Hari Gawai

What is Hari Gawai in Malaysia All About?

Hari Gawai Dayak people in Sarawak, Malaysia celebrate Hari Gawai every June 1. It is a thanksgiving and harvest festival marking the abundant agricultural yields and even the prospects for the next harvest season. It was formally celebrated first on June 1, 1965.

Hari Gawai, or Gawai Dayak, is a celebration featuring rhythmic drums, war cries, traditional garments, and liquor. It solidifies the communal strength of the people in Dayak. The word “Dayak” is a term referring to the prominent culture of indigenous native in Sarawak while “Gawai” means festival.

Hari Gawai originated from ancient practices that conclude the harvest season, where rice is bountiful and enough to feed the villagers, with a celebration. Because of the gift of food, the people give praise to several deities, including God of War Sengalang Burong, the High Priest Biku Bunsu Petara, the God of Agriculture Sempulang Gana, and the God of Land Semarugah.

In the Dayak tribes, only the Iban and Bidayuh prominently honour this celebration. Orong Ulu, or the upriver people, prioritize Christmas more and only join in the festivities held by the mentioned communities.


Things to Do During Hari Gawai in Malaysia

One of the many upsides of celebrating Hari Gawai in Malaysia is being exposed to the rich culture. It is a chance to get back to the roots of the modern city. Let us list some of the things you can do during the Hari Gawai public holiday in Malaysia.

Consume Exotic Traditional Food and Rice Wine

Every place has food unique only to it. It is also the same for Sarawak, wherein a selection of home-made delicacies is served during this grand celebration. Do not forget to try the traditional rice wine called tuak as well. It is brewed from glutinous rice and home-made yeast. You can also go on to visit every pub you can see to try different versions of rice wine.

Participate in Traditional Dances

If watching is not enough, you can also dance with the natives during this festival. In Sarawak, ngajat dance is deemed a significant performance for the Iban community. It is choreographed with graceful movements of the body, hands, and feet. This dance is usually performed by the brave warriers on their return from the battles.

Buy Some Souvenirs

To remember the celebration, you can bring home some souvenirs from several stalls in place. You can buy traditional keepsakes such as multi-coloured bead bracelets and necklaces. There are also hand-woven baskets and rattan products you can purchase.


How Hari Gawai in Malaysia is Celebrated

One month before Hari Gawai, people are already beginning their preparations by brewing the rice wine. Preparations for food and drinks, meanwhile, start a week before June 1.

On the eve of the celebration, the Iban community holds miring, which is a blessing and thanksgiving ceremony. In this ritual, the people are offering the ceremony to the departed ancestors, deities, and spirits. In addition, the ceremony being held also invites the spiritual entities to enjoy the celebration in the longhouse community.

On the next day, the people collect sago, aping, and coconut palm shoots to cook soup. They also gather wild fern, fiddlehead fern, tapioca leaves, and more from nearby jungle and farms to be included in the soup.


Venues and Special Events for Celebrating Hari Gawai in Malaysia

There are many places you can visit in Malaysia when celebrating Hari Gawai. You can take note of the following places before visiting them.

Kuching City Highlights Walk

Many heritage buildings are erected in this history-laden city. These include Chinese temples, mosques, colonial-era buildings, and even street markets and bazaars. The city’s attractions include the Cat Museum, Sungai Apong Fishing Village, Jong’s Crocodile Farm, Pitcher Plant and Wild Orchid Garden, and Rafflesia Monument.

Bako National Park

This might be one of Sarawak’s smallest national parks, but it is definitely worth the visit. It has a variety of vegetation and terrains which can be accessed through its nature trails. It is indeed an adventure.

Hari Gawai