The mysterious Batu Nabau of Engkilili
By Patricia Hului
‘Do not throw eggs or pour milk on the rock’ or ‘Do not ask for winning lottery number, instead ask for prosperity’… these instructions might sound peculiar but they are on a signboard in Malay and Chinese on the route to Batu Nabau in Engkilili town.
Located about 230km from Kuching, the town was named after the Engkilili trees easily found in this area.
Engkilili trees usually grow low to the ground and bear red grape-like fruits.
The majestic Batang Lupar – occasionally made infamous for its crocodile attacks – flows next to the town centre.
From the town centre, there is a clear sign indicating Batu Nabau is 3km away.
Batu Nabau is a mysterious rock with many legends and stories attached.
The rock is cylindrical in shape measuring about nine meters in length and two meters in diameter. The rock, which appears to have a tapered end much like a snake head, appears to come out of the ground, leading people to believe that there is more of it underground.
The nearest settlement to Batu Nabau is a 14-door Iban longhouse called Rumah Bukong Atah about 50 meters away where the Borneo Post Adventure Team 6 (BAT6) made a brief stop.
According to the former longhouse chief, 88-year-old Nyalau Muang, Batu Nabau was widely known as Batu Lintang.
“For us, it was just an ordinary, long rock we passed on the way to our farms.”
About 20 years ago, some local Chinese men brought a Thai man to visit them. He had flown in from Peninsular Malaysia and asked if there was snake-like rock in that area.
“He told us he had a dream about the rock; that the rock was actually a real snake and he had to pay his respects to the snake.”
The longhouse people showed him what they had called Batu Lintang up until then, and thereafter their ordinary route to the farms began to change.
The Thai man claimed that his prayers and offerings made at the rock were answered, prompting many people to flock to the area in search of a miracle, or at least some good luck.
“We were a bit shocked at first to see all the incense and candles. For us, it was just a rock,” Nyalau said.
Initially, visitors threw raw eggs, coins and poured milk on the rock until the local believers put up a sign instructing them against it.
According to Nyalau, the Chinese believers painted the rock in yellow stripes to make it look more like a snake.
“The Chinese also built a resting hut right next to the ‘snake’.”
Sooner or later, the Iban people started to call it Batu Nabau (a type of snake in Iban) instead of Batu Lintang.
“Some of the Iban people also offered prayers to the ‘snake’ and some claimed their prayers were answered.”
Some claimed they asked for winning 4D numbers and subsequently won the lottery.
“Occasionally, we also performed ‘miring’ ceremony at Batu Nabau in offering,” Nyalau said.
Now, the local Ibans have come to believe the ‘snake’ is a deity protecting the area with mystical powers to protect the land there.
Some incidents further strengthen the people’s belief that Batu Nabau is a snake of otherworldly origins.
A small river named Sungai Bukong runs along the ‘snake’ which can sometimes overflow during heavy rain.
The locals noticed, however, that the rock has never been submerged and somehow appears floating right above the water even when the whole area is flooded.
Adding more to the mystery, a national Malay paper reported a few years ago that Jawi-like alphabets were said to have been found on Batu Nabau.
Allegedly, the alphabets of alif, lam, nun, mim and sinwere were said to have been found and arranged in reverse.
When BAT6 visited the rock, however, it was partially covered in moss and the yellow paint had faded.
When BAT6 asked Nyalau if living near Batu Nabau had brought any changes to the longhouse residents lives, he answered: “We had more visitors dropping by than before the rock was famous. Other than that, our lives are pretty much the same.”
A tourist site
Last year, Lubok Antu MP Datuk William Nyalau Badak and Engkilili assemblyman Dr Johnical Rayong announced a proper concrete pathway leading to Batu Nabau would be built soon.
It was reckoned necessary seeing that the site has been attracting more visitors.
In the meantime, one has to walk about five minutes through a forested area from the main road to reach the landmark.
Rayong also stated that the blueprint for the construction had been drawn by Lubok Antu District Council (MDLA).
The rock has been an icon for Engkilili for many years, attracting both believers and non-believers.
Whether you are a believer or not; be careful to guard your behaviour while visiting the area… as the legend goes, any wrongdoing could result in being cursed by the ‘snake’.