Life Transition Ceremonies – A Dayak Desa Ceremony Using Traditional Textiles

Traditional textiles called bidang have many uses in traditional ceremonies even to this day. For example, they are used to cover offering baskets that are hung in the long house where offerings are made to the spirit that guides and protects a family member when they are traveling and living far away.

Offerings are hung covered with traditional bidang textiles

Ritual pounding of newly harvested rice called bedangang wearing tating textile

When families come together for the gawai ceremony after the rice harvest there are opportunities to perform other traditional ceremonies, given the family members have all returned to the traditional house from afar. These other ceremonies may include: asah gigi or tooth filing ceremony as a rite of puberty, ngemaik manik or ritual first bathing of a newborn, and netak buok or the first haircut of a young child. For all of these ceremonies offerings must be made using newly harvested rice that is pounded in a ritual called begendang by women wearing traditional dress of a tating textiles.

During the gawai ceremony one will see the pua kumbu or large blanket textile used not only as part of ritual coverings for ceremonial objects or offerings but also as a hammock to rock a young child.

Pua Kumbu textile used as a hammock to put a baby to sleep

A procession from the traditional house to the river

Ngemaik manik is a ritual bathing of a newborn asking the nature spirits to protect the child from any negative force. It is also said to be a time to introduce the baby to the spirit of the river. River systems were once the primary means of transport for Dayak people throughout Kalimantan. Sacred gongs and drums are used to process the child to the river.

The mother and grandmother of the child wear a tating textile. The grandmother will bathe the child in the river, evoking the spirits of the water to protect the baby throughout its life. Prior to the bathing, offerings of freshly pounded rice are made to the spirit of the river.

During the Gawai other ceremonies such as the ritual bathing of a child take place

A chld being bathed and introduced to the spirit of the river

The grandmother bathes her grandchild in the river while the mother and other women dressed in shell and bead decorated tating textiles attend. Women who have ceremonially pounded the rice (begendang) that is used as offerings for these ceremonies will also bath in the river as a means of purification.