Mandau and Talawang, Dayak Traditional Weapons of Central Borneo | Central Borneo Tourism Information
Thursday May 23rd 2019

Mandau and Talawang, Dayak Traditional Weapons of Central Borneo

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Mandaumandau of dayak central borneo

Borneo is one of the 5 major islands in Indonesia. Actually the island is not only a place of origin Dayak people alone, because there are also a people of Banjar (South Kalimantan) and the Malays. Among Dayaks themselves, each other grew and develop its own culture. However, they all has a typical Dayak weapon called Mandau. In everyday life, this weapon can not be separated from its owner. That is, wherever the owner goes, mandau will always be taken because it serves as a symbol of honor or identity.

In ancient times, mandau is considered to have magical elements and is only used in certain rituals such as war, headhunting, fixtures tribal dance, and ceremonial paraphernalia.

Mandau believed to have levels of efficacy or potency. Its magic power was not only derived from the manufacturing process through certain rituals, but also in the tradition of headhunting (beheading opponents). In that time (before the 20th century), the more opponent successfully beheading (kayau), thenthe more powerful the mandau is.The opponent’s dead hair usually used to decorate the hilt of the mandau. They believe that the people who died in-kayau, his spirit inhabits the mandau so that it becomes magic. However, the current mandau function has changed, ie as objects of art and culture, souvenirs, collectibles and weapons for hunting, prune shrubs and farming.

The Structure of Mandau

1. The Blade

mandau blades are made of forged iron plates shaped like a flat-long machete and pointy (like the top half of the notched flat). One side of the blade sharpened, while the other side is left a little thick and blunt. There are several types of materials that can be used to make a mandau, ie iron montallat, matikei iron, and steel. That said, most good quality mandau is made ​​of stone mountain specifically merged to become very strong and sharp and is given a touch of decoration with gold, silver, or copper. This type of Mandau made ​​only by certain people.

the creation of a mandau blade begins with  iron expands in furnace with coals of fire. The wood used to make the coals are ironwood because it can result in a higher heat than other types of wood. After the wood becomes coal, then iron which will become mandau blades be placed over the coals for it to expands. Then, using a hammer, the iron then forged.

Forging is done repeatedly to get the desired form of mandau blades. Once the blade is formed, the next step is to make an ornament of grooves and serrations on the eyes as well as the holes on mandau blades. That said, the number of holes on a mandau represents the number of victims who ever got the mandau slash. How to make ornaments is similar to a way to make mandau blades, ie by expands it with hammers repeatedly to get the desired shape. After that, then the mandau blade smoothed by using a grinding.

2. The Handle ( Hulu Mandau )

The handle (hulu mandau) made ​​from deer antlers that carved to resemble the head of a bird. The entire surface of the handle carved with various motifs such as a dragon’s head, beak, gyre, and hooks. At the end of the handle there is also adorned with animal fur or human hair. Shape and carvings on the mandau hilt can distinguish the place of origin the mandau was made​​, ethnicity, and social status of its owner.

3. The cover

The holster of mandau (kumpang) are usually made ​​of thin wood plates. The top was covered with bone-shaped bracelet. The middle and bottom covered with a woven rattan as the clamp amplifier. As a decoration, usually placed baliang feathers, tanyaku feathers, beads and amulets sometimes also inserted. In addition, the mandau is also equipped with a small knife in a  leather gloved strapped and attached to the hand of the holster and belt of woven rattan.

Cultural Values

The making of mandau, if observed carefully contain values ​​that can be used as a reference in everyday life for its people. These values ​​include beauty (art), diligence, thoroughness, and patience. Value of art reflected in a mandau forms are made in such a way that radiates beauty. Meanwhile, the value of persistence, thoroughness, and patience is reflected in the manufacturing process that requires diligence, thoroughness, and patience. Without these values, ​​may not resulted in a beautiful mandau.


Talawang of dayakTalawang is a tool used by the Dayak tribe for self-defense or self protection from enemy attacks.

Talawang made ​​of lightweight but strong wood. Elongated hexagon shape with a length of approximately 1 meter and a width of approximately 0.5 meters with an estimated to cover human chest  from enemy attack with a mandau or lance in a fight in the war. The whole front field of talawang usually carved in the shape mask (Hudo), flames, and double stranded.

In addition to self-defense as a complementary tool, talawang also be used as a complement to the dance.

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