Tuesday, 31 July 2012



ON JULY 15, 2012, Tan Sri Dr. Herman Luping, a Sabah lawyer and a former deputy chief minister, wrote in his Sunday column in a local paper to reassert his theory that Kinoringan, the traditional god of the Kadazandusuns, and his wife Suminundu, appeared from a giant rock that split millennia ago, and began to begat humanity. He contended that the rock was one of the numerous rocks that were spewed out by Kinabalu when the mountain was still an active volcano.

I argued that geologists have confirmed that Kinabalu was never a volcano, and that Luping’s theology raised the question of who created the rock that brought forth Kinoringan, or regressively, who created Kinabalu.

I contend that Luping had forgotten that the traditional legend actually stated that the first couple who appeared from the rock was the first humans – our version of Adam and Eve – and this is confirmed by I.H.N Evans in his book, The Religion of the Tempasuk Dusuns of North Borneo. Kinoringan on the other hand was the creator (minamangun) of everything.

I also raised the question of whether it is really true that the Kadazandusun people actually originated from Nunuk Ragang (in Tompios, Ranau), as is the accepted belief by most Kadazandusun leaders, especially those in the Kadazandusun Cultural Association (KDCA) which is led by Tan sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan as the president and Huguan Siou. For decades now KDCA has been reemphasizing the legend and traditional theology around the belief that the Kadazandusuns originated from Nunuk Ragang to construct a coherent legend and quasi-history of the people.

But since several years ago I had raised this doubt about Nunuk Ragang being our place of origin based on the existence of another story in Tuaran which says that a group from Indai in that district abandoned their village to resettle in Nunuk Ragang.

This creates only possible two scenarios: (1) The people from Tuaran were the ones who started the Nunuk Ragang settlement, or (2) The people from Tuaran went to Nunuk Ragang to join the people who were already in Nunuk Ragang.

Both scenarios would wipe out the possibility that we all originated from Nunuk Ragang! Additionally, stories in Tuaran confirm that during the time of the Indai settlement, Dusuns had already settled in Kindu and Lumawang in Tuaran, and Bongawan in Papar. 

And three more groups from Tuaran went to the Kadamaian plains, the Tambunan valley, and the Keningau plains. Hence, I argue that the best that we can conclude about Nunuk Ragang is that it was merely on of the many places we had settled in in the past.

The following story, or history, titled, “The Last Days of Indai,” records why the group from Tuaran went to Nunuk Ragang:

Once upon a time, many hundreds of years ago, there was a very large population occupying one single longhouse in a village called Indai in Tuaran. The longhouse was so long that if somebody died at one end of the house in the evening the news would reach the other end of the house only the next day. If someone plucked a branch of basil (bawing) and walked from one end of the longhouse, the basil would already be totally wilted by the time he reaches the other end.

The number of the population of the village were so huge that if a coconut frond fell on the main path of the village in the morning, by evening all the leaves of the frond would be totally separated from their midribs (tinggur). And in the evening, when the women went to the river nearby to wash their cooking pots before cooking rice for the evening, the amount of rice crust (kogut) thrown into the river would block (kowokok) the flow of the river!

One day, one old woman called Odun Lumban who was living somewhere near the middle of the longhouse, went to the swamps to catch fish with a scoop net (sikop). But strangely, unlike the other fishing trips when she used to scoop a lot of fish, this time she didn’t managed to catch a single fish. She scooped and scooped but all she managed to catch was single tiny crab.

She threw this away but she scooped it again, and no matter how many times she threw it away, and no matter how far away she tossed it, it kept appearing in her scoop net in the next sweep of her small net. Eventually she decided to take it and tossed it into the back-carried basket (barait).

And although she kept trying to catch fish in many parts of the swamp until late afternoon, she failed to catch anything more. Tired, she went home and upon reaching home, she felt pity for the crab which was too tiny to be eaten, and put it in a bowl made of a coconut shell (satu’), putting in enough water for it to dip in.

When she woke the next morning, she was surprised to find out that it had grown up suddenly overnight, filling up the whole bowl. She then decided to put it into a tagu (a container shaped from the sheath of the beetlenut frond).

By next morning the crab had grown further, this time filling up the whole tagu. Having nothing else bigger which could hold water for the crab to dip in, she decided the best place was an abandoned buffalo wallowing hole (oburon) which had water, in front of her home. By next morning the crab had grown so huge it filled the whole wallow hole.

That night, the crab spoke to her in her dream, saying, “Thank you for looking after me. I had actually come to you for a very important purpose. I am here to protect the village from a powerful ombuakar (dragon) which will come to attack the village from the sea. I am leaving tonight as I am growing even bigger to fight the ombuakar at the river mouth, and if one day soon you see that the water of the river is coloured white during high tide, you will know that that will be my blood being shed from the fight.”

So by next morning the crab had already gone. Some many days later Odun Lumban noticed that the water of the river was white during a high tide, and she remembered what the crab said in her dream.

Worried for crab, she took her boat and paddled to the seaside, and true enough a fight between the ombuakar and her crab, which was then enormous in size, was raging on.

At one point one of the claws (anggip) of the crab was about to break from the strain of fighting, and she hurriedly went to the nearby jungle to get some rattans and helped to tie up the injured claw and this managed to give the crab renewed strength and eventually won the fight, killing the ombuakar.

Bidding goodbye, the crab dived into the sea, while Odun Lumban decided to take a piece of the bone of the ombuakar as a souvenir of the event. On reaching home she buried the bone in front of her varendah. Not long after a kolian tree grew from the bone.

Eventually this kolian tree, miraculously bore fruits that were made of gold! As the tree grew more golden fruits, the whole of the village began to enjoy plucking and possessing gold pieces which became so many they made household items made of gold – spoons, plates, coconut graters (pongoguan), winnowers (lilibu) and so on.

The village which is today called Selupoh (a few kilometers from Indai), especially around the small lake (which was part of Tuaran river) now fronting the residence of OKK Imbun Orow, used to be known as Libu-Libu because two golden padi winnowers were found there, but these items had been taken to other districts and are now lost. A golden coconut grater and rice scoopers (kikiriw) had also been found elsewhere in Tuaran.

By and by, the people of Indai became very wealthy, and with wealth came pride and conceit. One day two naughty villagers thought they would commit a huge act of deceit by taking a large piece of rock, carved it to be perfectly round and plated it with gold from the Kolian tree. They took this to Bangawan by boat and went to the owner of a very precious and deeply revered large jar (gusi) called Gurunon.

The offered their gold for Gurunon, but the sacred jar was the spiritual icon and symbol of pride of the Bangawan community and was so priceless that the owner refused the offer.

But after a lot haggling and convincing about the much greater value of the gold, the owner, eventually relented and agreed to hand over Gurunon in exchange for the large ball of ]‘gold’ from the Kolian tree from Indai which had become famous far and wide.

Extremely thrilled, the two fraudsters paddled away in their canoe back to the sea to head home for Indai. But one of them, unable to control his excitement, began singing loudly, “Salu-salu bulawan, nokotuhun Gurunon!” (Having mistaken it for gold, Gurunon had come down!”

He went on singing even louder although his companion kept asking him to keep quiet. Eventually someone from the river bank heard the singing, and the man started wondering what it all meant. But he knew the name Gurunon, the jar being so famous and worshipped in Bangawan.

He rushed to the house of the owner of the jar, related what he heard and asked what the singer meant when he sang “Salu-salu bulawan, nokotuhun Gurunon!” Fearful of what had actually transpired, and suspecting something was terribly wrong, they split the so-called ball of gold and found out to their shock that it was almost all just a piece of worthless rock.

The news hit the whole community with horror and untold fury. Livid and seething for vengeance because of the shame brought on the community, they decided to take ultimate revenge on the people of Indai in ways that would be deadly and terrible. Using their most powerful magicians, they first sent a tree dragon, which eventually was known as the Topirik (the creature that pulls up), because this dragon went to perch on the tree tops at a jungle near the Indai longhouse.

Day by day many small children disappeared from the village without any trace, and all efforts to search for them failed to recover a single one of them. Eventually they realized that those who disappeared were those who went playing in the forest nearby. So some adults went to spy on these children to find out what actually was happening.

Eventually they saw that there was a dragon high up on a tree lowering its many tentacles which were very beautiful, and shone and flickered with luminescent multicoloured lights.

Because they were very much attracted to the strange shiny ‘ropes’ they had never seen before, the innocent children would play by swinging on them. This was when the Topirik would twirl the ends of its tentacles and hoisted up (pirik) the unfortunate children up to be instantly devoured.

In retaliation the villagers came to cut the Topirik’s tentacles, pulled it down and killed it. It turned out that the Topirik, although dragon-like, only had a short stump of a body. But its scaly skin, like its tentacles, was shining with multiple luminescent colours. The villagers were about to find out that the secretive attack of the Topirik was only a foretaste of the more terrible things to come.

To celebrate their success in solving the mystery of the disappearing children and the victory of killing the monster, they took the Topirik’s skin, dried it up, and used it to make to make a drum. The found out to their shock that when they first beat the drum, it spoke, “Tob, tob, mitobok!” (Tob, tob, stab each other!) and the people instantly took up knives and parangs and started stabbing each indiscriminately forgetting themselves, causing hundreds to die.

Unaware of the cause of the fighting, they beat the drum again and again it spoke, “Tob, tob, mitotok!” (Tob, tob, slash each other!) and the people would take parangs and swords and started to slash each other, again killing hundreds. Realizing to their horror of the drums deadly magical power, the people then decided to end the menace by burning up the drum.

They thought then that they had got over the worse of the calamities. But the worst  and most terrifying was yet to come. The people of Bangawan, then sent over a flying pig head to Indai which, horribly, perched on the sinungkiap (the parts of the roof that could be partly opened to allow light in) and started crowing like a cockerel.

And everytime it crowed, hundred of people who heard the crowing instantly fell dead. It would then fly over to another sinungkiap of the other part of the longhouse, started crowing again and causing hundreds more to fall dead.

The people of Indai, gripped by fear and realizing they was nothing they could do to fight the terrible menace, decided that the best decision was to abandon the village. Four groups were formed; one group decided to go to the Kadamaian in what is now Kota Belud, one group decided to go to the Tambunan valley, one to the Keningau plains, and another group went to settle in Nunuk Ragang.

And that was the end of Indai. After the exodus, it was totally abandoned for centuries, and the Lotuds who much later settled in Tuaran never even dared to settle in the area believing it was cursed. Indai was never settled again until the early 1950s when a few Lotuds re-opened the land.

Among those who spearheaded the pioneering of the land for agriculture and settlement was my uncle (my mother’s elder brother), the late Ipos Undugan (Mohd Salleh Undugan) and my cousin and son of Ipos’ elder brother, OKK Imbun Orow.

When they opened up the land by cutting down jungles with huge trees that had grown for hundreds of years, they found dozens of jars which obviously functioned as coffins, evidenced by the bones found in them.

They are still there. Many reminders have been made to the Muzeum Department to undertake a geological research oh the area, but nothing concrete was ever done, which a huge loss of our history.

At one part of a swamp which was a river, a huge heap of long-rotten clam shells were found buried in one spot. When preparing a piece of land to build a house near the old mansion belonging to OKK Indan Kari (later Tun Hamdan Abdullah) in Kg. Lumpiring, Tuaran, people found a buried treasure of weapons (parangs, swords, spears, shields, etc.) there, believed to have been left by the people of Indai before they proceeded to their new settlements. They must have despaired at the futility of weapons in the face of powerful black magic!

In the early 1990s I managed to see marks of the longhouse in Kg. Indai Baru. This was a long row of anthills (puzsu) which the elders told me were spots where the kitchen stoves (ropuhan) of the ancient longhouse fell to the ground. Such stoves of ash and earth would always entice termites to build new anthills. The late KK Panglima Liput Erah even pointed out to us the approximate spot where the Kolian tree stood.

The story of  the destruction of Indai is considered without doubt to be a true story, a historical event, by the Lotuds of Tuaran. The story may have elements of the magical but that is believable knowing the power of black magic, especially in the ancient days.

But while this is a Lotud story, it’s important to note that the people of Indai were not Lotuds. They had a totally different language and only one living elder in Tuaran can still recite just one solitary sentence that is still remembered from the language of Indai. The Lotuds of Tuaran are not descendants of the Indai people, but people who came from Gua’kon in Tamparuli a long time ago.

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