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Gawai Celebrations in Sarawak

Malaysia Asia would like to wish all Sarawakians Selamat Ari Gawai and for June, Sarawak celebrates the Gawai Festival which is the end of the Rice Harvest throughout the largest state in Malaysia.

The Gawai Dayak is also celebrated throughout the island of Borneo as many ethnic groups celebrate the end of the rice harvest and to usher in another year of bountiful goodness.

Gawai Celebrations in Sarawak

During the Gawai festival, almost everyone dresses in traditional costumes while the elders perform traditional rites where this festival was first celebrated on the 1st of June, 1965.

Since then, the Gawai celebrations have been one of the main attractions in Sarawak during the month oh June and would attract thousands of tourist to witness this merry occasion with song, dance and a world of interesting cultures.

Iban men and boys pose for a photo before the local Ngajat competition in a longhouse
Iban women in traditional costume during the Gawai Festival in a longhouse in Sarawak
During the Gawai, you will be hearing this wish in the local dialect which is 'Gayu Guru, Gerai Nyamai, Senang Lantang Nguan Menua' and this translates as long life, health and prosperity in the Iban language.

This will be wised among each other during the festival and even visitors can use this phrase when visiting a local Longhouse. 

During the Gawai Festival, there is usually a lot of merriment which involves gatherings, drinking of the locally brewed rice wine called tuak, and traditional dancing called ngajat in the local longhouses or modern homes.

Also, there will be displays of elaborate traditional costumes worn usually by the ladies during the ceremonies.

Young Iban girls in traditional costume
One of the Ngajat participants performing during the Gawai Festival inside a local longhouse
An Iban boy performing the Ngajat dance in the Longhouse
The capital of Sarawak, which is Kuching, celebrations start a week before with colourful street parades and many cultural activities and on the eve of the Gawai, a grand state dinner is held to observe the harvest festival.

During this time, a special beauty pageant will also be the highlight where it results in the crowning of several Gawai Queens, one each for Iban, Bidayuh and Orang Ulu communities.


If you are visiting Kuching or anywhere in Sarawak for June, you should ask your friends or the local tour guide on where to catch some of the festival activities.

One of the best experiences is to attend a Gawai Celebrations in Sarawak open house event, preferably at a traditional longhouse as everyone is welcomed to participate in this harvest festival celebration.

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