Culture, Tradition and Belief.
The Bidayuh Sarawak are traditionally animist, which rituals centred on the padi
planting circle. Today there are not many villages practised and absorbed this
old tradition, though they still celebrated the Gawai Festival or “Gawai Sowa”.
It a merry and fun time where families members come together from far and wide
to celebrate this once a year celebration.
In Sarawak, the gazetted holiday is on 1st. June but the
actual celebration time varies from each villages or kampong. In some places,
the celebration started in mid May and ended with a grand “ Gawoi Sowa”
celebration in Mid June.
As time gone by, many Bidayuh Sarawak were converted to Christianity and left
the old Bidayuh Tradition and Culture. Majority are Roman Catholic, some joined Anglican, SIB, Baptist and other small Christian Church. A small number
are converted to Muslim either through marriage or out of their own free will.
Those that still practise the Old Tradition are not many as the new
generations are unwilling to carry on the tradition. Some community leaders,
organization and individual in the Bidayuh community have taken the initiatives
to teach and encourage the new generation to carry on with the tradition so
that they won’t get lost in the transition. It is important for the community
to maintain some aspect of their tradition and culture for the future
Dance, Songs and Musical Instrument.
The Bidayuh Sarawak dances are design and centred on the tradition and belief,
and they are parts of the rituals during the Gawai Celebration. Among them are,
“Boris”, “Ngikar” and “ngrinang” which would be accompanied by music from the
These dances were performed by “Dayung Boris” or Bidayuh maiden dress in
traditional costume led by the “Ketua Gawai”.
The traditional bidayuh songs were mantras sung to their ancestors,
giving thanks and appreciation for the good health and bountiful harvest during
the year. It is also to seek for their blessing and guidance towards a healthy
and good harvest in the year to come.
This is a dying tradition as not many of the new generation willing to
learn and carry on with the tradition. These mantras and songs are also
difficult to learn as there are no written references and they were passed down
orally from each generation to the next.
of the Bidayuh.
Traditionally the Bidayuh Sarawak was involved in padi planting both dry
and wet padi. The dry padi were planted on hill slope on a rotational basis,
while the wet padi were plated on swampy group.
With the introduction of cash crops like rubber, cocoa, pepper and palm
oil, many have left to venture into planting these cash crops. Those that
continue with planting padi have dwindled.
As the new generation of the Bidayuh Sarawak get better education and more
knowledgeable, many gained employment with public and private sector, a number
of them are also self-employed; running their own business.
The Bidayuh Community of Sarawak which were once considered to be timid
and naïve is getting more progressive and knowledgeable. Many of the villages
have access to primary education, public health facilities and other amenities.