Culture means cultivation of the land

Z K Pahrü Pou *

A cultural show during Lui-Ngai-Ni at Senapati on 15 February 2015
A cultural show during Lui-Ngai-Ni at Senapati on 15 February 2015 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam

Many tribal communities observe Cultural Day/Festival and exhibits traditional items such as games and dance and put on traditional attires. Often the Guest Speaker or Chief Guest for such important occasion would dwell their speech on the diminishing value of honesty, hard-work and communitarian spirit. They often lament on the colouring of hair or wearing of loose or tight jean pants by the youngsters or the negligence of traditional songs/dance/values due to the influence of western lifestyles.

Many scholars have done research on cultural values and practices but did not connect anything to agricultural life. The proponents of tribal theology have spent much time and energy writing against the anthropocentric and dualistic teaching of western Christianity but have so far failed to connect agricultural life and practices to its theology.

All these show that our people consider culture simply as set of behaviours or attitudes. Our society failed to realize that culture is basically cultivation of the soil and cultivators are the inventors and bearers of culture. It is cultivation/agriculture that gives rise to the development of culture and women played a great role in it.

The word Culture comes from a Latin word 'cultura' which means 'cultivation' or 'growing'. In late Middle English the sense was referred to as 'cultivation of the soil' or 'a piece of cultivated land'.

From the early 16th century, it refers to the cultivation of the mind, faculties, or manners. Hence, we can see the word culture referring to two important formation of human life: First, it refers to both the practice of preparing (tilling or tending) of land for and growing of crops. Second, it means the art of developing and improving something such as habit, relationship, education or image.

It is, in a simple way, defined as a way of life of a particular group at a particular time. It encompasses the whole sphere of human life which includes politics, economic, social and religious life. Culture gives identity and meaning to life to a particular group of people in the world.

When we talk about culture as cultivation of the soil, it reminds us to think of our attachment to agricultural life. It is the practice of agriculture or tilling of the soil that gave rise to the development of our culture. Our foreparents developed relationship with god/spirit because of agricultural practices.

They prayed to god/spirit as they cleared the land for cultivation. They prayed for god's permission to till/break the soil. They prayed to god during sowing seed. They prayed to god for plantation of crops and for protection till harvest time. They prayed for good harvest and give thanks for the same.

Different crops were cultivated not just for consumption purpose but for religious purposes. Proper permission was sought from the spirit to cut down a big tree. They took permission from spirit to break or pull a big stone. In all this, we see that there was no separation between the practices of agriculture and worship (religion) in tribal society.

It is agriculture that helped develop religious life as well as community life. Digging new fields for cultivation for private use was done by community without wage. This practice is called thrasayu in Poumai language. When thrasa is announced for a clan or village to dig a new field or repair part of the field damaged by landslide or flood, it is taboo to refuse the call.

Hence, everyone join the work. People sing and chat together as they work in cultivation fields. Hardworking person gained high status in society. Many Poumai Naga festivals are celebrated as agricultural feasts such as laoka (festival for seed sowing), laonii (festival right after transplantation) or baoloutouyu (thanksgiving festival of harvest). Many religious rites and rituals (gennas) were connected to agriculture. Hence, agriculture is basic to the formation of culture.

Today many of our cultures are at the verge of becoming extinct due to negligence of agricultural aspect of culture. With this negligence (consciously or unconsciously) cultural festivals are becoming mere celebration without any significance attach to it.

Modern society tends to look every economic activity from the perspective of accumulating money. Farmers are encouraged to shift from producing food crops to cash crops. This has led to food insecurity. It perplexes one and all when our government talk so much about the importance of preserving culture but neglecting traditional agricultural practices.

Communitarian life is destroyed by money-oriented wage labour. With this development, the culture of sharing, helping one another and spirituality attached to agriculture is fast deteriorating. The high status gained through hard work and sweat attached to agricultural activities is lost. Christianity which gives much importance to 'time' and 'season' for worship had put on hold the whole year round relationship of farmers with land and nature.

Modern education and mass media that portray consumerism and capitalism as the basic part of human life have done colossal damage to tribal's culture. The traditional ethos of shame, fear and taboo that are closely attached to agriculture and its allied activities is fast diminishing. It was a shame to be lazy. Wealth was procured through hard work.

Unemployment was unheard of in the past but it becomes one of the biggest issues of modern society. There was a time when people were afraid to break any religious observance/law as that would invite the displeasure of god/spirit leading to natural calamity resulting to famine. With increased in wealth, our generation does not fear God today.

The belief and practice of taboo saved many lives of animals and birds. It was a taboo to destroy nature without any purpose. However, such traditional ethos which served as the foundations on which traditional society stood is losing ground to stand due to impact of consumerism and global capitalism.

Culture is not all about eating, drinking and dressing habits. It is not just about the development of hi-fi lifestyle. The Creation Story in the Book of Genesis portrayed God as the gardener who cultivated different types of vegetables and fruits.

God also kept different types of animals and birds. We see here God as the originator of culture. Seth and Abel transmitted God's culture. Likewise, as soon as the flood receded, Noah tilled the land and planted grape.

Today, our generation have almost forgotten that culture is first and foremost rooted in the development, practice and maintenance of agricultural system and secondarily in the development of habits, dance, songs, stories and festivals.

Sadly our aged-old agricultural system is on the verge of total dislocation due to increasing pressure from global market forces and shifting to growing cash crop. The basic understanding of culture is cultivation of the land. It includes tending and caring of nature. Young generations are completely detached from traditional agricultural life.

They migrate to towns and cities in search of jobs and education leaving behind old people to work in fields. We are going to face 'cultural crisis' and hence identity crisis itself. If we want our culture to survive in modern world, let us preserve our agricultural system and practices.

As long as we cultivate the land with our hands and preserve its attached ethos and practices, our culture will continue to survive and food security will be intact as in the past.

* Z K Pahrü Pou wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on February 19, 2015.

* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.

  • Teinem Luira Phanit @Ukhrul #1 : Gallery
  • PM Narendra Modi @Imphal #1 : Gallery
  • Candle Light for Pravish @Delhi: Gallery
  • RTE taunts Kamuching: Mapithel Dam
  • Please dont become slave to any holy book
  • Pravish's Parents meet HM Rajnath Singh
  • Assam Rifles celebrates Cheiraoba
  • Job requirements @SKY Hospital
  • Nursing opportunity across Europe
  • The Killing Fields :: News Timeline
  • Education: addressing the core issue
  • Call to amend the Army Act
  • MoUs inked to boost tourism in NE
  • Sajibu Cheiraoba Chingkaba #1: Gallery
  • Yaoshang Sports @Kakwa: Gallery
  • Human right intimidated by SF: Amnesty Intl
  • Bikers rally to spread awareness on Cancer
  • TB survivor resolves to make TB-free ..
  • State Level World Kidney Day
  • Course in Comparative Literature at NEHU
  • Candle Light at DU for Pravish Chanam
  • PS issue stands as litmus test for CM
  • Cheiraoba Chak Katpa #1 : Gallery
  • Premier League coaches train : Gallery
  • Culturals @ Republic Day #3 : Gallery
  • Draft Asian Declaration: right to justice #4
  • Radhakumar's Atoppa Sansar Amada #2
  • Prevention of cruelty to trees
  • Premier League coach train NE participant
  • GoI may sign agreement without NSCN(K)
  • Manipur celebrates New Year with gaiety
  • Zeliang denies involvement in terror funding
  • Shopping: Sajibu Nongma Panba #1: Gallery
  • Stall @Science Congress, MU #1: Gallery
  • Sajibu Cheiraoba (Meitei New Year)
  • Saving Nambul: Convergence of view
  • Job @ PR Enterprises, Khurai
  • National Institute for Locomotor Disabilities
  • Seminar on 'Conflicts in South Asia'
  • Luck matters; but not always
  • On completing one year in office
  • Spectacle distribution at Loktak Station
  • DGAR visits Manipur on his farewell visit
  • PM at Science Congress @MU #1: Gallery
  • Yaoshang Water & color #3: Gallery
  • Eyek Tamba :: Learn Manipuri script
  • A tribute to Stephen Hawking
  • Draft Asian Declaration: right to justice #3
  • Effect of a Sleepless Night :: Peom
  • Psychology at MIT School of Vedic Sciences
  • So near yet so far
  • Naga CSOs walking with JCILPS
  • Vegetables grown @Thanga #1: Gallery
  • Yaoshang Fancy Dress Contest: Gallery
  • Yaoshang Sport @Khagempalli #2: Gallery
  • Truth of Life :: Poem
  • Celebration of womanhood
  • HQ IGAR (S) celebrates 15th Raising Day
  • Jet Airways for more flights for NE
  • Publicity doing good, Garbage filth continue
  • Other issue overriding education: Class XII
  • Wortam: The Rising Young Mashangva
  • Eidi Ethantani by Eyoom :: Review
  • OMCT : UA on harassment of Ranjeeta
  • Mass destruction of opium poppy cultivation
  • Career options in printing press
  • IBSD launches hi-tech facility for farmers
  • Bangalore Yaoshang - Cheiraoba Thabal
  • Quality over quantity
  • What will the PM have to say ?
  • Zeliang gets fresh summon from NIA
  • Lui-Ngai-Ni @Longmai (TML) #4 : Gallery
  • Nengneingah, Lungkhambou :: eMing
  • Yaoshang Water & color #2: Gallery
  • Draft Asian Declaration: right to justice #2
  • BJP led Govt, not flunk in first year
  • Demand handing of Pravish case to CBI
  • PDA Govt claims false credit: NPF
  • Feminism & Path to Women's Liberation
  • Word of caution from Ibobi: BJP to listen
  • Yaoshang Cooking Contest #2 : Gallery
  • Yaoshang Mei Loukhatpa #4 : Gallery
  • Radhakumar's Atoppa Sansar Amada #1
  • Nigol :: Poem
  • List of Portfolios : Nagaland Govt
  • Clarify: Report of Zeliang summoned by NIA
  • Academic Programs offered by PHFI
  • Cong speaks: Changes expected in future
  • One year under the BJP: Significant but..
  • Students @ Class X Exam #2 : Gallery
  • Yaoshang Sport @Khongman: Gallery
  • Draft Asian Declaration: right to justice #1
  • Cry Of A Dying River...21 :: Peom
  • Manipur-Nagaland border disputes
  • Not a word on beauty on Women's Day
  • Women Religious Tour reaches New Delhi
  • Yaoshang Mei Loukhatpa #3 : Gallery
  • Chirom Indira- Nari Puraskar Award: Gallery
  • Human Rights Defender intimidated by Army
  • Rooftop Solar Power Plants: Gallery
  • Home stay for nature tourism in Manipur
  • Moodle: A learning management system
  • You can't stop small newspapers ...
  • BJP show in NE State: The backroom boys
  • Moldhin Chan: A Thado-Kuki Folktale #2
  • Yaoshang Nakatheng Chatpa #2 : Gallery
  • Mapithel Dam, Thoubal River & Tumukhong
  • Yaoshang Mei Loukhatpa #2 : Gallery
  • Time for "Nokphade" to go global
  • Campaign on International Women's Day
  • War between Left & Right has begun
  • Poppy plantation, destruction & missing link
  • Yaoshang Halankar #1 : Gallery
  • Yaoshang Water & color #1: Gallery
  • Harassment of Ranjeeta (HRA) by Army
  • Women's positions need to change
  • The Weeds :: Poem
  • We now know gold was created in space
  • Issues of women's rights should be priority
  • Protection of paddy land Act
  • Thabal Chongba @Khurai : Gallery
  • Bor-keina race @Yaoshang Fest : Gallery
  • Front Page Photo 2018 #1: Gallery
  • Tanushree @Elecrama Startup Award: Vote
  • Indian Science Congress in MU: Act East?
  • Fulbright 'pathways' for college leaving class
  • Job @ St. Stone Medical Devices
  • Army jawan martyred in Bongjai IED blast
  • National Integration Tour for Women
  • AR conduct Yaoshang sport festival
  • Condemns rising vendetta politics in NE
  • Yaoshang Sport - Marathon #1: Gallery
  • Yaoshang Sport @Keishampat #2: Gallery
  • NERIST Director post vacant since 2014
  • Dynamic Startup 3.0 at MIMS, MU
  • NDPP Legislature 1st Meeting at Kohima
  • 8th Theatre Olympics at Guwahati
  • Yaoshang Cooking Contest #1 : Gallery
  • Yaoshang Sport @Keishampat #1: Gallery
  • Sentinel Cup Equestrian #5 : Gallery
  • Translating inclusion into seclusion is..
  • Condemns land acquisition of muslim
  • News erroneously portraying Zeliang
  • Report: Shillong Lajong vs East Bengal
  • Yaoshang Sport @Khagempalli #1: Gallery
  • LGBTQ Yaoshang Sports Meet #1 : Gallery
  • M. Shenbangpu : Akademi Award 2014
  • Tribe: A concept in a state of crisis
  • Neiphiu's NDPP-BJP alliance stakes claim
  • Digital footprints: Blueprints for detection
  • Rio refutes news about 'Naga Peace'
  • Yaoshang Mei Loukhatpa #1 : Gallery
  • Yaoshang Nakatheng Chatpa #1 : Gallery
  • Yaoshang with Governor : Gallery
  • Black holes that are neither holes nor black
  • Lingaraja Temple- Lord of Three Worlds
  • Study helps hill student make up lost day
  • Yaoshang Mei Thaba : Gallery
  • Saroi Khangba #3 : Gallery
  • Chirom Indira: Highest Civilian Honour
  • Rejoinder to "MCPCR in dire straits"
  • Poppy destruction: The new norm ?
  • Stop harassment of Urikhimbham
  • Sadar Hills District Demand :: Timeline
  • Understanding the origin & essence
  • Call to reduce Yaoshang days: Make it 3
  • 8th AMWJU Sports Meet : Gallery
  • March Calendar for Year 2018 :: Tools
  • Yaoshang Thabalgi Sen Khaiba #2 : Gallery
  • Stop this shaming of menstruation
  • Yaoshang Greetings from BJP Manipur
  • Self-conscious manhood: Find true self
  • Parl Secy: To be or not to be ?
  • Holi colours can cause side-effects
  • Equality matters
  • Creating nuisance on the roads
  • Lui-Ngai-Ni @Longmai (TML) #3 : Gallery
  • Cultural @ Republic Day #2 : Gallery
  • Nonsense is Sense : Guv's attention invited
  • Protection of Human Rights: Resolution
  • Protection of Human Right Defender: Meet
  • Mapithel dam chapter before NGT
  • GOC 3 corps calls on the Governor
  • Gangnam style is better
  • From boycott call to verbal duel: NPF, BJP
  • Festival of Colours to Sports Festival
  • Food Processing Training @Oinam : Gallery
  • Time to ban malicious Moreh products
  • Cry of a Dying River - 20 : Poem
  • Training prog on Food Processing at Oinam
  • One year - now a doomsday ahead..
  • Thought on full five days of Yaoshang
  • Loree Kaju Luita Phanit #3 : Gallery
  • Yaoshang Thabalgi Sen Khaiba #1 : Gallery
  • Lui-Ngai-ni Token Celebration at Chadong
  • Sannaroisingee Numit 2018 : Gallery
  • Students @ Class X Exam #1 : Gallery
  • AoNna tEnaba :: Seireng
  • Thanga Keithel : Gallery
  • Indo-Naga Talks 2017 :: News Timeline
  • Temples of Manipur : Gallery
  • Singcha Wuya Won @Kamjong #5: Gallery
  • Recipients of Akademi Awards for 2014
  • Old Manipuri Movie #1 :: eRang Classic