Guest Welcoming Ceremony: A Dayak Culture of Meaning

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The uniqueness of Dayak culture in Borneo is not just a fairy tale. I have proved it myself when visiting Silit village in West Borneo a month ago. They are still practicing rituals or customs inherited by the ancestors. Well, one of the most interesting customs is the welcome ceremony. Dayak people appreciate and respect their guests. Therefore they hold sacred, meaningful ceremonies, and special banquets.

The purpose of the Dayak welcome ceremony – Past and Present

According to the explanation of local customary elders, welcome ceremonies Dayak tribe guests have been made since the time of the ancestors. Customary leaders, children, and adults welcomed the arrival of the visitors in a friendly and lively manner. The music and the accompaniment of local prayers always flow throughout the event.

In the past, this ritual aims to welcome the arrival of comrades, brothers who won the war. But now, the ceremony is held as a form of acceptance on the arrival of guests of honor, such as ministers, presidents or officials from outside Borneo region. The whole series of customs in ceremonies must be done so that guests are protected from any distress.

Dusun Silit – One of the Regions in Borneo with the Typical Customary Visiting

Before discussing the process of welcoming guests, I would like to tell you about the unique history of Silit village. Once upon a time, in the hinterland of West Borneo, there was a village where most of the inhabitants were Dayak Seberuang. The village is located in the District of Sepauk. In 1982, the village was transformed into Nanga Pari village. Due to the increasing number of residents, Nanga Pari village was divided into 3 hamlets. One of them is Silit village.

The natural state of the village Silit is still green and beautiful. The forest is filled with large trees and inhabited by various animals. The hills are rising; surround the village area Silit. Clear river flowing through Silit village. This natural wealth is the source of livelihood for its inhabitants. They hunt wild boar and cultivate nomadically. But now the habit has been banned by the government. The reason could damage the forest ecosystems around Silit village. To get to the village Silit, the migrants must start the journey by plane from Pontianak to Sintang district for 40 minutes. After arriving there, continued by car to Silit village. If there are no obstacles, the journey takes only 3 hours. Silit village is famous as a village of wicker craftsmen began to grow rapidly. The results of their production is quite neat even done handmade.

Procedure of Dayak Welcoming Guest Ceremony

I will tell you how the ceremony of welcoming the Dayak tribe guests. Our arrival there to cover and take pictures of the village situation and the potential of existing tourism. From a distance, we saw a reed or bamboo across the village gate. In the location also appears a line of people with traditional Bornean fashion that is ready to present the dance.

When our party approached, the customary chief immediately asked to stop outside the gate. From then on, guests must pass through a series of rituals or welcome ceremonies in the following order.

  1. Cutting Pantan – Ritual to Unlock the Magical Fence

Pantan means obstacles; this is symbolized by a bamboo across the entrance gate. Bamboo is coated with a long cloth. Guests had to roll cloth; some from the left, the rest starting from the right. After the fabric is perfectly rolled, the customary head reads a prayer (mantra). Then he handed the Mandau to one of the guest representatives to cut Pantan. The Dayaks believe that one who is capable of breaking the male with a single slash will be protected from the disturbance of the evil spirit, free from obstacles, and is given salvation.

Conversely, if more than once slashed, customary heads are required to ask the purpose of guests coming to the area. Guests must also answer honestly about the purpose of his presence. After that, the customary head again invited the guest to continue the cutting of the male – until it was broken into two.

  1. Completing the offerings with chicken blood

After the ritual of cutting Pantan, the customary head presents a chicken to be stabbed at his neck. This procession was followed by the prayers of the chief custom. At first I was confused by the meaning of the prayers because it can not speak Dayak. But because occasionally the customary chief translates it in Indonesian, at least I understand it well enough. Then, the chicken blood is placed on a tray containing the offerings. The contents of offerings include:

  • chicken eggs: used as a means of communication and socialization to fellow human beings and the Creator
  • stone: to avoid a variety of distractions.
  • glutinous rice: symbolizes resistance to negative things; keep away from danger; the symbol of purity of heart.
  1. Stomping on the Egg and Spending the Dinner

The third ritual that guests should do is step on the chicken egg. The process was accompanied by a prayer from the customary chief. After that, the customary chief gives ‘tuak’ to the guests. That said, tuak must be drunk until it runs out because it is not polite if there is still the rest. Slightly different from the traditional ceremony of Kikir gigi that aims to signal the adult girls, tuak served at the reception ceremony is not ‘tuak suling’ that must be drunk in a bowl.

The third ritual ends with shaking hands between the guests, the customary chief, and the people who welcome him. Then guests are welcome to walk to the customary chief’s house; accompanied by music and dance.

That’s a bit of my experience while visiting the village of Silit in West Borneo. The guest reception ceremony is just one of the many cultures of the Dayak tribe preserved. Even so, every ritual and offerings that are dedicated can dull the eyes of anyone who witnesses.

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