TODAY -

Chaga Ngee (The Blessed Festival) : Liangmai ethnic people
- Part 2 -

Adibo Newmei *

Chagah Festival : Annual festival of Liangmai at Taphou Liangmai village, Senapati on Oct 30, 2012
Chagah Festival : Annual festival of Liangmai at Taphou Liangmai village, Senapati on Oct 30, 2012
Pix - Popcha Yambem



In some Liangmai villages, Tathe Thonbo ceremony is led by the eldest member of the group. He has to frighten the spirit of the enemy with the following solemn proclamations:-

"Hey, tingkum, jari wangja, athe thon sune. Aky Rambow ga athiu-arimai atu atainija kabamai, atu mikremai, pami ka-lnga mitheng pon matang lujiu tagoi/taweng bambose athe wang tiulo, (tathe thon padjiu pakhangmai kahu Chin chin khai). Abiu thiu e, atei phuatle, aba sha e azou niang nge. Wang leng tiulo thaa, atei azou saklu atampi sui wanglo"

Rough translation: "With the coming of the season, let me make this solemn proclamation, my enemy who are loitering around my homestead like long tailed beast, come and take my food. (The winter food will be thrown out, the members will shout to the spirit of the enemy with howling). My ginger is hot rice whited is tasty, my beer is fine sweet, my pig is fatty, come and take my food to your stomach and be my hunted head.

At night time in the morung the participants of the Chaga will drink rice beer and meat to their fill. They tell stories, brag and make belief story about their conquest to the village damsels. They will sing all kinds of dirty songs not presentable with the opposite sex.

At nightfall when almost everybody is asleep a girl may discreetly hang a bouquet of flowers (Marigold) at the side of the verandah for her lover. Then, she will go to Khangchiuky and hurl pebbles of stone unseen. On hearing the sound the members of Khangchiuky will come out and bless the unseen lover and acclaim, let the girl be send off with a Kabui (Mithun) on her marriage, Kapiuki Nakylo (let your house be a plank house), Chabien bow nagulo (May you be the owner of the big granary), Kham Kamakboky ga miloh (Marry to a family where doors are open i.e. marry to a family where you are wanted and like by your future-in-laws) and Aliu thoi jaijiu mara sathiu miniuwe (respect our blessing and you'll be free from sickness and disease).

During the night girls from Liuchiuky (girls' dormitory) will try to steal fire-wood. But, such incident is not considered as stealing. Perhaps, it is a gesture to distract man from his concentration in devotion to God.

The festivals begin when rice and meat are well stocked and collection of materials required like water, banana leaves, bamboo plates, fire wood etc. are stored in its proper place to coincide with the full moon.

The fourth day is call Peng Kepbonai, a day when every member of Khangchiuky will have to shoot or hurl a dart called Chapithu made of a weed called Ading or Maram targeting a human figurine call Peng. All the villagers remain vigil during the day and night on the eve of Peng Kepbonai against wild animals. For it is a bad omen if domesticated animals fall prey to wild animals.

Boys wanting to foresee their future through a dream may collect the wooden chips. Particularly, the chips being chipped out for the head side of the Peng before it touches the ground. In some villages boys will try to collect the chip before touching the ground from the place where the tree is cut. He collects the chip in his shawl before it touches the ground. He will wrap up the chip in a banana leaf. He will put under his pillow and sleep on it in the Khangchiuky (Boys dormitory).

In the morning when he opens it, if it is found to be like powdered rice he will have a good married life with his lover. If the chips found are wet like dew, it is believed that the future with his lover is going to be bleak.

When a human figurine is carved out of the wooden log it is call Peng. After decoration of Peng the men folk will carry the peng around the village with Hoi-ing. They will bring back the Peng on the proposed site and tie on a high pole. Every participant will have darts or small arrows made of Ading or Maram, a typical grass (bamboo family) read found in the hills.

With this dart they will aim at the Peng. The priest of the village will announce the commencement of the game to all the villagers.

All male members who can shoot at the figure have to take the spike made of reeds kept ready for the show. They will converse at the central place and from there they will march towards the site where the figurine is erect with howling/shouting in the manner of the bee marching. As they reach the site, one of the Khangkiang has to perform a rite invoking the almighty to enable his village youths hit their targets. He will shoot first and followed by everyone who will attempt at his wished target painted in the figurine. The Singku or Pakhangpi will attempt first. He yells and shouts hoping that the dart hit the eyes of his enemy, let it hit the kidney, the heart of his foe.

Peng is divided into five parts:

1. Papi (head) is call Charibai (bull for warrior), whoever is able to hit the head with his dart will be a great warrior.

2. Pahguang (neck) is call Tathiubai (bull for hunter), whoever hit the neck will be a great hunter.

3. Pagah (chest) is call Aliubai (bull for girl or damsel), whoever hit the chest will have many lovers.)

4. Ahbum (stomach) is call Chamiubai (bull for grain), who ever hit the stomach with his dart will have a rich harvest and will be wealthy and lastly.

5. Parun (below the stomach) is called Majiubai (bull for adversity), who ever hit below the stomach falls prey to sickness, injury, death, fines etc.

These were the beliefs in the olden days among the Liangmai people. Therefore, every participant attempts at a particular target or bull according to his desire and needs. The youths usually attempt for Aliubai. Every participant avoids Majiubai but if luck is against him or he is pre-destined to be in adversity, he never misses the dreaded target.

After everyone has had their try, they will shout in unison that, I have defeated my enemies. With this chanting the most important part of the festival comes to a close. All the members will look for another omen. The bamboo tumbler used by every individual during the festival will be split vertically with a Chaheng into two halves. If the split bamboo tumbler splits apart and both fall face down it is not a good omen. If both split parts fall face up it is good omen for the individual. If one half falls face up and the other half falls face down it is equivocal.

The fifth day is the last day and it is called Chaga Pahbonai that is sighting of the full moon. There will be a grand feast where there is re-dining together after 3-4 days. Several dishes of meat and rice beer will be gathered at Khangchiuky and the elders will enjoy it. They narrate stories and sing songs related to Chaga festival to pass it on to younger generation. It is also a day for sanctification called Maram Phiabo. Every person who had joined in the Chaga celebration is cleansed or sanctified by a ritual led by the Singku. A leaf called Mahram/Piume whose leaves edges are very sharp will cut the arm of every member to be free from any evil during the Chaga.

Intermingling of men and women are permitted again. Young boys and girls enjoyed the day by playing games of their interest. Some village youths go for picnics in the deep forest, the highest hill of the village. The boys will place two white wooden planks intersecting each other tied on top of the tallest tree of the hill. This signifies that the Chaga festival is over. Travelers can enter the village, the village gate will be opened and visitors are welcome. Some villagers say that it is a sign of warning to the enemies that they are blessed by the Gods with power and they are prepared for war with the strong belief of victory. In their return journey, they collect banana leaves and wild vegetables. (To be contd)

They will distribute it to every household and share their food with each other. They also march to the house of the eldest bachelor and spinster. They will praise him/her and ask to offer something for their morung. This is call Akhangting/Aliuting tu thonbo (Praising the eldest bachelor/Spinster). It is very important for the village because the age of the younger generation could be ascertained along with the age of these two elders based on the rotation of the jhum field. Junior boys will sing songs of victory over their enemy led by the elder ones call Khangting by going around the whole village. Later in the evening the grown up boys will join them in full costumes in singing till mid-night after which the grown up boys will visit the girls dormitory singing and asking them to forgive whatever excess they might have committed during the festivals and release the girls from religious forbidden activities of weaving and other crafts during the celebration. However, food restriction on the part of men will still be in force till another rite call Aliambo sanctification led by the priest at Aliam Phung (ritual place).

Every man will cook special dishes of various meats fish and delicious items according to his abilities. These special dishes are presented to his married sisters it is a token of love where married women takes great pride for it in front of her in-laws. In some villages the male members in special hand basket called Tapha Kuang and for the girls a basket called Chape ngeu. Inside the basket special food items of various meat of domesticated or wild animals are placed. They will carry their own basket to their morung and enjoy with their friends. The girls since being left out of during the festival also enjoy in their own Liuchiuky. They also carry their own food basket like the boys to enjoy with their friends.

During the evening before sunset Pakhangpi again assigns junior members to fetch water again. They will go to the water hole wash their mouth and face and fetch the water. Elders will also wash their mouth and face. With this the festival comes to an end.

In the evening members of Khangchiuky and Liuchiuky march through the various homes of the village, singing and praising each other. They will ask for rice beer from the various households that they pass through.

There is another day called Chaga Leibonai on the sixth day. This is the day where the participants are village elders or aged ones. They will enjoy the day and by consuming the unexpended rice beer and meat etc. This sixth day is very insignificant because it is confined to the aged ones only.

MORDERN CHAGA NGEE

The changing times have led to a cultural change in the way of living, food habits, attitudes and religious beliefs to the Liangmai community. Secondly, in the modern times with the hectic life one cannot spend 5-6 days in celebrating a festival. The Liangmai Arts and Culture Association organised a seminar on "Chaga" in 2004 at Chiang Village, Tamei Sub-division, Tamenglong. It was attended by prominent leaders representing various social, political and religious organisation of the community.

The main objective of the seminar was to promote a festival of the community. The said festival was to suit with the modern life style and religious beliefs and to promote and protect its cultural identity. After a long and intense deliberation "Chaga" was chosen to be cultured to fit in the modern life.

The traditional form of celebrating "Chaga" which lasted 5 to 6 days is shortened to a 1 (one) day festival. It attempts to incorporate all important tenets of the festival and to fit in with the modern Christian life.

In Nagaland, the state Govt. has declared 30th October every year as a state holiday on the day of "Chaga". In relation to it The Liangmai Arts and Culture Association has taken initiatives in celebrating Chaga festival every year on 29 to 30th October every year.

On the 29th October every member belonging to the same family tree will gather together. The head of the family will lead the gathering. It is a family worship, a worship to forgive and to forget and to start a new life renewing their family ties, confess to each other, clear all misunderstandings and to start anew without any misgivings.

On the 30th morning the villagers come out and organise social work. They repair the foot paths, water-holes and clean the entire village. Every house-hold will put off the time in their hearth. A new fire will be made under the leadership of the Pastor and village elders. From this newly kindled fire every household re-kindles their hearths. This is to signify the start of a new life free from all evil.

In the afternoon there will be singing of folk songs, games, and sports for both the young and the old. The traditional form of Peng Kepbo may be re-enacted as a part of sports without any ritual.

In the evening every male member may invite their married sisters for a grand-dinner. "Chaga" has become a very important festival for the Liangmais. Firstly, every Liangmai irrespective of sex, young and old have a chance of participating in a traditional festival. The community is enlightened about its rich cultural heritage. Secondly, it is a chance for every individual to wear their traditional dress, shawl and sing folk songs etc. Thirdly, it gives a chance for closer bonds among the family lineage in a jovial atmosphere. Lastly, it also provides ample opportunities to at least dine together with brothers and sisters in a year.

The Liangmai tribe observes Chaga Ngee on October 30 every year.

Concluded...


* Adibo Newmei wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The Writer is The President, Liangmai Writers' Research Forum, Manipur and can be reached at adibonewmei(at)gmail(dot)com
This article was posted on November 05, 2013.


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