Sikpui Ruoi (Sikpui Festival)
- A festival with a difference -
- Part 2 -

Lal Dena & Zothanchhingi Khiangte *

Attempts have been made to ascertain the truth of the claim and several DNA samples of people belonging to some clans like Thiek, Zote (Hmar), Kom, Huolngo (Mizo) etc have been collected and tested at Haifa Technion, Israel.

However, preliminary results of the test have shown that they are all within normal Tibeto-Burman parameters. Whatever may be the truth, there is no denying the fact that no other song has ever prompted so much research and investigation as Sikpui Hlapui.

The second interpretation seems to refer to the ancestors' stay in Mizoram.

As we prepare for the Sikpui feast,
The Tuichang River miraculously parts,
On foot we fight our foes
Crouching, like clouds at day time
And like au torches at night.
Seething with the intensity
of their fury, our foes bluster
Come out with your spears and shields!
We fought them all day
Till at last they succumbed
Into their watery grave.
The Tuichang River swallowed them all.
Marry the maidens,
Quench your thirst with their wine
placed on the rock.

7. The other name for Sikpui Ruoi is "Inremna Ruoi" which literally means "A feast of Peace". In the olden days, it was considered taboo to partake in the feast with a grudge against your fellowmen. In case, any person harboured a grudge or had enmity with anyone, he must first rid himself of all those ill-feelings before the Sikpui feast.

Thus, the feast brought a sense of harmony among all the people and it was this harmonious relationship that made the feast so unique. All the people used to join in the Sikpui dance, men and women placed alternately, holding each other's hands from the back, signifying their mutual acceptance and exhibited their exuberance and joy.

Now in the contemporary world of discontent, we are witnessing the erosion of these long-cherished values which were held so dearly by our ancestors and one can only look back in nostalgia at what has been lost.

Even in our Christmas celebration, the day that marks the birth of Jesus, the 'Prince of peace', we can hardly be said to be in peaceful coexistence with our fellowmen. It seems that our ancestors, with their simple and uncorrupted way of life were in many ways the true followers of the Messiah although they did not yet know Him.

In order to maintain proper decorum during the feast, a thick coir of rope (made of the vaiza plant ie, Hibiscus macrophyllus) was kept at the parade ground for tying up any over- intoxicated merry-maker who could prove a nuisance. Such drunkards were kept at bay until they came to their senses.

This shows our ancestors' remarkable sense of law and order and their insistence on proper social conduct, although we have often branded them as a band of savages who did not yet learn the virtues of civilization.

Now the question arises: When did the Sikpui Ruoi begin? There are various opinions in this regard.

1. Darthangluoi Faihriem in his book Sikpui Ruoi, suggests that Sikpui Ruoi celebration dates back to 900 AD, after our ancestors had left Sinlung (China) and were living in the Shan State of Thailand (Siam). This conclusion stems out from his claim that there is a certain tribe in that part of the country whose general mode of life is quite in keeping with the Hmars.

2. A second opinion is that Sikpui Ruoi had its roots in the Shan State of Burma. Some of the oldest songs, particularly Hranglam (songs of heroes) songs are indicative of our ancestors' sojourn in Shan.

Butukhuonglawm (a ceremony marking the beginning of cultivation in which the whole community assist one another in seed sowing) is also believed to have started in Burma. In the Sikpui Hlapui, there is a line which mentions Durlai village. Durlai was one of the Hmar villages in Burma (L. Keivom, Hmar Hla Suina, 1980: 18).

According to C.A Soppit, the Hmars left Burma between 800-1100 A.D. but G.H. Luce, a professor of Rangoon University gives 400-800 A.D as the probable date of the Hmars' migration from Burma. In this case, Sikpui Ruoi must have probably begun to be celebrated before 1100 A.D.

3. There is a third opinion that holds the view that Sikpui Ruoi must have been observed since the time when our ancestors had lived between Run and Trieu rivers. This is evident from H.V Vara's collection of 47 verses of the Sikpui Hla, in which places like Buolkhuo, Run, Tieu, Sizawl, Kelchal, Hmuifang, Tlangzawl, Kawlchem and Khuothlo have been mentioned. Tlangzawl is the name of a place between Falam and Tieu and it is at a distance of 20 miles from Falam (B. Lalthangliana:2001,p.31).

From these songs, it may be probable that Sikpui Ruoi began to be celebrated after our ancestors had crossed the Tieu River and with all probability, they must have composed different Sikpui songs all along their route of migration till they reached the present state of Mizoram.

This view seems to be the most agreeable and it would explain why the second interpretation of the Sikpui Hla (which has been referred to above) seems to speak mostly about the people's experience in Mizoram. One of the Sikpui stones can still be seen at the Zote village near Champhai in Mizoram.

Conclusion : In conclusion, we may say that our ancestors used to celebrate Sikpui Ruoi with much enthusiasm and bonhomie anywhere they had lived. Till today, old Sikpui stones are to be seen in Mizoram, Manipur and N.C. Hills.

The N.C. Hills and Karbi Anglong districts of Assam have declared 5th December as a Sikpui Festival Holiday and this is a milestone in the history of the Hmars. But we must not forget the spirit with which our ancestors celebrated Sikpui Ruoi.

They celebrated it with a sense of love and understanding, never forgetting the long-cherished value of 'tlawmngaina' which has no equivalent in any other language and can at best be explained as a noble quality of keeping the others first and the self second.

Sikpui Ruoi must be celebrated in its true essence—as 'a feast of peace'. We are indeed fortunate to have such a unique festival and it is our duty to preserve and promote it as our cultural heritage.

Related Article and photos on Sikpui Ruoi


* Lal Dena (a regular contributor to & Zothanchhingi Khiangte wrote this article for The Sangai Express . The writer can be contacted at laldenas(at)rediffmail(dot)com and zothanikhiangte(at)yahoo(dot)com
This article was webcasted on November 22nd 2009.

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