FESTIVALS OF THE YIMKHIUNGRUS
The Yimkhiungrus celebrate many festivals through out the year. Each festival connotes a significance. During the festival/s people attire themselves in rich and colourful traditional dresses. They adorn themselves with ornaments, tiger teeth necklace etc. Lot of merry making goes on. Plenty of rice beer, meat, rice and other eatables are consumed. Lovers get betrothed during the festivals. Important festivals observed are as follows:
Tsungkamnio or Niodo nio: Winter post harvest festival. This is the biggest festival of the Yimkhiungrus. After winter harvest, people celebrate this festival with their field produce. Rich people give out meat to friends, relatives and neighbours. This festival is celebrated in a big way.
NGYO-DO-NGYO (NEO-DO-NEO) OR TSUNGKAM NGYO
The Ngyo-do-Ngyo (Neo-Do-Neo) or Tsungkam Ngyo is originally and traditionally the most significant, important and major of all festivals of the Yimchungru Nagas. Ngyo-Do-Ngyo (Neo-Do-Neo) means the big/main Festival and Tsungkam means winter as it was/is traditionally celebrated and observed during winter i,e January as in this case. It is however, not in honour of the season, but because of the time and space co-inciding with the season in terms of the post-harvest and pre-activities which are mainly agro-based.
Preparations are made months ahead which involves a lot of Traditional and Customary practices. It is/was mainly during this festival that one most honored and well known practices of the Traditional “Feast of Merit” was practiced and given within, amongst and between Village to Village and Tribe to Tribe.
The festival involved a lot of feasting, drinking, singing and dancing of the best of the choicest, including giving gifts which were expensive, priceless and exotic. It was during this festival that friendship and relationship were honoured and where Peace Treaties between warring individuals and groups were made. Therefore, it was in a sense a festival of Thanks Giving of bountiful harvest and blessings of livestock and other good fortunes, Social-Cultural and besides, very significantly, Socio-Political as well. Hence, the inevitable “Feast of Merit”.
JUNG-HIH-TSUN: Hop-step-like-jump movement; this dance is a Martial and a War-Dance of the Yimchunger Nagas, accompanied by martial and war songs called Korak-khun. The dance was usually performed mainly during the Tsong-Rhak Ngyo, which is a ceremonial festive occasion, where in the Ancient and Martial days of the Yimchunger Nagas until very recently before the advent and coming of Christianity and the British/Modern Administration this occasion and practice was widely observed before Wars, Raids and head-taking thereof in the events. During this occasion, neighboring villages and tribes were normally alarmed and alerted. Households and village gates including the Morungs would be decorated and prepared for ceremonial purposes, especially if human-heads/enemy-heads were to be brought to the village as trophies.
Pin-Khun: Songs those were traditionally while seated, normally in a circle around a traditional fireplace, while seated on traditional platforms in Khels and in Morungs and sung during ceremonies and festivals etc.
A particular kind of song in this category lyrically describes the origin and the basic elements of human civilization, history and social activities and the adaptation with nature around us. These lyrics are therefore, a descriptive song in process of human history and the basic norms and practices of day to day human and social life. These songs are considered ‘Sacred’, and are normally not sung under ordinary circumstances and occasions. It was believed that once begun, the song must be completed which can run into hours, where otherwise it was believed that misfortunes would befall. The song normally describes all practices, norms and elements of human livelihood, such as the fire, the wind, the water and the nature in general.
Songs of personal relationship-romance and love: There are various folk songs that are associated with relationship pertaining to love, emotions and marriage etc. Some are legendary while some are centered and merry making, festivals and fun-loving, social gatherings etc.
WUNTHSU- NEO: (WOULD BE UPDATED SOON)
“ME-DUM-NEO”. ME-soul, DUM-ritualistic respect/ honour (wrapping) – NEO – feast. It is celebrated in the month of August. The main feast falls on 8th August every year.
“ME-DUM-NEO” is one of the most significant, important and solemn festivals of the Yimchungrus. It is celebrated with great enthusiasm in every nook and corner of the Yimchunger tribe inhabited areas. It falls in the middle of the year, i.e from 6th to 10th August. It is held and observed immediately after the millet harvest: the festival also marks the beginning of the harvesting of new crops of the year. A good amount of time is set aside for the preparation of “ME-DUM-NEO”. Traditionally when the time comes for this festival, domestic animals such as pigs and cows and semi domestic animal like Mithuns are killed for meat and plenty of rice- beer of different taste and quality is brewed/prepared for drinking in each and every household.
The Yimchungers believe in the existence of several human souls. Hence, Me-Dum-neo is observed primarily to welcome and pray for the new souls of new born babies as well as to pray and bid goodbye to the souls of the departed dear and near ones who had died in the preceding year and for the souls of those who would die during the year. Therefore, during this festival, rituals performed have a deep bearing on the sentiments of the people. During this festival, the people also invoke the blessings of the Supreme Being for bountiful harvest of various crops during the year. A certain ritual is also practiced to please and appease the Supreme Being. It also marks the respect of the souls of the departed persons during the past year. During the occasion, enough food is prepared and shared among their friends and relatives. Even if the souls of friends and relatives are believed to be departing from them during the season, people have fun and wear new attires/ cloths by the young and old, high and low. Early in the morning people wake up and perform a ritual to “ARIM-BUH” (God) by displaying a tuft (branch) of tree on the right side of their house of the main door with rice-beer, invoking “ARIM-BUH”, through prayers to visit their house during the whole year. The Yimchungrus have been traditionally celebrating this festival since the time of their great fore-fathers and is being celebrated even today; although some of the norms are not followed/ practiced due to the change of worship and Christian religion.
The dates on which the ceremony falls is announced by a person known as “KIULONG-ZHIPUH” (announcer), declares the days of the festival 5(five) days ahead of the appointed day, by pronouncing the day i.e SHITO, ZHIHTO, ZUMTO, KHIHRESUK, SHIRESUKH. The festival is inaugurated by an elder/priest known as “Khiung-Puh” or “Kheamphuru” after performing certain rituals and offering due prayers. The following are the chain of celebrations of the Me-Dum-neo festival beginning from the first day to the last.
On the first day of the festival, the required animals like mithuns, cows, pigs and buffalos etc which have been purchased or kept in readiness for feasting purpose during the festive days are killed for consumption. The festival begins with splashing of rice beer on the right side of the house early in the morning and uttering the words – “Ani thsu ang Hey”. Pieces of meat on string are kept tied on the door entrance. Meat of killed animals is distributed to the dear and near ones as well as to friends and relatives. Relatives and friends are invited for sharing of meat, rice beer and other food items. The first day marks with cleaning of the entire village by the people. Damaged roads and dilapidated houses are repaired.
On the second day, community roads and footpaths leading to fields are cleaned of bushes, shrubs and landslides. On this day, each and every house displays a tuff on a pole at the right side of the house. Before displaying the tuff on the pole the owner of the house will pray that throughout the festival period the days be bright and sunny. The tuff is called “mung-betsun” – comprising of three banana leaves containing three pieces of meat and ginger. Young boys then climb the pole and get the tuff down and share the contents with friends. On this day the priest would release a cock on the road leading to the fields with a prayer to the Supreme Being for bountiful harvest in the year.
On the third day, people would repair the inter-village roads and bridges. Every able person goes for the work carrying sufficient rice, meat and rice beer.
On the fourth day, water points and springs in and around the village is cleaned by the villagers. Excepting for the sick and aged ones, everyone is supposed to come out for work. In the evening, the people would gather at the Morung called Kheang-yam and enjoy dinner replete with rice, meat and rice beer.
On the fifth and the last day, culminates with the people making huge bonfires at the Morung – Kheang-Yam and sitting around it sing songs of the Me-Dum-Neo festival. The people enjoy community feast comprising of rice, millet-bread, meat of different animals and lots of rice beer. Throughout the night the people indulge in singing “MEDUM-NEO- KHUN” – solemn (songs) which are sung in honour of all departed souls and new born babies.
The festival has a special significance. It is said that during the celebration of the festival prayers are offered for the well being of the living and death. Another notable feature is that, if there is any hatred and bad feeling among people; they must reconcile with one another on this day by feasting with one another. They try to bring unity and peace among the people. When “MEDUM-NEO” is in celebration, none of the villagers will be allowed to work in their fields. They celebrate with merry-making like songs, feasting, drinking and exchange of greetings.
“MEDUM-NEO” is strongly connected with the agricultural life of the Yimchungru people. On this occasion people pray for a good millet harvest, which is the first crop to be harvested, with the belief that the remaining harvest of other crops will also be equally if not more rich and prosperous. People wear colorful traditional dresses during the festival.
Boys and girls used to traditionally arrange their engagements during the “MEDUM-NEO” and those who are/were already engaged will receive gifts from their lovers and boys traditionally used to present necklaces or bangles to the girls known as “MUK-TAK-LAK” which meant a sign of engagement. Besides, when the consent of the girl’s parents is obtained, the boy’s parents traditionally offer half portion of meat and specially brewed rice-beer in jugs made of bamboo (called KHIU-MUKH) to the girl’s parents from the feasting besides other pre-wedding gifts and vows.
Games and sports are also part of the day-long celebration in which boys, girls and aged people participate. The main aim of sports and games is to bring mutual understanding and love among the people. On the last day of the festival people will visit their friends, relatives and will exchange gifts in form of meat, rice-beer to strengthen their ties by sharing the festival’s best and well prepared feastings.
During the feast people would traditionally pronounce or invoke “ARIMBUH” prayers asking God to be blessed with good health and prosperity. Special prayers to God are made to make the children – a brave and wise generation and the women of the community to grow in grace and goodness in all ways.
Special prayers are offered for the new born babies on the occasion. This festival is meant for the soul of the new babies. According to their forefathers, those who are going to die during the current year; their soul will go on the day either to heaven or to the hell. In order to respect the new souls, if the new born baby of the family is boy, ceremony is performed with 6(six) pieces of meat and if the baby is girl, ceremony is performed with 5(five) pieces of meat which is placed on a ceremonial or offering plate of a priest for religious rites. The significance of the offering for 6(six) pieces of meat and 5(five) pieces of meat is based on the traditional belief that males have six souls while the females have five souls respectively by the community since ancient times.
The celebration of the festival continues for five days after which people resume their usual work. During the celebrations, usually all traditional ties are renewed and strengthened and new relationship build in solidarity within the tribe with re-affirmation, which is by nature and practice quite similar and akin to the characteristics and traditional practices during the TSUNGKAM-NEO (a major festival of Yimchungru) held or observed during winter session-normally in January.
All the activities mentioned above should be completed within the five days of the “Medum-Neo” festival. On the sixth day, people observe complete rest and refrain themselves from undertaking any journey or do any physical labour. On the 7th day only, the people resume their normal course of duty and other works.
TSONGLAK-NEO/TSONGRHAK-NEO: (WOULD BE UPDATED SOON)