Saturday, December 29, 2007

OLDEN DAYS KADAYAN - In a Savage Land (Part 3)

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيم
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

Firman Allah SWT di dalam Surah Ar-Baqara Ayat 191 yang bermaksud,
Dan bunuhlah mereka di mana sahaja kamu menjumpai mereka, dan usirlah mereka dari mana sahaja mereka mengusir kamu; penganiayaan (fitnah) adalah lebih besar daripada pembunuhan, dan janganlah memerangi mereka di Masjidil Haram (Masjid Suci) sehingga mereka memerangi kamu di dalamnya. Kemudian, jika mereka memerangi kamu, bunuhlah mereka. Itulah balasan ke atas orang-orang yang tidak percaya (And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter. And fight not with them at the Inviolable Place of Worship until they first attack you there, but if they attack you (there) then slay them. Such is the reward of disbelievers.)- Surah Al-Baqara Ayat 191

In a Savage Land

Let us travel through the passage of time to the 15th century Island of Borneo. This was the same time as the Golden Age of Malacca during the reign of Sultan Mansur Shah and the era of the legendary Malay warrior, none other than Hang Tuah. What was it like then in the Island of Borneo? The interior parts of the Island of Borneo were mostly inhabited by the indigenous people called the Dayak tribes, whereas the coastal areas were inhabited by native inhabitants of Malay origin. The Dayak tribes are sub divided into many other tribes such as Punan, Kenyah, Iban, Murut etc to mention just a few. The sub tribes are divided again into about 400 smaller tribes inhabiting various places of the Island of Borneo. The Dayak tribes of the Island of Borneo were very notorious and savage people. They were well known for tribal and communal warfare and of course the head hunting.

The tribal and communal warfare were sparked off mainly due to territorial disputes, trespassing & encroachments, leaderships, family feuds, disregarding cultural and traditional practices, marriage, and personal conflicts. In a highly sensitive tribal environment any issues regardless of its intensity would spark off serious tribal and communal warfare, creating deep division amongst the tribal communities that lasted for a life time.

Head hunting is synonym to the Island of Borneo where according to the belief of the Dayak people, dried human skulls provided the most powerful magic in the world, vital transfusions of energy. After decapitating the enemy, great homecoming celebrations awaited returning warriors. The brains were carefully extracted through the nostrils, and then fresh ULU (heads) were placed in plaited rattan nets and smoke-cured over fires.

According to their beliefs, a good head could save a village from plague, produce rain, ward off evil spirits, or triple rice yields. Dayak people believed a man's spirit continued to inhabit his head after death. Surrounded by palm leaves, heads were offered food and tobacco, so their spirits would forgive, forget, and feel welcome in their new home. New heads increased the prestige of the owner and impressed sweethearts; they were an initiation into manhood.

In some tribes, a head's powers increased over time; cherished skulls were handed down from generation to generation. The beliefs varied from tribe to tribe, in some tribes, a head's magic faded with age, so fresh heads were needed to replenish the older ones. Such belief was the driving force behind the ruthless killings to obtain new heads. Villages without ULU were spiritually weak, easy prey for enemies and pestilence.

Living in a savage land of lawlessness, where the strong dominated the weak and “kill or be killed” environment, is unspeakable in a modern society like now. The head hunters were not ordinary people from the tribal community. They were warriors, trained to execute their tasks successfully i.e. to kill and decapitate the enemies’ heads. Their looks were gruesome, “dressed” in their half-naked warriors’ attire, tattooed bodies and equipped with weaponry suitable for the purpose. The tribal warriors or the head hunters were savage, vicious, notorious and ruthless people of their time.

The Kadayan people of the time were nomadic, shifting from one place to another looking for better and fertile areas for their agriculture activities. The Kadayan people were defined as “coastal” people of the Island of Borneo by the early western emissaries. In actual fact, the Kadayan people were not really the “coastal” people of the Borneo Island where they were depending on the sea as fishermen to support their livelihood. Traditionally, Kadayan people were never been fishermen as compared to other coastal indigenous people of Island of Borneo, like the Brunei Malay for example.

The traditional KADAYAN people settlements were in a “buffer” zone, somewhere in between the savage people of the interior and the coastal people of Island of Borneo. Being nomadic, coupled with their nature of settlements, the Kadayan people were under CONSTANT THREATS and HARASSMENTS from the savage people of the interior and in many occasions they themselves were the victims of the head hunters and tribal warfare. Such predicaments compelled the Kadayan people to develop their own “defence systems” against the act of the savage people of the interior of Borneo Island.

It would be wonderful if there is any where we can “carbon date” the beginning of time when the Kadayan people first developed their defence system. In my personal opinion, in depth research should be done to determine when and how the Kadayan people acquired their “defence systems” so superior that lasted over generations enabling the Kadayan people to earn their reputation as the ultimate warrior of their time.

My analysis on The Olden Days Kadayan had just begun where every key word in the Olden Days Kadayan definition I have given earlier will be substantiated accordingly. To refresh our memory, let me re-quote the definition: -


The key words are fearless, invulnerable, notorious, ruthless, mystical, spiritual and supernatural.

A flying Malay warrior

The Olden Days Kadayan “Defence Systems” may be categorised as follows: -

1. Defensive – the defence systems were used to protect their settlement (village), properties, family and self in the form of physical and spiritual means. Technically the defence systems are known as 1st, 2nd and 3rd Line of Defence. These systems will be elaborated in the later parts of this write-up.

2. Offensive – the offensive mechanisms were used to outwit the enemies in the form of both physical and spiritual means. Besides the extreme “words” used in the definition above, the Olden Days Kadayan people were also SHREWD and DECEPTIVE. Such characteristics are still notable amongst the present day Kadayan people.

Besides the “Defence System” the Kadayan people also acquired other trades and skills to enhance their livelihood of their time. Overtime, the Kadayan people perfected their skills in various fields such as planting of hill paddy & cash crops, fresh water fishing, hunting, defence against wild animals & supernatural beings, medicinal herbs, handicraft, and other skills that were considered of paramount importance to their survival in a harsh and challenging environment of their time. I called these skills as “Survival Skills” and will be discussed in later parts of this article.

To be continued…….

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