Known locally as Tadau Ka’amatan (Harvest Festival), this native festival of the Kadazan-Dusun, the largest ethnic group in Sabah is the grandest in the state. The annual festival in May is a timeless tradition in honour of Bambaazon, the spirit of the rice padi.
The Kadazan-Dusun community believes that his spirit is responsible for the growth and well-being of the padi plant, offering protection from natural hazards to usher in a season of bountiful harvest for their staple food. Ancient traditions, rites and customs are the order of the day.
Padi farmers from all over Sabah lay down their tools and converge in selected venues in the various districts to celebrate the festival. The highlight of the festival is usually held at the Hongkod Koisaan, the headquarters of the Kadazan-Dusun Cultural Organisation situated 8km from Kota Kinabalu, the state capital. Here for two days, cultural troupes from all over the state perform traditional sports like arm wrestling, blowpipe shooting, catapult contests and relay racing with sticks.
The ‘Magavau’, a cleansing and blessing ritual performed by the Bobohizan or high priestess, will keep you spellbound. In recent years, the harvest Festival has undergone some modification from its traditional rituals of appeasing the spirits to include additional events such as a Beauty Queen Contest, usually participated by some of the most beautiful Kadazan maidens.
During the festival, ‘tapai’, the intoxicating local rice wine or brew flows freely. Being the staple food and the main ingredient of ‘tapai’, rice is treated by the Kadazan-Dusun community with a respect which borders reverence.
This article has been transferred from Expat KL
This article has been edited for ExpatGomalaysia.com