• Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
Home Dayaknese people from time to time Dayaknese Women DAYAK WOMAN, WHO AND WHAT ARE THEY?


E-mail Print PDF
Article Index
Page 2
Page 3
Page 4
All Pages

Tjilik Riwut & me1. INTRODUCTION

Our predecessor lives free in the nature, accompanied by the brisk voice of flowing river, the whistle of bird, the aroma of forest mold and the green of trees. The pure of the nature resulted in the cheerful and honest heart. That’s the daily life of our ancestor.

As a Dayak woman residing not in the village, I was contacted several times or to be exact I was judged that Dayak woman is apt in guna-guna and santet . One person came to my house because one of his relative became the victim of Dayak woman’s magic potion. Other person came for aid to free his family member from the witchcraft’s influence. Is it true that Dayak woman has the ability to make love potion preying the opponent sex for their personal interest?.

‘Dayak woman, who and what are they?’ is trying to give answers to those accusation and suspicion.


Tjilik Riwut & me

This writing is made based on the collection of writings and documents of prominent cultural adherent Tjilik Riwut. As addition, I inserted as well my experience and my thankfulness, my anxiety and concern as Dayak woman. Also my struggling life experience to get my self-identity as Dayak woman nearly disconnected from the cultural bound because of the long years accompanying my spouse far away from the homeland .

In this writing the information focuses on the role of Dayak woman in the past. To show the events and challenges in current time, I will reveal my experience struggling to make myself rise and hold to the noble cane of panatau Utus so that I can dia matei buseng although hit by the strong wave of globalization. By revealing my experience, I hope that in the long run, Dayak woman who has the same destiny like me feel challenged to regain the thing that almost “vaporized”.

The disconnection of generation from the cultural and ethnic socialization might result in the fading self identity as Dayak woman . The anxiety of the disconnection of generation from ancestor’s heritage in socialization or cultural knowledge due to the change of tradition of tetek tatum which is eroded by modernization, led me to choose the title above. Presentation in this writing is narrowed not on the Dayak woman in general, but more focused on Dayak woman in the region of Central Kalimantan. Native inhabitant of Central Kalimantan is the Dayak, divided in several tribes and several sub-tribes and each has its own language. Those tribes are Dayak Ngaju, Dayak Ot Danum, Ma’anyan, Lawangan, Siang, and several others.

Thanks For the translator.



Fact from history indicates that we, Dayak woman, since the beginning has received the confidence to decide our own attitude and action in living the daily life. As the proof, please visit the city of Palangka Raya, the capital of Central Kalimantan. There, numerous names of Dayak woman predecessor are honored and used as the names of roads.

Attitude and behavior of the Dayak in Central Kalimantan is very influenced by their point of view in giving the meaning to life. Besides that, it should be informed that the cultural tradition in each tribe in the region of Central Kalimantan is not really similar one from the other, there are some differences, either in language, attitude, rites, symbols and living style, but in general they have the same philosophy.

In general we do not demand much for our own desire. We are used to do everything on our own. Being used to independency, Dayak woman was not born as an obedient person. But we are not rebellious. We trust more the intuition , compared to the explication that we cannot be assured of its truth. If we understand well the explanation and it’s not the contrary to the mission of our life, our faithfulness cannot be doubted no more.

Here I am very cautious for not mixing disobedient and rebellious. Both have different meaning. According to Prof.Dr.J.S.Badudu and Prof. Sutan Mohammad Zain in General Dictionnary of Indonesian Language/Kamus Umum Bahasa Indonesia, the word rebellious means against, revolt, not willing to obey. Dayak woman is not rebellious, does not revolt or is not against. We choose more to be silent, if we are not sure of the thing we need to obey and do.

The value of Dayak woman in the eyes of tribe community is high. It is so high the appreciation of the tribe to its woman, that the dowry for the wedding cannot be considered as a light matter. Dayak youth are very protective and respectful to the tribe teenage girls. They cannot accept if there is a person that they consider as a stranger enters their territory and teases one of tribe’s girls. Harassing a Dayak woman is identical to harassment to the pride of the tribe and also identical to the challenge for war. All tribe members will be triggered in their anger and will move forward to answer the challenge.

Gender equality existed since the beginning in the Dayaks does not mean that the Dayak men are ignorant to the safety of their tribe’s woman. We received a huge protection and we know that the harassment of Dayak woman is similar to the harassment to the tribe. For example, the common practice in the Dayak society , during a visit to one of member of the village, the question should be asked: is there a man in the house? If the answer is jatun meaning no, it is advised that the visit is postponed until the man from the house return home. But if the answer is atun meaning yes, the guest can continue with request for the visit. This is a very sensitive matter, being reckless in this matter may lead to get the singer because of misunderstanding.

Be alert and cautious. It is a short info for guest who will spend the night at Dayak family. Guest is highly respected and will be taken care and served well by the host family. The kindness cannot be misinterpreted. If the guest’s attitude cannot be controlled and is considered impolite, it’s possible that the guest be expelled from the house. The reason is because the guest has disturbed the teenager at home so he is sent to the village head or customary leader so that he will be judged in the customary representative meeting.

From my experience as speaker in several seminars with Dayak as the theme, the question which was asked often by seminar participants was,:”Is it true that Dayak woman for the respect to the guest who visits their village has the liberty to sleep with the guest?” I am thankful that they asked, not accusing without reason or condemning in their heart. Usually to answer the question, I used no longer my anger since I am used to this most popular question asked by several different people. My answer is: ”It is not true”. Then, patiently I explained the situation of Dayak village in the past. The rest room was not located inside the house, but built in batang by the river. Batang or port is for the boat. If the guest needs to go to the bathroom at night, the one who accompanied him sleeping was the one who escort. Imagine, if the guest falls because of the slippery, fall to the river with strong current and should face a crocodile. Then who should be responsible? The road to batang is in the darkness of the night and also should climb down the ladder? I tried to give the answer with questions with intention to invite the audience to experience for a while the situation in those days.

The Dayaks respect very much the guest who comes visiting them. The respect is so high that there’s a special article in our customary law addressed to protect the safety of our guest. With this high respect and confidence that we trust wife and even daughter to sleep accompanying the guest. The presence of wife and daughter, besides for accompanying to sleep, is also for serving the needs of guest. The meaning of sleep and serve here is sleep in the real meaning. Serve means to assist the guest just in case the guest who rest overnight at their house suddenly falls ill or needs to go to bathroom. In this case, the guest visiting the Dayak village should be cautious in maintaining the trust of all villagers. Do not speculate and try to harass for the sake of guaranteed safety. The Dayak recognize the practice of mass amok or hakarubut. Hakarubut means being beaten up by mob. Usually it’s for defending the matter that they consider as the truth, or for defending the name of the tribe, security and safety of the member of village.

This information will not be complete if I don’t enclose here the gold and the meaning for the Dayak. In the language of Dayak Ngaju, the word bulau means gold but also means female genital part. Gold is the sand of heaven identical to the eternal prosperity and welfare. It’s considered a noble and glorified matter It’s not a coincidence that the word bulau has a specific meaning, noble and glorified. With this above understanding, in Tribe’s culture, the feminine genital part as the access of baby birth is considered as a noble and high valued, not as a mere object for releasing sexual passion The consequence of gender equality that’s been acquired since the beginning is the challenge for us to be able to prove that we are not a weak creature.

This has been proved by the woman of the tribe of Ot Paroi/ Ot Pari in handling themselves after giving birth. They live in the region between the river of Mahakam and Barito, as well as in Bukit Raya. They realize that giving birth is a routine event that should be experienced by every woman. The woman from this tribe loves to live and stay in forest . It is also the case at time of labor. The woman from the tribe of Dayak Ot Paroi/ Ot Pari prefers to give birth in the forest instead of in the village. After they accomplish delivering the baby, they immediately dig a small hole on the ground. In the hole they prepare mamapoi rabon , also known as rabon pari. It consists of several dried plants available in their surroundings. As soon as the smoke comes up from the rabon, the woman wrapping herself in the tapih , squatting above the hole to let the access of baby birth be smoked. They do the process until they feel the fatigue. It’s hard to believe, but three days after giving birth, usually they are able to return hunting the animal in the jungle.

A few examples of woman’s roles are:

A woman as Balian. Balian is a woman whose task is as a mediator and communicator between human and other creature that cannot be seen using regular physical eye of human Balian conveys human’s requests to the Ranying Hatalla with the mediator of the good spirit who receives special task from Ranying Hatalla to give guidance to human. It’s not every person, although with perseverance, can do the task and obligation of balian. Usually it’s only the chosen persons. There are a guidance of signs that a child might in the future become a balian, some of which are if a girl is born with the condition lahir bungkus , that means in time of birth the placenta is not broken because of the birth process, that the child is coming out to world well wrapped in the placenta. During childhood, the girl’s attitude and conduct is different from regular children and she experiences numerous events that seems illogical to her environment.

Role of woman as a replacing candidate. Son, daughter or child in-law is the first candidate to become leader if the Customary leader passes away. If the customary discussion decides that the first candidate is considered incapable or still too young, the right to become the replacement can be transferred through election.

In the ceremony of tiwah , when the rite of stabbing the water buffalo is held, woman also have their turn. The stabbed part by the woman heir of the salumpuk liau , is called pekas bunuhan. She has the right to receive the left thigh of the animal she speared.

From the traditional dance, the involvement of Dayak woman in the society can be seen for example from several dances.

  • Dandang Tingang dance. Joyful dance performed by woman. Dandang means the long tail of enggang bird and Tingang means the Hornbill/Enggang bird. It’s called the dance of Dandang Tingang, because the dancers perform while holding the stick that has in its end the feather from the hornbill’’s tail. This dance is from the regency of Kapuas Central Kalimantan, it is performed during the foundation of poles from iron wood for building the fortress also at the time the community working together in building Jihi Busu that is the first pole of Rumah Betang, made from selected wood and located inside the house building.
  • Galang Dadas /g’alang dadas/ ~ the dance from the regency of South Barito Central Kalimantan. Performers are all woman without limitation of numbers. The dance of Wadian Dadas or Gelang Dadas decribes how a traditional medicine woman is treating a sick person by telling bad spirits to disturb no more the ill person. Then the spirit of the sick person is ordered to return so that step by step the person will be recovered. The dance is usually performed during a wedding ceremony or during the welcoming a respectful guest.

At this moment the involvement of woman is every aspects of life seems to pass through a transformation. The reason is unclear and needs further research to find the explanation.

For the Dayaks, the life means an existence related to the self potential just the way they are, far from the act of pretention. The pureness of someone’s heart can be reflected through the eyes. The traditional advice said: The depth of the sea can be predicted, but the heart of a person, who can know? The advice cannot be applied to the Dayak. According to us, the eyes cannot lie. The good intention and someone’s good willingness are reflected through the glow of the eyes.

According to Dayak’s belief, everybody in one’s life has a certain task and mission. What mission to be carried out? It should be searched and found out for certain. How to do it? “Dive and swim” then search until one finds it. The self confidence of us, Dayak woman is very high if we found our mission of life.

Finding with direct experience permits our heart to be touched by love, love for our task, for the mission that is ready to be carried out. Not only sit and reflect, think and analyze theories. Also it’s not about thinking and calculating the profit that will be gained. Without the courage to “Dive and swim”, the only thing exist is a dream.

The Dayak prioritizes working with heart for the perfection of our own mission of life, not for material reason. Wealth is the mean to support the execution of the life mission. Being able to do belum bahadat and doing our mission of life, the blessings will never stop flowing. That’s what we believe.

Mission of life or the task of life differs from one person to the other. Doing small simple thing with willingness and persistency might be someone’s mission of life. Avoid evaluating someone else’s task and burden since mission of life is personal. All consequence and responsibility in the execution is each one’s personal responsibility to the Almighty. Mission of life is not always extraordinary or awesome. It is not for searching the fame. It’s a call to the soul that’s been decided since one is still in womb. Even though the mission of life is different one from the other, with varied burdens, but the reward that will be achieved is the same, it is the victory.

Victory is identical with the ability to hidup bahadat, and doing things we believe that goes with our mission of life. The responsibility of human in performing its mission of life perfectly is the absolute requirement that needs to be accomplished. To achieve the goal, the physic and spirit should always be clean. That way, we will have the redemption from Ranying Hatalla . The redemption is in the form of abundant wealth, like abundant harvest, business and hard work going well without significant obstacle and the illness is far from us.

Since toddler, we, Dayak woman was taught to be cautious in our word and promise. Every word said contains risk. For example if when playing in the river you don’t want to be sunk and die, we will not say buseng that means manjatu or fall.

Ela barangai bapander ! That’s how our parent reminds us that if we play with our friends. We also cannot laugh or give comment on the natural happening that we witness. For example, during our play time, we saw chicken ran after the other and had the mating time in front of us, we dared not to utter any comment or laugh about it.

This current era where every person is limited with time and burdened with task and work, it’s possible that unconsciously they scold the children who ate breakfast very slowly with rude works like idiot or silly. For us, the Dayak, it cannot be done because unconsciously the parent hoped or prayed that the children would be idiot or silly in the future. So, parent’s self control should be well managed.

A mother who put her child to bed , with manuyang or swing the child, even though terribly angered, should control well of what she says. It’s believed that the scold and blessing of a mother will become reality.

Another example is that because of uncontrolled anger, a mother cursed his kid with rude and cruel sentence and the curse is not impossible to be realized. For example: calaka ikau , and soon afterwards the kid had an accident. That’s why the Dayak respect their mother.

Prayer and blessing of a mother also tambi or grandmother is a priceless matter. Every child was born to earth with the mediator of their own mother. That fact is one of the reasons why Dayak woman has a respected place in the life of tribe. The woman is so valuable for the tribe that a woman who marries then changes her religion then will get a customary sanction.

For us, the Dayaks, male or female, promise is everything. Breaking promise without strong and correct reason has high risk. A person breaking a promise can lose his legitimacy in his environment and will not have the trust of others and it will last until the end of his life.

Since young, for male or female of the Dayaks, in daily life, knowing the nature in our surrounding is becoming the main priority. In this opportunity, I wrote one of my experiences.


One day my father took me walking to the forest to seek the wood for cooking. Small Mandau attached on my waist, my left hand holding the wooden snake stick . At that time I felt that I already became a person that is mamut menteng . I walked with high confidence. After a long walk, we were far deep in the forest that the flow of the river could not be heard no more. Unfortunately, after being far from the river, the thirst tortured me. Although my step became weak, I tried to hold on. Since the journey seemed endless, I could not continue. My vision started to blur. I felt nearly unconscious. Then I told my father that in two minutes I would be fainted because of the thirst.

My father smiled and looking at me, he said: “know the nature around you”. While saying so, father chopped a root of tree circled and falling down between trees. Only with one chop, father found fresh water running down from a yellow root/Akar Kuning/Arcangelisia flava. Without any command, as fast as I could, the dropping water I took it to my mouth and gulp I drank it. It’s bitter but I didn’t care. After conquering the thirst, the body felt refresh. With confidence I walked again with new spirit

From one generation to other, the Dayak knows well and use akar kuning /Arcangelisia flava as the thirst quencher during a journey inside the forest. Also it works as supplement for body immunity from several illnesses and to guard the stamina.

A simple experience that commonly occurs daily becomes special and has a significant meaning when I try to understand that every experience is valuable lesson.

Memory of the experience when nearly unconscious because of thirst in the forest, small Mandau on waist without knowing its function, I accept it as lesson/field practice about kamamut mentengan and the way for recognizing the environment and nature. The positive impact is my emotional attachment with my homeland became so strong.

My generation is still experiencing the life direct in the nature of the homeland. And how about the generation of children, grandchildren and all other descendants in the future? Will they feel the same like us? ewen dia kilau kayu je Nihau paruruk . It’s my hope for children and grandchildren.


In the concept of Dayak belief, human and other creature has been decided and given task in respective position to fulfill their task in maintaining the order of the nature so that everything goes as it’s supposed to be in a harmonious and balanced order. This harmonious order and the order of cosmic balance is named by the Dayak hadat. Human is considered to be good or perfect if one is capable to execute all the customary law/ hukum adat and obey the pali law/hukum pali. So, customary for the Dayak is not only a regulation or habit that regulates the relation between humans, but has a wider meaning. Customary law includes all events, for all creatures and universe.

For example, if there is a wedding between an uncle and a niece, this wedding is salah hurui or wrong ancestry. The consequence is fatal since the punishment will be burdened to many persons, the nature will punish them. That’s why the customary ceremony is held as soon as possible to neutralize it and the wrongdoers should accept the heavy sanction that is known as singer.

Someone who disobeys verdicted singer or fines or punishment will be expelled from the region.

In fact, in the past, on the Dayak customary law there were several chapters related to the protection of woman, especially the pregnant one, but there’s no chapter that limited the movement and steps of woman. For example: A man who is spending time alone with a married woman and between them there is no familial relation and even they do not know each other, then the man can be prosecuted in the customary trial. A man and a woman who walk alone without the permission of woman’s family is also considered as trespassing the customary law. On the road, a woman is invited to a conversation by a man while they do not know each other, if it is found out by the woman’s heir, then the man can be fined since it’s considered as disobedience to the customary law. Also, if a man invites one or two woman to walk around without asking permission to the father of the woman in advance, the man is considered of having made mistakes and will be taken to the customary court and it’s a heavier case if they do not know each other. If a woman was found for having committed suicide because of her husband’s affair, the customary fine should also be given.

However, it there is a group of young woman gathered in a place, and a man should pass the area since there is no alternate way, it is not a problem as long as the man does not forget to greet older women in there. Chapters in Dayak customary law addressing the protection of tribes’ woman, some of those are:

  • Singer Tungkun or tungkun fine is the fine that should be paid by a man if he had taken a woman by force. Singer Tungkun Balang Dosa Palus means a fine – cancelled since the woman that’s tungkun has been taken back by her husband.
  • Singer Sarau, a fine that should be paid by a man related to the pregnancy out of marriage.
  • Singer Sarau Bujang, a fine for a man who disturbs or teases a young woman.
  • Singer Tandahan Sarau, a fine that should be paid by a man who makes a woman pregnant while the woman is not his wife.
  • Singer Karusak Balu, a fine that should be paid by a man who is involved in love affair with a widow.
  • Singer Sala Basa Dengan Sawan Oloh , A fine given to a man who walk or is at a house alone with other person’s wife and the husband cannot accept it.
  • Singer Sala Basa dengan Bawi Bujang means the fine given to a man who walks or is at home alone with a girl and the heir of the girl does not accept it. Singer Sala Basa dengan oloh, fne for customary trespasser in the case related to a girl or somebody else’s wife.
  • Singer Salahan Kabaluan means a murdered husband and has not been given the ceremony of tiwah but the widow remarried with the relative of her husband. The man who married the widow should pay the customary fine.
  • Singer Palangi Pangarai, a husband is fined because her wife passes away when giving birth to their baby.
  • Singer Kunus Kampung, a fine that should be paid by a man who lives in a house with a woman and after pregnancy, he just leaves her without anything.
  • Singer Tekap Tampar Baun Mate means customary fine for a man who causes shame to the father and mother of a woman. There is also singer for a jealous husband, if it is a excessive jealously without reason. For example, a husband who is excessively jealous of his wife and makes reports to the woman’s family while later his accusation cannot be proved. In this case, the husband receives a customary singer since he gives shame to the wife’s family. It is called Singer Kabehun Banae.

There are many other customary fines related to the protection of woman. However, the woman is not immune to the law or to the fines.

There are several customary laws for woman with intention for the protection and the goodness of the woman herself. For example:

  • Singer Tandah Dosa. Customary fine for a woman who admitted that was teased by a man, but if the accusation cannot be proved then the woman will receive a customary singer.
  • Singer Tandah Sarau. If a young girl is pregnant and without proof mentioning the responsible man, but she herself refuses to take oath for confirming of her words, then the woman receives singer adat.
  • Singer pandua, means a fine that should paid by a woman to another woman for teasing the latter’s spouse. The husband, in the other hand is given Singer Mangkalau Dosa, for not appreciating his wife and having an affair with another woman. In this case, there are two types of fines payment that will be received by a woman for the unfaithfulness of her husband. If a man commits a suicide because his wife betrays him, the customary fine should be executed.

In the old days, according to the customary law, if asang dan kayau happened, woman and children cannot be killed. Except if the woman was involved in the war, she could be taken to become a jipen . Her freedom from slavery could be given, if the lost party or her family paid a ransom. The price of ransom was decided in the customary meeting.

In Dayak tradition, the relation of a child in the family and among relatives either from father or mother side is the same. In reality, it often happens that a husband lives in the same house with his parent-in-law, thus the children will be closer to the family of mother side. However, according to the customary law, the right and obligation is the same.

There is no difference since it includes the prohibited matrimony, heritage and obligation. In dividing heritage, either in the form of material or spiritual and magical power ability, there is no difference. Male or female is the same. The difference is only in its natural function of physical condition between male and female themselves.

In the use of equipment, it is the same although there are some tools that specifically used by woman, for example: Suling Balawung is commonly used by woman.

  • Suling balawung is a musical instrument made by small bamboo and has five holes on the bottom part and one at the upper part.
  • Besei Bawi /b’es’ei bawi/ ~ the boat row for woman. The difference with the male’s equipment is on its handle. The bawi row has crafted handle and on the wide part has a three corners. The size of esei bawi is larger than besei hatue .
  • Balakon /balakun/ ~ a sort of rattan basket. Balakon is used by woman tightened in the waistline to carry the paddy after harvest to the sun-drying place.
  • In the past Dayak woman has a particular weapon to protect themselves. It’s a sort of small amulet called Langgei Simbel. On the langgai there is a sort of bracelet made of metal Male and female are the same.

There is only one prohibition that should be obeyed by Dayak woman. It’s prohibited to catch the fish in mihing , because if woman comes along to do it, the mihing will fall apart.


Pregnancy is a natural moment that should be handled and well taken care of. For the sake of the mother’s and baby’s health and safety, there are many prohibitions that should be obeyed. For example:

  • It’s prohibited to take a bath or drink using water from well, the reason is that the water in the well does not flow. It’s worried that in such place there are many creatures unseen by physical eyes. It’s believed that water from well used for bath or drink by pregnant woman can cause fever or bleeding that’s caused by disturbance from the unseen creature guardian of the well.
  • It’s prohibited to eat chilly especially the small type. It’s worried that the baby body will be inflamed like being splashed by hot water.
  • It’s also prohibited to eat vegetables that grow in creeping.
  • Prohibition to eat preserved food since the baby can have a suppuration in ear.
  • It’s prohibited to be under the rain especially when the thunder
  • It’s prohibited to eat the grilled fish;
  • it’s prohibited to eat expired food.
  • It’s prohibited to take bath of the deepest part of the river.
  • It’s prohibited to cook with wood from dwarf tree since it’s worried that the child’s growth will be disturbed.
  • It’s prohibited to pinching food from the cooking pot and put it directly to the mouth.
  • It’s prohibited to cook with wood having mushroom.
  • It’s prohibited to eat fruit falling from tree but stuck between branches and does not fall to the ground. The meaning is that it’s expected that the baby is born without obstacle like the stuck fruit.
  • It’s prohibited to collect wood for cooking where the branch and stalk are under water. It’s expected that the placenta grows normally, not too big that can cause difficulty during labor.
  • It’s prohibited to eat while walking so that the baby is not born in uncertain place. And there are many others.

Prohibition for husband:

  • When a wife is expecting a baby, the husband and the whole house is prohibited to eat with legs dangling, especially when the body is inside the house and the legs dangling out from the house. The reason is that it is worried that the baby will imitate that during delivery that the baby’s leg comes out first. It is of course very dangerous.
  • The husband is prohibited in making statue, prohibited in making several types of fish catching equipment. It is for avoiding the baby born with physical defect. During wife’s pregnancy, the husband is prohibited to fight with his wife. The reason is to avoid the wife from bleeding. And there are many more.


The brave attitude in facing the nature challenges results in the acceptance in the tribe’s community. Male and female is not different, either in right and obligation, as long as one is willing and able. The role in serving community, war, performing the role as the Customary leader or taking care of household, making a living, everybody can do it, woman or man, as long as being willing and able to.

Even so, do not think that Dayak woman has no gentleness. Observe the work of Dayak woman. For example, plait, painting in the form of body tattoo, also dancing and singing. In those it can be seen the combination of virile bravery and gentleness.

Although we have gentleness, if our self pride is trampled, the attitude of mamut menteng will appear immediately. We dare to die to protect all things that we consider true. The condition of the nature influences the behavior and character of human.

In the book of Maneser Panatau Tatu hiang it is decribed : Both Dayak male and female have a knight soul, brave and never surrender. It is explicitly said in their motto of life Isen Mulang that means never surrender. This attitude especially in the past is compulsory whether they want it or not, because of the demand from the wild nature. Living in the deep forest inhabited by wild and poisonous animals, having huge river with strong current and savage cascade, all are ready for the prey randomly here and there. The fact of the natural condition obliges them to always be on alert for their life safety. Cautious, energetic and should always win is the way the Dayak faces the natural challenges day by day if they want to survive. The influence of nature condition reflects on the attitude and living style of the Dayaks in the society. Always on alert, firm without strings attached, direct to the point. They are also not easy to be influenced, always act fast/kace-kace so that the impression is that they act without thinking, but they dare to take risk.

It can be imagined that if they think and consider again and again before reacting, then they will not have chance to defend themselves and can become easy prey for wild animals. The nature teaches them to have the character. It’s the reason why the Dayak cannot pretend, they act as just the way they are. Hospitality and anger can be seen clearly in the spontaneous attitude as they express whatever in their mind.

It is not an extraordinary moment when Dayak woman was involved in war. If willing and being able, our presence to take part and join the war will be accepted with open hand. But, there is no obligation for us to be involved in war.

As example, I will tell you about a Dayak woman warrior. Her name is Nyai Undang. Having her pride harassed by the arbitrarily attitude of a rich man who comes from the place across, she was able to coordinate the force of famous tribe commanders/pangkalima . Not only doing the coordination, but she contacted and lobbied them in a very short period of time. In no time, the invited commanders came and gathered in Kupang island. The means of communication used is Lunjo Buno or Ranying Pandereh Bunu or Renteng Nanggalung Bulau, it is a spear with chalk of piper betle on the blade. Lunju Bunu is totok bakakak or sign or code or sign language commonly understood by the Dayak tribe community. In sign language, sending lunjo buno means requesting aid because of an incoming attack. Tombak bunu was sent to all directions inviting the commanders to be present in the place. In fact Nyai Undang had already someone she loved. Since her beauty was very famous, she was proposed by a rich man with an extravagant dowry. The proposal was accompanied by a threat that the refusal would lead to an unavoidable war. It’s common that a man is interested and tries to propose, however if the proposal is sent with a threat that the refusal means war, it’s no longer a proposal. It’s in fact becoming a challenge.

In brief, the war erupted in Kupang island, kota Pamatang Sawang located in Central Kalimantan region now. There is an important aspect that needs to be highlighted that there is a regulation that should be obeyed during the war. If there is an enemy who declares marup means surrender, it’s not allowed to kill the person. Nyai Undang’s troop supported by the reliable Pangkalima succeeded in winning the war. The involvement of woman in war, in the traditional dance can be seen in Kinyah Bawi Dance . This dance is a type of dance performed to guests in certain event and is a dance filled with nuance of bravery of hero in war. While dancing, the dancer holds traditional dagger/mandau and a sort of sicles/telawang, sometimes also equipped with blow pipe/sumpitan. For this kinyah bawi dance, all dancers are woman since bawi means woman. The message conveyed is that going to war is not only man who can do it. Woman does not want to be left behind and be prepared and takes part in war for defending the glory of the country.

In my contemplation, the pride of being Indonesian surged on my mind. I am thankful that the Nusantara land has extraordinary assets. Various traditions and cultures are the wealth of Indonesian. Various cultures of Nusantara. Indonesian cultures, different one from the other but still unified. Bhineka Tunggal Ika. It’s more ideal that every tribe in Indonesia understand one another tradition and culture, thus inter-ethnic conflicts will never be repeated.

Among inter-ethnic tradition and culture, there are many similarities and many differences, sometimes it contradicts one from the other. A real example, in attitude, a woman in Java, especially in Yogya acts with gentleness to show high ethics and respected personality. It’s different with Dayak woman. The condition of nature forms us to be a nimble and energetic woman. The nature as well that forms us to be mamut menteng or brave and never surrender.


I live in Yogyakarta. One of my activities is to accompany students either in high school, college or university level from Central Kalmantan who study Jogyakarta. From them, I received the information that they were frequently asked about magic potion and witchcraft. According to them and also question posed by many friends to me: “Is it true that Dayak woman loves to use magic potion and do witchcraft?”

The question cannot be answered by yes or no. In my opinion, if the question is not answered thoroughly then there will be many persons in disadvantage position besides it causes anxiety and cautiousness in victim. Meaning victim of cupid’s arrow and suffering from the love fever of the bawin Dayak child of eson Tambun Bungai or descendant of Tambun Bungai . With the above reason, here, in this book I will explain my understanding about the case.

Three reasons why Dayak woman is often accused on using magic potion:

  • First , merely because of suspicion. Because of being influenced by spreading and irresponsible rumor, all things are tied with magic potion. For example, when his youngest son seemed closer with a Dayak woman, Mrs. Hartanto was confused. With all means, she tried so that her youngest child George forgets immediately her beloved girl. Mrs. Hartanto’s effort was useless since George changed not his mind. In fact George who kept changing girlfriend was impressed by the naïf Ehet. For George, Ehet always acted naturally. Not once that Ehet refused if being asked for a favor by everybody. Ehet never differentiated person based on social status. When George acted to force his will which did not go along with Ehet’s willing, Ehet dared to be act firmly to express her disagreement. Ehet was angry when she should be and laughed freely when she should laugh. Just to be her real self, that how George thought of Ehet’s personality. It’s so human that George fell in love and could not forget Ehet. The moment that actually went naturally was accepted by George’s family with suspicion.
  • Secondly I lied if I said that witchcraft does not exist. The fact is that it exists. One or two families might lose control and practice it. However, the word “love to” is exaggeration. All return to the self control of each personality .In my knowledge, witchcraft has negative connotation. It acts using force, for revenge purpose, caused by jealous feeling and anger. For that reason, we should control our heart and thought. Witchcraft is useless and cannot affect the clean heart, a good willingness and a positive thinking.From the note ofTjilik Riwut , that I edited from the book Maneser Panatau Tatu Hiang, it’s explicitly admitted the fact as follow: “ The proximity of the Dayak with nature makes them always observing the gentle movement of nature’s change. Consequently, the Dayak has more ability to reunite with the nature. The union with nature and silence leads them to the ability to absorb the vibration of nature. Their sensitivity is more sharpened and slowly but sure grows and develops the spiritual ability in oneself. A deniable reality that many Dayak ancestors has the ability of bakaji. All spiritual, magical ability in any form that they posses comes from Ranying Hatalla and always has a positive character towards the way of rightfulness. If the ability is misused to satisfy the negative greedy desire, it becomes the responsibility of each individual who performs it. In this case self control is really necessary that a person who has magical supernatural power uses his powerful ability towards a positive way, not to the negative ones. All depend on each individual. Consciously or not, this spiritual ability is the end will be inherited by the descendants. The inheriting process of spiritual and magical ability to descendants consciously occurs in several ways. It happens usually in the last moment approaching the death. Spiritual ability of a person is really personal. It’s not easy to understand and learn the spiritual ability owned by the Dayak since the ancestry factor is really important. Although learning really hard and fulfilling numbers of requirements, but the effort to have magical power often results in failure. The inheritance process occurs only if the person passes away and the other person who has the blood relation, sometimes unexpected, automatically inherits the ability. Sometimes the strength legacy was not given by the parent to the descendants for several reasons, but it was returned to nature at the end of his life by performing several requirements. However, it often happens also that the super natural and magical power returns to the descendant after a while and after passing several process. However, if the destined descendant gives no response, in the end the power or the ability will perish by itself.” I hope the quotation above leads readers to a better understanding of the meaning of spirituality in tribe’s community. You are welcomed to learn and understand it.
  • Thirdly. Warning and protection from Tatu Hiang or ancestors of the Dayak. Oloh Itah (read : uluh itah) or Utus Itah, also known as sesama arep or anak eson (read: esun) of Tambun Bungai, is the descendant of native resident of Central Kalimantan by gene or blood from one of Dayak tribes in Kalimantan. For all his descendants, Dayak’sTatu Hiang gives a maximum protection. The role of Tatu Hiang is not only to protect, but also to give warning if the descendants misstep in living one’s life or trespass the hadat . The warning is not only for all descendants, but also to anybody who harasses or underestimates the self-esteem and dignity of the descendants. The ancestors care so much for their descendants that the cry and sad emotion of the descendants are also their sorrow. Energy messages reflected to the universe through the mind and heart of a person can be captured by Tatu Hiang.

From many books that I read , I achieved the understanding that the science describes the energy as a spectrum consisting of frequencies. The existence of frequency and nature cannot be destroyed or stopped; it can only be changed, bended or disturbed. Theory of body bio energy also states that human has energy that flows inside and around human’s body. The influence of energy area, usually known as aura, created by God, can synergize. Related to the ancestors’ commitment in defending and protecting the descendants, I can understand that the scream and cry also sad emotion of the descendants are the energy messages sent to the universe through mind and heart then received by the ancestor. Here sometimes there is a misunderstanding. In many ways Dayak’s Tatu Hiang will give warning to anybody who harass or underestimate the self esteem and dignity of all descendants. The warning, because of lack of understanding, sometimes is interpreted as witchcraft.


Here and there, the change exists, the time evolutes. Looking not through our own view, but using someone else’s glasses. ” Worried to be considered as making mistakes, reluctant to act has dominated life. The consequence is that everything has not been done maximally, work only for a living, perfunctorily, and bored easily. It is so with mission of life. It cannot be just found. The perseverance is required to find it.

Making step without having the mission of life will yield in uncertain result and the life is only useless. When the experience happened to me, looking from someone else’s glasses , made me having no courage to “Dive and swim” “. I was reluctant and worried on other person’s view on me. Afraid that I was wrong in someone else’s eyes, guarding my image /jaim , it is how it happened. The result was I felt emptiness and felt useless in life.


A poem without title from a friend had woken and enflamed my heart.


Mencari tantangan/Looking for challenges

Melacak sesuatu yang lama kurindukan/Tracing something that I am longing for

Mengikuti suara hatiku/following the voice of my heart

Bagai menari mengikuti musik yang mengalun dalam bathinku/ like dancing following the music rhyming inside my soul

Menembus rintangan-rintangan/overcoming obstacles

Melacak sesuatu yang lama kurindukan/tracing something that I am longing for




After reading and contemplating the above poem, I was challenged to trace and to find something that I longed for. The thing that I really miss was to find the mission of my life. The hardest challenge is having the bravery; dare for taking risks and passing through all obstacles. The question was: Dare I? With mamut menteng I answered myself the question: “I dare”, then I decided to “ dive and swim “. The first obstacle that I should pass in finding my mission of life was to have the understanding of my husband that I decided to “dive and swim”.

This moment was a relatively hard or even the hardest struggle. My husband who was accustomed to become “the ruler” at home suddenly should share “his power”. The first step that I did was joining friends in accompanying the homeless at street. The starting experience in “dive and swim” then mixing myself among them who I accompanied was really a valuable experience for me. . From there I gained a lesson of the meaning of real life. We are the same but have different role. There my heart flamed more and the voice of my heart led me to find and to do the mission of my life. Of course everything was not easy, but with having the firm will, all obstacles I was able to surpass. The balance in dividing time and my husband’s view on my new activity should be well maintained. If my husband did not admit my capability, all will be over. I had to prove that I did not just want but also am capable to “dive and swim” in executing my mission of life.

From obstacles to obstacles I passed them through, fall and rise I tried to hang on and in the end I achieved one point. The recognition from my husband and my three daughter that I did not just want but also was able to do it. Slowly but sure the gender equality grows well in the life of my family. Household chores, social activities, making a living, we do it together with a balanced division of tasks. With mission of life and acknowledgment from house’s residents also abandoning someone else’s glasses for appraising oneself, all turned out smoothly. Everybody has their own point of view in considering the beauty.

The Dayak in the past is likewise, although it cannot be denied that that point of view has considerably changed. In the past, the beauty of Dayak woman is identical to long hair, mamut menteng or bravery also the light from the eyes, all cannot be considered as the focus of beauty. A person is beautiful if one possesses a pure beauty reflected in the inner self from the inside just the way oneself is. Thus, the meaning of beauty is not on the softness of face, the high nose, sexy body and others but mostly the beauty from inside the soul. Last but not least, frankly speaking, I thank God that I was born as a Dayak woman . With mission of life in hand, doing it full heartedly, I am always full of confidence, feel beautiful and loved. No matter of the age , graying hair, body only with skeleton, whenever and wherever I am, as long as I have a good intention, I do it with sincere heart; the beauty will never leave me. Kuiiiiiiy .



Nila Riwut,

Yogyakarta, Indonesia



  • 1. Also known as ‘pekasih’, love potion, which make a person falls in love in uncommon circumstances
  • 2. witchcraft, do harm to other person with magical power.
  • 3. I live in Yogyakarta, as well as my javanese husband. Inter-ethnic marriage and living in the society of spouse’s family and relatives.
  • 4. Ancestor cultural heritage.
  • 5. Not sunk and perished
  • 6. Close to the lost of self identity because of numerous reasons.
  • 7. As of my life experience.
  • 8. Tetek Tatum/t’et’ek tatum/ ~ means a story told using rhymes. The way of inheriting knowledge, either the story of creation, ancestor, epic and others, inheriting from father to children, continued as it is without interruption. Sometimes it’s accompanied by kecapi, a musical instrument from light wood with two or three strings.
  • 9. Central Kalimantan province is 153.564 Km2 consisted of 13 regencies dan 1 municipality, 85 sub-districts consisted of 1134 villages and 101 hamlets. Previously, Central Kalimantan is a part of South Kalimantan province. As the result of aspiration and hard efforts of its people, the autonomous province of Central Kalimantan was formed based on the Emergency Law No.
  • 10 year 1957 dated May 23, 1957. The law was validated with Law no 21 year 1958 which as well stated Palangka Raya as the capital of the province. (Public Relations Bureau, Central Kalimantan Province, A Glance of Central Kalimantan. Palangka Raya). 10. Central Kalimantan
  • 11. Ability to know certain matter without thinking about it consciously.
  • 12. More about Mission in Life, see next page of this book.
  • 13. In the past
  • 14. Customary sanction
  • 15. Eschatological hope for the end of life, they return home heading to Lewo Tatau Habaras Bulau Habusung Hintan Hakarangan Lamiang ~ meaning the place with golden sand. . . etc. AKA Lewo Liau - the destination of soul or spirit of a deceased person, the eternal world. As the final perfect destination with Ranying Hatalla. Return to the origin to reunite with its Creator, using the Tiwah ceremony as the mean. The last destination has golden sand.
  • 16. To get energy of the nature, silence of the forest, also because they love to eat bird.
  • 17. Burn dried leaves, root, and twigs to get the smoke that is used for medication and for chasing away the bad spirit.
  • 18. Jarik, a type of Javanese cloth ( jw)
  • 19. His Almighty
  • 20. Tiwah /tiwah/ ~the biggest sacred ceremony for escorting the soul or spritit of the dead human to the destination in Lewo Tatau Dia Rumpang Tulang, Rundung Raja Dia Kamalesu Uhate, Lewo Tatau Habaras Bulau, Habusung Hintan, Hakarangan Lamiang or Lewo Liau located on the 7th sky.
  • 21. Salumpuk Liau/salumpuk liyau/ ~ Soul or spirit of the deceased
  • 22. May the detailed explanation on Dayak woman be useful for volunteers who work hard in developing Dayak woman. Only with clicking the awareness button, that gender equality had been long time existed, I am sure they can regain the value that been left out and re- struggle and work for the country and the nation.
  • 23. In Kaharingan belief, every person in one’s life has certain task and mission. The main mission of Kaharingan is to beckon human towards a right way while dedicate and glorify Ranying Hatalla in every attitude and action. The teaching exists in the sentence: “Balang Bitim jadi isi sampuli balitam jadi daha, dia baling bitim tau indu luang rawei “. It means “ You are not created to be blood and flesh, but more than that, may you have a mission” The physical body consisted of blood and flesh can make human a perfect creature in a sense of harati, bakena mamut menteng, and wise. However, that condition is not for personal interesti. All the perfection is meant as a way to reach the mission or life’s goal that’s been decided by Ranying Hatalla.
  • 24. Do the real thing
  • 25. Live right and work right with the obedience to the customary law and pali law. Pali law means the prohibition that should be obeyed.
  • 26. Mission of life can be equal or not to the activity for gaining life. The main difference is the main purpose. The main of mission of life is for the welfare of all society member.
  • 27. The Creator
  • 28. Don’t speak recklessly
  • 29. The child went to school with both parents who went to work. Both parents were worried that they would be late. They were out of control and unconsciously scolded the children.
  • 30. Usually swinging, with AKA tuyang.
  • 31. It means: you are damned
  • 32. Anti-snake stick causing powerless snake.
  • 33. Brave
  • 34. Brave attitude
  • 35. May they not become a tree who loose from its root, it means that may all children, grandchildren, and all descendants not lose their identity as a Dayak person.
  • 36. Fridolin Ukur, ‘Tantang Jawab Suku Dayak”/Q&A Dayak Tribe, BPK Gunung Mulia
  • 37. Customary Law is unwritten law which is well understood by the Dayaks. In its application, it regulates not only the interhuman relation, but also the issues related to the belief. Because in this system prison is not known, therefore the punishment is executed through the sanction that is known as singer.
  • 38. Hukum Pali/Pali Law is unwritten prohibition, also well understood by the Dayaks.
  • 39. Singer/sing’er/ ~ customary fines
  • 40. Singer Sala Basa Dengan sawan oloh/sing’er sala basa d’engan sawan uluh/
  • 41. Singer Tekap tamper Baun Mate/sing’er t’ekap tamper baun mat’e/
  • 42. Asang is sudden attack. Kayau is beheading action.
  • 43. Jipen is slave.
  • 44. A type of row specifically used by woman
  • 45. A type of row specifically used by man
  • 46. Mihing is a type of tool for catching fish. A well admired tool. Mihing already existed since 3 centuries ago and is used a lot by resident by the river of Kahayan Tengah and Kahayan Hulu.
  • 47. Courageous, not willing to surrender.
  • 48. Written by Tjilik Riwut
  • 49. without haste
  • 50. Dare to die for upholding the truth
  • 51. Quoted from Maneser Panatau Tatu Hiang.
  • 52. War Commander
  • 53. Kota/city is a fortress made by a trong and solid type of wood known as tabalien/kayu ulin/kayu besi/iron wood or made of rocks.
  • 54. Dayak woman
  • 55. Anak Eson Tambun Bungai is the common word used by locals to seld identify as the resident and descendant of Dayak in Central Kalimantan region. AKA Utus Itah or Uluh Itah.
  • 56. Names on story examples are kept aninomous.
  • 57. It seems that I need to inform the Understanding and Meaning of Life for the Dayak so that reader can understand the spiritual life of this tribe. The life of Dayak tribe is supported by three pillars, each of its harmony should be well guarded, they are the relation between human and Ranying Hatalla or God the Almighty, the inter-human relation as a group or as individual and the relation of human with the whole world. The nature is the set of harmonies which can exist depending on the responsibility of human since the most noble and perfect creation of Ranying Hatalla or God the Almighty is human. Therefore human has the obligation to be the example of other creatures. Non harmony can cause the disruption of cosmic balance. That’s the moral responsibility of the Dayak. They should always maintain and have a relation with other for the balanced cosmos.
  • 58. A Dayak who knows well and keep the proximity of energy with the nature of homeland.
  • 59. Sakti mandraguna/posses a supernatural powerful magical ability.
  • 60. God the Almighty
  • 61. Spritual life
  • 62. Anchestor
  • 63. Ethics and conducts
  • 64. I forgot the title and writer of the book. When I read the book, I had no intention to do this writing. By the time I wrote until I accomplished this writing, I still cannot find it. For this recklessness I really apologize.
  • 65. Hopefully I did not misinterpret the meaning
  • 66. Ancestor
  • 67. Other person’s judgment
  • 68. It means that my steps and movements depend on others’ comment. With minor critics, I turn to ash and has no courage to restart.
  • 69. Doing the real action
  • 70. Guarding the honor
  • 71. Bravery
  • 72. My husband and I come from different ethnic.
  • 73. Involving my husband in daily household chore obligation.
  • 74. Hopefully it’s not valuable only for me, but also for the persons I had spent the time with.
  • 75. My father is a Dayak, my mother from Yogyakarta
  • 76. New title for me since several months ago my first grandchild was born. Thus, title as tambi or grandma is officially mine.
  • 77. Expression of pride and happiness.

Add this page to your favorite Social Bookmarking websites
Reddit!! Mixx! Google! Live! Facebook! StumbleUpon! Diigo! LinkedIn! TwitThis Joomla Free PHP

Comments (0)
Only registered users can write comments!

!joomlacomment 4.0 Copyright (C) 2009 . All rights reserved."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 February 2010 13:57  



Content View Hits : 242768

Who's Online

We have 20 guests online