Location : Kampung Serasot, Bau District, Kuching Division, Sarawak, Malaysia.
Kampung Serasot is one of the several Dayak Bidayuh villages in the Bau district that celebrates the Gawea Sowa in a very traditional way. The other villages in the loop are Serikin, Duyoh, Raso, Stungkor Lama and Opar. So far we have witnessed 5 of such Gawai events among these villages and we are grateful, for the days are numbered to be able to witness them again.
The Gawea Sowa ceremony usually celebrated for 5 days 4 nights. During these 5 days, the priests and priestesses will perform different types of ritual/dance and the main highlight will be on the last day of the ceremony where the priests/priestesses will go into trance. We were only able to attend the 2nd day ceremony where they performed “Motak Ngilaga/River ritual”. Motak Ngilaga or ritual by the river is to invite the ancestral spirits over to celebrate Gawea Sowa.
Gawai celebrations have always been connected to the rice harvest and as the agro activities here shifts from paddy to other cash crops, the importance of paddy diminishes. Hence, the need to please the gods for good harvest becomes less important. Supermarkets are replacing the gods, so it seems.
The other factor affecting the life span of this old religion is the qualified ‘manpower’ to execute the rituals. The present team of priests and priestesses has reached its minimum quota and should any one of the team members passes on, then the ritual cannot be performed anymore.
The looming curtain will inevitably fall and that will be the end of a rich and spiritual tradition of the Bidayuhs in Sarawak as no younger Bidayuhs have been groomed to replace the current priests and priestesses.
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