TODAY -

Heraka religion of Zeliangrongs
- Part 2 -

Budha Kamei *

Scene from 'The Zeliangrongs'
A Scene from 'The Zeliangrongs' :: Provided by Director - Ronel Haobam



"Loss of religion is loss of culture; Loss of culture is loss of identity" – Rani Gaidinliu

It is done in the same model of the first temple built by Haipou Jadonnang and Rani Gaidinliu. Every Kalumki must have a place of sunrise prayer outside facing to the east. East is vital for two factors: it signifies the direction of Bhubon cave, as well as that of the sunrise, which is great importance during Jalua, full moon ritual. Evan Pritchard writes, "East indicates to life and west to death." (1977:148).

The sunrise prayer place must be elevated and is reached by the three steps symbolizing life (Keringbe) –death (Kechaibe) –life (Keringbe). There is a veranda before entering the Kalumki. The main entrance is called Muidi; once inside there is another side entrance called Muicheiki, small door on the right, as it is strictly forbidden to place it on the left. If using the Muicheiki, one must re-enter using the same door.

Before entering the compound of the Kalumki, shoes/foot wears must be removed. Inside there are two sections: the right for the male and the left for female. On the left there is a bench facing the congregation for the girls specially chosen to serve the Heraka community and on the right is reserved for the secretary, chairman, president, and priest of the village. Podiums are also present on both sides for those wanting to say a few words. On the podium is written 'Tingwang Hingde' and below that 'Sam Yi Besa Bam' (Speak the truthfulness).

At the front of the Kalumki is the altar, centrally placed and elevated. One must climb the three steps to it, proceeding the right leg, then left, and right. The altar is on two levels. On the first level, only fruits, vegetables and flowers can be placed while the second level is for coins and paper money. This offering is accompanied by a prayer (personal and private). Once that is finished, one must turn anticlockwise and return to one's place. While one waits to reach the altar, a space must be kept between the right and the left for Tingwang to come and go in –between. When one looks directly above from the altar, there is a small opening into a short wooden tower. (Longkumar 2008)

The mode of worship in Heraka is very simple. It is a devotional worship. In the Heraka religion prayer may be performed individually or collectively at any time and day, whenever require. An individual may offer prayer daily in the morning and in the evening before going to sleep. The devotees compulsorily offer sunrise prayer on every Full Moon day and the Heraka New Year Day at Kalumki. An individual or collectively offers prayer at the time of ailments and birth or death of a person etc. They pray at Kalumki on the Full Moon Day and the Heraka New Year Day.

In the early morning, they gather at Kalumki and recite hymns and offer collective Sunrise Prayer. The Priest offers prayer to Tingwang. Then, they enter Kalumki in singing devotional song. Individual member also offers prayer at the holy Altar. They sing a rejoicing song in praise of Tingwang. On the Heraka New Year Day, they sing a devotional song followed by incantation of Heraka hymn and drink Telau dui (Holy water). (Ramkui Zeliang: Heraka 2010)

Tingkupau, priest as the head of the village plays a leading role in all religious activities of the village. He is regarded as a commune with God so he is respected by all as Divinity. The oldest male from amongst the villagers who has courage enough and experienced in worshipping and to control his villagers is selected as Heraka priest. When the priest is once selected then he has to govern the role of priest till his long life time. Tingkupau has to perform every prayer of the village such as to perform prayer for good health and rich harvest of the village both in individual or collective affairs. He will broadcast the day of prayer on the eve of every prayer and perform prayer on every important festival and also must attend all the festivals.

Like in many religions of the world, Heraka also has basic rules to be observed by the devotees known as Hingde book. This Hingde book speaks about eight steps:
(1) Tingwang created the earth and will destroy it again. Belief in Him and sing His praises and pray to Him.
(2) Respect your parents and elders and preserve the good Zeliangrong culture.
(3) Have a disciplined mind and a clean body. Selflessness will make your image wonderful and you will become the son/daughter of Tingwang.
(4) In all speech and work, your mind must be truthful. Search for knowledge and light but breed not jealousy and enmity.
(5) Love all of Tingwang's sons and daughters and search the way for happiness and peace.
(6) Observe full moon day well.
(7) Set up a Kalumki and pray with an empty hand.
(8) Have faith in rebirth (Ramkui Newme 1991:10-11) One who strictly observes the above basic rules will be blessed a good fortune and his soul will go to heaven after death.

Telau dui, the holy water is available only in Bhubon Cave. Rani Gaidinliu used this Telau dui for healing the sufferings of her followers during her freedom struggle against the British Raj. The Heraka people use to collect Telau dui from Bhubon Cave every year. It is used on the inaugural day of a new house of worship and sprinkling of Telau dui upon the person indicates converted into Heraka religion.

Heraka people believe in rebirth of human soul. Although, the human body dies but its soul does not die since it comes from Tingwang. It is believed that the righteous souls and good doers will go to the abode of God after death or born again to human life according to the Judgment of the Supreme God and live in a notable life in this earth. And ultimately, those who had done good deeds in his/her life in this world will certainly go to the Kingdom of God (Heaven) and live there in peace eternally.

However, mankind of falsehood, evil doers, and sinners will be born again and again after death into the lower forms of destitute life as retribution and ultimately its soul will become extinct after like a dew drop falls and dries up. "In conformity with the expression of rebirth at length by Rani Gaidinliu, Heraka people have fully been believed in the rebirth with the vision of blissful life in heaven and fear of retribution or punishment to sinners by the Tingwang after death is the main objective of believing in rebirth in the Heraka religion." (Ramkui Zeliang: Heraka 2010)

Culture and religion are two faces of the same. Some say culture is a vehicle of religion. Culture and religion are inseparable in Heraka religion. Heraka people celebrate festival in all seasons and in almost every month related with the stages of agricultural operations according to the Lunar Calendar. Every festival begin with prayer to Tingwang praying for yielding abundant crops, good health and prosperous life of the village community and to drive out all misfortunes. The village authority called Pei fixes the suitable date or days of each festival.

The important festivals are:
a) Hepumra, Heraka New Year celebrates on the first Crescent month of the year in January,
b) Helei-Ngi, seed sowing festival observe three days in the month of March,
c) Nchang-Ngi observes one day only in the month of June,
d) Puakpat-Ngi, new crops harvesting festival observes three days in the month of September or October, and
e) Hega-Ngi, Year ending Festival observes three days, two days ahead before the Full Moon day of the last month of the year (December/January).

Other minor merry-making festivals which do not require prayer had been restrained to celebrate in the Heraka religion. Hega-Ngi is the biggest festival of the Heraka people. It is believed that those people who can get chances to celebrate this Hega-Ngi festival is considered to be the luckiest person. Tingwang M'pua Peibam Mai, offering of newly cultivated crops to Tingwang is performed on the first day of the festival and the second and third days are observed as Ngi Di Mai and Puapat Mai respectively. Parting ceremonial service to the departed souls of the preceding year is also observed in this festival.

Heraka is the indigenous religion of Zeliangrongs of North East. The pictures/photos of Haipou Jadonnang and Rani Gaidinliu are adorned by every Zeliangrong family. They are regarded as the living entity of Zeliangrong religion and culture. In the annual assembly of Japfu Phiki Kruna Keseko Kehon (An Organization of Angami Nagas), in Mima village, Neiphiu Rio said that "followers of indigenous faith are original Nagas and they should always uphold indigenous faith. He also urged upon Church leaders not to convert the followers of indigenous faith because if every Naga is converted to Christianity, the indigenous faith, culture, and identity of Naga society would be lost forever." (M. Chuba Ao 2006: 58)

References:

1. Arkotong Longkumar:2008, Where Do I Belong: Evolving Reform and Identity Amongst the Zeme Heraka of North Cachar Hills, Assam, India, PhD Thesis, Edinburgh, 2008
2. Evans-Pritchard, E.E 1977 Neur Religion: New York and Oxford
3. Gangmumei Kamei: 2004, The History of Zeliangrong Nagas from Makhel to Rani Gaidinlu, Delhi, Pp.262-263)
4. 2005, Tingkao Ragwang Chapriak: The Zeliangrong Primordial Religion, Imphal
5. 2009, Jadonnang: A Mystic Naga Rebel, Imphal (Reprinted)
6. N.C. Zeliang: 1980, The word of God, Dimapur, p.9
7. Pautanzan Newme: 2002 The Origin and Reformation of Heraka, Haflong
8. Ramkui Newme: 1991, Tingwang Hingde, Haflong, Pp.10-11
9. Ramkui Zeliang: Heraka: The Primordial religion in a workshop on Philosophy and Spirituality of Eternal/Primordial Religions and Culture of Janajatis of North East India held in Guwahati from 22nd to 24th Oct. 2010

Concluded..


* Budha Kamei wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on July 01, 2014.


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