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How the Adam and Eve of Borneo became the ancestors of all races

Did you know that Borneo has its own version of Adam and Eve?

In this story, Adam is Nabi Adam and Eve is called Siti Awa.

The legend was told by Pawan, the head village of Kampung Langir to the Sarawak Gazette on June 1, 1948.

It started in a really small town called Semitau in West Kalimantan, Indonesia.

An inn in Semitau.

Here is the Bornean version of Adam and Eve as well as how they became the ancestors of all races:

Long time ago at Semitau in the upper reaches of the Kapuas river in Dutch Borneo (Kalimantan), there lived a man. His title and name was Nabi Adam, and the great Jewatta had made him -the very first man in all the world.

Nabi Adam was happy enough at first. Wandering in the jungle, swimming in the hill streams, watching the beasts and all the time knowing that Jewata had singled him out to be different from all the others – why, of course he was happy. But as time went on he grew restless.

This restlessness grew and grew upon him, till he spent the days feverishly searching everywhere but just what he sought he didn’t know.

The great Jewata knew though, and pitied his creation. So it came about that one day whilst Nabi Adam was searching he grew suddenly aware that his satchel, (which he wore slung on his left side) had grown curiously heavy.

He stopped, opened it and what do you think – there was a lovely girl named Siti Awa! It is for that reason that even today when a man and a woman walk or sleep together, a woman’s proper place is on the left.

Nabi Adam was content, and he and Siti Awa set up house together. In the fullness of time Siti Awa bore a son and this son was given the name of Landar.

Therefore every year for six more years Siti Awa bore sons, and their names were Bira, Sara, Kara, Miang, Rangkang and Sarit.

When we speak of them nowadays we always honour the by using the “Pati” in front of their names.

The children of Adam and Eve

What happens in this version of Adam and Eve? Credits: Pixabay

Time slipped by and the lads grew up till they reached manhood.

The eldest, Pati Landar seemed to have inherited his father’s early wanderlust.

He was a peculiar looking fellow – tallish with a pasty complexion. Like so many elder sons he was a bit conceited too, no doubt from always having so many younger brothers to boss about.

Eventually he wandered off towards the sea and didn’t come back.

Instead he took a wife and from Pati Landar and his wife have descended all the White races.

Pati Bira was the next to go – he went off downriver and took a wife, thus founding the Malay race.

Pati Sara wouldn’t stay home either. He went all the way to Shantung where he took him a wife and founded the Chinese race.

We will leave Pati Kara for the time being and pass on to Pati Miang and Pati Sarit. These two had always been a bit delicate, and the older they grew the more pale and wan they became.

They loved wandering in the jungle, and if you’d met them you’d have thought they were a couple of wraiths. And you’d have been nearly right too for that is what they became.

Having slipped over the border into the spirit world they evidently met a couple of attractive succubi, because from them has descended the whole race of imps, devils, bogles, ghosts, vampires and other hantus.

Pati Rangkang and Pati Kara

Pati Rangkang as a youngster was passionately fond of water. He was forever playing in the rivers, and at a very early age he could swim like a fish.

Siti Awa was always telling him that no good would come of it, but he didn’t heed.

The older he grew the more time he spent in the river, until he only came out for his meals and even used to sleep in the river. No one was really surprised when he turned into a crocodile and thus founded the species.

So out of the seven sons there now remained in Semitau only the fourth, Pati Kara. He was a good steady type and farmed his land, hunted game in the jungle, and looked after his father and mother.

It was a bit lonely for him though, without his brothers, so he took a wife and founded his own race.

The main street passing through Semitau bazaar.

Life the after Borneon Adam and Eve’s deaths

The years passed. Generation succeeded generation. Nabi Adam and Siti Awa had long since died happily, surrounded by their descendants.

Pati Kara also had long since passed away, and Semitau had become a huge village. So big was it that food began to run short, and each year the crop was a little worse than the year before.

The two headmen, Bas and Bantat, after a conference with the older men decided the time had come to seek new lands.

The villagers packed all their goods and their livestock, and they moved.

It took them a long time, but finally they reached Sungai Melikin , on the upper reaches of Batang Krang. There they stayed for so long that they adopted the name of the stream as the name of their tribe, and to this day they are known as Melikins.

In due course they abandoned the site on Sungai Melikin in favour of Gunung Lebor, further down the Krang. From Lebor they have spread and formed the 12 main villages and the 4 sub-villages that comprise the Melikin race today.

The race of Melikin

Whilst the tribe was still at Sungai Melikin, a very unfortunate error occurred. A number of the villagers went out gathering those edible fungi that grow out of wood, and collected enough for a good big feast.

Who made the mistake we will never know now, but mixed in with the edible variety were some poisonous ones.

All those who ate were affected; men, women and children acted as though they were half drunk half imbecile.

In most similar cases the victims recover in a couple of days. For some reason these unfortunates did not – though they didn’t die they forgot how to speak Melikin, they forgot how to dress like Melikins, they forgot all the customs and made new ones.

Nowadays their descendants have forgotten they ever were Melikins and call themselves by different names.

They are now what people call the Land and Sea Dayaks.

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Kapuas river.
Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at Kajomag.com or Twitter at @patriciahului.
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