TODAY -

Tokhu Emong: The Post Harvest Festival of Lotha Naga Community in Nagaland

Y. Mhonchumo Humtsoe *



Often known as “The Switzerland of the North East” Nagaland is a small mountainous terrain state gracefully ensconced in the far North-Eastern part of India. Nagaland is home to many different tribes and sub tribes with each tribes celebrating their festivals at different times throughout the year. Each tribes have slightly distinct traits and character from one another whether it be food habits, costume, customs, language and dressing sense.

Nagaland is also popularly known as a land of festival. There is a plethora of festivals being celebrated in Nagaland. And of all the important festivals in Nagaland, Tokhu Emong festival is the premier festival celebrated by the Lotha Naga tribe. Tokhu Emong festival is a post-harvest festival celebrated with much pomp and gaiety.

With the harvest gets over and the granaries are full, the people of all sorts are now huddled together taking rest from the toils and sweat and settle down to relish the fruits of hard labour. In those days, it is celebrated for over 9 consecutive days. However, with the change of time and the necessity to have a uniformity among the community, the Lotha elders decided to fixed a date and they fixed it on November 7.

Henceforth, Tokhu Emong festival is celebrated every year on November 7. On this auspicious occasion the whole community takes part in the celebration. During this time, every household prepared food and drinks for a grant feast. Near and dear ones, neighbours, families are invited to have a feast together during this time. The celebration is followed by traditional songs, dances, feast, fun and frolic.

During the festival, men, women, children are clad with their beautiful traditional attires. Nicely prepared sticky rice with pieces of meat is exchanged with neighbours and close relative during the festival. In olden days, the number of cooked pieces of meat given to neighbours, relative or friends will denote the amount of depth of the friendship.

For instance, if one man offers 12 pieces of meat to his friend, it shows that he treasures his friendship, if it is reciprocated, and he is also offered 12 pieces of meat, it means that the friendship is valued from both sides. The Priest (Pvuti) usually initiates the commencement of the festival after following several rituals.

However, before the start of the festival, if any unknown person came to the village, that person have to either leave the village before the sunset or to stay in the village until the festival is over. However, he received the warm hospitality of the village.

This festival also provides as an occasion to offer requiem for the departed souls. This is also the opportune time for the prospect boys and girls to be betrothed during the year and happily wedlock after the festival. During this festival, the villagers will decorate their village gate, cleaning the village water wells and beautify their homes.

Tokhu Emong festival is also the time of thanks giving and also the time of reconciliation. During this festival the past hatred and animosity are forgiven and forgotten and new friendship ties of closer bonds are once again reconciled in good faith.

Tokhu Emong aslo signifies ending of all bitterness and strengthening the familial and social bonding. It is also a celebration of unity and gratitude. During the celebration time, the village elders performed wild cries and yodel to express their euphoria after the harvest is being done.

For the Lotha Naga community, of all the festivals, the agricultural festivals are considered the most important. These festivals are primarily celebrated to propitiate God for bountiful harvest. There are two main festivals celebrated by the Lotha Naga tribe namely the Pikhuchak Emong (this means the marking of the beginning of the year) and the Tokhu Emong (the marking of the end of the year).

As per the traditions of the fore-fathers, the Pihkuchak festival opens up the new year and closed the year with the festival of Tokhu Emong celebration.

In Lotha parlance “Tokhu” means feast (eating food, drinking and merrymaking) moving from house to house, collecting tokens and gifts in the form of natural resources and food. And the meaning of “Emong” is to put a halt for the appointed time. It literally means a day of celebration after a strenuous yearlong schedule of hard work. It is an annual festival which usually lasts for nine days.

During the celebration, pieces of meat is also distributed to the families and relatives where death had unfortunately happened during the year. This ritual is being done to set the dead soul free. During the festival time, everyone irrespective of gender, rich or poor come out bedecked in full traditional attire to participate in the celebration. Men folk join in singing and dancing while women folk too accompany the male folks.

Tokhu Emong marks a joyous occasion, where past events of antagonism are forgiven and forgotten, broken ties are reconciled, and close relationship are built once again as they celebrate the festival. When all the harvested products have brought home safely, the Priest (Pvuti) will perform a ceremony in front of their house to signify the end of the year and the ushering in of the New Year.

Thereafter, the young men gather in the premises of the bachelor’s dormitory and announce the commencement of New Year to the entire village. From this day onwards till the end of Tokhu Emong, no outsider is allowed to enter the village and no one is allowed to leave the village on any purpose.

Thus, Tokhu Emong celebration is marked by preparing sumptuous delicacies and inviting all near and dear ones, friends and relatives for grant feast, where all people enjoy to the extreme by dining, singing and dancing together.

In today’s time, there is also a trend of exchanging gifts of food and drinks as a token of love and friendship. It is a festival enjoy by the whole community praising God for His abundant blessings. The celebration of Tokhu Emong festival ascribes a candid exploration of the Lotha Naga culture and heritage.


* Y. Mhonchumo Humtsoe wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is doing Post Graduate Program, (International Relations) North East Christian University: Nagaland; Dimapur.
and can be contacted at ymhonchumo(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on November 07 2023.



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