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About Kadayan ... part 8

Written By kadayan chronicles on Tuesday, 28 February 2006 | 16:47

Written by Amde sidik

Kadayan and Banjarese

I have been very curious ever since I read about the similarities between Kadayan and the Banjarese language, I called it language rather than dialect1. The modern history of Kadayan gives no indication if, the two had ever lived closely together. Nor had there been any written materials found to suggest that they had interacted in somewhere.

Shown below are among some of selected words:

Source: Siti Sapoo bte Ahook, Tarian Anding, her project paper for a Bachelor Degree at UKM, 1985 except for English translation by AmdeSidik

Some say Banjarese are elusive people, they don’t like publicity, and they don’t like playing in the front role, unlike other ethnics that came from the same region. Perhaps the description is appropriately fit only for Malaysian Banjarese.Rarely; they identify themselves through ethnic but as Malay.

Banjarese concentrated in Kalimantan South; around Banjarmasin, this is the biggest city in Borneo. About 3 million of them through out the Malay Archipelago. Among the reasons of steady increase of Banjarese in Kalimantan was and is, when the Dayak who make up 39% of the total population of Borneo converted to Muslim they change their ethnic status to Banjarese which is still a common phenomena.

We don’t know how big is their population in Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei. However, in the whole Malaysia it is estimated to be around 900,000.

Banjarese had long history of being religiously pious. They were the Sufi pioneers in this region.The most well known Islamic scholar was Sheikh Muhammad Arsyad Al Banjari who spent half of his lifetime commuting between Banjarmasin and Mecca 1710-1812. The 6th generation of the Sheikh, a Malaysian happened to be my close friend residing in Kota Kinabalu.

Banjarese had travelled to many parts of this region as early as 1600s predominantly to Perak, Selangor, Johore, and Sumatra and even settled in Saudi Arabia.

Whilst Kadayan is seclusively in Borneo except with the recent discovery, that we now know Kadayan had been in peninsular Malaysia since 18th century.

The word Banjar was derived from the word Bandar in Malay for town, whilst the word masin is nothing to do with the Malay word for salty, but instead to mean maturity.

I first encountered a Banjarese when I was in England in 80s. The elderly Banjarese came to England from Johore in the early 1950s married to an English lady. Acquainted with this man, I found a few things in common. He likes jokes, soft-spoken, can be very serious, but always cautious never want to upset friendship.

Back in Malaysia, I acquainted with more Banjarese. The closer you are with them the more you uncover about their myths; to a point, I feel they are typical Kadayan culturally.

Spiritual and religion are among the commonest topics for discussions for the elders, whilst the educated ones would indulge in intellectual discussions where the sky is the limit so to speak, besides no offence in cracking joke in the middle of your dinner.

Generally, Banjarese and Kadayan believed very strongly that another being exists around us, unseen with our naked eyes. This being can be our best friend or our worst enemy-the bunnian?

They like keeping draggers –kris and other paraphernalia for generations, very often accompanying them wherever or whenever they go out of the house especially for long journey. According to them, these items have soul or spiritual power if they are properly looked after2.

According to a source, Banjarese and Kadayan were only separated about 400 years ago.

If I were to interpret this, they were then close to one another some time in 1500s. Based on the official written history of Brunei Kingdom, this must have occurred during the reign between Sultan Bolkiah the 5th Sultan 1485-1524 and Sultan Abdul Jalilul Akbar, the 10th Sultan 1582-1698- in between were, Sultan Abdul Kahar, Sultan Saiful Rijal, Sultan Shah and Sultan Muhammad Hasan.

Sultan Bolkiah was the most travel of all the Sultans. His frequent visit to Banjarmasin and Kutai probably created social interaction among the people from Brunei -the Kadayan and the Bruneis, sometime they stayed longer while waiting for the right wind direction to return to Brunei.

Kadayan had always been part of the King entourage in those days. Two reasons why Kadayan were included first, Kadayan was religious and acted as spiritual adviser to the Sultan and second, Kadayan were well known for their knowledge of black magic especially the one called pantak.

If I were to cast the origin of Kadayan from Indonesia, I would most certainly consider this part of Indonesia as my initial study and not Java.

I have mentioned this topic elsewhere in my previous writings.

(Read Amde's biography HERE)


1About 350 ethnic dialects and 300 languages in Borneo
2 One of the ways of paying ritual is by cleaning the kris with lime juice and heated above incense on Friday night-tangas


asrie kadir - Sdr Amde: your article on kada |2006-07-05 19:10:31
Dear Amdee,

I have read your article thoroughly and it is very interesting. I have my own opinions and would like to further extend my knowledge of these two ethnic groups to you.

The Banjar has always been associated with trade and religious teachings. Being a rather shy ethnic, they would prefer to keep to themselves and shun publicity and the trappings of the modern world. They are more of a hermit so to speak. Being a shy and humble group, they do not want to glorify their existence for fear that they might not be at par with their forefathers or what is expected of them. Although some of the Banjar have the title of Pengiran as in Brunei, they seldom use it or see themselves as a descendant of Pengiran for reasons stated above. They also have very low esteem of themselves especially when addressing elders or superiors. They use the word ulun (I) instead of saya and Pian (you).

Matapura, a village in Banjarmasin, is known as the diamond center in the region of South East Asia. The population confine themselves within the pagar or boundary of Matapura and mine the diamonds, trading and selling them to whoever that comes by their locality or they themselves would venture out to sell their products. Within this pagar, they also trade and exchange other things among themselves and others. The village itself is 100% Muslim and it is also known as the small Kaabah of this region. Every Friday as the call of azan rings throughout to glorify God, everybody stops what they’re doing and throng through the streets towards the masjid or the surau or the langgar to pray. The folks trust each other so much and have so much faith that it’s the norm to leave their businesses or trades unattended. Believe it or not no losses or theft were ever reported during these times.

While on their quests for trade, the Banjar spread the word of Islam and some eventually settled in various places and married the locals. Apart from Banjarmasin, the Banjar can also be found in Kandangan, Pulau Laut (Kota Baru, an island off the coast of Banjarmasin), Balikpapan, Samarinda, Kutai, Tarakan, Berau and Nunukan along Kalimantan Timur. Incidentally, when I was in Kelantan I had the notion that Kota Bharu is derived from Kota Baru and that the people are the descendants of the Banjar immigrants. The way they dress in the skull cap or kopiah and serban putih reminded me of the elderly Banjar man. Could this be a coincidence?

As far as traditions and customs go, despite being staunch Muslims, the Banjar also believe that some of them have a dingsanak (relatives or family members) in the form of a yellow crocodile. Thus whenever there is a dream that the dingsanak is seeking food or when certain family members have angered the dingsanak, it is normal for them to perform bebuangan, which is a ritual that involves the “feeding” of yellow and white glutinous rice garnished with sweetened desiccated coconut, coffee or tea plus a few copper shillings into the nearby water ways. Apart from that, they also believe that there are also unseen inhabitants or orang halus in every corner or space in this world. Thus, they are always seeking permission from the “unseen” in everything they do especially when trekking through the forests or walking to an unknown area or even when it comes to urinating in the wild. This is to avoid bad or unfortunate incidents befalling upon them. For the young, the naik ayunan is a cradle made with yellow cloth, which ensures that the baby would have a good life as the colour yellow signifies keramat or the royal colour.

As for similarities between the Banjar and the Kadayan, if Banjar is from the word Bandar, then perhaps Kadayan is from the word kadai or kedai. The Banjar like to travel, trade and spread the word of Islam to various places in the region. Being city dwellers, the Banjar frequented shops or kedai and thus become kadai(y)an. As the perantau (traveller) they may come from the Banjar stock of Kandangan and perhaps this is how the name Kadayan came about. Although, my theory could be wrong. The word kamih for kencing is also similar to the Kadayan and Brunei but the word air (water) is banyu and not aing. The word dingsanak is also used by them.

I hope this information would add to your studies of the Kadayan and Banjar.

Asrie Kadir

7th March,2006

The writer(Datuk Asrie Kadir) is a lawyer by qualification he has held various positions in government and private sectors.His last post was as Press Secretary to Sabah’s Chief Minister.

Tina Kadayan - Sdr Amde |2006-07-05 23:04:36
Sdr Amde,

Saya ada dengar bahawa perkataan kadayan ini mungkin diperolehi dari nama kedai atau kadai-orang Brunai panggil, dimana orang2 ketika itu tidak tau asal usul orang tersebut yang kebetulan berniaga runcit. Jadi sebagai indentiti orang berkedai dipanggil orang kadaian.

Saya rasa usaha sdr dan rakan2 harus di puji yang tidak jemu2, saya percaya suatu masa nanti akan membuahkan hasil walaupun ketika ini tidak ramai yang mengambil perhatian serious. Saya akan sentiasa bersama-sama menyukung usaha ini.

Terima kasih, Tina Kadayan, Labuan

8hb Mac,2006

Othman Masapol |2006-07-05 19:11:46

Saya berpendapat Kadayan bukan berasal dari Jawa seperti yang banyak dipercakapkan oleh orang tua-tua dikampong kampong, sebab tidak ada tanda-tanda peninggalan orang Jawa pada orang Kadayan baik melalui budaya maupun yang lain-lain. Seperti yang diperkatakan oleh sdr Amde dan yang lain-lain berkemungkinan besar Kadayan cuma terdapat di Pulau Borneo sahaja.

Othman, Mesapol

10hb Mac,2006
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