Sarawak Gawai Festival: Witness The Zeal And Vigour Of This Local Malaysian Event

Etymology says that the word ‘Gawai’ means festival and ‘Dayak’ refers to the tribal society of Sarawak, Kalimantan and the interior areas of the island of Borneo. Gawai Dayak is a festival celebrating the existence of this class of people in Malaysia. Their population is estimated at around 2–4 million people. Two radio producers, Tan Kingsley and Owen Liang, were the ones who originally started the festival which was later pioneered by the Dayak community. Later in 1962 it was recognized by the then British government.

About Sarawak Gawai Festival

Sarawak Festival

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On 1 June 1963, Datuk Michael Buma was the one who hosted the first ceremony of Gawai Dayak at his home in Siol Candice, Kuching. Gawai Dayak is a multi-day festival celebrated every year from the first day of the month of June. With great pomp and show. Today the festival has become a symbol of their unity, expressing gratitude to God and nature for a productive harvest as well as praying for a peaceful and prosperous future.

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Customs of Sarawak Gawai Festival


The festival begins with removing all negativity and cleaning oneself and the surroundings. For the same, two people walk around with a basket and people throw things which they consider negative or bad omen. After sunset, every family organizes a ritual of sacrifice or offering. Gothic ceramic containers filled with food and other offerings to their god. These offerings are kept at four places to spread the blessings everywhere. After the completion of the offering services the head asks for blessings and guidance for future goodness and swings a cock in a circle over the offering and is sacrificed to the gods by cutting off part of the neck and plucking out its feathers and rubbing it on the blood Is. Of dead chicken.

dressing code


‘NGEPAN’ is the traditional dress worn on this day to welcome guests into homes. Men wear curtains made of animal skins also called gugong, loincloths called cavat or sirat, crowns made of peacock feathers, necklaces, armlets and anklets. Men get tattoos symbolizing tribal ethnicity and an important story. Women wear a handmade cloth, a corset, around their waist and a piece of cloth draped over their shoulder. A beaded chain and fancy comb. Earlier it was made mandatory for women to keep their breasts bare to showcase and symbolize beauty and naturalness.

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dance traditions


NGAJAT dance style is a traditional dance performed by men and women in unison. The display occasionally involves screaming and loud screams. There are many branches of this dance form, each with a different mood such as harvest joy, warrior rhymes, ritualistic cloth dance..etc. The men show their courage, bravery and strength and often imitate the mannerisms of the hornbill, which is considered the king of birds. A traditional band playing traditional folk songs joins the dance party, enlivening the dance with its lively tunes and melodies.

Apart from the dances, sword dances and various martial arts stunts are also performed. Competitions are held to crown the ‘King’ and ‘Queen’ of the festival that year. Other games are also organized whose winner is symbolically awarded a coconut, a skull. Another attractive event of the festival is the recitation of their traditional ancient poems including Pantun, Ramban. etc. Apart from the mentioned activities there are many other sports and minor games like arm wrestling and log pulling. Cock fighting is also another major attraction of this event.



The practice of inviting guests at home is called the practice of ‘Nagabang’. Mostly it is arranged every year on the first day of June. For greater convenience these days NGOs and other Dayak associations organize open houses for guests attending the festival.

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Food and Beverages


On the eve of Gawai Dayak, sap called sago is collected from the pulp of palm trees and coconut palm extract and used in making soup for the next day. Other famous dishes of the festival are ‘Pansoh’, made of meat cooked in bamboo logs, ‘Tuk’ served with animal heads hot roasted over an open fire. Rice is cooked on traditional earthen pots and stoves. After the Prasad, dinner is arranged which mainly consists of Makai Rami or festival food.

how to get there

Since Kuching is not well connected to the world, it can be reached by taking a one and a half hour flight from Kuala Lumpur.

where to stay

1. Hilton Kuching Hotel

Hilton Kuching Hotel

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The most recommended place to stay is the Hilton Kuching Hotel which offers 6 dining options and has an extraordinary outdoor pool and is located on the Kuching Waterfront.


Place: Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, 93100 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia

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2. Pullman Kuching

Hotel Pullman

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This is another most resort option with spectacular views, set above the Hills shopping mall and close to Kuching’s waterfront.


Place: 1A Mathies Road, 93100 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia

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3. Hornbill Residence Kuching

Hornbill Habitat

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This is the most recommended homestay in Kuching. It can accommodate a maximum of five guests. Very relaxing atmosphere with complimentary amenities like Jacuzzi and sauna. Must try!


Place: A7-05, Jazz Suites 4 Vivacity Megamall 7th Floor, Kuching, Malaysia, 93350

4. Imperial Suites Kuching

Imperial Suites

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Another totally feasible option, this place is a luxury 3-bedroom serviced apartment located in the heart of the city.


Place: Taman Seng Goon, 93250 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia

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Tips for Sarawak Gawai Festival

  • The Malaysian state of Sarawak, located on the island of Borneo, witnesses the grandest celebration of the Gawai Dayak festival.
  • The festive atmosphere can be felt in the capital Kuching a week before the festival day.
  • Parades and processions in connection with the festival begin a few days before the festival.
  • Make sure you visit Skrang River, Lemnak River, Batang Ai and Annah Rais.
  • The average fare is around Rs 5000 per person.

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The grand celebration of Gawai Dayak and Kuching city will definitely not let you down, it is definitely a deal that pays the bills. If you don’t want to miss out on the best travel deals, book your exotic Malaysian holiday packages with TourTravelHotels and watch this space for information on more such great places.

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