Culture

Batu Bejit – an Iban legend of a monkey, a man and a wife turned to stone

Patricia Hului

When comes to petrification legend in Sarawak, it usually involves laughing at a particular animal and the sky turns dark and the people who laughed would turn into stones.

For example in the legend of Ikan Pasit, the girl is turned into stone after laughing at a fish.

Meanwhile in the Bidayuh Jagoi legend of Gunung Kapor, the villagers are turned into stones after laughing at a cat.

Similarly, the stones of Fairy Caves were believed once a group of villagers who were petrified after laughing at a cat.

In this legend of Batu Bejit, the animal which become the laughing stock is what the Iban people called bejit. It is a type of monkey that can be found in Sarawak.

Cats or monkeys, petrification legends teach us to respect animals. Credit: Pixabay.

Here is Benedict Sandin’s version of the Batu Bejit legend which was published in The Sarawak Gazette, July 31, 1965:

There are two stones at Suri, Rimbas, Saribas situated between Rumah Chupong and Rumah Upu.

The reason why they are there relates to a story of a man and his wife who reared a bejit monkey long ago.

After the bejit had been tamed, they dressed it with a loin-cloth and on its wrists they put engkelai (shell armlets), and also the simpai (bone armlets).

Having done this they put on its head a turban and on its neck they put a necklace. After they had dressed it nicely, they asked it to dance. The bejit danced which made them laugh loudly.

While they laughed at the poor animal the clouds turned black, the wind blow strongly, with lightning darting everywhere.

The rain also fell heavily which caused their farm hut to become petrified, together with the monkey and the man’s wife.

On seeing this the owner of the farm hut descended to the ground being equipped with shield, sword and spear in order to fight the spirits which had caused this disaster.

He could not defend himself and turned into stone also.

It is because of this that there are two large stones now standing side by side, one being the petrified farm hut, a monkey and the man’s wife, while the other is the man himself. The petrified farm hut is bigger and higher, while the man’s stone is smaller and lower.