Sarawak, the city submerged in various traditions and influences of world religions proudly swanks its rich cultural heritage and celebrates several events and festivals throughout the year. Along with known festivals like Chinese New Year, Christmas, Hari Raya Aidil Fitri, and National day, the indigenous fetes including Pesta Kaul, Gawai Dayak, and Rainforest World Music Festival that show off the culture of Sarawak, are widely celebrated in this land of hornbills.
Pesta Kaul is celebrated by the Melanau community living in the coastal areas in Mukah during March or early April each year. The festival includes various rituals performed to pacify and thank the spiritual powers of sea, land, forest and farm for keeping them safe through the monsoon season. The festival is also considered as a custom of purification. Melanau people make this festival very enjoyable by their warm hospitality and traditional games, music and dancing. Tibau, a traditional giant swing sometimes 20-feet high is one of the highlights of this festival. As per the custom, youths dive down to catch the swinging rope!
This festival symbolizes rice harvest in Sarawak. It is celebrated throughout the state during May end and onwards. On Gawai Eve, glutinous rice is steamed in bamboo as special and spiritual menu. People place new mats on the open gallery of longhouses- ruai and adorn the walls with traditional blankets - Pua Kumbu. People visit graveyard and serve offerings to the dead. Bathing is mandatory before entering the longhouse after a visit to graveyard to ward off bad luck.Photo Credit: Creative Commons/Matthew Timbang
Sarawak's largest Dayak tribe, lbans are most fond of the 'Gawai Kenyalang', a hornbill ceremony. Earlier, the ceremony used to celebrate the headhunting raids for which the Iban were legendary. Today, as headhunting is officially banned, the Gawai Kenyalang celebrations symbolize the rice harvest. The festival is usually celebrated after Gawai Dayak Festival when one gets to see a kenyalang - the hornbill and a totem pole that marks the festival.
Gawai Antu festival celebrates the greatest Sea Dayak feast in honour of those who are dead. And so, the festival is very important for every Sea Dayak. Those who fail to celebrate it by negligence are not considered loyal to the religious duties of marking the graveyard with sungkup and so, every Dayak from each generation is expected to celebrate Gawai Antu in honour of the dead at least once in a lifetime.
This is a well known festival that attracts music lovers from all over the country and the world as well. The festival is celebrated for 3 days in the month of August every year at Sarawak's Cultural Village in Kuching. It brings together various music artists from all over the world under one roof.