Mukada: The Eroding Festival of the Kharam Tribes

Mamta Lukram *

Kharam Pallen is a small village situated around 35 km due west in Senapati District, along the stretch of National Highway 37. The village has around 100 households with a population of around 500. The community bear historical significance of maintaining cordial relations with the state's king.

According to the villagers, the timeline of seven years devastation is the historical epitaph of the community in the state's chronicle. Undocumented oral history ravelled in the village lingering alive through the ritualistic and folkloric connotations.

Agriculture and farming activities constituted the economic domain. Being an indigenous community, Kharam tribes worshipped the moonsoon's cycle, its arrival and retreat in particular, the encore significance in farming activities. Agricultural festivals are celebrated sequentially throughout the year, grounded on Nature's eulogisation with a ritualistic assertion to appease her.

Implicit indigeneity galore with rituals and traditional performances. Worth mentioning festivals according to the villagers are
o Rialkahoi,
o Inpuikalou,
o Reiju Ka inn,
o Rong ka sou,
o Lung Ka Inkam,
o Sakadel,
o Saang kadel,
o Khong kawai,
o Tuiya Rengkatho,
o Inhong Sadel

Modernisation and assimilation of new religion with the progression of time is being described by the villagers as the root to degenerating culture. All the major traditional festivals of the Kharam tribes meted a natural death, except for 'Mu Ka Da,' the festival that marks the end of annual seed sowing amongst the Kharam Tribes.

As a tradition, prior to this festival, the whole community is expected to complete the annual seed sowing. One phenomenal reality of this festival is the collective assistance for seed sowing completion to the families, due to exigencies who are unable to complete the task. Community living is the metaphoric representation of this festival. Mu Ka Da, which is celebrated on the second Monday of the 5th month, May, every year, is sustaining in the kharam community with height of transformations and deviations from its original form.

Rengtankhel Jiache and Thangsinshel Jaiche are the two non-convert community elders of Kharam Pallen, the unattended indigenous custodians relentlessly endeavouring conscious efforts to preserve and keep intact the degenerating Mu Ka Da Festival.

Mukada Festival: Kharam Tribes  :: Rengtankhel Jaiche and Thangsinshel Jaiche with Sarangdar and other folk instrument
Mukada Festival: Kharam Tribes :: Rengtankhel Jaiche and Thangsinshel Jaiche with Sarangdar and other folk instrument

Vanishing Mukada and its Social Significance

The generics of gender dynamics amongst the Kharam community become inherently visible through this festival. Preparatory tasks of the festival kicks off with women busily engaging themselves, starting from cleaning of houses to the brewing. Centrality of the celebration involves offering of 'Wai Yu' (country brew) in the rituals, later to be consumed. 'Puk Yu' (rice beer) is also brewed. Brewing is considered as a 'women syndrome' in the Kharam community. Appriciations rewarded women who brew with par excellence taste.

Mukada Festival: Kharam Tribes : Kharam elders enjoying country brew on Mukada
Mukada Festival: Kharam Tribes : Kharam elders enjoying country brew on Mukada

Married away daughters of every family is being invited to their ancestral home for a grand luncheon on Mu Ka Da. Collective prayers of the women in the family is another yet another significance of the festival. Daughters are being honoured with a feast and they showered blessings. A cultural parallelism with the 'Ningol Chakkouba' festival of the Meitei community can be contoured with this festival.

The practice of intercommunity marriage with the Meiteis, Nagas and even with the Kukis is not uncommon. Kharam daughters married away to other community would attend this festival visiting along with affinal kin, devising itself as an apparatus of cultural exchange. Such a mode of cultural interchange saturated at the maxim of integrity and harmony amongst the multi-myriad ethnic communities.

Folksongs, sporting events and colourful dances are the ingridients of Mu Ka Da. Elders would play traditional musical instruments, the rhythm to which the community members would dance merrily. According to the villagers, unfortunately, the roots of traditionalism loses its grip with apt diversion towards modernity and the fusion of Christianity basic celebrations. Mukada swayed to the wind of change and struggled to survive till date. With inculturation in many aspects, it strives to sustain with demoted honour and popularity.

Folksongs and Mukada

Folksongs and folklores knitted the fabrics of traditonal Kharam tribes. They have songs of nature, love, charms, war, dance, lullaby, myths, legends, heroes and many more. Paruisam, an excellent folksinger, more known to be destined with blessings and mystic power of the ancestral deity, is accorded as the one of the wonderful originators of the beautiful Kharam Folksongs. His songs travelled orally through the generations. The journey of the folksongs loss its way trimming down by the younger generations. The reasons being, fusion of the modern cultures.

On the day of Mu Ka Da, in an open coutyard, seated on a small wooden seat, one village elder played the traditional string instrument, 'SARANGDAR.' Sarangdar is a wooden string instrument made out of 'wang' tree. Other essential component of the instrument are cane, bamboo, otter skin/leather etc.

Demonstrating the instrument, village elders stressed the age old relationship of their traditon with the natural environmemnt. 'Wang' tree was in abundance in Tousang range in the yesteryears, which is fast depleting. For procurement of Otter skin, according to the villagers, elders used to catch it from the Ijei River in the past, which is now extinct.

Sarangdar, in fact is a traditional musical instrument crafted out of handicraft excellence, accumulating ingredients in avail from the surrounding. Villagers express concern over the inaccessibility of the material components due to environment degradation, relapsed by reliability on modern musical instruments. They shared their apprehension of younger generation disowning this instrument and barely inheriting the talents of playing this musical instrument.

The old man, with the sarangdar tuned a rhythmic folksong. Listeners could grasp from the expressions that the song must be a sensational item. Free style translation version of the song according to the villagers says;

'Hey Abungo!! (hey dude) How enthralling is it to be standing here atop of Toushang hill, the highest tip around here; facing eastward; bestowed with the privilege to glimpse the beauties of my land. Oh! Standing here, the Meitei King's palace is vividly visible. His palace is surrounded by walls. Oh! I can see an adorned elephant with a large umbrella. Oh! Enshrine on the elephant is the Meitei King, so enchanted. O! Bestowed with all the graciousness and qualities of being a king"

The interpretative cords of the song decode the sense of belongingness, the sense of proximity with the Meitei king; the kharams cherished. The symbolic metaphors of the song song are the revelation of peaceful co-existence, unity and solidarity amongst the hill and valley people in the past. The natural death of such tradition will wither away along with it the sense of unity and solidarity irreparably. The clarion for the need of reviving such indigenous festival rings aloud for the perpetuation of identity and propagation of integrity.

Mukada festival in past use to start with a morning prayer called 'Rathakakoi,' a prayer in traditional form where younger generations failed to learn it. Currently, Christian prayers replaced its significance. The two non-convert elders' constant effort is on keep intact the tradition.

Rengtankhel Jaiche and Thangsinshel Jaiche's efforts are on to preserve and carry forward this one last sustaining festival of the Kharam tribes with scope of retaining its originality. They are of the view that it may not be a wise step to erase the enchanting tradition.

Mukada Festival: Kharam Tribes : Kharam Youths on Mukada
Mukada Festival: Kharam Tribes : Kharam Youths on Mukada

At this stance the Kharam Pallen village is celebrating this festival through collective endeavour. The village is reeling with transport and connectivity concerns, education, access to potable water, sanitation, housing and other basic amenities. Encouraging this indigenous community to preserve their identity are the need of the hour. Mukada as a festival has the ingredients of reconstructing integrity and social coherence. The festival depicts a mechanism for integrity promotion.

The village elder express their words of contentment on hosting guest of the day. Their aspiration is state recognition of Mu Ka Da festival like any other recognised traditional festivals. A festival of ethnic significance and harmanous co-existance is Mu Ka Da festival of the kharam tribes. Preparations are in full swing in Kharam Pallen, this approaching second Monday of May, 2018, to celebrate Mu Ka Da, welcoming the guest.

* Mamta Lukram wrote this article for
The Writer can be reached at mamtalukram(AT)yahoo(DOT)com
This article was posted on May 02, 2018.

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