~ Mukah Kaul Festival ~
Festival Date: 22 ~ 29 APR 2012
The Melanau community
festival or Kaul appeases the spirits of the sea, land, forests and
farm celebrates the end of the rainy season and the start of the
fishing season in late March or April.
The Melanau are a seafaring and sago-growing people who live on the
coast of Sarawak between the mouth of the Rajang River and Bintulu.
The origins of Kaul go back centuries to the time when the Melanau
were animists. Today most of them are Catholics or Muslims and often
adherents of the two religions in the same family live in the same
house, But they still celebrate Kaul with gusto. The old animist
religion may not be practiced these days but the legends live on.
festival is celebrated on different days in the many Melanau
settlements along the coast. The Tibou, the death defying 20-foot
high swing, is one of the highlights of Kaul. Here youths dive from
a high bamboo scaffolding and catch a swinging liana rope as it
reaches the height of its arc. First one, then two and eventually
eight young men hanging in a clump from the giant swing as it soars
above the beach. Kaul is about more than giant swings. Its a
colourful festival with a flotilla of highly decorated boats, beach
games and lots of delicious Melanau food. Traditionally, during the
monsoon, the river mouths were closed.
Villages would be palei or taboo for days before Kaul. No one was
allowed to leave or enter, and people underwent purification
ceremonies during Kaul.
At the start of Kaul, the highly decorated fishing boats move down
river carrying the seraheng, a flat round basket raised on a bamboo
pole. It is placed on a riverbank while the Bapa Kaul or leader of
the ceremony invokes the spirits and pours water over the offerings.
In the past the sick and elderly would gather by the 'seraheng' so
that the water poured on the offerings would fall on them and wash
away all evil. Today the ceremony is of social rather than religious
After the ceremony there are games on the beach, displays of Melanau
martial arts, dancing and eating. The festivities do not stop with
sunset, they just move to the Melanau houses built on rivers and
streams where there are cultural performances and non stop feasting.
The attractive native dwellings give the fishing villages near Mukah,
the air of a bamboo Venice and their hospitality is legendary.
Visitors to Kaul soon find why Melanau cuisine is famed throughout
Sarawak. The versatile sago has become their staple food. Guests
palates are surprised at the many delicious ways sago can be
prepared and with the addition of seafood, visitors enjoy the
appetising variety of tasty treats.
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