Friday, June 10, 2011

The great Rajahs of Sarawak and the melanaus

11:07 PM

Ratu Mukah 2010

The Melanaus in general:
The Melanau are a relaxed and humorous people. Rajah James Brooke, like generations of men before and after him, thought the Melanau girls particularly pretty.

He said that they had 'agreeable countenances, with the dark, rolling, open eye of the italians, and nearly as fair as most of that race. Eda Green in her book in 1909 wrote "...the Milanaus, whose girls are as fair as any Europeans and the belles of Borneo."

sir james brooke rahah of sarawak

During wars and troubled times:
Many melanau died in the battles that ensued when the iban first migrated northwards, and the survival of their communities owes much to the first Rajah, James Brooke, who protected them in the 19th century. He had a soft spot for the Melanau, thinking them the most attractive of the sarawak ethnics people and employing many as boat-builders, laborers and domestic servants.

Jerunai - Melanau's ancient tomb

Human Sacrifice:
Another interesting facet of Melanau tradition is their burial rites. Formerly a very hierarchical society, whenever a member of royalty died, his or her personal slave would be sacrificed, to accompany the deceased into the "other world". A totem pole (jerunei) would be erected next to the burial site, and the slave would be thrown into the pit before the totem pole was pulled up. It was believed this would make the pole stable. This practice came to an end in 1864, when it was banned by the Second White Rajah of Sarawak, Charles Brooke.

rajah sir charles anthony brooke

About the diversity of Melanau population:
The second rajah of sarawak HRH Charles Brooke wrote of melanau in 1866:
This is the most numerous and widely ranged tribe, far different from the rest, with ramifications extending over a space of hundreds of miles, and occupying localities in the interior and centre of the island extending to the heads of the Kotei, Banger Massim and Kayan rivers in the interior, and beyond brunei in a northward direction... The broad divisions are severally called after the countries in which they reside, each possessing different customs and dialects, but the whole coast between Rajang and Brunei is no doubt inhabited by these people.

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  1. Salam Admin and friends.

    Family originally from Kpg Tutus Hilir, Mukah. Now living in KL. Looking for melanau mukah native speaker to coach me and revive my language (and heritage). Students from UIA or UM who are looking for extra pocket money - I will pay tuition fee. Can mail me at rfm2 at mail dot com. Thank you



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