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The Kaamatan festival is an annual event in the cultural life of the Kadazandusuns of Sabah since time immemorial. In its deepest sense, Kaamatan festival is a manifestation of Creator and Creation relationship, as well as Inter-Creations relationship. It embodies the principal acts of invocation of divinities, appeasing, purification and restoration, re-union of benevolent spirits, and thanksgiving to the Source of All. It is part of a complex wholesome Momolian religious system centered on the paddy rites of passage and the life cycle of Bambarayon - the in-dwelling spirit of paddy.
Appeasing is done in respect of Bambarayon, Deities, Divinities and Spirits, who may have been hurt by human wrongful, acts. Purification is performed in respect of human and spiritual needs for forgiveness followed by resolutions to make themselves worthy of the gifts of life from God. Restoration in necessary to ensure the health and well being of sunduans, mankind and other spiritual beings. Re-union is realised in respect of human needs to be integrated in body, mind and spirit within the concept of the seven-in-one divinity in humanity, as well as re-union of Bambarayon with human Sunduan. Finally Thanksgiving is observed as befitting for all creations to express their gratitude and appreciation for the gifts of life (through Huminodun) and all life supportive system on earth that their Creator lovingly and generously gave them.
The word Kaamatan is derived from the root word tomot, a Kadazandusun term for harvest. In the context of this article, Kaamatan refers to the paddy-harvesting period, which involves a series of traditional rituals culminating finally to the Kaamatan (harvest) festival. Tadau kaamatan is a celebration for the people who celebrate tadau kaamatan.
With the decline in practice of this animistic religion and the rise of monotheistic religions such as Christianity and Islam among the Kadazan and Dusun people in Sabah, much of the ritualistic aspects of Kaamatan are being left out of the celebration although in some places they may still be practiced. Kaamatan is celebrated around the final week of May every year peaking on the 30th and 31st which is a public holiday in Sabah. Kaamatan is often accompanied with Sugandoi, a singing/karaoke contest, Unduk Ngadau, a beauty pageant, and drinking alcohol.