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Every society has its own customs and traditional beliefs that are unique and distinctive to itself. Apart from being a society's cultural treasures, traditional customs also symbolize a society's identity. However, these customary traditions are not immune to change, whether due to internal or external factors that occur in the life of a society. This is because these factors are not only capable of affecting life in a society but are also able to change the processes by which customary practices are normally carried out. This qualitative study, conducted among the Kuruyou Dusun of Kg. Liau Darat, Keningau, Sabah, compares and contrasts traditional customary practices of wet rice cultivation with newer practices. It also identifies factors that have led to change.


For most indigenous societies in Sabah, rice is very important as their lives are centered on its cultivation and harvesting (Sabah Museum 1993:2). According to Pugh-Kitingan (2012:25-26), the Kadazan Dusun, for example, believe that rice has a spiritual essence, a life force or spiritual growth principle called the bambarayon. Animals such as chickens and water buffaloes are also said to have this same spiritual essence. The Kadazan Dusun and other Dusunic peoples believe that rice was given by the Creator to feed mankind. Therefore, rice is to be treated with respect. This is consistent with the observations of Hanafi Hussin (2005:171), who says that among Dusunic communities, the belief that rice has a spirit or spirits is closely related to the systems of beliefs and practices in their daily lives as well as their cosmology. Hence, it is not surprising that customary practices, rituals and rice cultivation activities have become an obligation to their societies. In addition to its ritual aspects, rice is also very important economically and socially.

Among the Kuruyou, another ethnic group who belong to the Dusunic family, rice is also very important in their lives. However, today's customary practice of rice cultivation among the Kuruyou has undergone a change as a result of some internal and external driving factors that have occurred in their community life. This can be explained through Hanafi Hussain's (2005) view, which states that the times have changed to an age that is concerned with science and technology. What is important nowadays is that everything stands in the physical world. Hence, the relationship between the spiritual and real world is no longer given priority. Past rice rituals and agricultural calendar events have been exchanged for modern agricultural activities. However, although most rituals are no longer performed, traditional rice-related etiquette is still practiced (Pugh-Kitingan 2012:25). Hence, in conjunction with the theme of Translating the Past, Envisioning the Future (of the 2018 International Borneo Research Council Conference), this study aims to investigate why changes have taken place in the traditional padi cultivation processes practiced by the Kuruyou Dusun community in Kg. Liau Darat, Bingkor, Keningau.

The Dusun Kuruyou (Kuijau)

The Kuruyou people live on the Bingkor Plain in Keningau District (Map 1). They speak a language of the Dusunic Family of the Bornean Stock of Austronesian Languages (Appell 1972, Spitzack 1997). They may possibly have come long ago from the Kuruyou, one of the dialect groups of the Kadazan Dusun of the Tambunan plain to the north (Pugh-Kitingan 2003:1-2, 2012:11-12). They are often referred to in the literature as "Kuijau." Various explanations for these names have been given (see Rutter 1929:26 in Spitzack 1997), but the antonym that is normally used by the people themselves is Monindal from the term tindal that means moving from near water to higher ground, because they once moved from near the Pagalan River to higher ground.

Like other Dusunic groups, the Kuruyou of Bingkor are an acephalous bilateral society, with gender balance, in which the conjugal family is the basic social unit. Marriage is legalized by bridewealth, paid from the parents of the groom to those of the bride, and post-nuptial residence is usually virilocal. Their traditional religion was headed by priestesses or bobolian, who recited the sacred rinait or ritual poetry and sacrificed animals to appease the spiritual realms on behalf of humans. Since the early 20th century, many Kuruyou people have become Christians (usually Roman Catholics) and some have become Muslims. The Kuruyou formerly lived in longhouses, but since World War II, their villages are composed of single-family houses. The people cultivate wet rice on the Bingkor Plain, with some dry rice in the hills. Wet rice cultivation is the main socio-economic activity of the village of Liau Darat.

Padi Planting Processes (Morobuat) among the Kuruyou of Kg. Liau Darat

For the Dusun Kuruyou at Kg. Liau Darat, rights over land used for padi or wet rice cultivation is devolvable usufruct inherited down the generations within families. Wet rice cultivation is a complicated and labor intensive process. Table 1 lists the cultivation phases for traditional rice varieties in Kg. Liau Darat, along with the rituals practiced by the Dusun Kuruyou community. Traditional rice varieties only require one planting per year to produce a bountiful harvest, whereas modern rice varieties require two plantings per year and the application of fertilizers and insecticides. Table 2 lists the processes for planting modern rice varieties. Nowadays, most of the Kuruyou community in Kg. Liau Darat plant modern rice varieties.

Differences between the two kinds of padi cultivation lie in aspects of the padi cultivation process, as well as the technology used to carry out the rice cultivation (and technology includes both the implements involved as well as the rice grains). It should not be assumed, however, that Christians only plant new rice varieties. In former times, both Christians and followers of the traditional religion planted traditional rice varieties using the same traditional processes and implements. Although bobolian would carry out some of the rituals in the process of traditional padi cultivation for non-Christians, Christian women would pray over their padi fields and there were also villagers who sought help from catechists to bless their rice fields. Even today with new kinds of padi cultivation, the help of catechists in blessing the fields still continues.


The traditional annual rice cultivation process in Kg Liau Darat begins with the rumilik process or clearing the nursery (pongoburan) where rice grains will be sown (later the young seedlings will be transplanted to the padi field). This usually takes place in April. During this process, the implements used include a weeding knife or gagamas, a hoe or sangkul, and a rimbas which is a long piece of bamboo with a hook at its end. The rimbas is normally used for cutting and clearing scrub, while the gagamas and sangkul (Plate 1) are used to extract weeds from the soil. When the rumilik phase is completed and the nursery is ready; the next process is mangasok or planting rice seeds in this nursery.


When the preparation of the nursery is completed then the mangasok or planting of rice seeds (ta'bur) into the nursery can be started. This was formerly done by the end of May or early June. However, over time with the cycle of years, rice planting came to be carried out earlier, up to one month earlier than the original period. The duration of the planting phase depends on the area of the nursery used for planting seedlings, and the number of seedlings grown in this nursery area depends on the area of padi field to which they will be transplanted.

Before starting the process of planting the seeds in the nursery, the farmers need to determine the appropriate time of the month for later transplanting the seedlings from the nursery to the padi field. According to Mdm. Juliana, one of the rice farmers and an informant for this study, a good time for transplantation is between the third to fifth days or 24th to 29th days of a month. This is to avoid transplanting padi seedlings when caterpillars or other plant pests are prone to attack the seedlings. By using this method fanners will be able to safely grow rice seedlings, and the seedlings transplanted can thrive.

During mangasok, the men make holes in the ground using a long dibble stick or tiasok. This is made from heavy hardwood, and its end has a sharp conical shape. The length of the tiasok usually measures around eight feet. After the men have made holes using the tiasok, the women and children will drop rice grains (parai) (padi) in each hole. After this, the holes containing the rice seeds are lightly covered with soil to prevent the grain from being eaten by birds. Then the nursery will be fenced to prevent animals from entering and eating the young seedlings when they emerge.

However, mangasok is no longer conducted according to traditional methods in Kg. Liau Darat. Today, the Kuruyou community carries out mangasok using an iron pipe to make holes where the grain is placed. In addition, many farmers here no longer conduct the process of mangasok, because they plant rice using the "sowing" method. This method does not require the separate planting of rice seeds in a nursery, because the rice seeds are planted directly into the padi field that has been ploughed with a tractor. In addition, the ritual ceremony today is done before the farmer starts the planting phase. Owners of padi fields will individually bless their nursery areas by reciting special prayers and sprinkling holy water in the nursery area. The purpose of this ceremony is to seek protection from God so that the seedlings planted will not be damaged and can grow well.


In the traditional process while waiting for the padi seedlings to grow in the nursery, the process of morobuat or preparation of the padi field is carried out. The term morobuat can refer generally to the whole process of rice cultivation, as well as to the preparation of the padi field and it involves many activities. At the the start of morobuat, the dry padi field is ploughed or momoradu. Traditionally, this was done by a man using a karabau or water buffalo to pull the radu or plough. It serves to break up the soil.

Next the rice field is irrigated. Nearby rivers provide the water for irrigating the fields. Water from the river flows into the rice fields through small trenches that are constructed on a mutual aid basis (mitatabang) among village members.

Once the rice fields are lightly flooded with water, the process of mongimbadas or repairing the bunds (badas) is done. The implements used for this are a hoe and a scoop. Mongimbadas is done to create a limit later for the water in the rice fields. This is usually done by women and children, while the men mangaragus or harrow the fields. Traditionally, this was done using a karabau or water buffalo to pull the ragus or harrow.

The ragus is a piece of rectangular wood, with 'teeth' underneath made of hardwood or iron. The mangaragus process involves farmers standing on the ragus as it is pulled by the buffalo. According to En. Samuel, another informant, the purpose of mangaragus is to soften the soil in the rice field so that the rice planting can be done easily. It levels the field before beginning the process of mananom parai or planting the padi.

Nowadays, ploughing and harrowing are done using modern equipment such as tractors ("Kobuta" the brand name). These machines are rented and shared by villagers who cultivate wet rice. The process of ploughing and harrowing with a tractor speeds up the rice cultivation process. Thus, the Kuruyou Dusun community in Kg. Liau Darat no longer uses buffaloes to plough and harrow rice fields, but tractors which accelerate and simplify the process of preparing the fields.

Tumodok Ceremony

The tumodok ceremony takes place before mananom parai when the rice seedlings growing in the nursery are ready to be transplanted into the padi field. This ritual is to attract the bambarayon or spiritual essence of the rice into the padi fields so that it will live in the rice fields and keep the rice seedlings that will be planted there later. For the traditional Kuruyou community, they believed that if the rice spirit lives in their rice fields, the planted rice will then produce much grain. Tumodok ceremonies are usually performed by a group of bobolian, or priestesses, headed by a woman using several types of plants such as rumbia (sago), sivod (basil), yam, and sogumau or lemon grass, seven separate padi stems, a titanom or short dibble stick (around 3 to 4 feet long), and also some tapai or rice beer in a bamboo cup or suki.

The ritual begins when the rumbia, sivod, yam, and sogumau together with the titanom and a suki (bamboo cup) containing tapai rice beer are planted at the border of the padi field (badas). According to Mdm. Linah Touk, another informant, the purpose of this is to call for the spirit of rice, so that the rice can bear much grain. The titanom will be used to make holes in the soil for replanting the padi seedlings, and the suki containing tapai is to symbolically give a drink of rice beer to the spirit of rice.

Next, the seven individual padi stalks are planted in one corner of the padi field, usually the first corner to be formed. This symbolizes the start of the rice planting process (Mdm. Juliana, informant). These seven padi stalks are believed to be the "mothers" of the bambarayon. By planting these seven rice stalks, the farmers hope to obtain an abundant rice harvest that can fill as much as seven lingkul (lingkut = large rice granary kept in the rice barn). After that, the rice cultivation process begins, as the seedlings are transferred to the padi field (Plates 2 and 3). Today, the tumodok ritual is rarely performed, although some Christian mothers used to also do it. It has been largely replaced by a ceremony to bless the rice fields conducted by a Roman Catholic catechist.

Mananom Parai

Mananom parai (lit. "planting the padi") is the process of shifting the young rice plants from the nursery and transplanting them in the wet padi field. This process usually takes place in August around two months after mangasok. As in mangasok, the time for transplantation is between the third to fifth days or 24th to 29th days in the month.

After the tumodok ceremony is completed, mananom parai (planting the padi) begins with removing the rice seedlings (ta 'bur) early in the morning or late afternoon when the soil is still wet. The la'bur are then tied in bunches, trimmed, and placed in water before being moved to the rice fields. After this, the soaked ta'bur are planted in the rice field using the short tatanom dibble stick to make holes. The holes made with the tatanom outline triangular or square shapes on the ground, with enough space in between for the young plants to grow. Then each seedling bunch is inserted into a hole.

Once the ta'bur have all been transferred, the water level in the padi field will be controlled so as to have not too much and not too little to ensure that the transferred seeds can grow well until they reach the required height (nowadays 2 to 3 feet; traditional varieties produced crops much taller than this). The duration for this takes about three to four months after the transfer of rice seedlings.

Today, however, the Kuruyou farmers of Kg. Liau Darat no longer use traditional rice cultivation practices and, as mentioned earlier, are now more likely to sow the seeds directly into the wet padi field. Ritual ceremonies have also been replaced by a blessing ceremony by Catholic catechists.


Gumamas or weeding is traditionally done by women and children. When the rice has reached the height of just knee level, gumamas will be done to extract out the weeds and grass that grows around the rice stalks to ensure that the cultivated rice grows well without being disturbed by grass or pests. The tool used to perform gumamas is the gagamas or weeding knife. This process usually takes place over one month from September to October.

Nowadays, the process of gumamas is no longer done using weeding knives. Instead, pesticides supplied formerly by the now-dissolved Lembaga PadiSabah (Sabah Padi Board) and the existing Lembaga Pertubuhan Peladang Negeri Sabah (Sabah State Farmers' Cooperative Board) or PELADANG as well as other agencies are used. Farmers pump spray insecticides around the rice fields and let the poison kill the weeds and insects that are around the rice plants. Farmers in Kg Liau Darat have to use poison to keep the padi from being attacked by disease or insects, because the new rice varieties supplied by the Agriculture Department and Keningau Branch of the former Sabah Padi Board planted are no longer hardy, high quality and pest-resistant like the traditional rice varieties.


After the process of gumamas is completed and the rice is almost ripe and suitable for harvesting, farmers in Kg. Liau Darat will carry out manaso, which is the process of constructing a hut or susu'un. This will then be used as a place for temporarily storing tools and harvested rice before it is threshsed (mongogik) and then transferred to the main barn. There are two kinds of susu 'un, namely permanent susu 'un and temporary susu 'un. Permanent susu 'un or sulap are maintained after the rice has been harvested, while temporary susu 'un are demolished as soon as the harvesting process is over (Plate 3). According to En. Samuel, temporary susu 'un are erected in several places near the rice fields to be harvested.

To construct a susu 'un, the owner of the padi field collects sago palm leaves from the bush to be used as a roof. Farmers also look for wakau or thin cane to be tied as binding for the different parts around the uprights. The farmer collects some hardwood logs for uprights, and then begins constructing the susu 'un. Once the susu 'un is completed, around one month before harvesting, everything is ready for the harvest.

Today, however, the manaso phase is no longer performed as part of the padi cultivation cycle among the Kuruyou community of Kg Liau Darat, as the harvested rice is now stored in the main sulap until it is threshed (En. Samuel, informant). Farmers in this village also tend to use a "paid" method of hiring others to harvest their padi and pay others who use harvester combine machines to accelerate the harvesting process.


The process of harvesting is called mongomot in Kg. Liau Darat and occurs around four months after the rice seedlings have been transplanted in the padi field. When the rice is yellow and ripe, a scarecrow (tompukili) is erected in the middle of the field. During this time, farmers also begin dryng the padi field in preparation for harvesting.

Mamaliau Bambarayon Ceremony

Mongomot or harvesting usually begins with the mamahau bambarayon ritual. This is performed by one or a group of bobolian invited by the land owner, and is conducted three times before starting to harvest rice. The bobolian begin the mamahau bambarayon ceremony with momurinait, or the recitation of rinait (long sacred poetry and prayers) in the middle of the rice field. The senior bobolian, Odu' Lamahoi (odu' = grandmother) one of the few still practicing among the Kuruyou, then pours some tapai rice beer into the suki and ties it to three padi plants. The purpose of this ritual is to call and give a drink of tapai to keep the bambarayon alive in the padi fields and protect the rice during the harvesting process. After that, the owners of the padi field (usually the wife) will take seven rice stalks, cut them off and bring them to hang in the sulap. This ceremony is performed as the symbolic start of the rice harvesting season.

Once this ceremony is done, the farmers can start to harvest rice in earnest with all members in their family taking part. The rice harvesting process cannot take too much time to complete as the planted rice usually ripens quickly and if it is slowly harvested then the rice will be damaged and cannot be used. Farmers used to work together to accelerate the harvesting process. This method of mutual labor exchange, called mitatabang, involved helping other families work to harvest their padi fields and in return those families would assist by helping that family to harvest their padi field.

The implements used for harvesting include the linggaman and galung which have crescent-shaped metal blades and wooden handles. The hand-held linggaman knife is normally used to harvest the rice which will be used for planting the following season, and for padi which grows tall with its grains hanging down (Plate 4). The galung or, sickle, on the other hand, is used to harvest low-growing rice especially the newer rice varieties (Plate 5). Once the rice is harvested, it is collected in the temporary susu'un near the padi field, before being threshed through the mongogik or malapos process. After this, it is transported to the main sitlap.

According to Mdm. Hellen, another informant, although traditional harvesting was tiring and took quite a while, the harvesters could interact with one another. During rice harvesting, they would relieve their tiredness by posing riddles or sundail. One would ask a riddle and another would have to find the answer. An example of a sundait is: Waig idporing-poring au okunggu-ngguh? which means 'What is it when water in the large bamboo does not shake,' the answer to which is "sugarcane." After harvesting, threshing or monogik is done. The time it takes to complete the rice harvest depends upon the area of rice field being harvested.

Mongogik and Monotob

Mongogik is the process through which the rice grains are separated from their stalks. This normally takes place in January straight after the harvest. It is usually done by setting up a slatted platform made of wood or bamboo in the temporary susu 'un. The harvested rice is spread on the platform. Farmers stand on the rice on the platform and using their feet separate the grain from the stalks. During this process, the rice grains as they are separated from the stalks fall through the holes between the platform slats, leaving the stalks behind. Fanners remove and discard the padi stalks, and collect grain below the platform. The rice grains can then be winnowed.

Monotob is another more recent method of threshing. It involves striking bunches of harvested padi against open wire mesh inside a wooden frame to separate the grains from the stalks. In former times, this would not have been done, because it would "hurt" the padi. Nowadays, many farmers no longer perform mongogik in the traditional way, or even monotob, but use a threshing machine, orpalarai (Plate 6). While this may save time, its use lacks the social interaction that occurred during traditional mongogik.


Mangasas or month, or winnowing, separates the rice grains from their husks. This is done after mongogik, in January or February. This process is also one of the final phases that completes the harvest season. It is carried out using a rolibu or oblong winnowing tray. To winnow the padi, a large mat (sa'ab) is laid on the ground near the susu 'un and the padi that has been threshed is taken out of the large sack or conical basket where it has been stored and is placed on the mat. After that, women scoop up rice grains on their rolibu, hold them high and then pour out the grains in the breeze. The wind blows lightly, so that the husks drift away from rice grains when they fall. This process may take a long time, because it depends on the strength of the blowing wind. Once all the rice has been winnowed, it is put back in the sack then tied and stored in the main family susu'un. After that the family can begin to transfer the harvested rice that have been tied in sacks to the large family granary or lingkut located in their rice storage barn or langkau.

Mangarangkat Parai

When all the rice cultivation phases up until mangasas have been completed, but before the harvest celebration or ka 'amatan in May, the final phase is mangarangkat parai or carrying the rice from the susu 'un to the granary in the rice barn or langkau behind the family home. This takes place in January or until the end of Feburary. Mangarangkat parai was usually carried out using a water buffalo in former times, but nowadays they normally use motor vehicles. The sacks of padi will be transported one by one and placed on the buffalo or, nowadays, on a car bonnet or in the back of a fourwheel drive, and transported home. Upon reaching home, the padi will be poured into the circular a rice granary or lingkut that is kept inside the family's rice barn or langkau.

Mokilugup Ceremony

If rice yields are too high and difficult to move, farmers will perform the mokilugup a social ceremony of calling family members and relatives or other villagers to come to help move it to the home bam. By using a mokilugup ceremony, the process of transporting the padi can be quickly completed in less than a week.

Before starting this, however, a ritual ceremony also called mokilugup may be performed by bobolian to summon the spirits of the rice to assist in the lifting phase of rice to be moved to the home langkau. This ceremony is done by calling the rice spirits by the names of the people who come to help to move the rice. Once this ceremony is completed then the difficult process of mangarangkat parai can be carried out with vigor.

Later before being cooked, rice grains are laid out on a mat in the sun to harden. Then, they can be pounded with a long heavy wooden pestle on a pounding block, in preparation for cooking.

Papa'akon do Bambarayon

After completing the rice transfer, a moginum drinking ceremony or small feast is held to celebrate the end of rice cultivation process. The hosts serve a variety of traditional foods (eggs, chicken and mandatory rice) and traditional drinks (tapai) as a sign of gratitude to the people who have helped them safely move their rice from the susu'un to the lingkut or granary inside the langkau rice barn. The moginum celebration is held inside the langkau beside the lingkut, because the papa'akon do bambarayon ceremony to return the rice spirit to the langkau will be done here.

The purpose of the papa'akon do bambarayon ceremony is to feast with rice and drink rice beer in honor of the rice spirit as a sign of thanks for having received an abundant yield of padi, and also as a sign of thanks for mangaragkat parai having been carried out safely. Today, however, the moginum ceremony is rarely held and the papa 'akon do bambarayon ceremony has been replaced with a rice blessing ceremony performed by a Roman Catholic catechist.


After the rice harvesting process is completed and the rice has been transferred to the lingkut in the family langkau, the ka'amatan, or the end of the harvest season, will be celebrated by the Kuruyou community. This celebration not only marked the end of the harvest season, but was also meant to strengthen the spirit or life force of the rice (bambarayon). Today, however, the celebration of ka'amatan no longer has this ritual element, but is performed, instead, to strengthen relationships between the villagers. This is because the villagers nowadays rarely meet each other during the rice growing and harvesting seasons due to the recent introduction of modern technology such as new rice varieties that have shorter cultivation periods and machinery to prepare the padi fields and thresh the rice.

Traditional events held during the festival are also symbolic of the community's culture so that performing them ensured that these traditions were not forgotten. Among the traditional events held during the celebration of ka'amatan at Kg. Liau Darat is the enactment of mongomot and moniriparai, the telling of sundait or riddles that were once told in the padi fields during harvesting, and sugandoi, a singing contest (Plates 8 and 9). The sugandoi nowadays, however, is accompanied by an electric band and includes many Kadazan Dusun and Malay pop songs, instead of traditional secular Kuruyou singing.

Non-traditional events include a beauty pageant or Unduk Ngadau that features young women dressed in contemporary Kuruyou and Kadazan Dusun costumes. Judging is based on general knowledge and language proficiency in the Kuruyou language, as well as appearance. The winner will go on to compete at the Keningau District Level Ka'amatan, and, if successful, at the State Level Pesta Ka'amatan (Plate 10).

Factors of change in traditional rice cultivation among the Kuruyou of Kg. Liau Darat

Internal factors

Lack of Expert Ritualists

Ongoing change has compelled the Kuruyou Dusun community of Kg. Liau Darat to abandon some of their traditional rituals and rice cultivation practices. Among the factors that has caused this to happen is a lack of expert priestesses or bobolian. Consequently, the community eventually decided to abandon most of the old rituals associated with rice cultivation, as without priestesses to lead them, the people did not know how to perform them themselves.

Although expert bobolian proficient in reciting the rinait and performing ritual ceremonies are no longer present, Roman Catholic catechists from the Kuruyou community have come to fill the role they formerly played by performing rituals in connection with both traditional and modern rice cultivation processes. This they now do following Christian teachings. Even though practicing bobolian have largely disappeared, community members have tried to adapt to the new and changing environment in such a way that effective ritual practices can be continued and maintained. Nowadays, the role of mediator between the human and spiritual worlds is carried on by the catechists. Thus, catechists now perform ritual ceremonies at various stages of rice cultivation, but using different tools and methods in accordance with Christian practice.

Religious Change

Another internal factor that is said to have affected changes in traditional agricultural rituals is Christianity. However, if viewed deeply and thoroughly, Christianity has also helped sustain some traditions associated with the process of padi cultivation among the Kuruyou Dusun. Prior to the introduction of new technology, all villagers used traditional processes to cultivate padi, and mothers in Christian families often performed in their padi fields elements of tumodok without rinait but with prayers addressed to God to strengthen the bambarayon as the life force of rice as given to them by God. According to Puan Juliana, most Kuruyou people who live in Kg. Liau Darat are Christians. Even a woman who was once a bobolian now professes to be a faithful follower of Christ (Plate 11).

While the strong influence of Christianity on the lives of the Kuruyou has led them to abandon ritual practices that are seen as contrary to Christian teachings, many customary practices have nonetheless been retained. The Kuruyou community is one that also firmly adheres to its customs as constituting the core of its identity as a Dusunic society. Therefore, while Christian teachings are present, the community adjusts by customizing its ritual practices to suit those taught by Christianity. This adaptation is a survival strategy that helps keep alive the community's old traditions. The proof, Puan Juliana said, is that they still performs ritual ceremonies in the process of cultivating and harvesting rice. However, these have been adapted to conform with Christian teachings.

External Factors

Social Change

Social change due to modernization is an external factor that has brought about changes in customary practices, especially those associated with traditional rice cultivation. According to Mdm. Juliana, social change has occurred because society has had to adapt to a changing environment under the pressure of modernity. In the process, the Kampung Liau Darat people have had to abandon some of their traditions.

It is evident that the members of the Kuruyou community are trying to adapt themselves to this new environment by modifying not only their ritual practices, but also their methods of padi cultivation. By doing so, they are attempting to fulfil the demands of a way of life based on material possessions, while maintaining, as far as possible, their traditions. For example, by replacing their traditional methods of padi cultivation with more modern methods they can obtain two rather than one rice harvest annually. Double-cropping was introduced by the Keningau Branch of the former Lembaga Padi Sabah. With a second rice harvest, surplus rice can be sold and so converted into money. With this money fanners can now meet the new demands of life created by modernization.

Technological Changes

Thus, modern technologies and new planting methods were introduced by the Lembaga Padi Sabah and PELADANG to the Kuruyou community of Kampung Liau Darat. With these modern technologies, such as tractors, combine harvesters, new rice varieties, and the use of fertilizers and pesticides introduced by PELADANG, farmers no longer need to perform complex rice rituals to strengthen the spirit of the padi. They only need to use modern technology and new methods that have been adapted for planting rice twice a year. Hence, they feel that complex ritual practices are no longer relevant.

However, with this new type of rice cultivation, farmers in Liau Darat village now have to work doubly hard to get the same amount of rice they obtained using traditional padi cultivation methods. When they use this new method of cultivation, they have to maximise land use with two harvests per year. This depletes the soil, so that they must use dangerous fertilisers. In addition, the new rice varieties are not resistant to pests like the old ones were, so they have to use poisonous pesticides.


The Kuruyou Dusun community of Kg. Liau Darat, Keningau is, in some ways, just like any other indigenous community in Sabah, strongly adhering to its traditional customs and practices inherited over generations. However, in line with changes that have taken place, both internal and external transformations now permeate life in the village. The influence of these changes has led to changes in traditions, especially in the traditional padi cultivation process and in the rituals that were formerly associated with it, causing some of these rituals to be abandoned. In actuality, many of these changes have been undertaken by the community in an effort to maintain their traditional rice cultivation practices. The effort has been made through an adaptation process as the villagers seek to cope with an increasingly complex way of life.


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Spitzack, John A. 1997 The Kuijau Language. In: Julie K. King & John Wayne King, eds. 1984. Languages of Sabah: A Survey Report. Pacific Linguistics, Series C, No. 78. Canberra: Department of Linguistics, Research School of Pacific Studies, The Australian National University (originally published in 1984), pp. 257-270.

Constant Vianney Cyril Chin

Universiti Malaysia Sabah Malaysia
Table 1: Traditional wet rice planting in Kg. Liau Darat

Process                  Main Activity            Time

1. Rumilik               Cleaning the padi        April
2. Mangabur/Mangasok     Sowing seeds in          May - June
                         nurseries                (two months before
3. Morobuat              Preparing the padi       June - August
Mamaradu                 fields
Mongimbadas              Ploughing the padi
Mangaragus               fields
                         Irrigating the padi
                         Making the bunds
                         Harrowing the padi
4. Mananom Parai         Transferring rice        August
                         seedlings from nursery
                         to padi field
5. Gumamas               Weeding                  September - October
6. Manaso                Preparing susu 'un       October
7. Mongomot              Harvesting               December--early
8. Mongogik/Mongotob     Threshing                January
9. Mangasas/Moniri       Winnowing                January/ February
10. Mangarangkat parai   Transfer of rice         January/ February
                         grains to a
                         storage barn (langkuu)

Process                   Main Ritual

1. Rumilik                -
2. Mangabur/Mangasok      -
3. Morobuat               -
4. Mananom Parai          Tumodok
5. Gumamas                -
6. Manaso                 -
7. Mongomot               Mamahau
8. Mongogik/Mongotob      -
9. Mangasas/Moniri        -
10. Mangarangkat parai    Mokilugup,
                          Papa 'akon do

Table 2: Modern rice varieties planting process twice a year at Kg.
Liau Darat

Process                    Main Activity              Time

1. Rumilik                 Cleaning the padi          September
2. Mangasok                Sowing seeds in            September/ October
3. Mangaradu/Mongimbadas   Ploughing rice fields      October
                           and marking boundaries
4. Mananom Parai           Transferring rice          November/December
                           seedlings to paddy         (off-season)
5. Mongomot                Harvesting                 Two months after
                                                      rice cultivation
                                                      (February - March)
6. Malarai                 Threshing and winnowing    March
                           using a machine (Palarai)
7. Mangarangkat Parai      Transfer rice to           Once the process
                           storage bam (langkau)      of malarai is

Process                    Main Ritual

1. Rumilik                 -
2. Mangasok                Blessing the
                           nursery area
3. Mangaradu/Mongimbadas   -
4. Mananom Parai           Tumodok,
                           Blessing the paddy
5. Mongomot                Blessing the paddy
6. Malarai                 -
7. Mangarangkat Parai      Moginum (tapai
                           drinking); padi
                           blessing by a
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Author:Chin, Constant Vianney Cyril
Publication:Borneo Research Bulletin
Date:Jan 1, 2018

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