The three big Dayak tribes who inhabit this province
are Ngaju, Ot Danum, and Ma'anyan Ot Siang. Ngaju, like some other
tribes, moves from one region to another. They adhere to the old
Kaharingan religion, which is the form of ancestor worship, mixed
with animism elements. They have seen progress. Many of them live
in the towns, have enjoyed an education and they are intelligent.
The Ot Danum live in longhouses, which
sometimes have as many as 50 rooms. The unique longhouse is called
Betang. With approximately 6,000 people, the Ot Danum is the largest
among the three tribes. They are known for their skill in plaiting
rattan, palm leaves, and bamboo. Made by the women, such products
are sold in many cities such as Banjarmasin, Kualakapuas, and Sampit.
Like other Dayaks, the men are good hunters, using simple tools.
The art of Central Kalimantan clearly bears the marks of the Kaharingan
religion, which is the traditional belief of the Dayaks in the hinterland
of Central Kalimantan. The building styles are the elements of the
Hindus, Chinese, and Hindu-Javanese. Aside from their aesthetic
properties, such products are appreciated for their magic value.
The Ngaju, the most known Barito Bayak, managed the creation of
the province of Central Kalimantan. They speak different dialects
of which the Kahayan has become the local dialect. Most Ngaju practice
Kaharingan, or are converted to protestantism; only the Bakumpai
Ngaju converted to islam over a century ago.
The branding longhouses of the Dayak
are hard to find among the Ngaju. Their place is taken by communal
rooms, in which meeting and rytes are held. The Ngaju belong to
the best artists of Borneo. This reputation is shown in the ceremonial
objects for the dead, like the wooden coffins, tombes, and sailboats
and big statues.
The Ma'anyan speak a language which is almost the same with that
on Madagascar. There is a lot of speculation that their ancestors
crossed the sea to Madagascar in the 3rd or 4th century. This would
mean that the Ma'anyan lived more close to the beach than they do
The different Ma'anyan communities hold contact with each other
and with the cities along the Barito by periodical markets. Their
most important product for trade - nice canoos made out of one piece
- are loved among the Banjarese.
During wars the Ma'anyan lived in family
houses in pillars, which could be as high as seven meters. Many
Ma'anyan practiced the Kaharingan religion. They know complicated
rytes in combination with agriculture and funerals, bring sacrifices
for spirits and ask a sjaman when someone has fallen ill. On their
graveyard, you can see that the Ma'anyan used to be very layered:
the bone-houses of the nobility are placed more upstream, followed
to the ones of the warriors, the normal population and the slaves,
Before a traditional marriage, the comming
husband needs to work and live with the family for five years. This
period can be shortened by payments to the coming mother-in-law.
This is an extra on the bridal treasure, which consists of bronze
drums, beads and money.
The Ot Danum
The Ot Danum (the name means upstream area) live in the area around
the rivers north of the Ngaju and south of the Schwaner- and Müller
Range, as well as the Melawi-beaken of West Kalimantan, which is
located north of the Schwaner Range. Their area is three hundred
km wide stretch of land just south of the equator. The Ngaju see
the Ot Danum as their cultural ancestors, but there are remarkable
differences between the two groups. The Ot Danum live in longhouses
in pillars, two to five meters above the ground. This habit is probably
taken from the Kenyah or Kayan.
The same with the headhunting, the mild
form of social hierarchy and the images on shields and mandau lemmets.
However the religion of the Ot Danum looks like that of the Ngaju
(most of them still practice kaharingan), their ritual re-burials
are more simple and their woodcarvings are less detailed.