Kaamatan Harvest Festival

A Celebration Like No Other

Be mesmerized by Sabah's Kaamatan Harvest Festival when you visit Borneo in May. With the cultural dance and music, traditional sports and games, the grand Unduk Ngadau (Harvest Festival Queen or better known as Miss Kaamatan), carnival, as well as events that go on, it is hard for you not to fall deeply in love with Sabah.

Widely celebrated throughout Sabah for a full month (especially among the Kadazan-Dusun, and one of the festivals in Malaysia), it is an annual event to celebrate the relationship between Creator and Creation.

The Bobohizan (the Kadazan Priestess) plays an important role in this festival because she is the one who determines the official harvest festival date as well as officiates the Tadau Kaamatan.

Actually, the word Kaamatan is a Kadazan-Dusun term for harvest.

However, Kaamatan Harvest Festival is not just a celebration to signify the beginning of harvest, there is significance to the reason why the Kadazan-Dusun celebrate it.

To understand more about Kamaatan Harvest Festival, a myth is to be told.

It all begins with their God, Kinoingan who took pity towards the people suffering from a great famine many moons ago. In order to save the people, he sacrificed his daughter, Huminodun, by cutting her into small pieces.

After that, he sowed her flesh over the land and padi (rice) grew. It is believe that the spirit of Huminodun is embodied in the rice and therefore known as Bambarayon or Bambazon.

Kaamatan Harvest Festival

Below are the major purposes for celebrating Tadau Kaamatan:

  • • To welcome Bambazon to the Tangkob (a large rice storage container)
  • • To restore Bambazon that was lost during careless harvesting as well as processing of rice through the Magavau ritual ceremony
  • • To offer offering such as rice wine (Tapai or Lihing) to the Bambazon

During the whole month of Kaamatan Harvest Festival, there are ritual stages that are utterly important for this particular festivals in Malaysia:

The Kumogos Ceremony

Held before the harvest begins, the Bobohizan will tie-up 7 stalks of the best rice from the rice field. These stakes of rice will only be harvested after the whole rice field has been completely harvested. This ceremony is important as it informs the other spirits who are present in the rice field to not disturb the farmers at work.

The Kumotob Ceremony

After the Kumogos Ceremony, the Bobohizan will select another 7 stalks of the best rice from the area which is not harvest yet and tie them up together. She will then placed them in a tadang (a type of basket to keep rice) to be turned into seeds for the next planting season.

The Posisip Ceremony

The Bobohizan will take the 7 stalks of rice which was placed in the tadang earlier to a rice hut. There she will insert the rice into a bamboo pole kept in the tangkob while reciting chants to call for Bambazon to stay in the rice hut until the next planting season.

The Magavau Ceremony

The most important ceremony throughout the harvest festival, this is where the restoration and offerings of food to Bambazon is done.

The Humabot Ceremony

The last day of the Kaamatan Ceremony (the closing ceremony). This is the most happening ceremony where a variety of entertainment and activities are found throughout the day. The most notable event would be the selection of the Unduk Ngadau as it symbolizes Huminodun.

Tadau Kaamatan

If you are in Sabah during the end of May and not sure where to fully deep yourself in this rich celebration, you can head to the Kadazan-Dusun Cultural Association (KDCA) or Hongkod Koisaan Center in Penampang where the main event would be held. KDCA has been attracting thousands of locals as well as tourist from around the globe to witness the grand closing ceremony of Kaamatan Harvest Festival.

You will be welcome by songs and dances as well as the aromatic scent of tasty local foods found in KDCA. Here you can also get a glimpse of the Bobohizan and her direct descendants, who are the most important people for the whole Kaamatan Festival.

To get to the KDCA, it is only 15-20 minutes ride from Kota Kinabalu town. However, it is best to go early as it will take you more than half a day if you want to witness the Harvest Queen Finals as well.

It is important to take note that Kaamatan Festival (30th and 31st of May) is considered as a Public Holiday in the entire state of Sabah. Do plan your trip well and make sure you have everything you need as most of the shops will be closed.

Soak yourself in the rich ethnic cultures with Kaamatan Harvest Festival found in the Land Under the Wind. With the many different tribes' traditional costume, dance, music, food and Miss Kaamatan competition found in this festival, you will just want to relive the moment again and again.

Have You Experienced Kaamatan Before?

How was it like? Loved it or had a bad experience? Share them with fellow travelers.

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