In Malaysia, indigenous community’s circumcision ritual dates back generations

S. Mahfuz
Jerantut, Pahang, Malaysia
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Eleven boys from the Jahut tribe participating in a circumcision ritual are carried on the shoulders of “Tok Mudims” to the tribe’s traditional house in Jerantut, a district in Pahang state, Malaysia, July 1, 2023. [S. Mahfuz/BenarNews]

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The boys hold chickens to be slaughtered for the village feast, July 1, 2023. [S. Mahfuz/BenarNews]

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A group of Tok Mudim cast a spell on the ring and a slice of turmeric that will be tied around the boys’ bodies as talismans, July 1, 2023. [S. Mahfuz/BenarNews]

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A Tok Mudim ties a talisman on a boy’s wrist, July 1, 2023. [S. Mahfuz/BenarNews]

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A Tok Mudim dances with a boy under his supervision as part of the ritual in Pahang state, July 1, 2023. [S. Mahfuz/BenarNews]

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A flag is raised to announce that the Jahut tribe ritual is underway, July 1, 2023. [S. Mahfuz/BenarNews]

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Boys from the Jahut tribe bathe in a river before the circumcision ritual begins in Jerantut district, Malaysia, July 1, 2023. [S Mahfuz/BenarNews]

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Clad in traditional warrior attire, boys from the Jahut tribe are carried by Tok Mudim to their ancestors’ graves, July 1, 2023. [S. Mahfuz/BenarNews]

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A Tok Mudim casts a spell to strengthen the boys’ spirit and to protect them from evil before their circumcisions, July 1, 2023. [S. Mahfuz/BenarNews]

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The boys rest after being circumcised, July 1, 2023. [S. Mahfuz/BenarNews]

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Trays containing betel nuts, chicken, a dagger, traditional cigarette, coconut, chickpea, betel leaf and cash from families of the boys who participated in the circumcision ritual are offered as tokens of appreciation to the Tok Mudims, July 1, 2023. [S. Mahfuz/BenarNews]

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Female members of the Jahut tribe prepare food for the ritual feast, July 1, 2023. [S. Mahfuz/BenarNews]

Boys in the Jahut tribe, an indigenous community in Malaysia’s Pahang state, were mass circumcised recently during a ritual practiced for generations to mark their transition into adulthood.

Their village in the Jerantut district held a two-day celebration, which included a feast and night-long dance with the “Tok Mudims” – the men who performed their circumcisions.

Before the dance, the Tok Mudims cast a spell and tied a thread with a ring around the boys’ bodies for protection.

On the second day, the boys bathed in a river and dressed in traditional warrior attire before the Tok Mudims carried them on their shoulders to ancestral graves to pay final respects and receive blessings.

They also encircled the Rumah Adat, the traditional house of the Jahut tribe, three times as a mark of respect before being circumcised.

The families of each boy donated to cover the feast, which featured buffalo and chicken meat shared by the whole village, along with the Tok Mudim and shaman fees.

Although the tradition appears to be similar to the one practiced by members of Malaysia’s Muslim majority, the tribe shaman said the Jahut ritual was non-religious. 

“Similar but not the same. Jahut circumcision ritual is full of tradition as practiced by our ancestors,” shaman Busu told BenarNews.

The ritual brings all in the village together regardless of religious beliefs, he said.

“They may have assimilated into other traditions, hold different beliefs but when there’s a celebration, many will return home to celebrate it together,” Busu said.


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Jul 24, 2023 10:06 PM

It's the 21st century, and the sooner this outdated tradition dies out, the better. No-one becomes a man by having parts of their manhood cut off anyway.