TODAY -

Kairao Kalumei : Ancestor worship of the Zeliangrong
- Part 3 -

Budha Kamei *

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



Wealthy men make offerings each year, for they have great things to expect. The hunters also do this annually for success in the chase.

Thus, the attitude of the livings towards the ancestors is involved with love, respect and fear. They worship the spirits of ancestors for getting helps i.e. for prosperity, begetting child, for getting fortune, to avert misfortune and crisis of the family.

Rites and rituals are the important ingredients of every religion. It is believed that ritual is the means by which a person negotiates a responsible relationship within the community and with the ancestors. Like in many other religions of the world, the cult of ancestor is also associated with elaborate rites and rituals. Among the Zeliangrongs, the rites and rituals are carried out by a priest called Mhu on behalf of the family or the lineage. The main offerings to the ancestors are consisted of sacrificial food, drink, vegetable, egg etc. on a fixed day.

The Zeliangrongs honour the ancestors in the festive occasions and also in the life cycle ceremonies, viz. birth, puberty, marriage and death by offering holy wine. It is believed that the libation of wine is an imitation of, and a surrogate for, the primitive blood-offering. They are also worshipped in time of crisis of the family or lineage by offering sacrifice for wellbeing and prosperity but such kind of ritual worship is seldom performed.

Kairao Thou Shumei: Kairao Thou Shumei means ritual worship of the ancestors; (Kairao means ancestors and Thou Shumei, ritual worship). It is believed that when the livings neglect/dishonour their living dead for a long time, the ancestors may be displeased with the living descendents and as a consequence, they may communicate their discontent to the family concerned in the form of abnormal birth of domestic animals and unnatural regular crops failure etc.

Seeing the dreadful omens, the family or lineage may consult the dream diviner locally known as Mangtatmai to learn the exact cause of the portents. Mangtatmei will then convey the heavenly massage to the family that the ancestors are annoyed towards their living descendants. He may suggest the ritual worship as its remedy to appease the ancestors. Therefore, the family or lineage performs the ritual worship.

It is a worship of penance, repentance and apology towards the ancestors. It is believed that the ancestors may be for a time displeased and angry with their people, but such displeasure may be dispelled when proper respect, reverence and worship are manifest. In the ritual worship a person who is not a member of the family or the lineage is strictly prohibited because the rites have reference only to the ancestors of the particular group and the offerings are regarded as the sharing of the dead ancestors of the group and the living descendants.

In Zeliangrong society, there is a dream-diviner who may be either sex. The diviner is a person who has many dreams, and is liable to work himself into more or less of a trance, when he is purported to commune with the deities and with the departed spirits and to see things not revealed to ordinarily mortals. In any crisis of man, he is consulted to find out the exact cause of it and its remedy.

For the Keirao Thou Shumei, the family will make a formal request to all the elders of village who are at the rank of Banja and Ganchang to participate at the omen taking ceremony of the worship because it is very important as it indicates the future of the family or the lineage. Formal invitation is made a day ahead of the worship. The logic of this invitation is that the elders are to stay away from their wives so that they are able to attend the ritual worship with physical and morally purity. It is generally performed in the afternoon of the day of Tuesday because it is supposed to be the most auspicious day of Kairao Thou Shumei.

Kairao Thou Shumei ritual has its own systematic procedure. The following are the important ritual actions of the worship.

To begin with, a pig is killed by a youth saying: Meikai Kairao Khang, meaning for his (name of the head of the family or the lineage to be cited here) ancestors. Regarding the mode of sacrifice, the Zeliangrong kills the animal by single stroke so that the animal gets little pain. It is said that sacrifice is an act of communion, in which the god and his worshippers unite by partaking together of the flesh and blood of a sacred victim. It is followed by libation of holy wine to the ancestors.

After death of the victim, the spleen is removed by an elder and placed on the plantain leaf which is on a Pantanglu, winnowing fan. It is observed carefully by the Mhu along with the elders of village. This is called Guak Pai Jaomei; (Guak means pig, Pai means spleen and Jaomei, to observe). After observing the omen, the Mhu will inform to the head of the family or lineage about the future that might follow in the days to come. The prophecy is read as: if there is blemish on the spleen, it is assumed as bad and there is nothing on it, it is estimated well. The Mhu may suggest to perform a ritual worship of Tingkao Ragwang locally known as Ragwang Jaang Lamei as precaution if the sign is bad. Accordingly the family will observe the ritual worship and also will take up any other precautions to avert the bad luck that is predicted.

After the Guak Pai Jaomei ceremony is over, they roast the pig and remove all the important parts of the victim such as a portion of the mouth, two pieces of ears, four pieces of each of the four feet, a portion of the tail, a piece of the heart, the lungs, the liver, the intestine, the stomach, a piece of the flesh from the side of the backbone both from outside and inside, a piece of the skin with flesh from the abdomen etc. This is locally called Sharam Lamei. They will cook them separately for ritual offering to the ancestors. The rest of the victim is cut into pieces and cooked for all the participants.

To be continued..


* Budha Kamei wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on December 12, 2013.



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