A brief look at Climate Change in Ukhrul in the last 50 years
Impact and effect on annual agricultural cycle

Mingyashin Shaiza *

 A view of Ukhrul Town during Shirui Lily Festival :: 25 April 2018
A view of Ukhrul Town in April 2018 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam

Did you notice that it rained in the 2nd week of December last year ?

Is that normal in your place? Because as long as I have lived, it had never rained like this during December.

According to my research, where I interacted with elders, who have seen the worst of climate effect during the 1960s in Ukhrul town, I came to realize that global warming has really affected the climate, the paddy cultivation, and farming patterns here.

The Ancestors in our place were not scientists, but they are experts in reading the weather. They know that when it snows after the 2nd week of February in Ukhrul, it is going to be a bad year for crops.

Here is a brief detail given by an elder in Hunphun/Ukhrul. "The rain that we are getting these days may be Makongkhui (last rain of the year) which is not normal" he said and continued, "I don't know if we experience Sirsarem or Maharrem this year."

Below are brief details of Zingkum Luiyao in Ukhrul. Zingkum Luiyao literally means annual agricultural cycle.
In January, those who practice Jhum cultivation finds a place and clears it up to let it stay dry to reserve it for plantation.

In February, the weeds are burnt down, and the farmers begin digging up the ground along with the ashes. Then a ritual is performed by the headman of Hunphun/Ukhrul where he gives blessings to start sowing the seeds. This ritual is called 'Luira Phanit' (seed sowing festival). It commences from February 14. As soon as Luira is over, anyone who wants to start sowing seed can do so.

In the month of March, when all of the remaining leaves on the trees fall and the buds are beginning to appear, Yarra is celebrated. Yarra is a festival for the youth and men. They will feast on sumptuous food to get ready for the rice plantation. Men are not supposed to feast for more than 4 days although youth can feast on for 10 days.

After the celebration, the farmer who owns the paddy field by the river will start sowing the seeds first. These paddy fields are called 'Chihui'. They are the earliest ones to start sowing as they have water already available.

It will then start raining around the last week of April or 1st week of May. It is important that it rains during this time but not in extreme. If it doesn't rain, the paddy cultivation cannot begin.

In the 1st week of May, the moving and planting of saplings starts and we call this 'Lui Kasao'. On the 3rd of May, the headman will do the ritual of moving and planting the saplings so the farmers can start their plantation of paddy called Shomkhamashar. No one can start their plantation until the Headman does so. He will do this ritual really soon i.e. 3rd May so that those who can start planting can begin.

Around May 20th, it will begin to rain and the rivers will be filled to the brim. We called this "Kong Paipheo" and during this time the owners of the other paddy fields can start their plantation.

The Ancestors and farmers called the month of June "Akang ngapam". It means the whole village or town, regardless of whether they are haves or have nots will have started the plantation by this month.

Rainy season will begin in the 1st week of June, but only those with good spring water can start the plantation. There are those fields that cannot start planting without the help of rain. Their only source of water is rainwater.

After June 10, the rain will start pouring continuously. This is how the right season is supposed to be. Buds will start to appear on the trees. As it is raining continuously, all the grounds are soaked and the water which is absorbed under the ground starts to reappear as spring water all over the place. The place that usually have no water starts to spring water by itself and it is called "Ngakarra Khawok".

Everyone should have finished their plantation by June. It is known that those who plant their saplings earlier get a bountiful harvest but those who plant later in July get a lesser harvest and 50% of their paddy will be husk.

June to August is rainy season, so the farmers will be busy weeding their paddy fields.

By September, the rain would have reduced. Even if it rains, it will be irregular. The irregularity shows that the season is changing. During this month we see rainbows. By the end of September, the paddy will begin to ripen.

Between the last week of September or 1st week of October, it will rain for 3 days. It is known as "Sirsarem". Sirsa is planted by the stream. It flowers and gives small fruits. In the olden days, they observed that when the fruit ripens and it gets mature, the rain will come.

During this time, the rain will be mixed with wind. The rain will be irregular sometimes, it will be heavy and light at times. As soon as it stops raining all the plants would have been destroyed completely by the rain.

Most visitors are suggested to climb Shirui Kashong before the 10th of October as the sky is the clearest at this time and there will be no clouds. They said during these days, the view will be so clear that one can see the valley of Imphal and Burma. Nowadays it is not the same. We can hardly see peaks without the clouds hovering over it.

Usually by the end of October, there will be another rain and it is called "Maharrem". This time, it will rain heavily for 4 days. Same as Sirsarem, the Mahar plant will flower and bear fruits. As the fruit gets mature, the rain will fall and destroy all the plants. Maharrem usually falls during harvest.

Harvesting of the paddy should be done by November 20. After this, the whole agricultural work should be done. Then a festival called Chumpha was observed. It is a post Harvest Festival. After this, all the tools that were used for farming were kept aside. It indicates that the agricultural activities are done for the year.

Just before December, by the last week of November, it will rain. It is the last rain of the year. It is known as Makongkui Sirsarem or Maharrem or Makongkhui has not been observed in the proper time these few past years. This year, any of them were not observed at all.

50 years back, during winter, the grass and trees were covered with ice or snow that, in the morning, the whole town looked like it was whitewashed. It is like a fairy tale for the kids these days. Even if it snows in Shirui, it doesn't even last for a day.

The snow melts away as quickly as it falls. As we can see, the agricultural cycle followed by our Ancestors in their times are not possible for us to follow these days. There is an immense change in climate and it can be observed clearly in a small town such as Ukhrul.

* Mingyashin Shaiza wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on January 10 2022.

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