TODAY -

Cultural heritage (Kut fete)

Fr Paul Lelen Haokip *



When you celebrate a cultural fest, it reminds you of the past glory and liabilities as well. It connects you to what has passed and orients you to something possible in future. Culture can unite a group of people and provide a sense of unity amidst diverse personalities. Culture naturally influence other areas of understanding and prioritizes visions in perspective.

CULTURAL TAN:

Before you are a Christian, Hindu, Muslim, or others, you are fully a grown product of your culture. This cultural colour you carry in your conscious and subconscious mind will influence your acts and views. Your culture is your real identity. Your office work, religion, political group, social group are but additional dress-code placed over your culture. This is the reason, we cannot judge all persons under one law.

In the US, a good and caring father may be one who allows his adult child to choose what she/he wants in life. In India, a good daddy is one who accompanies his daughter/son until the marriage. Culture and beliefs are different from place to place.

CULTURAL TRANSITION:

May be due to defeat in war, one may lose the original culture and getsandwiched to another culture for fear of death or survival instinct. We have many examples in and around us. There could also be voluntary renouncement of one’s cultural ethos to join another culture for reasons known to the doer.

Once a group of people are ready to forgo their cultural ties and be assimilated to another culture or political window, we could term it as sacrifice of culture or infidelity to one’s culture. It will depend on the beholder’s view and the doer’s view. One may be correct and the other not wrong.

SYMBOLS IN CULTURE:

Every culture has symbols that are sacred or secular, pointing to social significance. Symbols signify great meanings that may not have appropriate words for expression. Symbols contain surplus meaning beyond what is directly revealed. “All symbols reveal a reality beyond their sensuous appearance” (Dupre, 2000). Symbols are what distinguishes one culture from the other. Example of symbols humans use are – words, chants, gestures, sacrifices, etc.

Let me take one symbol of the Kuki culture. Some of the pre-Christian indigenous culture followed by the Kuki society under the patronage of Thempu were very Christian in nature. Kuki society was and is adorned with many customary laws and rituals even until today.

Even after death, these rituals and customary laws are faithfully guarded. Ahkeng Khai(sacrifice of a chicken or hanging of chicken’s leg) was and is a customary law performed whensomeone died. Putes (maternal uncles) are supposed to sacrifice a chicken in the house of the dead as a sign that they have no grudge against the dead person. Until this is done, the Thempu and others will not speak about burial or digging of a grave.

This is to mean that the womb that nurtured you, the ancestors of your mother hold no grudge against you as you leave for the village of the dead (Mithikho). Reconciliation was considered needed for safe passage to the gate of Mithikho. They believed that the living would one day meet the dead in that village.

So, they need to forgive each other. You see a chicken leg hung in the house of the dead. It is a mere ‘chicken leg’ to the one who does not know the significance of the symbol. Reconciliation and forgiveness is what it signifies. This simple symbol has meanings at the moment of death and even for life after death.

FORMATION OF JUDGEMENT:

It is normal to judge others from one’s narrow perspective. However, in 21st century, this course is unbecoming and below standard. Formation of judgment is a tough process. It takes time and intelligent understanding before judging one’s culture and that of others. Sometimes, due to the inability to process all available information about different cultures, it is thus filtered selectively or subjectively according to one’s limited notion and bias.

Han-Georg Gadamer (1900-2002), a German philosopher, is of the opinion that “everyone is immersed within a tradition because he or she belongs to a society and therefore is immersed within a tradition. Every human being is able to understand him or herself within a historical context and at the same time is influenced by this historical reality and therefore carries prejudices which influence the interpretation of the historical reality.”

One may not be even aware of one’s biases since they emerge automatically and the society may be reinforcing in many ways. Biases can even be in the subconscious mind.

KUT FETE:

Each time you celebrate a cultural feast like Chavang Kut, which is a state festival in Manipur, you are reminded of the past. The past can motivate you or haunt you. Your culture can uplift you or segregate you in society. The cultural dances remind us of teamwork, sacrifice and synergy. The beauty pageant can be a moment to praise God for the gorgeous creation of body. This could is a time of ‘beauty with intelligence’ which is a coveted title.

At the end of the day, we should remember that cultural heritage is not for oneself but be extended to others for common good. The many cultural heritages of love, forgiveness, thanksgiving, valour, common ownership, social responsibility, etc., should not be forgotten but practiced in and throughdress code, manners, values, dreams and visions. A culture of vision is a step nearer to its goal.

Then, it is worth to chant, Kathang e! Kathang e!


* Fr Paul Lelen Haokip wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer can be reached at paullelenhaokip(AT)gmail(DOT) com or at https://paullelenhaokip.blogspot.com/
This article was webcasted on November 02 , 2018.



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