A Tutong Wedding

I was in Kampung Penanjong, Tutong for the wedding ceremony of a relative yesterday afternoon. I haven't attended a wedding in Tutong for quite sometime, so this time round I was watching the ceremony closely. The first thing I noticed was that after the usual 'pusing naga' (the three circles) the groom had to break a couple of bamboo pieces at the entrance of the house before going in to sit at the wedding dais beside the bride.

Later the newly wed couple was taken outside for the 'basuh kaki' (literally 'washing feet') ceremony. Most Bruneians would know that if you attend a wedding ceremony in Tutong, there would be a ceremony where close relatives and friends would be asked to partake in the washing the feet of the groom and bride ceremony. Though in this case, it is not a true cleansing but merely pouring water over the feet of the two of them.

Yesterday, the couple sat with one foot each over the other and a number of people would pour the water over their feet. Their feet are placed over a piece of stone usually a stone knife sharpener (batu pengasah) and below that would be placed a 'parang' or a large knife or to be more exact a machette. Before or after each pouring, the well wishers would give a little present to the couple in the form of an envelope filled with money into a little basket or they would put pieces of notes into the basket directly.

What most people don't know is that, after the ceremony, apparently tradition dictates that all those presents and money collected during the 'basuh kaki' ceremony must be counted and presented to the couple. I volunteered to be the auditor and my uncle did the counting.

Now, most people would assume that all these are just 'adat' or customs that people follow over the generations. There are actually reasons for doing so. In the old days, when a Tutong couple gets married, they are not allowed to leave the house for 40 days. And in those 40 days, they are not earning anything and the money collected was supposed to tide them over those 40 days. In the older days still, it is not just money that was placed in the basket. Sometimes the gifts take the form of a land title deed (grant tanah as some would say), or a cow's horn - this would indicate that the giver will be presenting a cow to the couple, or a coconut - this would indicate that the giver will be presenting a coconut tree to the couple, or any fruits - where a fruit tree will be presented to them and the fruits from that tree would forever belong to the couple. Gifts can be anything and not just money.

Why the machette and the stone knife sharpener? According to what I can gather, the machette and the stone knife sharpener are substitutes for what should be the actual tradition - the bride's and groom's feet should be placed over a stone and below the stone should be a piece of metal. The stone is of the earth and said to be 'cooling' to help the newly wedded couple go through life together while the piece of metal is said to be 'strong' and as a base for the future of the newly wedded couple. Thus the water is said to bring all these elements together. Nowadays, most people put stone knife sharpener and the parang as substitutes without realising why they are doing it. They just follow tradition.

Oh yes, why break the bamboo pieces? That was to symbolise that the groom is entering into the domain of the bride's family and whatever other symbolism that you can think of - think fertility.


Anonymous said…
Thanks Mr.BR! Very interesting article.. I've been to a few weddings where they have this basuh kaki (not necessarily in Tutong district.. some in Brunei-Muara district too) and I never really knew the meaning behind it.

Thank you again, it's way cool to know these stuff :)
Anonymous said…
This is a really good one. I've always wanted to learn more about Brunei's Wedding Traditions.
I'm half-Bruneian(my dad is Bruneian Malay) but we never get to learn about Brunei's wedding traditions and customs.
Would love to read more.
DC said…
Hmm.. regarding the knife and sharpening stone.. i heard different stories. The knife is suppose to be represent the groom earning/working his way through life and the stone helps him do his job by sharpening it. Their feet on it is so they are not overcome by the feat i.e. under their control.. something like that.. hehe

I guess there must be a different story from each kampong and each family and these traditions have probably evolved their own meanings over time.

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