Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Jerunai; a hanging coffins and burial poles at Lamin Dana, Sarawak

Creepily fascinating or fascinatingly creepy? You be the judge.

Bridging the past and the present, the old and young, the world and Mukah, Diana Rose passion drove her to embark in a fulfilling journey to share Melanau wonderful heritage with the world by introducing Lamin Dana on 14 February, 1999. A sense of ownership to her beloved Melanau tribe, Diana Rose is a living prove that where there's a will, there's a way. Now it is internationally known, news coverage came from local, national and foreign medias the likes of History Asia - Hidden Cities, Wild Asia talking about Lamin Dana, Mukah iconic traveler destination.

Lamin Dana Cultural Boutique is located at Tellian Village in Mukah hinterland, a 3 hours drive from Sibu town. Mukah can also be reached by flight via MASwings from Kuching or speedboat via Dalat from Sibu, either route would be enlightening as Sarawak scenery is known to be very diversified and soulful.

"Lamin Dana means traditional house in archaic Melanau" is what Diana Rose wants to do, conserving and reviving her Melanau heritage. Built as a boutique guesthouse with proper local activity packages, its main objective is to ensure Melanau culture and history are well preserved for future generation and made known to the world. Traditionally a fishermen, padi and sago farmers, Melanau are among the earliest settlers in Sarawak, previously known as "A-Likou" meaning 'people of the river' until the tribe name Melanau was given. Sago being the staple food here, are normally systematically planted and cultivated for its produce.

A 2-minute walking distance away from Lamin Dana stands a tall totem pole that is a few hundred years old. This totem pole is known as Jerunai; a burial pole. I was told that Jerunai is reserved mainly for Melanau aristocrats (bangsawan) here in Mukah, Sarawak. It is made from the Borneo ironwood tree or pokok Belian, full of intricate animal and plant motif carvings to symbolize their status and level. The aristocrats' bodies would be left in a hanging coffin for a year before its remains are transferred into a Jerunai. Every aristocrat will bring 2 human sacrifices with them into the afterlife, one male slave and one female slave around 12-13 years of age. The male slave will be placed at the bottom below the aristocrat and the female above, both tied to the Jerunai and left to starve to death. This is an ancient practice some 175 years ago before the light of Islam arrived on Sarawakin soil.

There is a famous story of a royalty whose death asked for multiple human sacrifices and it's jerunai bears the scars of the rescue effort by the sacrifices' loved ones? This, and many other jerunai stories, can be found from the Sarawak Tourism Board.

Each Jerunai stands at around 10 to 15 meters. It requires 15 to 30 locals that must be of Melanau bloodline; a descendant. A blessing ceremony is held for commemoration when erecting a Jerunai.
Diana Rose has taken the initiative to beautify Kampung Sri Tellian's jerunai for the convenience of her guests and tourists visiting Mukah. Her vision and dream of making Melanau known to the rest of the country and the world has started to show results.

Able to accommodate family and single travelers, Lamin Dana ensures that guest experienced the best of Melanau heritage and Mukah scenes. Providing guest with "Sago Experience" where guests are exposed to how and why Sago is made, boat ride along the river and mangroves at sunsets, basket weaving hands-on experience or learning simple traditional Melanau culinary are some of the activities offered here. Wanting to share Lamin Dana with the world, Diana has also prepared a "3D2N Student Culture Package" where she can cultivate the younger generation to love our culture, heritage and history. Her gift to Melanau tribe, Sarawak and Malaysia.

I hope that this Melanau history and heritage will never be forgotten, for those who forget their roots are those bound to repeat their regrets.

DiGi's Amazing Malaysian 2005 has selected Diana Rose as one of their award recipients. Her mission to conserve and promote Malaysia's natural and cultural heritage has honoured her as "The Knowledge Keeper of Sarawak". Amazing Malaysians is part of DiGi's Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme.

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