Ngumbai Keling Kumang: The Tradition of Calling the Ancestors of the Iban Tribe

Ngumbai Keling Kumang: The Tradition of Calling the Ancestors of the Iban Tribe
Ngumbai Keling Kumang: The Tradition of Calling the Ancestors of the Iban Tribe

BORNEO TRAVEL : Dayaks, especially Iban, have a tradition of calling their ancestors to come in the afterlife. To let you know about big plans for next year, ask for pointers and help, or simply "see you miss."

But the preparations were really carried out, such as welcoming a noble guest. Slaughter the sacrificial animal the day before, with ceremony. There is blood cleansing (purification) done for a kind of penance sacrifice.

Ngumbai (Calling) Keling Kumang, the tradition of calling the ancestors of the Iban tribe, is usually held in February. The ceremony was held at the Keling Kumang Credit Union (CU) Populist Economic Empowerment Movement head office, Tapang Sambas, Sekadau, West Borneo.

To enrich BORNEO TRAVEL readers' cultural insights on the richness of one of the cultural customs and traditional values of the Dayak ethnic group with the largest population (1.2 million), I wrote a series as the title of the narrative.

"It's not occultism. In Catholicism, there is a Credo. That there is a fellowship between people who have passed away and those who are still living in this world. They are still with us, only in different worlds," explained Prof. William Chang, regarding the rituals of the calling Keling Kumang.

"Why do Catholics still maintain old cultural customs and beliefs?"

Prof. William added, in the term "the fellowship of saints" there is good power. "Some kind of intention, resolution, program, which we make to be carried out next year. We ask for the blessing of our parents. Ask for permission. Say goodbye to be able to complete it successfully."


MORNING has broken.

In the eastern horizon, a beam of golden yellow rays adorns the sky. Above the horizon, the bright stars began to pale in the bright light. While the shoots of the tapang (koompassia excelsa) trees are like rigid statues at the edge of the fields, and the moon is lost and swallowed by the returning morning.

The sound of a gong was heard, followed by a fast and moderate voice. To the ears that are used to hearing, that is not an ordinary sound. It's not an emergency signal to call the whole community to come together immediately. Not even the sound of a party, let alone a balian ceremony.

The sound of the gong struck by the three groups of drummers is to call all the citizens to gather immediately at the punjung house. Because the people fully understand the voice, also the animals including wild bats, the dogs do not want to bark in fear. 

They never fear the dead, but fear the living. Therefore, in order to protect the village, they set up ramparts to repel reinforcements.

And now they built a rancak, which was named "Rancak Sempoyong" in the ruai which was purposely built for Keling which has 19 steps.

"Iban people never die. They still live in the realm of eternity, in sebayan. Life is not eliminated, but only changed," explained Kerius Kerja (84 years old), the leader of the ceremony. 

Read The Taboo of Spitting in Front of People in Borneo

Kerius Kerja (84 years old), wearing full Iban Dayak attributes the leader of the ceremony. 

“Today we summoned Keling and Kumang. Preparations have been made since yesterday afternoon and last night. We have slaughtered the sacrificial animals in the form of chickens and pigs. 

His blood is a sacrifice of atonement, blood of cleansing. The flesh represents life,” the man who was starting to be lined with old wrinkles all over his face said.

The gong continued to sound, at the same time curious voices asked. Nowadays, there are still people who are skilled at bebiau. With interludes of singing and sound rhythms, it is pronounced in the village language which is very fluent and smooth. 

The choice of words as poetry is beautiful, intertwined as a syllogism. (X-5)

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