In a Malay Melenggang Perut Ceremony, do the Women Really Rock, Dance or Sway their Abdomen or Stomach? ... Yes?
Well, What is the Melenggang Perut Ceremony?
My dear grandmother (who else) told me that the Malays in Pahang, especially in the old days, have a quaint traditional practice, or rite, for pregnant women, normally for those pregnant for more than six months, and specifically for those in the seventh month.
It is said that this ceremony is a sort of sympathetic rite intended to facilitate delivery of the baby when the time for confinement comes.
This traditional ceremony or ritual is an all-women affair. The men-folks meanwhile normally go somewhere else and leave the women to do their thing, unlike in a traditional Malay wedding, where both genders play their part in the activities.
This women-only ritual perhaps also act as a sort of assurance to the would-be mother that she will not find difficulty during delivery of her child.
Having undergone the rites with strong moral support by close neighbors, relatives and women friends who come to the ceremony, she will perhaps, psychologically, feel better prepared and will have greater confidence that it will facilitate for her child’s safe delivery.
This quaint but nonetheless delightful Malay traditional rites or ceremony, followed in Pahang and in the country, is called "Melenggang Perut".
"Melenggang perut" literally means, "rocking or dancing or swaying" ("melenggang”) the abdomen or stomach ("perut").
In the old days, this ceremony will normally begin when the village mid-wife (called "bidan" in Malay) will have confirmed that the pregnant woman is seven months pregnant. Nowadays, of course, the medical doctor’s report will do fine!
On the day of the melenggang perut rites, her home will be filled with women of the kampung (village), with the bidan or village mid-wife playing an active and leading role.
This traditional practice or ritual involves a symbolic bathing of the pregnant woman with blessed water mixed with a variety of fragrant flowers, (rather akin somewhat to the modern aroma-therapy bath sessions).
Then she may go through some sort of a ritual or symbolic massage of the abdomen and whole body by the village mid-wife, who will, while massaging her expert hands on the woman, read some verses of the Quran as prayers or supplication ("doa" in Malay) for an easy and safe child-birth for the woman.
The massage sometimes involve putting a piece of sarong or cloth under the pregnant woman who lies flat on a mat, and the sarong is then sort of pulled and swung gently from side to side, like a baby’s cradle, thereby involving some movements of the body.
Besides the bath and massage, there will sometimes be group readings of the Quran, and other Islamic religious verses, hymns and prayers for the future well-being of the woman. These activities, all carried out by the women present, are usually led by a religious lady leader or "ustazah".
And as always, at the end of the ceremony there will be the usual offerings and feasting of Malay traditional food for all those women neighbors, relatives and friends present at the home.
In the past, the degree of splendor attending this traditional Malay rites also depends on the number of times the mother had given birth.
The birth of a first child will be accorded or will receive more attention and splendor compared to subsequent births by the woman.
Even today, with advanced medical and health-care treatments, this melenggang perut ceremony for pregnant women, although slowly declining in practice, is still followed by some modern Malay women not only in Pahang but also in the country.
Perhaps the reason is because inherent in this age-old traditional practice is the psychological belief and confidence for a safe and easy delivery for the mother, and prayers and hope for the continued fecundity of children.
Well, just a short description of the Malay traditional melenggang perut ceremony that may still be found in the state of Pahang.
And oh, to get back to that first question above, "Do the women really rock their abdomen during the ceremony?"
My answer (which may not be right, I’m male!) is ...
Yes, but the rocking or swaying is actually done very, very gently and mildly, like the soft swing of a baby's cradle, so as not to hurt the mother and the baby inside.
It is just a ritual gesture of slow rocking and smooth swaying (am I hearing the Michael Buble song?) of the abdomen, because Malay traditions and practices, for the most part, are normally always, if not mixed with, great fun and gaiety.
Well, find out more delights in this website, and as always, from me...