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Tadau Ka'amatan

Every year on 30 and 31 May, the state of Sabah celebrates the Ka’amatan festival – a lively celebration filled with cultural activities and sports events. If you’re planning to visit Sabah, this is a good time to experience indigenous culture.

by / Published: 16 May 2018

Tadau Ka'amatan
Photo: Tourism Malaysia

The Tadau Ka’amatan is an annual rice harvest festival celebrated by the Kadazan-Dusun, Murut and Rungus communities in Sabah for the whole month of May, to give thanks for the year’s harvest and to pray for another fruitful year ahead. The festival culminates in a two-day celebration brimming with all sorts of cultural events and ceremonies. 

Visitors can look forward to activities like cooking and gong-beating competitions alongside sports events like mipulos (arm wrestling), rampanau (stilt walking), migazat dukug (tug of war) and monopuk (blowpipe). Besides that, there are also traditional dance performances, games and of course, plenty of food and drinks.  

This is also the best time to try out some of the local delicacies like tapai (the local rice wine), butod (sago grub) and hinava (raw fish marinated in lime juice, chilli and ginger). 

Photo: Tourism Malaysia

The Belief
Legend has it that the god Kinoingan saw his people suffering from a famine, so he sacrificed his daughter Huminodun and scattered her body parts all over the land. This made the soil fertile and produced a bountiful harvest of paddy.

Today, that sacrifice is recognised and honoured annually during the Ka’amatan festival.

The Celebration Today
Over the years, some of the more extreme rituals of the festival have been forgotten or adapted to the present times. An example is the traditional thanksgiving ceremony of Magavau performed by the Bobohizan (high priestess) on the first full moon after the harvest in the paddy fields. Today, the Magavau is performed as a dance indoors. 

No Ka’amatan celebration is complete without the singing and karaoke competitions – known as Sugandoi – and the Unduk Ngadau, a beauty pageant to crown the year’s Harvest Queen. Its name is derived from the words ‘Runduk Tadau’ – which means ‘the girl crowned by sunlight’ – and is held every year in tribute to Huminodun. 


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