THE MURUT

>> Wednesday, December 14, 2011

 

The Murut is the warrior tribe of indigenous ethnic groups inhabiting northern inland regions of Borneo. The literal meaning for Murut is actually not ‘Hill people’ as they lived at highland and lowland, but Murut more precisely lead to the purpose or meaning attribute to their practice as 'Head hunter' in ancient era. The Murut people are also very skillful in hunting with sword, arrows and blowpipe.

 
The Murut warrior

Introduction

The Murut comprise several people groups that are scattered in parts of Borneo Island (The East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak) including Brunei, Kalimantan (Indonesia). Orally the Murut are believed to have originated from Jiangsu, Kyushu and the islands of Okinawa that came and inhabit the surrounding area of Mount Murud, a mountain in Sarawak, Malaysia in the island of Borneo as early as the 4th century. The society had been characterized by violent struggles in which the Murut people anciently were known as Shinobi or mercenaries.[1]

The largest numbers of Murut population are in Sabah but some also inhabit the rural in Limbang Division, Sarawak and in Brunei, The Murut population in Brunei are mainly found in the sparsely populated Temburong district but their population has dwindled in recent years. The Murut once supplied military might as special army to the Sultans of Brunei.[2] They are defined as one of the seven indigenous groups that are considered to be Bumiputera in Brunei.
 
The Murutmen in traditional costume

A large percentage of the Murut communities are in the southwest interior of Sabah, specifically the districts of Keningau, Tenom, Nabawan, and Pensiangan, along the Sapulut and Padas rivers. They were among the last tribal groups on Borneo to renounce headhunting. The largest Murut people groups are Baukan, Gana, Idaan, Keningau (Nabai and Labou), Lundayuh, Okolod, Padas, Paluan, Selungai, Sembakung, Serudong, Tidong, Timugon and Tagol (Tagas and Tagop). The Sabah Murut population is around 140,000 while around 1,500 are found in Brunei. Each people group has their own dialect, but most are also conversant in Malay which is the national language in Brunei and Malaysia.

Notable Murut people

Antanum was a famous and influential Murut warrior from Sabah who according to local oral history claimed to have supernatural powers. Because of this he was able to receive support from the chiefs and villagers from around Keningau, Tenom, Pensiangan and Rundum and led the Rundum uprising against the British North Borneo Company but was killed during fighting with the company army in Sungai Selangit near Pensiangan.[3]

The First Natives Paramount Leader was Pehin Orang Kaya-Kaya Koroh bin Santulan of Keningau "The father of former Sabah State Minister Tan Sri Stephen (Suffian) Koroh, and Sabah's fifth State Governor Tun Thomas (Ahmad) Koroh (the elder brother of Suffian)". Santulan which also a Pengeran, the father to Pehin Orang Kaya-Kaya Koroh was a Murut descendant of Hashim Jalilul Alam Aqamaddin, the 25th Sultan of Brunei.
 
Tun Ahmad Koroh as the 5th State Governor of Sabah or 'Nagara' (October 12, 1977 - June 25, 1978)

Certain Murut people also have been succeeded in power as the supreme head of State of Sabah or 'Nagara' such as Tun Ahmad Koroh as the 5th State Governor of Sabah (October 12, 1977 - June 25, 1978) and Tun Adnan Robert the 6th State Governor of Sabah (June 25, 1978-December 31, 1986).

Korom was the most outstanding Murut's rebel and some said he was a Sergeant with the North Borneo Armed Constabulary. It was claimed that he spied for the Allied Forces by pretending to be working for the Japanese. He provided intelligence on Japanese Military positions and some credited him with the escape of 500 Allied POWs. Fighting alongside with Korom in his Murut troop was Garukon, Lumanib, Kingan, Mikat, Pensyl, Gampak, Abdullah Hashim, Ariff Salleh, Lakai, Langkab, Polos, Nuing, Ambutit, Badau and etc.

Customs & Beliefs

In the by-gone era, the Murut were famous described as silent headhunter or 'Pangait' and they were the last of Sabah's ethnic groups to renounce headhunting in late 60's. Beheading and collecting head's of enemies traditionally brings the highest honour and self esteem in Murut heroism, it also serve a very important role in the Murut spiritual beliefs. Collecting heads of enemies served a very precise function in Murut society. For example, a man can only get married after he has presented at least one head that he has hunted to the family of the desired girl. The Murut were once are feared as vicious headhunters but the Murut these days have abandoned much of their age-old traditions especially headhunting.

The essence of Murut tradition of feasts is very unique and distinctive. No merrymaking will end at least until sunrise and can last up to seven days later. This is especially the case with weddings or funerals. Through modernization, no more heads must be furnished for weddings but jars along with cloth, beads, gold and ivory bracelets have taken its place. All these dowry items will be proudly displayed at the ceremony. Jars or “sampa” holds a prominent status in their customs. The Murut know the age of sampa and treat them will due respect. Jars are also a place of spirits. Beads play an integral role in Murut life. Wedding beads must be presented in the form of belts, necklaces, headgear and decoration.
 
Murut's wedding costume

The wedding ceremony must be held in the bride’s longhouse, 'tapai' or rice wine must be served and all the fish  and meat has to be pickled.Weddings usually be carried out with the lively and full customs. Usual wedding ceremony held for five days. The three day first is held in the bride's home and the rest held in groom’s house. The bride will wear Murut traditional wedding dress and beautiful crown on that day. A group of girls known as 'tambuloi' responsible for adorn the bride. The bride sit in a special room which cover by several pieces of expensive cloth. Next, parents groom will enter to take their daughter out. But before that, they must pay the price of cloth that cover the door of the room with the values that have been made with the bride's parents first.

The bride will be lifted out and brought to groom house and after the couple arrived at the house, the bride is placed in a special room. She will be accompanied by some girls from the groom-side family. Once they know the arrival of the bride, relatives and friends of the men will bring a variety of fruit to bridal couples. In the evening, both the bride is required to eat together. When to sleep, the husband must humor his wife jokes and give gifts.

If someone's died, the Murut keep the bodies of their deceased in a jar and place them in colourful and elaborately decorated grave-huts along with the deceased's belongings. Sino-Japanese ancient jars hold a prominent status in Murut customs and bereavement will take 40 days. Jars are also a place of spirits, and larger jars were formerly used as coffins. The body will be placed in the fetal position inside the jar and a gong will be placed over the mouth of the jar to close it. However this custom of burial is becoming rare with the availability of wooden coffins.

The Murut were shifting cultivators of hill padi and tapioca, supplementing their diet with blowpipe hunting and with some fishing, they are very skilled in hunting with sword, arrows and blowpipe. The Murut live in communal longhouses, usually near rivers, using the rivers as their highways. Many have now converted to Christianity, however they still maintain their culture, however a small number of Muruts are Muslims. Most Muruts now were well educated and trained at many well known institution local or abroad, and most of them holds important post in the government, professionals like engineers, scientists, lawyers or doctors and not to mentioned a very successful business persons.[4]

Traditional dress for men was a jacket made of tree bark (Artocarpus tamaran), a red loincloth, and a headdress decorated with Argus pheasant feathers. Women wore a black sleeveless blouse and sarong, which fell just below the knees. Like most of the other indigenous groups in Sabah, the Murut decorated their clothing with distinctive beadwork and also made belts out of old silver coins. Another belt made of reddish-brown glass beads plus yellow and blue beads was hung loosely around the waist.

Vocabulary

Some Murut terms pertaining to wedding ceremonies:

In western society we have the engagement – a disappearing custom, however – and the wedding. By comparison with the Murut, we are very poor in our formalities:

Pinanamung ‘engagement’ ceremony where the bride-price is discussed. At this stage 10 or more lengths of ‘sarong’ cloth are exchanged, one or two kuali (wok) and RM 100, maybe also some beads and gold rings. The successful conclusion of the settlement of the dowry is celebrated with the drinking of tapai for not longer than five days

Ahuod ra ruandu the girl is taken to the house of the future husband

Amaruli ra baya one week after the ‘ahuod ra ruandu’ ‘kaunsapan’ and ‘haunsapan’, or payments, are being sent to the parents in law of the young man

Kaunsapan / Haunsapan payment for the girl consisting of pots and pans and 1 expensive jar usually one week after the ‘ahuod’. Often, the girl is now pregnant – otherwise she can still be ‘returned’ to her parents

Rimpoho often compared to the ‘proper’ wedding ceremony, a few months after the pinanamung. Exchange of the dowry, which consists of binukur and tiluan, other jars, gongs, beads and cloth, and anything the parents in law desire – nowadays often cash, a generator, a TV set…. This ceremony may last a week, and the parents of the girl have to kill a buffalo. Should the couple decide to divorce after the rimpoho, the man usually loses the bride price.

Tina’uh / Bului final handing over of the dowry, sometimes 20 years after the rimpoho. This party lasts not less than 5 days, and involves everybody up to the third cousins of the two respective families, plus of course the entire village, neighbours, friends and acquaintances…

Other Murut terms;

Pulut dowry, bride price.

Antarang take the dowry into the house.

Akirimpor sell elaborate rattan baskets (day 3).  

Pamarahan money paid for the goods suspended from the sangiang.

Sumaang a relative who is to give a hand to a tuan rumah (he or she is later being paid with a small jar, cloth, etc).  

Sampa ordinary jar.

Tiluan ‘dragon jar’, old and valuable – must be amongst the dowry.

Binukur large heirloom jar – must be amongst the dowry.

Pemahamis ‘spare-jar’ containing fermented cassava pulp. These jars are brought forth when the big tajau are ‘tawar’ – without any taste any more.  

Tapai alcoholic drink made from fermented cassava root.

Rinahas alcoholic drink made from fermented glutinous rice.  

Tamba no assi pickled meat of wild boar.

Tamba no papait pickled fish – both pickles must be served with tapai.  

Bobok long comb (ca 3 feet) with equally long strings of beads – one set consists of four combs. It is assembled by the diverse close families and relatives of the groom, and one full set determines one buffalo that has to be provided by the family of the bride. The buffalo will be slaughtered and eaten by the congregation.  

Susukur/ Sisitan smaller bobok for limpoho, also used during the tina'uh during the buka tapai ceremony.

Murutic languages

The group is divided between lowland (Timugon) and highland (Tagol) subgroups. They speak the Murutic languages. Those of Murut origin speak 15 languages and 21 dialects. The language commonly used and understood by the large majority is Tagol, a branch of the Austronesian family. The Tagol Murut language serves as their lingua franca. As Murut is a cluster of the Dayak tribes in northern East Kalimantan, Brunei and Sabah, Sarawak, East Malaysia, it has divided into 3 groups languages:

Murut language group:
Okolod (Indonesia (East Kalimantan)
Keningau Murut / Nabai (Malaysia: Sabah, Keningau)
Tagol Murut (Malaysia (Sabah, Sarawak) and Brunei)
Gana Murut (Malaysia, Sabah) Selungai Murut (Indonesia (East Kalimantan)
Timugon Murut (Malaysia (Sabah, Sarawak) and Brunei)

Northern Murut language group:
Bookan (Malaysia (Sabah)
Tatana (Malaysia (Sabah)

Tidung language group:
Quarterly Tidung (Indonesian: (East Kalimantan, Kota Tarakan)
Quarterly Bulungan (Indonesia (East Kalimantan, Regency Bulungan)
Kalabakan Murut (Malaysia, Sabah)
Dayak tribe Tagol / Sembakung Murut (Malaysia Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei and Kalimantan)
Serudung Murut (Malaysia, Sabah)

Traditional Tribal Dance
Main article: Magunatip Dance
 
The Murut's performing Magunatip dance

This is a traditional tribal dance of the Murut Timugon in Tenom district. Magunatip derived from the word 'Apit', which means that the pins (when the dancers dancing feet squeezed or sandwiched by two bamboo if being trapped).
Magunatip performed in the Magginakan Day who worships the spirit of the paddy. Usually does not require an accompanying dance music as the sound of bamboo crashed together will sound and rhythm and the rhythm of powerful interests. This is performed by a pair of dancers dressed in traditional. Two people strike between pestle and two others hold the base of the pestle so as not to budge from its position. Magunatip Dance aims to enliven a ceremony held.

Musical Heritage
Main article: Agung

The Murut have a musical heritage consisting of various types of agung ensembles - ensembles composed of large hanging, suspended or held, bossed/ knobbed gongs which act as drone without any accompanying melodic instrument.[5][6]

Murut also used bamboo as a music, using bamboo to compose a songs. Some instrument of music like 'Angkung' (Similar to a guitar although it only has 4 strings) was also made from bamboo. Angkung usually played when their leisure time.

References
  1. ^ Ratti & Westbrook 1991, p. 325
  2. ^ Brunei: The Abode of Peace - retrieved 20-04-2007
  3. ^ *Regina Lim; Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (2008). Federal-state relations in Sabah, Malaysia: the Berjaya administration, 1976-85. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. p. 29. ISBN 9789812308122
  4. ^ Joshua Project
  5. ^ Mercurio, Philip Dominguez (2006). "Traditional Music of the Southern Philippines". PnoyAndTheCity: A center for Kulintang - A home for Pasikings. Retrieved February 25, 2006.
  6. ^  Matusky, Patricia. "An Introduction to the Major Instruments and Forms of Traditional Malay Music." Asian Music Vol 16. No. 2. (Spring-Summer 1985), pp. 121-182. 
by Joseph Lakai on Tuesday, December 13, 2011 at 8:28am

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