Also known as: Dayak; Dayak Ngaju; Ngadju; Ngaju Dayak

Ngaju (meaning 'upstream') is the name given to a group of linguistically and culturally similar peoples inhabiting the upper reaches of several south-flowing rivers in the south of Borneo. In the past they, along with several other peoples of Borneo, were often known as 'Dayaks'. The indigenous Ngaju religion involved a sky god, Hatalla, and an earth goddess, Jata. According to the missionary and anthropologist Hans Scharer, these two gods were manifestations of one supreme 'godhead'. Although most Ngaju have converted to Christianity, the traditional religion survives to an extent in the form of the syncretic religion Kaharingan.

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Traditional Culture(1932)Expand All +
Belief +

Supernatural Beings

Nature Spirits Present, but not a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Schärer (1963)
Nature god(s) Absent (Source)
Schärer (1963)
Ancestral spirits Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Schärer (1963), pp. 142-154
Deified ancestor(s) Absent (Source)
Schärer (1963)
God(s) Present, and the principal focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Schärer (1963), pp. 6

Supernatural Punishment

Supernatural punishment for impiety Present (Source)
Schärer (1963), pp. 99

Afterlife and Creation

One's actions while living can affect the nature of one's afterlife Principal determinant of one's afterlife (Source)
Schärer (1963), pp. 142-146
Miles (1970)
The actions of others after one has died can affect the nature of one's afterlife Absent (Source)
Schärer (1963), pp. 142-146
Miles (1970)
Myth of humanity’s creation Present, and evolutionary (Source)
Schärer (1963), pp. 22, 39
Primordial pair Absent (Source)
Schärer (1963), pp. 27-38
Culture hero(es) Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Schärer (1963), pp. 16, 29-30

General Features

Forces of nature are controlled by or imbued with the supernatural Present (Source)
Schärer (1963), pp. 99

Classes of Tapu

Social hierarchy tapu Present (Source)
Schärer (1963), pp. 41
Resource management tapu Absent (Source)
Schärer (1963)
Kinship tapu Present (Source)
Schärer (1963), pp. 106


Mana as a spiritual or religious concept Absent (Source)
Blust (2007)
Keesing (1984)
Blevins (2008), pp. 263
Mana as a personal quality Absent (Source)
Blust (2007)
Keesing (1934)
Blevins (2008), pp. 263
Mana related to social influence or technical skill Absent (Source)
Practice +

General Supernatural Practices

Headhunting Absent (Source)
Schiller (1997), pp. 1-7, 14
Knapen (2001), pp. 170-171
Schärer (1963), pp. 83, 87, 140
Largest religious community Larger than a household, no larger than the local community (Source)
Schärer (1963), pp. 39-119, 131-141
Miles (1970)
Political and religious differentiation Some overlap (Source)
Schärer (1963), pp. 39-97


Tooth pulling Absent from culture (Source)
Schärer (1963), pp. 85-94
Tattooing Present in the culture as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Schärer (1963), pp. 90-91
Genital cutting Present in the culture as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Schärer (1963), pp. 86-87
Social Environment +
Population 50000 (Source)
Schärer (1963), pp. 2
Population of largest political community 100-999 (Source)
Schärer (1963), pp. 39-119
Miles (1970)
Importance of Patrilateral descent Medium (Source)
Lebar (1972), pp. 188
Importance of Matrilateral descent Medium (Source)
Lebar (1972), pp. 188


(No) external warfare Rare or never (Source)
Knapen (2001), pp. 86-88
(No) internal warfare Rare or never (Source)
Knapen (2001), pp. 86-88
Isolation +
Contact with other cultures Frequent, through trade, warfare, travel, etc. (Source)
Schärer (1963), pp. 2
Distance to closest landmass inhabited by a different culture (km) 0.0 (Source)
Knapen (2001), pp. 87
Distance to nearest continent 950.1 (Source)
Ethnologue (Map of Kalimantan) (2014)
Daft Logic Distance Calculator (2014)
Pre-Austronesian population Present: Clear evidence of human occupation prior to Austronesian settlement (Source)
Bellwood (1995), pp. 109
Hindu / Buddhist influence on supernatural belief Evidence of influence (Source)
Baier (2007)
Schärer (1963), pp. 13
Islamic influence on supernatural belief Evidence of influence (Source)
Baier (2007)
Christian influence on supernatural belief No evidence of influence but in a region where contact is likely (Source)
Schärer (1963), pp. 2
Subsistence and Economy +

Land-based means of subsistence

Animal husbandry as a source of food Minor (Source)
Miles (1970)
Land-based hunting performed by individuals Minor (Source)
Miles (1976), pp. 29-32
Miles (1970)
Land-based gathering Medium (Source)
Miles (1976), pp. 29-33
Land-based hunting performed by one or more groups Minor (Source)
Miles (1976), pp. 29-32
Agriculture / Horticulture Principal (Source)
Miles (1970)

Water-based means of subsistence

Fishing and water-based hunting performed by one or more groups Minor (Source)
Miles (1976), pp. 29-32
Fishing and water-based hunting performed by individuals Medium (Source)
Miles (1976), pp. 29-32
Miles (1970)
Water-based gathering Minor (Source)
Miles (1976), pp. 29-32

Commercial Activity

Trade / wage labour as a source of food Major (Source)
Miles (1976), pp. 31-32
Miles (1970)
Physical Environment +

Geographical Range of Culture

Number of islands inhabited by culture One (Source)
Schärer (1963), pp. 1

Features of Island with Largest Culture Population

Island type (island with largest culture population or largest island if unknown) Continental island (Source)
Quek (2009), pp. 112
Island Size (km²) 740000.0 (Source)
Quek (2009), pp. 111
Maximum elevation (meters) 4095.0 (Source)
Quek (2009), pp. 112


Latitude -1.7 (Source)
Knapen (2001), pp. 87
Google Maps (2014)
Longitude 114.0 (Source)
Knapen (2001), pp. 87
Google Maps (2014)
Post Contact History(1932-2014)Expand All +
Religious History +


Role of social status in conversion process Mixed / Neither (Source)
Miles (1976), pp. 105
Baier (2007)
Use of force in conversion Medium (Source)
Baier (2007)
Adoption of a world religion Present and predominant (Source)
Schiller (1997), pp. 23
Baier (2007)
Resident missionary involvement in conversion process Present, and from non-Austronesian societies (Source)
Schärer (1963), pp. 2

Syncretic Movements

Syncretic religious movements Present, and survived to the present day (Source)
Baier (2007)
Secular History +

Demographic and Social Changes

Foreign government systems Present, and of high importance (Source)
Schiller (1997), pp. 139
Immigration High (Source)
Miles (1976), pp. 1, 115-117
Schiller (1997), pp. 23
Foreign education systems High (Source)
Miles (1976), pp. 125

Modern Infrastructure

Vehicles and roads Present but rarely used (Source)
Schiller (1997), pp. 16
Air travel Present, local only (Source)
Schiller (1997), pp. 14
Sea port Absent (Source)
Schiller (1997), pp. 14-16

Loss of Autonomy

Nature of loss of autonomy Largely involuntary (Source)
Miles (1976), pp. 102-124
Schiller (1997), pp. 132-147
Loss of political autonoomy High (Source)
Miles (1976), pp. 102-124
Schiller (1997), pp. 132-147
Current Culture(2014)Expand All +
Belief +

Religious Demographics

Unofficial religious syncretism High: (Source)
Baier (2007)
Institutional religious syncretism High (Source)
Baier (2007)
Dominant world religion Christianity (Source)
Schiller (1997), pp. 23
Schärer (1963), pp. 3
External Links
Baier, M. (2007). 'The Development of a New Religion in Kalimantan, Central Borneo'. Asian Anthropology, 6 (1), 169-182, DOI: 10.1080/1683478X.2007.10552574

Baier, M. (2015). The Importance of Dutch and German 19th-century Sources. Anthropos, (H. 1), 206-210.

Bellwood, P. (1995). Austronesian Prehistory in Southeast Asia: Homeland, Expansion and Transformation. P. Bellwood, J.J. Fox, & D. Tryon (Eds.), The Austronesians: Historical and Comparative Perspectives (pp 113-114). Canberra, Australia: ANU Press.

Blevins, J. (2008). Some Comparative Notes on Proto-Oceanic *Mana: Inside and Outside the Austronesian Family. Oceanic Linguistics, 47 (2), 253-274. Retrieved from

Blust, R. (2007). Proto-Oceanic *Mana Revisited. Oceanic Linguistics, 46(2), 404-423. Retrieved from

Brunton, R. (1989). The Abandoned Narcotic: Kava and Cultural Instability in Melanesia. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Daft Logic Distance Calculator. (2014).

Der Eng, P. V. (2002). Bridging a gap: a reconstruction of population patterns in Indonesia, 1930–61. Asian Studies Review, 26(4), 487-509.

Ethnologue (Map of Kalimantan). (2014). Map of Indonesia, Kalimantan. Ethnologue. Retrieved from

Google Maps (2014). Retrieved from

Kalimantan. (2015). Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. Retrieved from

Keesing, F.M. (1934). Modern Samoa: Its Government and Changing Life. London, UK: Allen and Unwin Ltd.

Keesing, R. M. (1984). Rethinking "mana". Journal of Anthropological Research, 40(1), 137-156,

Knapen, H. (2001). Forests of fortune? The environmental history of Southeast Borneo, 1600-1880. Leiden, Netherlands: KILTV Press.

Lebar, F. (Ed.). (1972). Eastern Sumbanese in Ethnic Groups of Insular Southeast Asia. Volume 1: Indonesia, Andaman Islands, and Madagascar. New Haven, CT: Human Relations Area Files Press.

Miles, D. (1970). "The Ngadju Dayaks of Central Kalimantan, with Special Reference to the Upper Mentaya." Cross-Cultural Research, 5, 291-319. DOI: 10.1177/106939717000500405

Miles, D. (1976). Cutlass and crescent moon: A case study of social and political change in Outer Indonesia. Sydney, Australia: Centre for Asian Studies, University of Sydney,

Quek, S. (2009). Borneo. In R. G. Gillespie & D. A. Clague (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Islands (pp 111-116). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Scharer, H. (1963). Ngaju religion: The conception of God among a South Borneo people. Berlin, Germany, Springer (R. Needham, Trans., Originally published 1946).

Schiller, A. (1997). Small Sacrifices: Religious Change and Cultural Identity among the Ngaju of Indonesia. Oxford / New York: Oxford University Press.