TODAY -

Rani Gaidinliu and Heraka religion
- Part 2 -

Budha Kamei *

Rani Gaidinliu stamp
Rani Gaidinliu stamp :: Pix - TSE



After his journey to Bhuban cave, Jadonang constructed Rah Kai, House of God with the help of his followers as a place of worship and religious discourse. In the temple, there was a shrine and pulpits and aisles of bamboo. He built two different temples at Kambiron; such houses for religious purpose were not a feature of Zeliangrong culture except abodes of deities.

A large number of people came to the Rah Kai of Jadonang and worshipped Tingkao Ragwang through prayer-hymns, songs and dance. Jadonang erected his temple facing to the east. East is vital for two factors: it signifies the direction of Bhubon cave, as well as that of the sunrise. Jadonang advocated adoption of Tingwang as the only God (monotheistic cult), encouraging the abandonment of the minor, local gods. In other words, he has shown that sacrifice of animals was not the only way to worship of Tingwang.

The introduction of this new cult was a great landmark in the religious history of the Zeliangrong people. His new cult gave two important things: first, it was an answer to the silent religious aggression of the Christian religion and secondly, it made a basis for the solidarity of the people. In each temple, there were two bath rooms, one for male and other for female; the devotees had to purify by taking bath in these places before entering into the temple. (Kamei 2009; Yunuo 1982)

He also introduced new prayer-hymns, devotional songs and dances to be sung and performed during the worship of Tingkao Ragwang. (Mahadevan 1974) Rani Gaidinlu also with the initiation of her Guru built a Rah Kai in her village, Nungkao.

After having achieved the status of a successful man, a prophet in the society, Jadonang abolished the innumerable taboos and gennas(social evils) in the name of Tingwang with an iron hoe (a symbol of sanctity of God) in his hands as no longer taboo. (Dena 2008) Abolition of superstitious practices and liberalization of elaborate and expensive rites and rituals such as bride price and feasts had completely reduced the economic burden on the common people.

Here, it may be noted that the new cult of Jadonang did not have any kind of anti-Christian teachings. But, some writers and historians led by F. S. Downs condemned the Naga Raj movement of Haipou Jadonang and Rani Gaidinliu as an anti-Christian movement.(1971) It is a wrong criticism of Haipou Jadonang and Rani Gaidinliu.

Like her Guru, Rani Gaidinliu also constructed a Taraang Kai, the ceremonial house at her native village. She actively took part in the above act of reformation of the Zeliangrong religion, abolition of irrational taboos and gennas, organization of religious congregations, performance of dances and singing songs and hymns as performed by her Guru. She did come into contact with large number of people because her association with Haipou Jadonang mostly in religious reform movement.

Jadonang and Gaidinliu reached the apex of the religious and spiritual achievements in their last pilgrimage to Bhuban Hills in 1931. It was during their last pilgrimage, Tingwang through God Bisnu revealed a new cult to Haipou Jadonang and Rani Gaidinlu. Jadonang did not live to see its culmination, on his return journey Jadonang was arrested on 19th February, 1931 at Lakhipur by Assam police for declaring a Naga Raj at Kambiron. Jadonang was hanged on 29th August 1931 in Imphal on the wrong charge of murder. But, the new cult was organized by Rani Gaidinlu and it came to be known as Heraka, Pure religion. (Yunuo 1982)

Heraka means pure; Hera means smaller deities; Ka means fence, or give up. So, all prohibitions and sacrifices associated with the smaller gods must be avoided and only Tingwang must be worshipped. This is the meaning of Heraka. Here, the purity indicates no blood sacrifices and worship of Tingwang, so it is monotheism. In fact Heraka is not a departure from the traditional Zeliangrong people, but a rational improvement on it. Those who can obey the authentic principle of Heraka religion will be blessed good fortune in their life and also the immortal souls of good doers will go to God's kingdom(Heaven) is the main philosophy of Heraka religion. They use an earring as a symbol of Heraka believer.

The Zeliangrong people believe in the existence of one supreme God locally recognized as Tingwang who is the creator of the Sun, Moon, Stars, Earth, Water, Air, Human, Animals and all living things.( Ramkhui Newme 1991) Tingwang means the Heavenly God, or God of the sky or Lord of the Universe. He is eternal, no beginning and no end, source of life, giver of the soul and the ultimate goal of the human soul.

He is the architect of men's destiny, holy, source of holiness, source of knowledge and wisdom. He is not created. He creates out of nothing by His will. He just exists. He is benevolent, dispenser of welfare and prosperity to men. He is really omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. Thus, Heraka people believe in Him only.

Rani Gaidinliu gave the following instructions/teachings to her people in the course of her religious reform movement.

In her first phase of teaching, Rani Gaidinlu told her people to offer sacrifices only to Tingwang. In this phase blood sacrifice was allowed.

In the second phase, after fifteen years, she advised them while performing puja to cut with a dao if it was a big animal, and to use a piece of stick with smaller animals like fowl while holding the legs and let blood shed. At this stage, the sacrificial ceremony was a little bit reduced than the first phase.

The third phase teaching was introduced after a further ten years. She instructed her followers that one should perform puja with the animal tied its mouth stuffed with a rag and killed. But, a chicken must be killed with the hand, by twisting the neck, without oozing any blood. In this phase, the sacrifice of animals is further reduced.

After another five years the fourth and final phase was introduced. On the 11th of January 1990, at Kapelo village of North Cachar Hills, Assam, Rani Gaidinlu vigorously declared and confessed before the general public that we have fully done the requirement of sacrificial oblation in puja. Now, important sacrifices of animals in any puja are to be totally abolished.

And we are free to perform puja with a clean mind and body at any specific time and day. Rani Gaidinlu proclaimed to the people: While performing puja with a clean mind and body, recite the Holy psalms and sing the prayer songs; you would be blessed for sound health and to live a very happy life free from evils spirits. And if there is anything wrong with you, you may throw it upon me I can affirmably bear such things for your sake. (P. Newme 2002)

Thus, elimination of sacrifices brings about a strong sense of purity. This indicates simply singing the psalms and praying with an empty hand.

Here, it may be mentioned that the Pau Cin Hau movement in the Chin Hills (Mizoram and Myanmar) in the early 1900s did take a same approach of: due to economic hardship, it had adopted a new God who did not demand sacrifices. It is believed that Pau Cin Hau first met this God in a dream who told him that he was the one who made "Heaven and Earth, Men and Animals, the Sun, the Moon and the Stars and who has power to cure all sickness."

He does narrate why he put faith in this God: "I had faith in Him and in a moment was cured from my illness of fifteen years. During those years for the cure of that illness I had paid the sum of Rs. 400 in making sacrifices of various kinds of animals to the demons. The cure of God was complete and cost nothing." (Census of India 1931)

The negligence of sacrifices due to its costliness and the incompetent response of the evils did become the initial impetus of this movement in the Chin Hills. Pau Cin Hau does repeat the success of the movement. "One wholesome effect of my teaching is that where formerly many who had nothing went into debt to obtain sacrificial offerings and so could neither afford to buy food nor pay their taxes, my followers being free from such expenses are in much better circumstances." (Census of India 1931)

To be continued....


* Budha Kamei wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on December 19, 2015.


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