Legend of Huminodun
As May is approaching soon and the much awaited Tadau Kaamatan or the Harvest Festival will be celebrated by the Kadazandusun (native of Sabah), it is both timely and appropriate that I post here the story of Unduk Ngadau, the Huminodun of the modern era.
I shall be writing the Legend of Huminodun in English for the benefit of my English speaking visitors. This article was taken from our HUMINODUN 2002 magazine, an annual magazine published by the Huminodun Foundation of which I am belonged to.
Unduk Ngadau Kaamatan 2004 - Ms. Fharelynne Ivonne Henry
The Legend of Huminodun
And so unfolds this legend:
Once long ago, when time was young and the earth was new, there lived a young woman whose beauty was reknown throughout the land. Her name was Huminodun, and she was truly beautiful that anyone who would chance on her would be mesmerised and held spellbound by this vision of loveliness. Her beauty was made all the more enchanting because she was gentle in spirit and blessed with kindness and wisdom that were beyond her years. Huminodun was the only child of the god Kinoingan and his wife Suminundu.
The Earth they lived in was generous, and the harvest was bountiful and there was plenty of food for the people. There were happiness and contentment everywhere.
However, a prolonged drought soon came over the land. There was and the earth became parched, the rivers ran silent and dry, the trees and plants wilted and died. The colour of the land but surely turned from bountiful green to stark arid yellow heat and dust.
Day came when the barns and threshing floors in the land were bare. In those days, the staple food of Kinoingan and his people type of grain called huvong. Kinoingan became very worried when he saw that there was no longer any food to eat; soon his people might die of hunger and starvation. Seeing his father's countenance, Humindun asked "Father, why do you look so distressed?"
"We have run out of food and we have no grain left to plant, not even the huvong," replied Kinoingan. "I am worried for our people; how are they to sustain themselves and their families?"
Huminodun reflected on this and said "Father, please do not worry." For a solution had come in that instance to her mind. "Go ahead and clear the land for planting. Father, I am willing to be sacrificed. Let me body, soul and spirit be offerings to the great Mother Earth. If you scarifice me to her, this drought wull soon end and you willhave seeds once agin for planting and there will be food for all our people," she said.
Such sorrow and sadness befell Kinoingan when he heard this but he knew that his daughter spoke the truth. He also knew that once Huminodun had made her decision, there would be no way he could change her mind.
With a laden heart, Kinoingan went ahead and cleared that land for planting. Through his supernatural powers, he was able to clear such a large area over many hills without any difficulty. When the time came for planting, Huminodun was brought to the cleared lot. Great indeed were the grief throughout the land that day. As she was leaving, one could hear the pitiful wails of Suminundu who begged her daughter not to go. The young men who had fallen in love with Huminodun beseeched her to reconsider. Many cried and begged her to change her mind, however, Huminodun remained steadfast in her decision; there was nothing anyone could do for she had decided that her father's people must come before her.
When she arrived at the cleared plot, she turned to her father and said, "Father, you will see that my body will give life to many plants for the people. My flesh will give rise to rice; my head, the coconut; my bones, tapioca; my toes, ginger; my teeth, maize; my knees, yams. Other parts of my body will become edible plants as well. Never again will our people go hungry; never again will famine be a visitor to our land."
She continued, "However Father, to ensure a good harvest, you must remember this: when you strewn parts of my body all over this clearing, do not come near here for seven days, and seven nights, When the rice has ripened, and it is time to bring them in, do not start the harvest without first taking seven stalks of this new rice and tying them to one end of a long bamboo stick. Put this pole in the middle of the rice field. Only then may you begin your harvest. When you bring home your harvest, place the bamboo pole in the tangkob (rice storage hut) along with the rice."
"These are my instructions, Father: of your first day's harvest, keep them in the kakanan (big jar). Do not give away any part of your first year's harvest lest the remaining grains turn bad. The second year onwards, you may do as you wish to your harvest." (This is why, to this day, the Kadazandusun people do not give any part of their first year's harvest).
Kinoingan agreed to abide by all her instructions. Thus done, he proceeded to sacrifice his only beloved daughter. At the instance of her death, the world turned black, thunder clapped and lightning struck, and the ground beneath shook and rumbled.
And then the rains came. Great was the torrent on that eventful day; the parched earth soaked in the reviving moisture, and the air became pure and clean once more. Humnidun's predictions came true; as her blood touced the earth, life was reborn. It was as she had said, as the dry earth drank in the rain and her blood, plants of many kinds began to bud and sprout in all the land.
That year, Kinoingan's people saw a harvest of such bounty never before experienced in their memory. In adherence to Huminodun's instruction, he kept the first day's harvest in the kakanan and chose the first seven stalks of the harvest for the bamboo pole.
The seven stalks of rice were to honour the seven Bambaazon, the paddy spirit.
As for the rice in the kakanan, it produced another gift. On the seventh day of the sacrifice, a beautiful maiden rose from the jar. She was the beautiful, selfless Huminodun, resurrected in spirit to return and care for her people.
She was called the Unduk Ngadau.
And it was this spirit of Huminodun that first taught and instructed the Bobohizan (priestesses) in their chants and rituals, thus beginning the spiritual traditions of the people.
To this day, the Unduk Nagdau pageant is the central part of the Kadazandusun Murut harvest festival, to commemorate the legendary Huminodun, who despite her beauty and position, gave her life in exchange for the lives of her people.
Her gift of life remains our legacy, exemplary deeds which will continue to teach and remind us of the importance of sincere caring, and love for peace and prosperity through the spirit of our culture.