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Home Dayaknese people from time to time Dayaknese Women DAYAK WOMAN, WHO AND WHAT ARE THEY? - Page 4


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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.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 February 2010 13:57  



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