Finding Balance and Preserving Harmony through Rituals

A beduruk group harvesting rice

In all matters of traditional life, communities seek to preserve balance and harmony with the natural world and the ancestral world. Traditional communities within the Dayak Desa people in Kalimantan share responsibility in the planting and harvesting rice. These work groups are called beduruk and within  them members share out the work in the manggul preparation of the fields, the namal planting, the ngemabau weeding, and ngetau harvesting. The fields are often located some distance from the village, so beduruk members will bring bedding and food so that they can work early in the morning and late into the afternoon to bring in the harvest as quickly as possible.

An offering to kak

In traditional communities, the stages of the rice development are perceived as being the same as for a human child. Just as offerings are made to the wellbeing of a child during pregnancy and birth, so are they made for rice. As the rice plant begins to mature and before flowering, offerings of cooked rice, betel nut, and rice wine along with parts of pork or chicken are made to the crow Kak so that the harvest is not destroyed by birds. This offering to Kak is made before noon so that the rice develops strong and upright in the same way a day develops as the sun climbs to its zenith in the sky.

Another offering is made to Pung Kapung the deity or ancestral overseer of the land and the natural world. These offerings to Pung Kapung and Kak are made in separate places in the field and at separate times with different mantras recited.

The gawak scarecrow

A gawak or scarecrow is placed in the rice field where it can wave and flutter, keeping birds away during the day and mice away at night. The gawak is carried to the field by an elder who will make an offering and ask that the gawak to protect the harvest. When the harvest is finished, the gawak is stored in the traditional house and will be used again during the next season.