Chothe Achui Lin festival
- Part 1 -

Dr Cheithou Charles Yuhlung *

 Chothe Dance at the Festival of Tribal Dance :: March 26 2012
Chothe Dance at the Festival of Tribal Dance on March 26 2012 :: Pix - Phurailatpam Banti


In the past, the Chothes celebrates different types of festivals and ceremonies but nowadays only few festivals are celebrated. The Chothe of Lamlanghupi village, Bishnupur celebrates two main festivals annually i.e.: Achui Lin and Innampei Lin besides, other ceremonial rituals. The Achuilin (Post-harvest) festival is celebrated in the month of September (Langban in Meitei) while Innampeilin (Pre-seed-sowing) in the month of February/ March (Phiren-Lamta) depending upon the Lunar calendar.

It clearly established the royal identity of the Chothe community by indicating about their intricate social structures and systems, and how other socio-cultural activities were guided by various religious norms and principles. Such festivals convey different meanings, values and ethos of the society they live in. Festival in one way is an act of thanksgiving and a time of seeking blessing for bountiful and prosperity.

In the past, most Northeast tribes celebrate atleast one festival or a ceremony every month. Some festivals has strong religious connotation while others are not but symbolically all implies group cohesion in their belief. In fact, Emile Durkheim (1915) said such festivals and ceremonies helped group cohesion. Therefore, certain ceremonies are performed to appease their gods.

For example, the Hopi tribe dances ceremoniously in circles, so that the rain god pleases them and sends rain. However, even the most traditional indigenous festival and ceremonies have become asymbolic celebration to commemorate the occasion, since many of their socio-cultural, religionand custom havebeen simplified and modified to suit theirpresent socio-political and economic conditions, unlike in the past.

The Achui Lin/ Rhin Festival

Location: Lamlanghupi Chothe, Bishnupur ward No. 12.

The Achuilin/ rhin also known as Chultukrhinor Tuitukrhin is another very important festival of the Chothes. Traditionally, they celebrate for seven days with pomps and shows. It begins on Monday in the month September (Langpanin Meitei). They believed that the name of the festival derived from Achoi (lit. yeast).

The Achuilin is generally consider as the festival of youth, while the Innampeilin as the festival of elders. In Achuilin most socio-cultural ceremonial aspects like dancing, drinking and singing are done outside the house, unlike the Innampeilin where it is mostly performed inside the house.

Day 1 (Monday):

The Achuilin festival began with the benediction ritual (Heirukkeipa) carried out in the afternoon at their sacred grove (Khumanleikai) headed by the village priest (Theimpu) along with his associates, who offered homage to their Supreme Guardian God (Pu Chothe Thangwai Pakhangpa, Pi Leima and Pu Lungchungpa). The head priest after offering the benediction prayer and seeking protection also consults divination about the future course.

Secondly, in the evening the head priest and assistant priest performed the appeasement rites (Lou houpa)to the four village directions deities (Shunglung/Bambu) to help protect and guard the village against the unseen evil forces,so that, no unfortunate events maybe fall upon them during the festive days.

Thirdly, the Council of Elders (Urinta) and Council of Matured-adult (Tangnga-rinta) had their assembly at their respective unit’s houses. This assembly session is known as the counting and re-assigningthe political portfolios (i.e. Think-bompa or think-tumpa think-tepa or Cheitharol Kumpapa) for all the cabinet leaders with the scroll sticks.

In the house of Council of Elders, the Finance Officer (Keirungpa) conducted the counting while Tangsha performed the act in the Council of Matured-adults. This is a very important ceremony. New members inducted or any changes occurred within were asigned their political porfolios. The Meitei called it as Cheitharol Kumpapa.

The ceremony concludes by the act of thanksgiving (Thoukeipa).

Day 2 (Tuesday):

In the morning, the Council of Elders(Urinta) at its festive house (Ruishang) performed the inauguration ceremony of tuning of the drums (lit. Hung Matheipa) with theMuipaZuron(lit. wine served to tame the drum) after a simple prayer was offered by the village chief, followed by several customary fomalities.

Two junior leaders inspected their drums’ and tested to perfection. In the past, it was taboo for the villagers to venture outside their houses freely until this ceremony was over. Accordingly, if the family that host the youths Ruishangor Lomtun (festive place) was rich and wealthy, he offered lunch to all the members of Village Council as part of the inauguration ceremony.

The afternoon session form three parts –
i) Fho-parakpa (lit. Shield movement dance),
ii) Chamtun lam( lit.Sword danceor war dances) and,
iii) Thoukeipaact (lit.Thanksgiving).

The shield movement dance (Fho-parakpa) signifies how the Chothes used their shields to defend and protect themselves against the enemies during the wars. The act involves defense, striking with sword and slaughtering an enemy with loud shouts. The sword dance (Chamtun lam) symbolised the jubilant celebration of successfull battles with their swords,whodefended their village and country bravely and couragously.

Both these dances portrayed how the Chothes fought and won many battles in the past and is symbolised to commemorate their ancestors. When these ceremonies were completed, two junior leaders (Hacharis) performed the official thanksgiving ceremony (Thoukeipa) to the host and the three chiefs – Village chief, Assistant chief and Wine manager (Hulak, Luplakand Zupai), thus, ending the session with simple prayer by the host. Such acts indicate the esteem royality of the Chothes’ ancestors.

After dinner, the village elders gathered at the youth’s Ruishang and after offering a short prayer, they began to practice their folk songs till mid-night. In the mean time, as the officials has approved, some youths went in groups to notify the villagers to start preparing their indigenous bread (Butoi) for the festival. Traditionally, some youth after performing a simple prayer escorted one by one their three chiefs: (Hulak, Luplak and Zupai) to their respective houses.

Day 3 (Wednesday):

There are no ceremonies in the morning and afternoon,since every family members are busy pounding the rice into flourto prepare their indigenous bread (Butoi) for the grand festival. However,in the afternoon the Council of Matured-adult (Tangnga-rinta) members were engaged in carrying out their inauguration ceremonies of:M uipazuron, Fho-parakpa and the Thoukeipa, like the Council of Elders (Urinta) who executed yesterday afternoon.

After performing a simple prayer, two Tangnga-rinta members went to invite officially their group leader Pakhanglakpaat his resident (like the village chief) for the ceremony to begin. The Pakhanglakpa on reaching the place performed his opening prayer with the rice beer (Zuting) by directly inserting the bamboo pipe (Tongthi) into the pot and also offering some piece of meat (Maytum) and breaking the V-shaped bamboo stick (Cheiche).

In the evening by 4-5 pm, the youth in groups went to collect their indigenous breads in each member’s house for the late evening refreshments. They deposited all the collected breads to one of the senior most girl(Nungakmapi), who again re-distributes the breads to three senior girls to keep it safely.

Tuituk Rhin:

John Shakespeare briefly described about the Tuituklin that the Chawte (Chothe) and Purum celebrates this festival “before cutting their jhum, sacrifice a pig and go down to the stream and sharpen their daos...” (1912:169).

By 5-6 pm after dinner, the villagers gathered at the river bank in their best traditional attires when they heard the drum beats for the Tuituk (lit. water discovery) feast. After they sang the Tuironlaa (lit. song ofrunning water/river flowing), the village head priest performed the ritual (Tuituklethoi) with rice beer (Zuting) on the running water with awine pipe (Tongthi) piping directly from the pot.

When this is over, all the villagers assembled there purify themselves in the river by washing their faces, hands and legsand readies to return to the main festive place. Then, some of the singers began to sing the Waiwalaa (lit. Bright/illuminating song) and all proceed towards the festive house singing. They stop at three stations/ junctions to signify a break from a long journey,in which some youth entertained the gatheringby singing and dancing around, amusing themselves to relieve from exhaustion.

On reaching the festive house after three stops, they carry out the ceremony of hanging small packages of dog meat (Muithidang/Yuithidang) in a string from the husk rice beer (SawaiZu) pot placed in the middle of the house to the western horizontal upper bar of the house (Khandang). They killed the dog ceremonially in the morning. (The Chothe people no longer practice this Muithidang/Yuithidang tradition now).

The host, then performed the opening prayer followed by serving the wine to all (Zurum), after which, they carry out the ceremony of Tongthigitpa (lit. insertion of the bamboo wine pipes on the Sawai Zu pot) like the Innampei festival.

After this ceremony, the boys gave the drums to the girls/ womenfolk who sang their folk songs: Tamparailaa, Ajunlaa and some other selected songs for few hours. Womenfolks exclusively sing these songs.

After completing, they returned the drums to the men folks, and began to sing and performed their war dance (Chamtun lam) inside the house as part of rehersal.

To be continued....

Note: This year the ChotheAchui Lin festival will commence from 9th-12th September 2019.

* Dr Cheithou Charles Yuhlung wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on September 23 2019.

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