Giant Top Spinning

Posted on May 11th, 2014 by

On our East Coast trip, we stopped briefly in my old Peace Corps town of Pasir Puteh, Kelantan. I taught at a secondary (high) school there from 1972-1976. On this occasion, we had been invited by a friend of mine, Mr. Nazife Ismail, who is a teacher at another school, Sekolah Menengah Gaal (Gaal Secondary School), and is also the leader of a group of teachers dedicated to the preservation of many aspects of traditional Kelantanese Malay culture.

Chief among these is the traditional sport of top spinning (main gasing). These tops, made of wood and metal, are about eight inches in diameter and are spun by wrapping them with a piece of rope that is almost an inch in diameter and 10 feet long. When we arrived at the school, three men were ready with their traditional tops wound up and ready to spin. Here is a video of the first top spinning:

I’m not sure which is harder, being the person to spin the top, or being the one who has to catch it in mid-air after it bounces on the landing pad, and then keep it spinning on the small prop. You can ask Heather if you want to know how heavy it was to hold while it was still spinning. These tops are traditionally spun in contests where the winner is the top that spins the longest. The latest top designs (they are still evolving them in the 21st century) will spin for over two hours!

Afterward, we got a tour of their top museum and workshop, where we learned about the evolution of these amazing tops and even got to try our hand on a foot-operated lathe to make the wooden part of a top.

The Evolution of Gasing Design

The Evolution of Gasing Design

Kirsten at the Lathe

Kirsten at the Lathe

 

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