Kut has become a global craze now

Lunminthang Haokip *

 State Level Kut Festival 2019 at 1st MR Parade Ground, Imphal :: 1st November 2019
State Level Kut Festival 2019 at 1st MR Parade Ground, Imphal on 1st November 2019 :: Pix - Lamdamba Oinam

AN AUTUMNAL EVENT: The Chikimi (Chin-Kuki-Mizo) ethnic group grew together and got grafted to diverse National cultures, throughout the past centuries, mainly in North West Myanmar and North East India. Successive regimes they were subjected to gave them community names, that suited the former's interest more than the latter's, in the countries they came across in the frenetic search for the ideal place to settle down for keeps.

Of that, enough historians and research scholars had inked their findings in volumes of books. One thing that was not adequately dealt with is the common binding Chikimi seed-sowing and post-harvest fest known popularly as Kut. Periodical bids to change the form and format of celebrating the unique fest could not lessen the essence or dampen the spirit of Kut merriment.

A CELEBRATION OF LIFE: Chikimi cycle of life was simple in the hilly terrains they took shelter in. Life-sustaining food-grain seed were sown in spring in the jhum-fields. Monsoon came soon, giving way for autumn to ripen paddy grain. No much thought was given to the God of creation who gave the former and the latter rain and provided "manna" to humankind through the fructification process of the sown seed.

Nevertheless, there was an innate sub-consciousness in the native Chikimi that there existed a super-natural Authority who gave the seed, made it grow and brought forth a hundred-fold in ultimate fruition. Kut was a visible show of gratitude to the invisible Provider who, as sure as the seasons, made men fit to breathe and live from one year-end to another.

A PASTORAL CARNIVAL : In the absence of sports-infrastructure, on the pristine slopes, manually flattened spots served as playgrounds, post-harvest, to display male agility and prowess in traditional games and sports. Competition was in the air. Inter-village rivalry in ethnic events, as to who is the better athlete in the area, drew crowds in hordes. Mithun-jump was a sport watched with keen interest.

It had nothing to do with the Bollywood actor. It was the Chikimi answer to modern-day high-jump. Piles of shawls were added on to a badly-beaten and tightly-fastened live mithun as young men, out to compete and impress, jumped one after another over the beast-of-burden.

The guy who could fly over the maximum number of shawls kept on the domesticated animal emerged as the winner. Kaang-kaap, Pestle- throw and wrestling etc were other favourite masculine sports during Kut.

TIME TO MAKE MERRY: While the rural womenfolk crushed fresh food-grain with alternate manual pounding with pestles on a wooden mortar that would be the material for feast-bread, the older folk sipped and sucked with bamboo-pipes from earthen jars of rice-beer, fermented well in advance for the occasion, in festive mood.

The kick they got out of the brew was stronger than the thrill pub-stuff can deliver today. While a sozzled quartet crooned an endless two-liner folk-song that was pregnant with meaning, a tipsy couple would stretch and flap their hands, bend the knees and dance in circles to the tune of the emotion-arousing folk item. Merriment peaked as the singing reached a crescendo. In terms of intensity and impact, songs sung on Kut-stages of this century are no patch on the lyrical melodies of the distant past.

THE UNIFYING FEST: The eighties and nineties of the last century saw all forms of kutting like Mim Kut, Chavang Kut, Thalfavang Kut etc squeezed in an annual event called Chapchaar Kut in Mizoram, Kut in Manipur and among Thadou/Kuki Diaspora, and Khuado Pawi among the Zomi Diaspora across the continents.

The venue of celebration may be strangely urban and the style outlandish; but the spirit of pastoral Kut remains the same everywhere. What is there in a name ? Kut with any other name would be as exciting. This is one annual fest that reminds the Chikimi ethnic group of their common progenitor and cultural homogeneity. Here is a fest each of the Chikimi tribes can call its own, has no grudge over its naming and has a stake in its promotion.

AN UNSTOPPABLE JAMBOREE: The ethnic annual jamboree must also reflect the social changes and spiritual shifts that took place down the years. There is a worldly concept doing the rounds that we have 364 days in a year to feed on the Word of God as a Christian. What is wrong in dedicating one day in a year in pursuing true Kut-culture on wining and adopting ramp-culture ?

The danger lies in the bitter truth that a singular day of wanton ultra-modern Kut-type carnal merry-making can turn the net gain of 364 days of passionate preaching off-balance. That folks who have no appetite for principles of the Church and Christian worship hold status of prominence in Kut set-up, which enjoys a huge following of believers, is an alarming issue that needs serious address.

THE GAME-CHANGER: A Turning Point: I was the unfortunate ADC of Kangpokpi, Sadar Hills in year 2005. The odds were aplenty. But as a servant of the Lord, the Spirit prompted me to moot the risky idea of celebrating Kut the Gospel way sans the frills of glamour that Kutters got used to. Surprisingly, the authorities and the Churches of my subject were willing to play ball.

A solid sermon was delivered by Rev. Prim Vaiphei from Kut platform. The audience lapped up the message word for word. Several low-budget local level Gospel Kut Fests were hosted ever since in which solid Word of God was preached. Yet, human nature being what it is, bigger shows, that played up to the gallery, doused the `lesser' spiritual ventures.

THE VOICE OF DISSENT: Suddenly, a dissenting clamour was heard, "Why the hell are we not having Miss kut contest this year?". As the Administrator of the sub-district, I mounted on the podium, held the mike and gently pleaded, "Dear brother, the Bible we bank on says Favour is deceitful; beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord shall be praised (Prov. 31:30). If it is absolutely necessary that we should have Miss Kut contest, we will have "Miss Good" contest on Biblical lines."

A responsive applause that ensued silenced the voice of dissent Nevertheless, Miss Kut pageant has become a Frankenstein of an event which even the organisers cannot undo. Gen-now has no inclination to make do without the crowning of a beauty queen called Miss Kut. Things have come to a stage where Kut-mood cannot be created without adding heavy doses of glamour.

THE DIASPORA MANIA: Much water has flown down the Imphal river and Menal river. Eimi world has changed. The leadership dispensation of the past have given way to new smarter players in the Kut scene. The SLKC Kut continues to excel in pomposity and grandeur of showmanship.

In many other Chikimi settlements worldwide like Tulsa (USA), Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Yangon etc, Kut was celebrated on different dates in the months of October and November, in smaller scales. Of alarming concern is the spiralling cost of hosting the grand fest, which didn't cost much in the distant past, in modern settings.

Today, as situations go, a decently presentable Kut show cannot see the light of day unless some moneyed Kut-freaks pay through their noses. Kut has become a global madness and an unmatched ethnic craze.

THE SHOW GOES ON: In the run-up to outdo others in staging a glitzy Kut fanfare, in their respective regions, Eimi folks everywhere seem to forget 'how to be thrifty.' Money flows, folklores follow; the cream of society glow and it's ensured that their show should be grand to dazzle participants.

Nearer home, Aizawl Kut stood out in 2019 as considerable local Mizo dignitaries turned out to exhibit brotherhood and to boost the morale of Kutters in the Zo city. In mainland India, Eimi culture and tradition were replayed with ethnic festivity in cities like Guwahati, Chandigarh, Bengaluru, Chennai etc.

Miss Kut or no Miss Kut, Kut spirit come alive in all the places where ancestral pastoral tradition was reenacted for Gen-next to cherish and feel proud of. New venues of celebration come as new dignitaries handle Kut affairs. SLKC's port of call, this year is, Peace Ground, CCPur. The ethnic flavour of the age-old fun fest remains the same.

Happy Kut 2022 to all Kut Lovers.

* Lunminthang Haokip wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is an IAS (Retd)
This article was webcasted on November 03 2022 .

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