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Erau festival
Dance, ritual and waterballet

Leopard capes, hugeearrings and head decoration with beads... This dress is what the Dayak wore at the Erau festival in Tenggarong. The fierce Kenyah Dayak, which life more upstream, didn't create the impression that they brought all this to favour the tourists. By the way, there weren't much tourists at the moment in the capital of the district Kutai in East-Kalimantan. The only white ones - besides the writer of this story - were wives from French oil drillers from the neighboring Balikpapan.
The videocamera's are used by Indonesians from Tenggarong. They had some competition from a tv-crew from Jakarta, which recorded the five-day long event, an exotic party with dance, boatraces, nice food and other good things.


This festival, in which the foundation of Tenggarong is reminded, thanks it's survival by the government and by ever maintaining respect from some Dayak for the royal family in Tenggarong. Traditional Dayakdances and ritual show are part of the festivities, but you can also see dances and ceremonies from the islamic coastal people.
On 28 September 1782, the sultan of Kutai moved his palace more upstream to end problems with Buginese migrants from Southern Sulawesi. The rememberance of the movement used to be a yearly event from 24 to 28 September, but now it happens irregularly, since people have to wait from money of the government. It's common that the people are not sure whether the festival is held, because the government is short of money.

Speeches and competitions

The event is started with speeches of the governor and other officials. Then there is a big parade and a number of strong Dayak which enjoy themselves in the spotlights of camera's. When the VIP's go home, it's time for several games. An traditional teamsport is spin-a-topping. The participants turn around their heavy top as long as possible inside a ring, and try to push away tops of others. The players - civil servants and Dayak, children and adults - yell like maniacs. Whoever manages to spin around the longest, wins.
Another popular game, played with a ratten ball, is something between volleyball and soccer. Furthermore there are hunting-instrument games and canoo races. The small and light canoo's are sometimes decorated extensively. Some can offer place for as much as 25 rowers. There are also races for canoo's with an outside motor.

Dance and Ritual

During a festival in the 1990's, Dayak men and women performed dances and rytes daily. In full dressing - leopard skins and feather-hats decorated with beads give them a rather impressive look. In 1986, two special rytes were simulated. The first one was a buril ryte. The Dayak founded an ancestor-pawl, performed a wild dance and finally sacrificed a karbau. After that, the audience got goosebumbs during a ritual which used to be held after a successfull headhunting trip. The skull of a orang-hutan replaces the human skull. The ryte is performed by Dayak from a village which is located many days upstream. They looked fierce and strong; it was not hard to imagine that they desired to go back in time so they could actually have a headhunt trip again. The atmosphere suddenly changed when their chief was interviewed by the Indonesian television. All of a sudden their leader was the center of the national broadcast.
The part of islamic population of Kutai formed an interesting contrast with the show of the Dayak. Disctinctive dances and a wedding were part of their show, in which all participants are dressed traditionally in silk clothing. The climax was a dance in which the brother and the oldest son of the former sultan participated. Together with a number of civil servants they - dressed in beautifull traditional silk suit - perform a dance on the sounds of a first-class gamelan orchestra.
The last day formed the climax of the festival. It started with a prayer near the grave of Haji Imbut, the founder of Tenggarong. After that, two eight-meter-long dragons were brought up. They were watching the whole festival symbolically. A commission of men, dressed in traditional suits, brought the two dragons to the center of the Mahakam river by boat. After a small ceremony they were put in the river. But before the river could take the two dragons, they were first decapitated, so their heads could be used in the next ceremony.
The beheading also whas the sign of a water ballet in which everyone participated. The people on the river banks threw small bags of water to eachother, turned around buckets of water or were attacked from ships. Some ships turned their water cannons at eachother and organised a true sea-battle. Within a very short time every one was soaking wet. Carrying a camera is nog a guarantee for staying dry.


    
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