The Murut ethnic is the third largest in Sabah and mostly live in the districts of Keningau, Sook, Tenom, Tongod and Nabawan in Sabah Interior Division. This ethnic consists of 13 tribes that are Tahol (also called Tagol) or Sumambu, Timugon, Paluan, Bookan (also called Baukan), Gana, Okolod (also called Kolod),  Selungai or Salungai, Sembakung or Sambakung, Serudung or Sarudung, Nabai, Kalabakan Murut, Keningau Murut and Beaufort Murut.


The death custom covers death, burial and post-burial. If there is death the deceased family beats gongs and all the residents must stop doing their daily activities. If they disobey then they are fined with a pig to be given to the deceased family.

A burial house is built at the graveyard on the first day of death to protect the dead body like avoiding it from being wet. This house is repaired on the third day of death if there are spoils.

The dead body is bathed and adorned with beautiful clothings. The dead body stays in the house for two days before it is inserted into a jar as a bangkalan (container). The jar is covered with wood and a small light is placed on its top to frighten away genies. On the second day the jar is brought out of the house exactly at 12 midnight accompanied by cries of family members that encircle the jar.

On the fourth night family members are in merriment to honour the final night the deceased is in the house. The following day the jar is borne on a wooden stretcher to the graveyard accompanied by cries of the female family members to wish bon voyage. They believe that the deceased soul will be safe to heaven. Gongs are beaten along the way to the graveyard. The jar is decorated with colourful sequins and covered with nailed handcrafted wood.

The Nabai tribe buries the jar in whole six feet deep to avoid from being disturbed by fierce animals. The Tagol tribe buries it halfway only to enable the deceased soul to exit and meet his living family members.

After four days of burial, family members of the Nabai tribe place three cuts of embers on the burial place to disable the deceased soul from disturbing or returning to his family house. The Tagol tribe places the embers at the deceased family house. As an example, if the husband dies his embers are placed at his wife family house and vice versa. If then the wife passes away her embers will be mixed with that of her husband, so that both souls can meet again and be peaceful together.

The embers flames are controlled by the deceased family so that the soul cannot blow the embers as they believe that if the soul can do so till flamed  then there is a possibility debacle will befall onto the deceasedhouse. The custom of avoiding misfortune will be held to signify that the abstention of the death custom is over.

Jabatan Kebudayaan dan Kesenian Negara, Sabah

Kompleks JKKN Sabah,
KM 4, Jalan Penampang,
88200 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.
Tel : 088 237052
Faks : 088 242 052