Laying a Temiar Elder to Rest
Published: 27 May 2015
In keeping with Temiar custom, Pakcik Arom was laid to rest within 24 hours of his passing. A small entourage of relatives and friends paid their last respects in his home village of Kampung Pahong in Pos Bihai (Gua Musang, Kelantan) on Sunday, 24 May 2015.
After being told that another workgroup had earlier gone to the burial place to prepare the grave, we decided to go there and observe the customs surrounding the preparation of the grave. It was to be a first-time experience for all of us in our group, including those Temiars not from the Kuala Betis-Gua Musang area.
When we reached the gravesite, about 15 minutes' walk downhill of the village, a burial hut was already being constructed. All the materials needed to construct the hut were sourced from the vicinity of this forest patch.
We soon learned that Pakcik Arom would not be actually buried. In a very literal sense, he would be 'laid to rest'.
According to Temiar custom in this area, he would be placed on a bamboo platform above a hole in the ground, in the double-compartment hut. His personal belongings would then be placed around him.
Then the ritual prayers would be said, and the special plants planted at the front and back of the grave-hut.
The body would be expected to fall into the hole in due course, once the bamboo platform decays and collapses. Then they will cover the grave with earth.
Because only natural materials are used to construct the grave, it is sometimes difficult to identify the old graves, even if small stones are placed on it as markers. It is the responsibility of the villagers to pass on the knowledge (of the locations of the grave sites) to the younger generations, especially when they pass the sites on their way to the forest for their usual activities.
The photos show the process of the preparation of the grave-hut and the internment of Pakcik Arom into his final resting place.
It should be said that as soon as the funerary rituals were over, the winds started howling, the leaves swirling in the trees, and the heavy downpour began. People say such things happen whenever a good person leaves us.
Colin Nicholas-COAC | 27 May 2015
[Photos by Colin Nicholas, Puah Sze Ning, Koong Hui Yein, Nikke, Lily Li]