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Assam Festival Manipur Meghalaya

Gaan Ngai festival celebrated by The Zeliangrong Community

The Zeliangrong community celebrates the Gaan Ngai festival. For the Kabui/Rongmei Naga tribe, Gaan-Ngai is the prime festival out of many festivals celebrated. It is mainly performed by the devotees and followers of Zeliangrong Indigenous religion of ‘Heraka’ and ‘Tingkao Ragwang Chap-Riak’ cults.

THE COMMUNITIES CELEBRATING GAAN-NGAI

The Zeliangrong community primarily inhabit the northeastern Indian states of Manipur, Assam, and Nagaland.

ALTERNATIVE NAME

The Gaan Ngai festival is also known as Chakaan Gaan-Ngai among the Zeliangrong Nagas.

THE FESTIVAL

Gaan-Ngai Festival

Gaan-Ngai is a post harvest festival. It is held annually.

  1. To mark the end of harvest season.
  2. To organize sports and games for the youth of the village in stone throwing, long-jump, race on the opening day of the festival with Hoi procession through the village.
  3. To mark the heralding of the new year and new fire is produced by rubbing of dry wood and split bamboos pieces. and the new fire is distributed to every household.
  4. To perform commemorative dances for those who are declared queen and kings of the Phaak (a kind of grass) after a trekking competition in a nearby hill or mountain peaks (long—Luimei).
  5. To worship Tingkao Ragwang, the Almighty God as a thanks-giving for the good harvest and prayer for a successful and long life in the coming year.
  6. To the girls who are going to be married.
  7. To those members of the dormitory who died in the previous year.
  8. To those members of the male dormitory of the rank of Khangbon who are given farewell.
  9. To organize a feast of the womenfolk and other ranked institutions.
  10. To organise singing competition of folk songs between boys and girls at girls’ dormitory.
  11. To perform the sacrifice and worship for the deities of the village.
  12. To perform the art of Drum Beating to different types.
  13. To perform rituals and rites such as Raren Loumei i.e. the worship of all the Gods on the last day.
  14. To teach the boys and girls how to maintain strict discipline in the society by the elders.

THE ZELIANGRONGS

The socio-cultural agricultural fest of Chakaan Gaan-Ngai is the principal annual event among the followers of the indigenous Rongmei community.

It is celebrated in the Rongmei lunar calendar of ‘Gaan-Bu’. According to the Gregorian calendar, Gaan-Ngai falls in November-December.

On the other hand in Manipur, Gaan-Ngai is celebrated on the 13th day of ‘Wakching’ (according to the Meetei Manipuri Calendar)

The writer — Nilutpal Gogoi is an entrepreneur, senior journalist, writer, translator (from Assamese to English & vice versa), avid traveller, British English Accent & grammar trainer, educationist, and martial arts (Taekwondo) practitioner.

Categories
Assam Festival Meghalaya

Rongker Festival of the Karbis of Meghalaya and Assam

Rongker Festival is observed by the Karbis of Meghalaya and Assam in India.

TIME:

Rongker is an annual winter time festival.

ETYMOLOGY:

‘Rongker’ is also known as ‘Dehal’ in Ri-Bhoi District of Meghalaya and Kamrup Metropolitan District (‘Dumra Longri’ in Karbi language) in Assam.

PURPOSE:

rongker festival deities Prayer

  • Rongker Festival is celebrated to appease the local deities.
  • This festival of merriment is celebrated for three prime purposes.
  • It is observed to seek blessings from the local deities for a bountiful harvest of crops, rid the villagers of all omen and evil happenings, as well as for welfare of the villagers.

DURATION

The Rongker celebration is held for three days.

THE SITE SETUP

The set-up of the Rongker prayer site is prepared with utmost respect and attention to details.

THE TEN EARTHEN ALTARS

At the Rongker prayer site, the Karbis set up ten earthen altars.
Each of these 10 earthen shrines is dedicated to the 10 of the 12 deities of the Karbis.

DIRECTION OF THE TEN EARTHEN ALTARS

These 10 earthen altars are installed on the eastern side of the site where Rongker is to be observed.

CONSTRUCTION OF THE ALTARS

The altars of Rongker are constructed in a row. They are placed heading the south-north direction. The 10 earthen altars are christened after the deities.

SHAPE OF THE ALTARS

The 10 earthen altars are shaped in such a way so that the respective deities are able to rest comfortably there.

WHY ONLY 10 EARTHEN ALTARS

There is a reason as to why only 10 earthen altars are constructed whereas in the Karbi pantheon of deities there are 12 deities.

This reason is that the Karbis deem the two deities – Hemphu, and Rasinja – as siblings (brother and sister).

On the other hand, the deity – Mukrang – is the husband of Rasinja. Therefore, the sibling deities Hemphu, and Rasinja as well as the deity Mukrang share a common shrine.

THE GOURD & RICE BEER

Rongker Festival Rice Beer

For observing Rongker Festival, the Karbi priests choose 10 gourds with tapering mouths. The 10 gourds are filled with the first-made rice beer. Then the rice beer- filled gourds are placed on the Rongker altars. Each rice beer-filled gourd is offered in the name of the respective gods.

VARIOUS ITEMS USED DURING RONGKER

Mentionably, nothing else except the gourd (full of rice beer), is placed on the altars.

EXCEPTIONS:

However, branches and leaves of particular plants and a tree are utilised while constructing the altars of Rongker deities.

For instance, bamboo are placed on the altar of Ningding Sarpo. Similarly, the Karbi priests erect a few bamboo sticks and also place some branches of Basil on the altar dedicated to the deity, Murti.

On the altar of Arlok, the Karbi priests place a branch of Fongrong (a locally available tree who’s branches are deemed holy).

THE RONGKER RITUALS:

The Karbi priests observe various rituals while observing the Rongker celebrations in the four parts of ‘Sadi’, ‘Karkli’, ‘Kurusar, and Rongphu-Rongling-Kangthin.

SADI

In the ‘Sadi’ process, the Karbi priests invoke all the 12 deities.

KARKLI

While performing the ‘Karkli’ process of Ronger celebrations, the Karbi priests worship the Karbi deities in two methods.

These two worshiping methods are known as ‘Kibo-kaba’ and ‘Koi-abida’.

In the first worshipping manner of ‘Kibo-kaba’ while performing ‘Karkli during the Rongker celebrations, the Karbi priests offer meal to the Karbi deities. On the other hand, while performing the ‘Karkli manner of worshipping during the Rongker celebrations, the Karbi priests offer areca nuts and betel-leaves to the deities.

Mentionably, the entire man folk of a Karbi village participate during these ‘Karkli’ celebration during Rongker.

It is the duty of all males of each Karbi hamlet to bring all the required items to the site where the Rongker generations are to be held.

The male folk of the Karbi villages gather at the predetermined site of Rongker festivities in the morning. Then, each of them deposit the articles with the appointed person at the Rongker site.

KURUSAR

The ‘Kurusar’ is the main priest of the Karbis.

Hence during the Rongker festivities, the principal task is performed by the main Karbi priest.

Of course, the ‘Kurusar is assisted by a number of other specialists adept in the Karbi religious rite and rituals.

THE RONGKER SPECIALISTS:

During the Rongker festivities, the ‘Kurusar’ plays a very prominent role.

Besides the ‘Kurusar’, the other specialists of Karbi religion are the Gaon Burah (village headman), the group known as ‘Thek-kere’ (elderly villagers who are versed in the processes of worshipping the Karbi deities), the youth leader, and an official of the Karbi Kingdom.

THE PURIFICATION PROCESS:

Notably, it is not necessary that one must take bath before performing the Rongker rituals.

However, each person must be purified. This is done in a special manner.

The purification process involves sprinkling of water with basil leaves – deemed sacred.

THE KARBIS:

The Karbis are a patrilineal society. They are composed of five major clans or Kur. They are Engti (Lijang), Terang (Hanjang), Enghee (Ejang), Teron (Kronjang), and Timung. The five clans have a number of sub-clans.

SACRIFICES DONE DURING RONGKER:

During the Rongker celebrations, the Karbi community offers sacrifices to their deities.

THE SACRIFICES:

The Karbis offer sacrifices on each of the three nights of Rongker. These are elaborated.

BAMUN

The Karbi deity, Bamun, is vegetarian. Hence, no sacrifice is offered to Bamun during Rongker.
Except Bamun, sacrifices are offered to all the other deities during the Rongker celebrations.

POST-SACRIFICE RITUALS:

After the sacrifices are offered to the deities during Rongker, the religious specialists (thek-kere) predicts the future of the villagers.

They do this by looking at the intestines and hearts of the animals that were sacrificed.
Once the Rongker rituals are over, the villagers have a feast.

THE SECOND NIGHT OF RONGKER:

On the second night of Rongker, a ritual known as ‘Ajo-Rongker’ or ‘Rongphu-Rongling-Kangthin’ is performed.
Dancing takes place to chase the evil spirits for all sides of the village. Then, an altar is constructed. It is made at the last portion of the village road.

Finally, they sacrifice a chicken at the altar. This sacrifice is made in the name of ‘Ajo-Angtarpi’.

THE THIRD NIGHT OF RONGKER:

Rongker Festival of Karbis

On the concluding and third night of Rongker Festival, the Karbis sacrifice a cock to the tiger deity – ‘Arnam-teke’.
This is performed on an altar that was constructed earlier beside a ghat.
The sacrifice is made seeking protection from the deity against tigers that may attack the village.

The writer — Nilutpal Gogoi is an entrepreneur, senior journalist, writer, translator (from Assamese to English & vice versa), avid traveller, British English Accent & grammar trainer, educationist, and martial arts (Taekwondo) practitioner.

Categories
Assam Festival Meghalaya

Wanshuwa (Wanshuwa Kham) Festival of The Tiwas community

Wanshuwa is a folk festival of the indigenous Tiwa community of Assam and Meghalaya. They primarily dwell in the two hamlets of Marjong and Amkha in Karbi Anglong District of Assam.

Alternative Name

This festival is also known as Wanshuwa Kham.

Duration

This important socio-religious event is organised after every five years.

Primarily, Wanshuwa commences on a Tuesday and concludes on a Thursday. This festival is organised between June and August.

The Festival

The function of Wanshuwa is performed in the Shangdoloi’s (village bachelor dormitory chief) residence. It is scheduled on Wednesday.

Wanshuwa: The Rituals

The Wanshuwa function follows an elaborate ritual.

Venue

The socio-agricultural rites are performed in the official house of the Shangdoloi – the chief of the boys’ dormitory (meant for only the bachelors) in each village.

Procedures

  • First, the wooden mortars (sham) are prepared.
  • Next, these are buried partially on the ground.
  • Then, the Shangdoloi’s members start pounding the wet rice using the mortar.
  • The pestle made of wood is called ‘lomphor’.
  • The process continues till the were rice is grounded. During this time, they also dance to the rhythmic tunes of the Tiwa musical instruments – khram, thurang and pangsi.
  • Once they complete the Wanshuwa dance, the rice flour sprinkling ceremony starts.

Festival of The Tiwas

Process

When the dance is completed, they mix the flour (prepared after the wet rice is grounded) with a small amount of water.

A portion if the rice flour is mixed with water. Then, the sacred concoction (wankuri) is sprinkled on the gathering.

The remaining portion of the flour is distributed among villagers who prepare steamed rice cake – wanrusa – during the night.

Rice Flour (Wankuri) Sprinkling Ceremony

The following morning they bring the wanrusas to the Shangdoloi’s house. These rice pan cakes are offered to their deities – Maldewa Raja and Sodonga Raja.

The Wanshuwa festival of the Tiwas conclude by late Tuesday evening.

Categories
Assam Festival Meghalaya

Sogra Festival celebrated by Tiwa community of Assam and Meghalaya

The Tiwa community of Assam and Meghalaya (two of the eight northeastern) states of India celebrate the Sogra festival.

Significance of Sogra Festival

This festival marks the commencement of the season of cultivation.

Time of Sogra

The annually celebrated Sogra festival is held in March and April. Generally, the festival starts on a Wednesday and it continues till the next Monday.

The festival continues for several hours during the night.

What Happens

During these six days of the Sogra Spring festival, the youth involve in a number of activities linked with the festival.

Sogra Festival Dance

Where Sogra Celebrated

The socio-religious cultural spirit of this festival is observed in the four Tiwa (also known as Lalung) root villages of Amkha, Amsai, Amri, Marjong and Lumphui.

These four hamlets are situated in the West Karbi Angling District of Assam and Ri Bhoi District of Meghalaya In India.

The Procedure

The recitation ritual if the folk agricultural Sogra festival is done by the village priest called ‘Loro’. This rite is known as ‘Mindai lekhewa’.

Rituals

During this annual folk festival, the village priest or Loro, performs a ritual called Mindai lekhewa. While performing this ritual, the Loro repeatedly recites the names of their pantheon of deities. The Loro also recounts the events that had happened in the past.

The ceremony of recitation takes place at the home of the Loro in the middle of the night. The ritual of ‘Mindai lekhewa’ is performed in presence of village elders (Pisai) and the youth group (Panthai Khel).