again, you will be made to account for your sin.”
The group of young men then argued with the old man. They said, “We still want to slay a man’s child again, for we are sure that they have no means to take revenge on us. Even if they happen to see us, we can easily flee away from one mountain to another. We are sure that men cannot chase after us, who are as fast as lightning in the forest.”
“You must not do it again,” insisted an old man, “for both human and us lived by the mercy of God. Perhaps they cannot harm us with their knives and spears, but we cannot escape death if they kill us with poisons which grow in a far away place as the upper Kembayan River.”
The young men replied, “We are much stronger than men, yet we cannot get this plant which grows on the steep hill at the source of Kembayan river.”
“You must not think that way,” warned the old man. “You cannot predict what will happen to you if you disobey what I said.”
The young men then laughed cynically and said, “if men can bring the ipoh poison to us here, it would be a very valuable present”. The old man stopped arguing with them, so they dispersed and went to bed.
At dawn, the men who had hidden in the chicken coop, took out the ipoh poison he had brought with him. He wiped it along the gallery of the longhouse and over anything that might be touched by hand. As daylight broke, the old man who had seen the soul of man through his batu ilau (magic crystal), shouted to all the people in the longhouse and warned them of the unavoidable death. Batu ilau and batu Karas (translucent stone) are used by Iban shamans (manang) to detect the conditions and whereabouts of the human soul (samengat).
“Now, where are all of you who have claimed to be brave? Come out and face death!!!”
But none of the young men could rise up as they were already dead caused by the ipoh poison placed by the man who had sought revenge for the death of his daughter.
After all the young people in the longhouse had died, the old man spoke to a pregnant woman who was the only other survivor. “Now all the young people of this longhouse have been killed by human poison except for you. In the future, if the children of me who do not first do wrong to us, we must not hurt them. You see what has happened to us because we had killed them first. All of our people had been killed in revenge”. After he had finished speaking these words, the old man committed suicide by touching the poison that had killed the young men. After all the tigers had been killed, except for the one who was pregnant, the man whose daughter had been killed by the tigers, returned home. The pregnant tiger gave birth to the last tiger found in Borneo and had lived a very solitary life. He is known as “Bujang Lembau” (literally meant “Reluctant Bachelor”) or “Bunsu Remaung” and was believed to have lived in the spiritual world amongst the spiritual heroes. He was also known to be a guardian spirit for some past Iban warriors.
The Land Dayak Separated From The Sea Dayak:
After these events, the Dayaks of Sungkong multiplied greatly. Due to their numbers, an urgent meeting was called by their leaders and it was agreed that they should divide into two groups. One group should migrate to Sungai Beduai and the other to Sungai Kembayan. But as they would leave their villages on different days, whoever arrived at Nanga Beduai first must erect a tall sign or marker to tell the others the direction they had taken.
A short while later, when the first group had reached Nanga Beduai, they erected a marker-sign pointing up-river and stayed there for a night. That evening a man had caught a huge snake which they cooked and eaten for food. Later that night, a heavy rain fell and the river rose in flood, which turned the marker-sign to point downriver. The next day the first group continues to move upriver as planned and forgot the marker-sign as it was still under water submerged by the flood water. Several weeks later, the second group arrived at Nanga Beduai. When they looked for the marker-sign, they found that it was pointing downriver which they unsuspectingly followed and believed to be the true direction that the first group had taken.
Because of this incident, the group that had gone upriver became Land Dayaks and the group that went downriver from Nanga Beduai, became the Sea Dayak. However, some studies suggest this separation came as early as their migration at the mouth of the Kapuas River.
The Sea Dayaks paddled down the Kembayan River to its mouth at the main Kapuas river. From there they went up the Kapuas River and enter the Labuyan River. There they settled at a place called Panchor Aji and another place they called Tapang Punti. At these two settlements, the Sea Dayaks felled the jungle and cleared land for planting rice and other crops. They lived there for many decades and some of them began to subdivide from one another and migrated elsewhere while many others remain settled there permanently. Those who migrated continued up the Labuyan river and on to Emperan to settle at Batang Embaloh. Other entered Sarawak via the Undup and Kumpang river.
Early Migrations Westward:
The Remun Dayak Migrated To the Sadong.
One of the earliest Iban groups to move into Sarawak was the Remun, who now lived east of Serian town along the upper Sadong River in the First division.
The Remun went up the Labuyan River on their way to the upper Batang Ai. They settled at Lubang Baya and at Tapang Peraja. After they had lived there for many years, they became restless and went down the Batang Ai until they reached Temudok hill, a few miles southeast of present Simanggang town. They lived at Temudok hill for many years led by their chiefs named Engkabi, Kekai, Bah and Banteh. They later migrated westward and those who were left behind became the peoples of Undup, Dau and Balau.
In their search for new territory, the Remun people walked along the foot of Kalingkang range for about 60 miles, until they came to a place they named Sungai Krang, a true left tributary of the Sungai Sadong, located in First Division, Sarawak. From the Sungai Krang settlement, Bah, Bateh and their followers split from the main group and moved to a place called Melikin. There they built a longhouse near a fruit groove known as Tembawai Munggang. On this fruit grove, they discovered an abundance of huge durian fruits so big that its skin could be used as a boat by their children. When the fruits fell at night, it would be a heavy task to dig them out of the ground due to their size and weight. If someone found the fruit, he simply blacken it with smoke from his torch, to mark his claim before coming back to dig it up.
After Bah and Bateh’s group had lived in Melikin for some years, their friends, Kekai and Engkabi and their followers, who they had parted with at the foot of Kalingkang range, joined them. When they arrived, they were invited by Bah and Banteh to live with them at Tembawai Munggang, which they did.
During one of the fruit seasons, the children of the first-comers were cheated by the children of the newcomers when they went to collect durian fruit. On hearing this, their parents were angered and cursed the children of the newcomers. This put strain in the relationship of the two groups and the council of elders decided that they should live separately from each other. Before that, Kekai and Engkabi decided to scout for suitable place to settle down. On their way to reconnoiter, they came to Nanga Kedup where they met Damu and Panjang, two men who lived by trapping animals and both were the followers of Bah and Banteh. Kekai and Engkabi asked them if anyone had ventured beyond that part of the country before. Damu and Panjang told them that no one had traveled into that part of Sadong before.
Leaving behind the trappers, they walked towards Bukit Semuja. When they reached Semuja hill, they heard the sound of waterfall. This waterfall, later known as Panchor Asu, is located in the upper Remun stream. Then they climbed up Remun hill and proceed to a grove known as Salapak, where fruit trees grown in abundance. Among the numerous fruit trees, they found a certain durian tree which bore fruits with skins of thirty different colours. After they had rested for a while, they began to clear the undergrowth around the base of these trees and at the same time claimed them as their everlasting possession.
After they had cleared the undergrowth, they decided that they would settle permanently at the place. The scouting group then returned homeward to Tembawai Munggang. As they passed by the Panchor Asu waterfall on their homeward journey, they stopped by and cut many pieces of light pundang tree so that its chips would drift along the stream and they could find out where its mouth was located. Having done this, they let drift along the same stream, a very precious knife, the handle which was inlaid with gold.
A few days after they had returned to their longhouse at Tembawai Munggang, they held a meeting and informed their followers and friends that they now wished to move to another place not very far away.
Some days later, when all the preparations were finished, Kekai and Engkabi led their followers by boat to the new land. They proceeded down the Melikin and Krang streams. As they reached Nanga Engkuan, they found a few pieces of pundang tree chips that had drifted downriver. On seeing this, they went up the Engkuan stream until they reach Nanga Remun. As they reached the Nanga Remun, they saw that a creeper, which was lying across the stream, was shaking in the flowing water. As they looked at the shaking creeper, one of them saw that their precious knife with gold inlaid handle was caught in it. Engkabi and Kekai were very happy as this confirmed that they have come up the right stream.
As they paddled up the Remun stream, they found more pieces of pundang wood. They continue to track them until they reached the landing place at the foot of the Remun hill where they halted. As they rested there, they heard the sound of a bird on the tree top, saying: “Remun, Remun, Remun”. When the children heard this, they scared the bird away. It flew away, but returned to the same spot again on top of the tree shortly afterwards. It was for the call of the this bird that the stream and the hill was named Sungai Remun and Bukit Remun respectively. Ultimately, they called themselves Dayak Remun to this day. Even the type of tree on which the bird perched was called Remun tree. From this place, the Remun Dayak walked to the spot that the reconnoitering party had identified for their longhouse site and built their longhouse there.
After having lived for some years at that place, Kekai and Engkabi journeyed in the direction of the Samarahan area to examine the land. After returning from this trip, Kekai died on the top of Kekai hill and was buried there. Subsequently, the hill was named after him in his honour.
As the Remun Dayak had already owned this land, the Bukar Land Dayaks, whenever they wanted to make use of the land, had first to ask the Remun Dayak Chiefs permission. This custom continued for quite sometimes until the times of Orang Kaya Baga.
Some years after the death of Kekai, Bah and Banteh migrated with their followers from Tembawai Munggang to a place called Salapak, where they lived together with Engkabi. Years later, they moved down the Sadong to look for new country to occupy. At the end of this journey, they settled at a place called Ensika. Some took their followers to live at Tebelu, an area between the mouth of Sadong and the Batang Lupar Rivers. After they had lived at Tebelu for some time, many of them returned to settle along the Batang Sadong. Those who settled permanently at Tebelu married with Sebuyaus and became Sebuyau Dayaks.
Those who left Ensika once again migrated with some who had returned from Tebelu up the Sadong. For some years, they lived at Sejanggil and Empadai, above the modern town of Simunjan. It was from these places that they moved upriver and settled again around Remun hill.
Story Of Remun Chief Named Numpi:
One famous Remun Iban Chief named Numpi, was one person who settled permanently at Tebelu. He owned 30 slaves, who worked for him when he was left an orphan after his parent died while he was still very young. Only two of these slaves were good to him, while the rest plotted to kill him as his parents had been cruel to them.
One day, when Numpi’s two favorite slaves went out to fish for him, the rest of the slaves held a secret meeting to discuss ways of killing the boy. They decided to do it during the burning season of the padi planting cycle. Eventually, when the burning season came, they took Numpi with them to the farm. At the same time, they had requested Numpi’s two favorite slaves to go out fishing at the nearby river. As they reached the farm, they quickly placed Numpi in the middle of the farm near the foot of an ijok palm. The set the field on fire and ran to the edge of the farm to stay away a safe distance from the raging fire that burn the dry trees and bushes they cut earlier. The burning fire created a strong wind, which make the Ijok palm leaves to swing violently, splashing water from the nearby pool into Numpi’s tiny body, which saved him from being burnt or hurt by the flames and heat.
The ijok palm (Arenga pinnata) is a plant capable of yielding a small amount of edible flour (tepong mulong). Its trunk is covered with a coarse hair-like fiber (bulu) which serves as a valuable source of cordage, particularly for rope making. This useful palm also yields sugar and occasionally toddy (tuak ijok).
At the river side, while casting their net, the two loyal slaves saw a thick smoke in the direction of their farm from their boat. Sensing something wrong, they rushed home and found Numpi was not there. Worried about his safety in the hands of the other slaves who dislike their young master, the two loyal slaves immediately rushed to their farm. When they reached the paddy field, they found that the fire had already burned itself out. They also notice that Numpi was not together with them at their temporary hut on the edge of the field. They began to search for Numpi while mentioning that they would kill the other slaves personally if Numpi is found dead. Fearing for their lives, the other slaves left the field immediately while the two loyal slaves searched for their master.
As the two men searched for the child at the centre of the burnt out field, they heard a faint weeping sound of their master. Thus they knew that their master is still alive. When they saw him, they found that he had been miraculously cooled by the water splashed by the ijok palm leaves. Seeing the miracle, the two slaves made a vow, “since this ijok palm has saved our master, the people of our race must no longer eats its shoot, forever and ever”. It was and is because of this that the Remun Dayak does not eat the shoot of the ijok palm even to this very day. It is thought that anyone who eats it by mistake will be afflicted with boils (pisa).
The two slaves took their young master back to the house where they scented him with perfumed mambong leaves and the bark of the lukai tree in order to restore his health. They also urged him, when he was grown up, to kill all the disloyal slaves who had plotted to kill him. These words were overheard by some of the slaves, who still live close by, and they held an urgent meeting. Desiring to escape from their master’s retaliation, they secretly fled to the Batang Ai, Skrang and Saribas Rivers.
Mambong plant (blumea balsamifera) is a flowering shrub; commonly grow on newly abandoned farms (jerami). It is an important ritual and medicinal plant. Dried mambong leaves are burned, particularly at sunset, to repel malevolent spirits. Lukai is a small tree and its dried bark is also burnt to drive away both spirits and insect.
When Numpi had grown up, the two slaves had died of old age. So he lived alone and became very sad. There were a lot of other people living up and the Sadong River not very far from him, but as a man of very high rank, he felt ashamed of leaving his house and lived with them. Due to his loneliness, one day he decided to leave his house and settled on the sea coast. Here he lived by fishing. One day, while fishing, his net caught a bamboo. After he took the bamboo out of his net, he threw it back to the sea again. He paddled to another spot to cast his net. This time his net caught the bamboo again. He threw the bamboo back into the sea again and paddled to another spot to cast his net. At the new spot, he cast his net again. When he drew it out of the water, it has again caught a bamboo piece again. Seeing this repeated occurrence, he became puzzled and he decided to place a mark on the bamboo before he threw the bamboo piece towards the shore.
He paddled to another spot where he cast his net for the fourth time. This time it again caught on something. As he drew it up, he was surprised to see the same bamboo get caught in his net. This time, he placed it on his canoe. Numpi continued to fish and after some time, he caught enough fish for his food. As he reached his landing place, he brought the fish and bamboo to his house. As he carried the bamboo to his house, he heard strange noise coming from inside the bamboo node. At his home, he carefully split open the bamboo and found an egg inside. He placed the egg on a chupai basket and took it inside his room. He then went outside to dress himself on the gallery.
After he had dressed, he again heard a noise in the room, which he completely ignored. Shortly afterwards as he was looking towards the room, he saw a lovely young lady cleaning the fish which he had left in the basket. He thought to himself, “Maybe the egg has miraculously turned into this woman”.
Numpi then went back to the room. Before he could ask a question, the lady spoke to him. “Numpi, I have been asked by my brothers and sisters to follow you, in order to marry you, if you agree to become my husband”.
“Of course I want to marry you, if you agree and your family gives their consent”, replied Numpi.
The lady then told Numpi that she had tried many times to come to him when he fished in the sea. “It was I who was caught by your net in the sea. My name is Rambia Bunsu Betong. If you threw me away as you had so often done, my brothers and sisters might not agree to my marriage with you.”
They were married that evening and after a year had passed, they begot a son who they named Maar.
Eventually, when the child was growing into boyhood, his mother told Numpi that she must return to her spiritual world and could no longer live as husband and wife. However, she advised Numpi not to worry about the divorce as she promised to give Numpi another woman for his wife. After she had finished spoken, she disappeared from the sight of Numpi and their son.
One day, Numpi went out fishing in the sea again. This time he caught a huge patin catfish. He then started off to take his catch back to his home. As he paddled homeward, he happened to pass by a Sebuyau Dayak longhouse where a feast was being celebrated. When some of these people saw Numpi, they begged him to join them. He, at first refused their invitation as he is in a hurry to bring back the fish he had caught to his son at home. The Sebuyaus urged him to come in for a short time in order to taste their tuak (rice wine) and the delicious food they had prepared. On hearing this, and knowing that it is a taboo (puni) to refuse an invitation to taste the food, Numpi went up to the longhouse after securing his boat on their landing place. At the longhouse, he was served food and drinks by the host and joined in their merry makings. Very soon afterward, he began to forget about the patin fish he had left on the boat. Quite sometime later, when he remembers about the fish he left on the boat, he asked a boy to fetch it from his boat to be cooked for the feast. The boy then went out to fetch the fish from the boat and saw a young lady sitting there. When the boy asked the lady for the fish, she ignored him completely. Seeing this, the boy returned to the house and told Numpi what happens and what he saw on the boat.
On hearing the boy’s story, Numpi became suspicious and returned instantly to his boat at the landing place. As soon as he reached the landing place, he saw a beautiful lady sitting inside the boat. He quietly untie the boat and paddled away, too shy to speak to the young lady at the time.
As Numpi paddled the boat, the lady spoke to him. She said, “You are a strange man, Numpi. Why should you leave your son alone at home without anyone to look after him?” Numpi then guiltily asked the lady where she had come from. The lady told him that she was the patin fish that he had caught and her name is Rambia Bunsu Patin. Knowing that she was the lady his first wife had promised to send him before, they were married that evening.
They lived together as husband and wife and soon she gave birth to a son, whom they named Lau Moa. One day after the boy had grown to boyhood, his wife told Numpi that she cannot live with them in the human world any longer as she had come from their spiritual world. She advised Numpi that none of their descendants should eat the patin fish (heliocophagus). She too disappeared from their sight and Numpi was heartbroken again. He was happy that he was blessed with the two sons from the two marriages he had.
His sons grew up to be the leaders of their people. Maar was married to a woman named Riu, a daughter of Orang Kaya Saja of the Remun country. The descendent of Maar became chief of the Remun Dayaks, who lived between the other Sea Dayak (Sebuyaus) and the Land Dayak in the First Division, Sarawak. His brother, Lau Moa, moved to Batang Skrang, a tributary of Batang Lupar, and lived with his wife’s family there. He is most remembered as the first Iban pioneer to settle at Nanga Skrang. He was the father of the famous Iban bards Geringu, Sumbang, Sudok and Malang, who were believed to have been taught the correct wording of the Gawai Burong chants (Pengap Gawai Burong), by Sengalang Burong’s own bard, Sampang Gading. Most of his descendent still live in Skrang, Saribas and Kalaka region to this day.
Gupi’s marriage to Belang Pinggang:
After the death of Sera Gunting, he was succeeded as chief by his son Sera Kempat, who, according to Iban genealogies, begot Ridoh, who married Bada and begot Gupi.
When Gupi reached the age of fourteen her parents ceremonially secluded her in a special place in the loft, a practice called the ngumbong anak. Here she was attended by a band of female slaves. No male above the age of ten was permitted to see her; and the girl herself was not allowed to come down to the floor below, to prevent her from seeing any man. She was required to stay in the loft until the day of her marriage. All her wishes during her seclusion were attended to by her slaves.
After Gupi had been secluded in the loft for many months, her mother noticed that the girl was pregnant. On seeing this, she became exceedingly worried. She informed her husband, Bada, who was also very worried, as this had never before happened to a daughter kept in seclusion.
In their ignorance, they inquired from the slaves whether they had ever seen a man come to visit Gupi. All of the slaves replied that they had not. They asked Gupi herself. She told them that she had never spoken to any man since her stay in the loft. Being unable to ascertain what had happened, they ordered Gupi to come down to live with them as an ordinary child. She packed all her belongings and came to live with her parents like an ordinary girl of her age.
As time went on, Gupi’s pregnancy grew bigger and her parents observed the custom called bepenti to safeguard her life during delivery. She was forbidden to see any dying animal, or to eat tortoise, nor was she allowed to tie anything.
It happened that in the eighth month of Gupi’s pregnancy that her father woke up early one morning. In stepping out onto the communal gallery, he saw that someone had left a pile of logs in front of his family’s apartment. He and his family could not guess who had put them there. That morning he asked everyone in the house, whether any of them had put the logs on his gallery. But no one admitted they had. Bada was very puzzled, but kept quiet. A few nights later, ginger and smoked fish were placed by an unknown person inside the family room. Still Gupi’s parents kept quiet, because they could not guess who had put them there.
Early in the morning after Gupi had delivered her child, a man was seen sitting at Bada’s gallery. He was a very handsome young man and Bada asked where he came from. The young man said that he had come from a far country to be with Gupi when she gave birth to her child. Besides telling Bada this, he said that it was he who had sent them the ginger, fish and logs for Gupi’s use during her confinement. Bada in turn told him that he and his wife had gotten a bad reputation because of their daughter’s pregnancy and their ignorance of the man responsible.
“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 the young man if the marriage feast (melah pinang) could be held as soon as possible. The young man agreed to marry Gupi in the proper way provided that they present him the following articles:
1. Bunga pinang, literally the “areca flower”.
2. A brass cannon, which represents a bridge to cross the many rivers from his far country to that of his wife.
3. A blowpipe which represents the rail of the bridge.
He explained to Bada and his wife why he requested these articles:
1. The marriage feast will be known as melah pinang which means to split the areca-nut. If the areca-tree has no flowers, the marriage will not be successful.
2. A bridge is needed, because a young man coming from a far country must cross many rivers. Without a bridge he cannot cross them and his guiding spirit will not be with him.
3. 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 Bada gathered the people together in order to celebrate the marriage of his daughter Gupi with the young stranger.
After the marriage, Gupi’s husband became a popular man among his father-in-law’s people. He liked to work, play and joke with his friends. The only thing which puzzled them was that he carefully avoided being seen by anyone when he bathed.
At the bathing place, it was his custom to bathe alone behind a huge boulder just below the others in the river. This boulder was called the “Batu Belang Pinggang” and is situated in the Skrang River, a branch of Batang Lupar.
After Gupi’s husband had lived for many years with her family, a certain person spoke to Gupi, asking her why her husband bathed secretly. Gupi said that she knew nothing about it and would not bother her husband to ask such a thing.
“If you want to know”, she said, “Speak to him yourself.”
But after this Gupi became curious. One afternoon at bathing time, she hid herself fairly close to the place where he usually took his bath. Eventually when he bathed, Gupi saw that the skin round his waist was quite white. She kept still and when he had finished bathing he returned to the house.
That night after the evening meal, the stranger told Gupi and her parents that he could no longer live with them since his secret had been discovered by Gupi. She strongly denied this. But her husband through the inspiration of his guiding spirits, knew that Gupi had seen the very thing on his body which should not be seen by any person born of human parents. Gupi and her family tried hard to stop him from returning to his country. Gupi apologized for the wrong she had committed, but her husband told them it would no longer be possible for him to stay, since the hour had come for him to return to his father’s house.
They spoke long that night. He thanked them for the kindness they had shown him all the years he had lived among them. At last be told them that his name was Gerasi Belang Pinggang and that he belonged to a demon family whose dwelling place is far away at the edge of the sky.
Just before he returned home, Gerasi Belang Pinggang bestowed on his son Geraman the affectionate nickname of “Ensoh”, because Geraman breathed hard whenever he spoke, an action called ngesoh in Iban. He also urged his wife and her parents to look after the boy properly. He wanted him to be well-versed in the rules given by Puntang Raga to Serapoh, by Sengalang Burong to Sera Gunting, as well as by himself to all of those who had heard him. He wished his son to follow his advice. Thus, from this time onward, an Iban wishing to marry a woman from another river should demand from his bride’s parents the articles representing the spiritual rail and bridge.
Later, after his father had gone, Geraman succeeded his grandfather as chief of the Iban community. He memorized all the customs and family trees of his people, so that the observances connected with them could be properly followed.
How Jelenggai married Bintang Banyak:
Long ago, during the generations that followed Sera Gunting, there lived an ancestor named Jelenggai. In those days everyone believed that a man would enjoy luck, should he obtain a certain fruit called the “Pauh Laba”. The tree on which this fruit appeared was said to grow from the navel of the waters, somewhere far away in the wide seas.
Jelenggai was anxious to get this fruit. So one day he built for himself a sailing boat of considerable size. When he had completed it, he sailed aimlessly over the waters.
After he had been sailing for some months his boat was suddenly wrecked. It was swallowed by the great whirlpool at the navel of the waters. Jelenggai looked here and there and at last saw a huge tree growing from the very centre of the whirlpool. As his boat sank he jumped into the water and swam against the strong current to the tree trunk. Having reached it, he climbed the tree until he came to a low branch. There he sat. After sometime he saw a huge bird perched on the top of the tree. Its curved spurs were as big around as one’s thigh. So he climbed again in order to take hold of one of the bird’s spurs. He thought that if he held onto it and the bird flew away, it would eventually alight somewhere on land.
The bird felt nothing as he held onto its spur. After some time the bird flew across the sea until it came to a field of grazing land. As it came it swooped on a cow. Jelenggai jumped free and landed safely on the ground.
Immediately after landing, he started to walk along a cleared track without knowing where he was going. He walked on and on, until eventually he came to a house. On arrival, he was politely invited by a girl to come in. He entered and was given food by the girl. The girl told him that she had six sisters, who were then planting rice on their farm. Jelenggai stayed in the house with the girl and chatted about the miraculous way he had arrived. In the evening the six sisters came home from the farm. After they had taken their food, they all talked with Jelenggai. They told him that they were seven sisters.
“The youngest,” they said, “stays at home to look after the house, while the rest of us plant rice on our farm”.
Early the next day, they asked Jelenggai to stay with their youngest sister in the house, while they themselves went to work in the field. Jelenggai stayed at home with the girl as her sisters requested.
After they had lived that way for some time the girl came to tell Jelenggai that she loved him dearly. She told Jelenggai that if he wanted to marry her, he could. At first Jelenggai could not give her a decision. He simply said he would think the matter over.
Later in the evening, after the family had eaten, the youngest sister publicly informed the others of her feelings towards the stranger. Upon hearing what their youngest sister said, the other sisters asked Jelenggai if he intended to marry her. Jelenggai said he would, if they approved. The rest of the sisters said that they would be very pleased if he would marry their sister in order to produce a child for the family.
Jelenggai thus agreed and a marriage ceremony was held. Afterwards, the sisters told him that his wife’s name was Bunsu Bintang Banyak, the youngest of the Pleiades.
Three years after he had married Bunsu Bintang Banyak, the latter bore Jelenggai a son, whom they named Selamuda. As he was the only child of the family, they were all very fond of him. They arranged that he be looked after by his father during the day, while the rest of the family went out to work in their padi field. From that day onward the father looked after his son during the absence of the other members of the family. Each day the child’s mother warned Jelenggai not to open the lid of their only jar, called tajau pengajih.
Jelenggai obeyed her. He never attempted to open the jar’s lid. But after her repeated warnings, he became curious. He thought that there must be something inside the jar to cause his wife to forbid him to open it.
One day while he and his son were alone in the house, he opened the lid of the jar. It was then the season in which farmers plant their padi. When he opened the lid, he saw through the mouth of the jar that there were thousands of men on the earth below planting their rice. Upon seeing this, he realized that he was in heaven, for all the men he saw appeared far below him. Unfortunately after this he became very worried. He kept on thinking of his own people on the earth below. Through worry, his face turned pale. As usual, late in the evening, his wife and sisters-in-law came home. When the meal was ready they invited Jelenggai and his son to eat together with them. Both Jelenggai and his son took very little food and Jelenggai looked sad and worried. Upon seeing them in this state, Bunsu Bintang Banyak asked Jelenggai whether he had opened the lid of the forbidden jar. He replied that he had, because he was anxious to see what was inside which she had forbidden him to see.
Hearing this Bunsu Bintang Banyak wept sorrowfully. “Because of what you have done, Jelenggai”, she said, “You and our son will no longer be able to live with us”. She held her son and wept loudly as if she mourned the dead. “I never thought that we would be separated from each other; the more I think of it the more sorrowful I shall be when I am separated from you, my dearest child.” She wept inconsolably.
The next day all the sisters wept. They eventually lowered Jelenggai and his son down from heaven to the earth below. Immediately, before they lowered them, Bunsu Bintang Banyak said, “Jelenggai, we are the seven stars who must be heeded by farmers on earth. If you see us sitting at the centre of the sky, you must at once start to plant your padi. If we have passed the centre of the sky when you plant your padi, your farm will be useless. Since the first day you came to stay with us, you have seen that, not for one day, have we remained at home without work to do. This is because we must move according to the season, so that men below may look to us for guidance in their farming.”
Bunsu Bintang Banyak commanded Jelenggai to remember her advice, and to tell thek son Selamuda that the location of the Pleiades should forever be an example to the sons of men as they farm on earth.
After Jelenggai and his son had returned to earth, all marveled at them, for they knew not who they were. Jelenggai related to them the story of how he had started his adventure beginning with the time he had sailed in search of the “Pauh Laba” fruit, to the time when he came to the sky and married the youngest of the Pleiades.
They believed him and from that time onwards all Dayak farmers have commenced planting padi when the Pleiades are sitting in the middle of the sky, following Bunsu Bintang Banyak’s advice to Jelenggai.
Eventually, after the death of Jelenggai, Selamuda, his son, married the daughter of Bunsu Landak. Through this marriage, Selamuda left his father’s house to live with his wife and her parents.
In the year that followed his marriage, Selamuda’s father-in-law’s farm was constantly despoiled by troops of wild boars. In the end, Selamuda and his wife were compelled by his wife’s parents to guard the farm day and night. Even so, the wild boars took no notice of their shouts or the things they beat upon to frighten them away. Even while they ate their meals at night, the boars came to feed upon the crops around them.
One night Selamuda speared the boars with sharp bamboo spears. He killed a few, but even this did not frighten the others. Though he did this night after night, still more wild boars came. One day he decided to fetch his father-in-law’s only iron spear. He did not tell him, for he knew if he told him, his father-in-law would surely have stopped him.
Selamuda and his wife ate their food early that night, for they had heard the grunts of pigs coming towards their farm from the nearby woods. Having finished, Selamuda went outside the hut to wait for the boars with the spear in his hand. A very large boar, leading his followers, came out of the forest and entered the farm. Selamuda stood quietly behind a tree stump. As the pig leader approached to pass him, he struck it with his spear. The pig immediately fled with Selamuda’s spear stuck into his body. Selamuda followed the wounded boar. After a time he could no longer see the trail of blood as the night grew very dark. At last he gave up following the pig. The rest of the night he slept in the woods, and early the next morning he followed the trail again until he came to the junction of seven main ways.
He was puzzled. He did not know which path he should take. After a while, he heard the sound of voices coming towards him. When they reached him, Selamuda asked the travelers their destination. They told him that they were seven wizards who had been invited by the Bunsu Babi to cure his father who was very sick. As he followed them, the trail of blood could still be seen along the path. When they came to a house the seven wizards warned him not to go with them into the house. So he waited outside.
After sometime, a person came from the house and asked Selamuda whether be had any knowledge of curing. Selamuda replied that he would try, “for in the past”, he said, “I was invited several times to cure sick persons”.
Upon hearing his words, the man invited Selamuda to enter the house at once, in order that he might do something for the sick man.
On his arrival, the sick man declared that if any of the medicine men could cure him, he would allow the man to marry any one of his seven daughters. The seven medicine men then started to perform their pelian over the sick man. But their incantations brought no improvement; instead the sick man cried louder and louder from his pain.
Finally, Selamuda came into the room from the communal gallery outside. He saw at once that all in the room were pigs. He also saw a spear, invisible to the pigs, stuck into the sick man’s chest. Its shaft was brushed from time to time by the wizards, causing the wounded boar to scream loudly.
Upon seeing this, Selamuda knew that the spear was his. He reasoned that the wounded boar must be the one he had speared when it led its followers to despoil his father-in-law’s farm. He also realized that these were the boars who frequented the farms of men in human world.
Before he pulled the spear out of the boar’s wound, he asked that entemut (turmeric) be pounded into pulp. When this was done, he pulled the spear out of the boar’s chest, and at the same time applied the entemut pulp to the wound. When he pulled the spear out of the wound, the boar screamed, “adoh mak”, as it was very painful indeed.
After this he advised the boar to rest. In the morning when he came into the room, the boar smiled and told him that he was very much better. Selamuda was pleased when he heard this and again advised him to rest further until he was fully recovered.
After his recovery, the boar asked Selamuda to choose for his wife one of his seven daughters. He chose the youngest, named Dayang Manis Muka.
Some years after their marriage, Dayang Manis Muka bore a son whom she and Selamuda named Begeri. While Begeri was still a child, his grandfather held a great feast. He invited all the beasts, birds and creeping things. After they had drank so much wine that everyone was drunk, the python who was the longest of the serpents vomited. His vomit was licked up by other serpents which made them poisonous. The poor ular bunga, who came later, was left nothing to lick up, which left it non-poisonous to this day. In this way, too, the python lost its venom.
During the feast, the flying fox (semawa’), also vomited. In his vomit all sorts of seeds could be seen. Upon seeing these, the animals realized that the fruit trees in the world were bearing fruit. After the feast was over, the boars announced that now they must go in search of fruit. They agreed to invite an old lady named Ini’ Manang to be their guide. They walked for days and nights. During the day they used their ordinary eyes, but at night they changed to their night eyes. In this way they walked throughout the forests. As they roamed they finally came to a place called Tanjong Munong. At this place they all changed their mouths in order to wear munong, or bristles. From here they roamed again until they reached a place called Tunjing. At Tunjing they all donned hooves.
Leaving Tunjing they came to a place where they found abundant durian fruit. As they ate, Ini Manang was struck by the buloh menangkin, a trap set by men to spear boars. She died in due course, and after her death all the pigs, except for Dayang Manis Muka, fled away.
Selamuda and his son Begeri now wished to return to this world. Before she fled Dayang Manis Muka told Selamuda that she and her family and all the rest of the people in her house were pigs. She explained that she could no longer live with him, but must go home to her father’s house. She advised Selamuda that in the future whenever men wish to see their fate, either during sickness or in hopes of obtaining riches, they should kill a pig in order to divine with its liver. She also advised him to see that their son Begeri was brought up to be a good man and to remember the tradition of liver divination.
After she had finished her advice, she left them to follow the rest of the pigs who fled home before her.
Discovery of Derris poison (Tubai):
Around this time, after the belated, long-delayed death of Menggin, there lived a man named Rakup Beliang. This man was also very fond of shooting the blowpipe. One day in the forest he was seized from behind by a female maias (orang-utan) and though he fought bard to escape, the maias succeeded in carrying him off to her nest at the top of a tall bee tree (tapang). Here she kept a close and constant watch over him. In time, the maias and Rakup Beliang had sexual relations and she bore him a daughter. Some three years after his capture, while the maias was one day taking her bath in a nearby river, he managed to escape from the nest by lowering himself to the ground by a vine. He grabbed the child and ran off, pursued by the maias who had seen his escape. But she could not overtake them. When Rakup Beliang and his daughter reached the river they found an over¬hanging bank and hid themselves under it. Just afterwards along came the maias, who started to search for them, but without success. Eventually, from his hiding place Rakup Beliang saw her collecting the root of a tree which she pounded on a stone in the water. She then dipped the remains of the root into the river and he heard her call out, “If you are still living, Rakup Beliang, you must come out of the water now.” But as his head was above the water he felt nothing. After waiting for some time the maias again called loudly, begging Rakup Beliang, if he could hear her, to care well for the child and to name her Suri. She then went away weeping.
In due course Rakup Beliang came out from under the bank with his daughter and crossed the river, but on looking back he was puzzled to see many dead fish floating on the surface of the water. He therefore examined the remains of the root and found that it was a tubai (Denis) vine. Thus he realised that these roots could be used to poison fish, a method which is still used to this day. Tubai fishing is now a well-known practice and is regulated by the Government.
The healing of Bunyau:
In the days of Geraman, Sera Gunting’s great-great-great grandson Ambau migrated eastward from the Tiang Laju range and built his longhouse at Pangkalan Tabau, two miles above the present town of Lubok Antu. Ambau was one of the chiefs who had participated in discussions to settle amicably the strife between Kanyong of Rantau Merarang and Semalanjat of Bungkap. For his fairness and bravery in war, his name survives to this day in Dayak songs. At this time there also lived a man named Buyau who suffered from open sores which covered his body. He was shunned by all and was confined to a hut adjoining his family’s open verandah.
One day the people of Bunyau’s house were invited to a nearby longhouse to attend a feast. As Bunyau sat alone in his hut he heard the sound of someone approaching, and looking through a hole in the wall, he saw two young men who had just sat down on the deserted communal gallery. He was too ashamed because of his sores to go out to welcome the visitors. Soon one of them called him to come out and talk to them, but he refused, saying “I am here because I am sick, and I cannot sit with you.”
He suggested that the strangers should help themselves to his family’s rice wine (tuak) in the room, but they only agreed to this on the condition that he himself would fetch the tuak for them.
“No,” replied Bunyau, “if I touched the wine with my diseased hands, I am sure you wouldn’t drink it.” But the visitors reassured him that they certainly would if only he would fetch the wine himself.
At last Bunyau emerged, trembling, and brought a jar full of wine which he offered to them. After they had drunk all the wine, Bunyau’s sores began to disappear and after he fetched another jar, which the young men consumed, he found that his sores had completely healed. The strangers then told Bunyau that they had come to invite him to their father-in-law’s feast which was to be celebrated the following day, but Bunyau was reluctant to go, being still sick and weak.
“Your sickness will be healed if you come with us,” they said.
He finally agreed when they told that their father-in-law’s feast would not be held unless he came with them. They also urged him not to worry about dress, as their father-in-law would lend him clothes for the occasion.
As Bunyau walked with them, he felt himself growing stronger, and finally bathing at his host’s landing stage he found that even the marks of his sores had completely disappeared.
Arriving in the house, Bunyau sat down at the end of the communal gallery in front of the second room (bilek), where he was politely entertained by his host, and in due course was invited by a man carrying a cock to come and sit on the verandah of his father-in-law, Sengalang Burong. This man was Ketupong, Sengalang Burong’s eldest son-in-law. Bunyau agreed to go, but continued to converse with his host, until another son-in-law named Beragai came carrying a cock and repeated the invitation, at the same time waving the cock over Bunyau’s head, as was the custom when receiving guests. Bunyau finally accompanied Beragai to Sengalang Burong’s gallery in the middle of the longhouse. There he was again saluted with a cock waved over his head and was invited to sit close to Sengalang Burong himself at the outer-most section of the gallery. When he was seated, the feast began. From the outset he was accorded by Sengalang Burong the honour of sitting close to a decorated platform full of human heads and offerings at the centre of the communal gallery, this being the traditional honour paid to the most esteemed of all guests present. At the conclusion of the feast, Sengalang Burong taught Bunyau many things concerning the Bird Festival traditions supplementing the information he had given Sera Gunting. He also commanded Bunyau that, immediately after he returned to his own house, he must celebrate exactly the same feast with another man also named Bunyau.
Three days later Bunyau returned home, and went directly to the other Bunyau’s gallery at the opposite end of his longhouse, instead of returning to his own gallery as was customary. He sat telling his friends the whole stories of his visit to Singalang Burong’s longhouse, where he had witnessed a Bird Festival and of how he had been advised to hold the same kind of feast as soon as possible in their own longhouse, and how the second Bunyau must follow exactly the same procedure for this feast. Then they were interrupted by the entry of Bunyau’s youngest child, who rushed in weeping to his father and embraced him, calling him “father”. Bunyau took his son to comfort him on his lap while the child continued to weep and called him father. Hearing her son crying, Bunyau’s wife left her cooking and came out to fetch the child. She teased him for daring to approach the stranger in such a manner.
“Aren’t you ashamed,” she said, “to claim the visitor as your father?”
But her son continued to cry bitterly, until his mother slapped him, scolding him for his behavior towards a stranger.
“Your father is sick and we are ashamed of him,” she said, and took the child with her to her room, where he continued to cry.
Bunyau then returned to sit on his own gallery, still unrecognized by his wife who had not been to see whether her husband was in his hut.
That night, as a matter of course, Bunyau went to the room to sleep with his wife, but as he opened the mosquito net his wife protested saying that a stranger should not behave in such a way to a married woman, and that however ill her husband might be she must remain faithful to him.
“Although he is now sick,” she said, “he is as good and devoted as any husband.”
When Bunyau heard this assurance of his wife’s devotion, he declared that he was indeed Bunyau, but she still would not believe him and ran out to the hut to see whether Bunyau was there.
Finding the hut empty, she returned to her room very worried and puzzled. Again Bunyau gently reassured her and told her how he had attended Sengalang Burong’s feast and been miraculously healed. As he finished his story his wife wept for joy, and embraced him marveling at his cure. He then told her of Sengalang Burong’s instructions and asked her to prepare as much glutinous rice as possible for the festival. Joyfully she agreed, as she was naturally most anxious to thank the gods and spirits for curing him.
Accordingly, a few days later when all was ready Bunyau celebrated his Bird Festival. When his many guests had arrived, Bunyau greeted them by waving a cock over their heads. He then called loudly three times for Sengalang Burong and his people to come to his feast, and immediately after this a number of those present, both hosts and guests, fell unconscious as the spirit of Sengalang Burong arrived among them.
From that day onwards, Bunyau grew mightier and became a skilled and vigorous leader in war. The other Bunyau also became one of his bravest warriors, and did much to assist the progress of his people in their new country in the Batang Ai.
Iban-Kantu enmity is resolved:
Jelian was born at Merakai in West Kalimantan. He was descended from the famous ancestor, Serapoh, whose story we have already told, and was a very tall and handsome man. From his boyhood days he was restless. He was fond of visiting people and of talking about wars with the older warriors.
One day Jelian told his mother that he wanted her to look for a girl for him to marry. His mother said that she wanted him to marry Tiong, the daughter of a Kantu chief named Beti, whose praise-name was “Merebai”. She said that Tiong was very fair and was a secluded girl, anak umbong, attended by her family’s female slaves.
“The only difficulty about your winning her,” she said, “is that her people have not yet made peace with us. They became our enemies in the days of our ancestor Serapoh.”
Jelian was anxious to meet Tiong personally. So he went to her house. When he reached the house, he hesitated to go up to it; therefore he climbed a jack-fruit tree which grew at the back of Tiong’s family room. From its branches he hoped to see Tiong when she came out to bathe in the nearby river.
That night after the people had gone to sleep, Jelian crept into Tiong’s room from a tree branch to the hole in the roof which lighted the sleeping section. From there he walked carefully towards Tiong’s bed in the loft.
When he entered he woke Tiong and she asked him who he was. He told her that he was Jelian who had been asked by his mother to court her for his wife. Tiong told him that her mother too had spoken of him to her.
“But your people are demons, antu gerasi and tuak tuie, so how can I bring myself to discuss marriage with you,” said Tiong.
She could not forget that Jelian was the worst enemy of her people, so she gave him the name of the cannibal spirits. Jelian told her again that his visit was according to the wish of his mother, who wanted him to marry her.
Hearing this, Tiong woke her father and informed him that Jelian was with her in her bed. She told him all that Jelian had said to her. Her father Merebai approved Jelian’s suit, for Jelian’s mother had often spoken to him secretly, proposing the union of her son Jelian with his daughter Tiong, ever since the girl was in her mother’s womb. After approval had been granted, Merebai invited the people of the Batang Empanang, Kantu, Merakai and Kedumpai rivers, to attend the marriage ceremony of Jelian and his daughter Tiong which would be held in three days’ time. Over a hundred people were invited to the wedding and two large pigs were slaughtered for the occasion.
When the time came for Merebai to speak to those who had gathered for the wedding, he said, “I must tell you that I have caught a demon, an antu gerasi, tuak tuie, who I have placed inside a cage. I disliked him most as it was he who killed my nephew Numpang quite some time ago in an attack against the Kantu of Merakai.”
When the Kantu heard this, they demanded that the man be brought to them instantly, so that they might kill him. But Beti said, “Nevertheless I have approved in your presence the marriage of my beloved daughter Tiong and Jelian, a chief and my enemy of yesterday.”
On hearing this wise decision of Beti, all his friends were happy to see that the enmity between the Kantu and Iban, which had lasted so long, was now to be put aside by marriage.
The longhouse kitchen rules:
Shortly after their marriage, Jelian migrated westward and settled at Wong Empangu on the Undup river. Other Iban who moved there were Gelungan at Bukit Balau Ulu, and Langkup in the middle Undup. While Jelian lived at Wong Empangu, he and his people farmed lands far from their longhouse. Due to this, they lived in farm huts to make it easier for them to look after their fields.
One day while all the fanners were busy weeding, some of the women went to the longhouse to pound rice. As they approached the house, they heard strange noises which frightened them so much that they ran back to the padi fields to inform their husbands.
When Jelian and the others heard this, they went without hesitation to the house. As they came near to the building they heard noises from everywhere. But once they were in the house, the noises were heard coming from the loft. While looking for the source of the noise, they heard a spirit’s voice telling them that these noises were coming from the cold kitchens of the house. Jelian asked why this had happened, and the spirit told him that this was because Jelian and his people had not cooked for a long time in their kitchens. The spirit further advised Jelian that from that day onwards, he and his people must make use of their longhouse kitchens for cooking at least twice a month, at full moon and before the appearance of the new moon.
“If you fail to do this,” said the spirit, “the spirit of the kitchen (antu dapor) will harm the lives of the inhabitants of this longhouse.”
Continuing, the spirit instruct Jelian of the following rules.
1. If a man has completed building his house kitchen, and does not cook food on the hearth he has made, he must produce one knife, an adze and two chickens. Beside these, he must pay a fine of one Jabir, which is equivalent to a dollar, and one jarlet.
2. If a man has completed his house, but has not yet made a kitchen according to customary law, his negligence may cause the members of the longhouse ill-fortune. He will be fined one panding, which is equivalent to two dollars, plus one knife, one chicken and one jarlet.
3. All kitchens in the longhouse must be used for cooking rice at least twice a month, at full moon and at the appearance of the new moon.
4. If any member of the longhouse does not obey the kitchen rules, he or she shall be fined two chickens, one knife and one adze.
5. Should anyone in the longhouse fall sick because someone has not cooked in his or her kitchen, as required by customary law, the offender must kill a sow that has once given birth to piglets, and must produce one nyabor knife and one jarlet.
Having heard the kitchen spirit’s advice, the men returned to their padi fields. The following night, Jelian called the farmers and their families to an emergency meeting at his farm hut. There he explained to them the rules which they must follow. After Jelian had related to his people all of the kitchen rules that the spirit had commanded them to observe, all solemnly swore to abide by these rules, and they are still observed by the Iban in their longhouses to the present-day.
Padang is cursed by the Pleiades:
Sagan-Agan, a well known leader in the time of Sera Gunting, lived with his followers in the upper Ketungau. His son Jenua departed from the upper Ketungau and migrated to the slope of Kenyandang hill, between the headwaters of the Sanggau and the Ulu Strap Rivers. Jenua’s son, Ratih, lived separately at Longgong Kumpang hill, at the headwaters of the Kumpang River.
While Jenua lived at Kenyandang hill, a chief from the lower Ketungau named Jengkuan, with Padang and his father Ligam, came to live with their followers in the upper Bayan rivers. From this place they moved again to the mouth of the Merakai river. At this settlement they lived miserably. The land was not fertile enough to produce sufficient food for them. During their stay, one of them was caught by a crocodile and as a result they moved to Bukit Tapang Peraja which was situated between Saih and the main Ketungau River.
After staying there for quite some time, they observed the calls of “Pangkas Kanan” (right-hand calls of the Pangkas bird) for seven days and seven nights, as required by tradition, before they moved to Kenyandang hill, which is situated south of the Kalingkang range on the modern boundary between Sarawak and Kalimantan. The Pangkas was believed to have the effect of weakening all the enemies they might encounter along their migration route to the country of the Sebaru Dayaks.
Padang and his people were very satisfied with the lands they farmed at Kenyandang hill and they made their stay there a permanent one.
At this time a man of Padang’s house named Jengkuan and his wife Genali went to work on their farm. When they reached their farm hut, they found a lot of ripe pingan fruit lying on the floor. They ate some of these fruit and later went to weed grass in their padi field.
As he was weeding, Jengkuan’s eye was blinded by the ashes he stirred up. So he told his wife that he was going to the stream to clean his eye with water. After he had washed his eye, Jengkuan returned to weed the grass again.
But when he came to the spot where he had left his wife, he was surprised to find blood stains both on the ground and on the padi leaves. He called for his wife but she was nowhere to be found. He then followed the drops of blood which led him to the mouth of a great cave, and he entered it. After he had been in the cave for two nights looking for his wife, he came to a bathing place where he met a lovely girl who was bathing in the river. On seeing him, the girl told him to follow her to her longhouse. As they walked along the path, the girl told Jengkuan that the people of her house were celebrating an enchaboh arong festival in order to receive the fresh head of an enemy who had been killed by her brother, a punishment for eating his pingan fruit-bait.
As they entered the house, Jengkuan saw many people holding a skull, singing their songs for it. Seeing his arrival, a man called out loudly and said, “Welcome Balu Pingan,” which meant the one made a widower by pingan fruit. He handed to him the skull so that Jengkuan could sing his song to it. Jengkuan took it and sang his song. After this he was invited to perform the rayah dance around a group of ritual cordyline plants which were placed at the middle of the open gallery. He danced round and round, and when a man waved a cock to terminate the ceremony, Jengkuan returned to the main building and slipped into the room to see the girl whom he had met at the bathing place.
As they talked, she told him that it was her brother who had killed his wife. She informed him that this longhouse was the home of tigers and all its inhabitants were tigers. She told him that his wife had eaten the pingan fruit which had been used as bait (taju) by her brother, and that this was why she had been slain by him.
The girl said to Jengkuan that he had the right to avenge his wife’s death. “If you want to kill my brother, you must not slash him with your knife, but with his own knife instead, so that he cannot easily cut you down,” she said.
On hearing this, Jengkuan went out of the room to the communal gallery and mingled with the people gathered there. After he had sat a long time with the people, he invited the girl’s brother to bathe with him in the river. He agreed and took his knife. Jengkuan who followed him also took his own knife.
On the way to the river they passed a sugar cane plantation, and the tiger asked Jengkuan whether he would like to drink sugar cane juice. Jengkuan said that he would, as he was very thirsty. So they stopped to collect cane. When Jengkuan removed the sheath of the cane, he cut it with the blunt side of his knife. When the tiger saw that it took him so long to skin the cane, he lent him his knife, as Jengkuan received the tiger’s knife, he struck him with it and killed him with a single blow. He took the tiger’s head and immediately carried it home.
When he came to his own house at Kenyandang hill, he showed to the people the head of the tiger that had killed his wife while they were weeding in their padi field. Padang and all the people were very pleased to receive the head.
In order to thank the gods and universal spirits for Jengkuan’s victory over the slayer of his wife, Padang and his people held an enchaboh arong festival. A great number of guests came and at the height of the celebration, one of Padang’s men killed a guest who claimed to be the son of Bunsu Bintang Banyak, youngest of the Pleiades sisters. During the night after the feast was over, Padang had a dream in which he met Bunsu Bintang Banyak who warned him that due to the death of her son, Padang and his people and their descendants down to seven generations would hardly eat any rice.
Padang’s migration to the Strap River:
Padang informed the people of his dream, which made them all very sad. From that year onwards none of them could get enough rice for food. Due to this they divided up and Padang went to Ulu Strap and settled at Munggu Embawang, while others either joined the Sebarus or lived elsewhere along the foot of the Kalingkang range on both sides of the modern Sarawak-Kalimantan border.
Here Padang and his people suffered miserably. They ate only wild leaves for a number of years, later they gradually moved down to Strap and farmed at temporary settlements in various places. Finally they reached the main Lingga River where they stayed and farmed for many years. Despite their hard work they still could not get sufficient rice for food.
Finally they left the Lingga to live at a place called Pinang Mirah, midway to the Sebuyau River. Here they also found insufficient rice. One night in his sleep, Padang dreamed that he met the Swine Goddess who advised him to leave the Batang Lupar and migrate to the Saribas River; there he should find in the Rimbas sago palm groves at Tanjong Banan. In the morning Padang told the people about his dream. They all agreed to go to the Saribas.
After they had found the sago palms at Tanjong Banan they lived and farmed at Paloh and Pusa. They did not dare to go to the upper Rimbas, for fear of the Seru and Bukitan people. It was at Pusa that Jenua and his son Ratih died. After their death, Padang sent his son Gunggu accompanied by Pajih to the Skrang and Undup rivers to consult Jelian about the way and time to plant padi and other things in the farm. At this time Padang and his people explored the Undai stream, a right tributary of the Rimbas near Pusa. They found that this stream was full of large tree trunks which obstructed its passage. Due to this difficulty, he could only go up as far as a big pool called Letong Beluchok, where they went to live a month later.
There were then abundant fish in the Undai stream, including a number of huge catfish (tapah). According to old sayings, the size of these catfish varied from as long as a wooden mortar to as long as a medium-sized boat. While living there they often met friendly Serus who gave them padi seed to plant in their small clearings. At this time they depended only on sago and fish for food.
The Seru were a Melanau tribe. The Melanaus depended on sago for food and it was due to this that sago palms had been planted at Tanjong Banan in the Rimbas River.
One day when the water in the Undai stream was low, Padang and his people poisoned fish with tubai roots. Padang saw a huge catfish whose whiskers were yellow as gold and speared it with a spear which was tied to his wrist. The wounded catfish leaped away dragging Padang into the river and drowned him. His body was drawn by the fish down the Undai to the Rimbas and from there down to the main Saribas River; then up the Saribas to Lubok Sedebu, and finally down¬river again to the end of Lilin cape near the modern town of Beladin. Because of this the people of the Rimbas claimed as theirs all land on both banks of the Saribas from Tanjong Lilin to Lubok Sedebu. The yellow whiskers of the catfish which drowned Padang are also mentioned in the ritual chants:
Padang apai Duyah pen udah datai ditu,
Parai ditaban ka dungan ikan tapah,
Bejanggut mirah ka jadam mau gempanang.
(Padang the father of Duyah has also come here,
Dragged to his death by a catfish,
Whose whiskers were yellow like gold. )
After Padang’s death, his son Gunggu led his friends to meet a Seru chief at Nanga Tawai. They told the chief that the Iban would like to live near him and his people. The Seru chief said that he would accept the Iban but ordered them to live apart on the bank of the Rimbas river opposite Nanga Tawai. He asked the Iban to come as soon as possible, so that they could plant padi at the same time as the Seru.
Gunggu returned to Letong Beluok, and told his people that the Seru had agreed to allow them to live near them. All the Iban were happy and Gunggu arranged that his son Garrai with most of the Iban would live with the Seru at Tawai, while he (Gunggu) and his followers would settle at Nanga Jerai.
When the Iban population had multiplied, the Rimbas Seru began to move to the Krian and settled round the foot of Tengalat hill below the mouth of the Melupa tributary.
Munan left the land in the lower Rimbas and went up that river to live at Nanga Luop. The first year he lived there, he and his followers farmed a large piece of land at the mouth of the Babu stream. One evening when Munan had finished his day’s work he returned to his longhouse. On the way home he encountered a large python which had uprooted many medium-sized trees, showing its great strength. Munan asked his friends to kill the snake, but none of them had sufficient courage to do so alone. So it was that Munan ordered all of them as a group, to kill the snake.
After they had killed the huge python, Munan and the others became worried, for they did not know what this strange sign might predict. They had heard that a man named Apai Paau of upper Skrang was very good at explaining omens. So Munan asked two of his men to consult Apai Paau in order to find out the omen’s meaning. While these men were still away in Skrang Munan ordered that no one should work his farm.
After Munan’s men had told Apai Paau the story of the huge python they had killed on their way home from their farms, Apai Paau said that this omen was not dangerous.
“It will not take your life; it is to redeem you from the curse of the Pleiades, whose son your people killed and which has caused you to suffer hunger these past six generations,” he said.
He taught them to honour the omen with seven days of abstention from work and, at the same time, with seven trays of offering to the gods, which were to be smeared with the blood of seven sows who had seven times given birth to piglets.
“After Munan had done these things, your people will lead a prosperous life,” Apai Paau said.
The two men returned to the Rimbas and told Munan what Apai Paau had directed him to do to respect the omen.
After Munan had offered these sacrifices to the gods according to the direction of Apai Paau of the Skrang, he and all his people became very prosperous in their farming. But later they quarreled with the Krian Seru and took their land. Munan and all his people then moved to the northwest and settled at Melupa, a left tributary of the Krian River.
The Incest Laws are modified:
Geraman, son of Gupi married Tebari and begot a son Chundau, who married Beragai. The latter begot a son named Beti, who was also called Berauh Ngumbang.
In the days of Beti “Berauh Ngumbang”, a man named Abang committed incest with Tali Bunga, who was his first cousin’s daughter. In due course, Beti ordered the couple to pay a fine, as fixed by Sengalang Burong, but as the couples were very poor, they could not afford to do so. Beti and the other leaders therefore ordered that they should be put to death by impalement on bamboo spikes.
On the next day, after a special place had been prepared for the execution, Beti assembled all the people to witness the killing. Immediately before the execution, Beti called loudly in prayer the names of the gods and the spirits to witness how he would deal justly with the malefactors in accordance with the teachings of Sengalang Burong.
Suddenly, when the executioners were about to lay hands on the transgressors, a voice was heard calling, “Beti! Beti! Why would you kill these human beings in such a cruel manner?”
Beti explained the reason why he was about to do this. “If they cannot pay such heavy fines, you must not kill them in this way,” the voice continued.
“What must I do then?” asked Beti.
“In future, if such a case should occur, you must ask the guilty parties to wash in the blood of a medium-sized pig, which you have killed in the river. Another pig should be killed on land in order to wipe away the wrath of the spirits who will otherwise destroy your farms and plantations.”
This is known as besapat ka ai’, a modification of Sengalang Burong’s original code of law. Besides killing two pigs, the voice asked that the following things be produced by the parties to be used during the ceremony of besapat ka ai’:
1. Pedang panjang kena ngerandang remang rarat.
2. Beliong lajong kena mungga urat lensat.
3. Sumpit tapang kena ngerejang lubang kilat.
4. Kumbu rayong kena nyerayong tekuyong dalam ungkap.
5. Kain beragi kena miau moa-hari sarat bebuat.
6. Pinggai besai kena nyekat tanah rarat.
7. Besi panti landi ke alai kaki betakat.
8. Rangki siti kena nasih ai ngambi enda beriap.
9. Tepayan endor nyimpan samengat.
1. A long sword to separate the moving clouds.
2. An adze used for cutting the root of the lensat tree.
3. A blow-pipe of tapang wood for blocking the holes of lightning.
4. A kumbu rayong blanket for covering the overhanging banks of the river to prevent snails from emerging.
5. A coloured cloth for wiping away thick clouds.
6. A large bowl for obstructing erosion.
7. An iron step for the legs to stand fast.
8. A shell armlet as a fee to prevent the water of the river from rippling.
9. A jar in which to keep the souls safely.
So Beti “Berauh Ngumbang” and his companions did not kill Abang and Tali Bunga. Instead the couples were ordered to undergo the besapat ka ai ceremony. The voice said that incest of a brother and sister was still punishable according to the law given by Sengalang Burong to Sera Gunting. The new law starts with first cousins. The sons and daughters of first cousins committing incest with members of the adjacent generation should incur fines of ten jabir (now equivalent to ten dollars). The fine is to be divided amongst all persons attending the ceremony.
In the next category, the fine was eight jabir. The parties involved in this category must undergo the ceremony of being washed in the blood of a pig, besapat ka ai’. In the last category the fine is two Jabir, but only one pig is to be killed on land and the ceremony of kalih di darat performed. Those who have taken part in the kalih di darat ceremony must continue to follow the laws of Sengalang Burong.
It happened that in the days of Kaya, a descendant five generations after Beti, a man named Bukol committed incest with his classificatory aunt, Brenyan, in a manner similar to that of Abang and Tali Bunga.
Kaya ordered them put to death according to the old laws of Sengalang Burong. The night after they were killed, heavy rain fell and a great wind blew, destroying Kaya’s house at Sungai Letong in the Paku. The remaining bamboos (buloh aur) used for this impaling are still growing at the present-day, at Nanga Selamoi, opposite Kaya’s longhouse site not far from the modern longhouse at Sungai Pelandok. Kaya’s longhouse was destroyed because he disobeyed the law given by the spirits to Beti.
The Dau Iban:
Migrations of Iban from the Kapuas into Sarawak have continued down to relatively recent times. Nine generations ago a group of Iban under Chief Telu Aur lived near the mouth of the Kapuas. From there Telu Aur led his people further upriver. They settled at the middle of the Kapuas where Telu Aur died.
He was succeeded by his son Demong Suran, who took his people to live in the upper Kapuas River where he in his turn died of old age. After Demong Suran had passed away, his son Ambau (not Pateh Ambau) became chief. While he was the leader of his group, Ambau took his followers from the Kapuas basin to the Batang Ai and settled at Seram. Later he moved to Pangkalan Tabau, above the present town of Lubok Antu.
From Pangkalan Tabau, Ambau moved upriver and lived temporarily at Lubang Baya. From there he returned again to Pangkalan Tabau, where he died, murdered by his slaves who purposely capsized his boat at the Wong Mutan rapids.
At the death of Ambau, his son Liang became chief. Liang lived at Lubang Baya tributary near the source of the Batang Ai. He was a brave warrior who fought the Punans in the upper river.
When Liang died he was succeeded as chief by his son Bayang. It was this chief who led his people from Lubang Baya down the Batang Ai and up the Undup tributary in the Batang Lupar to settle at Klasin. After Bayang and his people had lived at Klasin for many years, they moved westward to Sungai Raya, a left tributary of the Undup. From this locality they moved to Rijang not far away from the present town of Simanggang, east of the Undup region. Bayang died at Rijang and was succeeded as chief by his son Nyanggau.
When he was chief, Nyanggau moved his longhouse to Lemas where he and his followers settled for several years, till they were attacked and defeated by Indra Lela and his forces from the Skrang. Due to this defeat, Nyanggau and his people fled away to settle at Dau, in Indonesian Borneo.
After they had lived at Dau in what was then Dutch territory for about a decade, Nyanggau and his followers were called back to Sarawak by Mr. Brereton, then the Resident at Skrang. When they returned, they settled at Embawang in the Dor stream, instead of resetting at Lemas. But because they had lived at Dau in Dutch Borneo after their defeat by Indra Lela of Skrang, they have continued to be called the Dau Iban to the present-day. On their arrival in Sarawak from Dau, the Dau Iban community divided up and settled at Embawang, Klauh, Melugu, Gua, Nyelan, Engkeramut, Selepong and Puak Ai where their descendants still live to the present-day.
After some years at Embawang, Nyanggau and his people moved to Lemas as previously arranged by Mr. Brereton. Nyanggau died at this settlement and was succeeded as chief by his son Gaong. When Gaong was chief, he led his followers from Lemas to Klauh where they settled for many decades. After Gaong had died he was succeeded by his son Lansam who also died at Klauh. After Lansam, his son Gendang became chief. At Gendang’s death, succession passed to his nephew Junau, who, at the time of writing, continues to live at Klauh.
Extracted from articles originally written by Benedict Sandin & Professor Clifford Sather.
Re-compile for weblog publication by Gregory Nyanggau Mawar.
Published in the Sarawak Museum Journal, Volume XLVI, titled “Source of Iban Traditional History”, Part 1, 2 & 3.