The Gawai Festival or also known as Gawai Dayak is a significant event that celebrates the end of the rice harvesting season in June and it is one of the major festivals celebrated in Sarawak.
|1 Jun||Saturday||Hari Gawai||Sarawak|
|2 Jun||Sunday||Hari Gawai Holiday||Sarawak|
In Sarawak, rice-growing is still a major source of income for most of the citizens residing within the region. Gawai Festival Malaysia is an important day that celebrates the end of the harvesting season in June after almost five months of a waiting period. The festival also marks the beginning of a new planting season which typically starts in September and a sign of appreciation to the spirits that have bestowed a bountiful harvest to the Dayak people, one of the many native groups of Borneo.
The Gawai Festival honours the value of unity and it is therefore celebrated by various ethnic groups from Sarawak which among them include Bidayuh, Kelabit, Iban as well as Murut. The Gawai Festival starts early on the evening of 31st May with a ceremony called ‘Muai Antu Rua’. This ritual takes place a day before the festival to cast away any spirits of greed and bad luck.
Gawai Festival Malaysia amazingly preserves the rich heritage of diversity as it is celebrated by multi-racial ethnics in Sarawak. The whole Dayak community will take part in the celebration on a yearly basis and the ceremony involves many authentic rituals along with singing, dancing, traditional feasting as well as games. The festival can be considered as both a religious and a social rite within East Malaysia.
An important part of the festival is visiting families, friends and relatives at their homes to enjoy some of the traditional food that has been specially prepared for the Gawai Festival. Open houses will also be held within all the three distinctive longhouses (Iban, Bidayuh as well as Orang Ulu) and guests will be offered a variety of delicious local cuisines.
For Gawai Festival Food in Malaysia, it is a tradition for the Dayak community to consume a special drink called ‘tuak’, which is a locally brewed rice wine. The drink is composed of glutinous rice mixed with homemade yeast and is offered as a welcoming drink for the guests who visit the longhouses.
On Gawai eve, those who are celebrating the Gawai Festival will usually roast glutinous rice in bamboo over open fire whereby the dish is known as ‘ngelulun pulut’. Apart from this, chicken served with lemongrass is another popular traditional meal cooked in bamboo logs directly placed on a high heat fire.
Sweet treats served during Gawai Festival are mainly made from glutinous rice flour and sugar, along with some other simple ingredients. Delicacies such as penganan (cakes from rice flour, sugar and coconut milk), cuwan (molded cake), and kui sepit (twisted cake) are among the famous traditional treats often prepared for the celebration.
Inside the longhouses, new mats are laid out and the walls are decorated with traditional blankets to celebrate the Gawai Festival. On the day of the celebration, an offering (also known as miring) session will take place, where the chief of the feast will thank the gods for the good harvest as he sacrifices a cockerel. At midnight, a gong (a metal disc) is sounded and the people will drink the ‘tuak’ (rice wine) while wishing each other long life and great fortunes for the future.
For Gawai Day 2019, Sarawak’s locals as well as tourists from other states visiting the town will be able to witness some of the most authentic culture practices of the Dayak people during the celebration. For celebrations of the Gawai Festival in Malaysia, it has always been a tradition for the Dayaks to practice their traditional dance known as ‘ngajat’. The dance is performed on the day of the festival by both male and female dancers adding on to the speciality of the celebration.
For the dance, those participating will need to be fully dressed in their traditional clothing and unique headgears. Male dancers will put on large feathers as part of their headgear, some accessories and a loincloth called the ‘cawat’. Female dancers on the other hand will carry a more elaborate headdress and a traditional ensemble that is intricate with unique weaving.