Festivals are an essential part of the socio-cultural life of the people. The festivals having connection with agriculture and celebrated with ritualistic gaiety either to thank God for the providence or to pray for a bumper harvest. Animal sacrifice is a common ritual in most festivals.
Some of the important festivals are :-
- Solung of Adis
- Losar of Monpas & Sherdukpens
- Torgya of Monpas
- Dree of Apatanis
- Murung of Apatanis
- Mopin of Galos
- Chalo Loku of Noctes
- Si-donyi of Tagins
- Nyokum of Nyishis
- Reh of Idu Mishmis
- Sangken of Tai Khamti
Solung of AdisSolung is the most popular festival of the Adis of Arunachal Pradesh which is celebrated on September 1 every year. Though primarily an agro-based festival, it also reflects the socio-religious features of the people.
There are three main parts in the celebration of this festival. They are:
I. Sopi---Yekpi ( also called Limir-Libom), the first part and the sacrificial day; II.Binnyat, the second part, the ritual offering to goddess of crops, Kine Nane, and III.Ekop (also called Taktor), the ritual made for protection against harms by evil spirits by appeasing to Gumin-Soyin, the household guardian, and Doying Bote, god of wisdom and human welfare. Ardo-Bado is the sacrificial and inaugural day in Solung celebration. According to the Sopi-Yekpi Aabang (the lyrical rhapsody of Adi myth and belief of creation), Mithun or Eso is the first animal to appear in the world which Dadi Bote, god of domestic animals, nurtured and gifted to human beings.
Mithun, a valuable possession of the people, symbolizes prosperity of both individual and the society. It is also considered a holy animal by the people and, therefore, occupies an important religious significance. They pray to Dadi Bote for his kindness to them and appease him for bestowing good fortune to them and also for safety of all domestic animals.
Binnyat, the second part of Solung, is the ritual offering made by women-folk to goddess of crops, Kine Nane in fields for protection of crops against epidemics and bestowing of bumper harvest. Aabangs describe it is Kine Nane who gifted crop seeds to humans in the beginning and gave them the knowledge of performing of festivals. On this occasion people acknowledge their gratefulness to Kine Nane and solicit her for boons of family welfare and prosperity.
Binnyat, therefore, highlights peoples’ age-old attachment with cultivation and their aspirations for economic self-reliance.
Ekop or Taktor is the last phase of celebration during which the Miri, the singer leader, narrates the story of Nibo or Abotani who was the forefather of the Tanis. The story describes Nibo’s early struggle for existence and his endeavor to overcome the forces of evils, symbolized by Robo, his elder brother; moral and spiritual guidance of Doying Bote, the god of wisdom and human welfare and Gumin-Soyin, the guardian spirit, and finally Nibo’s establishment of family and social life in the beginning of life.
People offer rituals for protection against possible harms by evil spirits and pray to Doying Bote and Gumin-Soyin for bestowing peace and welfare and good fortune during this day.Main highlights of the festival are performing of religious Ponung dance performed by girls in evenings led by the Miri, the singer of Aabangs, who narrates the epic myth through his songs.
People perform various rituals and make offerings to gods and goddesses during the celebration. They also present gifts of meat and Apong (rice beer) to neighbours and relatives thus cementing family and social relationships.
Another feature of this festival is care and protection of animals which are vital components of their family and social life. Merry-making and feasting also form a part of this celebration.
In brief, Solung is a reflection of the community’s enduring cultural, socio-economic and spiritual values and aspirations which have a universal characteristic even in this modern age.
Losar of Monpas & SherdukpensLossar, the New Year festival of people of Mahayana Bhuddist of Geluk and Nyingma Sects of the great Himalayan belt comprising of Tibet, Sikkim, Bhutan, Ladakh, and West Kameng and Tawang and Menchuka area of West Siang districts of Arunachal Pradesh, is usually celebrated in the month of February or early March with much gaiety and religious fervour. Traditionally, a fertility festival, especially of farmers in pre-Buddhist era in which people offered incense sticks to appease the local deities, the festival, in due course of time, evolved into an annual Buddhist festival which is believed to have begun during the reign of Pude Gungyal, the ninth King of Tibet.
The celebration which sometimes runs into days and marked with rituals and prayers in Gonpas is the most elaborate of all socio-religious event of the people. Offerings and prayers are made to various deities, elders and family members. People wear new clothes and jewelry during the occasion. Traditional greetings are exchanged as feasting and merry-making are followed during the occasion.
Torgya of MonpasTorgya or Dung-gyur festival is one of the main festivals of the Monpa tribe of Arunachal Pradesh. Monpas celebrate Torgya in the monastery premises for three days from the 27th to 29th of the eleven month according to the lunar calendar for peace, good health and general wellbeing of the people.
The monks initiate the preparation of the festival by making a pyramidal structure of about ten feet height of flour, called Torgya, and place it before the images of deities in the main prayer hall. The Lamas recite religious texts, called “Torgya Chhaker” in full warrior outfit which is known as “Arpu.” A mass procession with the Torgya is carried out with chanting of slogans in the afternoon to a fire made outside the boundary wall of the monastery towards the southern gate. The Abbot accompanied by the senior Lamas of the monastery then throws the Torgya into the fire with a prayer to end all evil forces afflicting the people. They pray for happy and prosperous life and fulfillment of spiritual aspiration.
While conducting the rituals the Lamas dress themselves in specially designed costumes and wear colourful masks of animals and deities and dance to the tune of the music of drum and cymbals in the front of the monastery’s assembly hall. Appa Pat-Sum, the main folk dance of the occasion, is performed by dancers.
Torgya festival is called as Dungyur in every third year when it is celebrated in a grander scale. A year before commencement of Dungyur, a message is sent to the Dalai Lama by the abbot of the monastery seeking for his blessing and cooperation in the festival. After the receipt of the message, the Dalai Lama sends “Feb Jum”, a holy item, which is then mixed with barley and “Mane Ribu” pills to prepare “Dung.” A special prayer service known as “Chenrezi-Chikije” is also conducted with chanting of “Om Mane Feme Hung” mantra.
On the third day of the festival, the Abbot bestows his blessings with a holy water vase by touching heads of everyone. This is called “Wang” and the Mane Ribu and “Rhungma”, the protected thread is distributed to all. It is believed by people that the protected thread worn around the neck keeps people away from evil spirits and brings welfare, good health and longevity in their lives.
Dree of ApatanisDree is a fertility festival of the Apatanis held annually on July 5. The word ‘Dree’ is derived from ‘Diiri’, which means purchasing or borrowing of food items when in scarcity or add to the existing stock in anticipation of lean days. In other words Dree is named after Diiri Piilo, a month in Apatani calendar.
According to one traditional version, Anii Donii and Abo Liibo, Mother Sun and Father Moon, obtained paddy seeds from Murtu Yaring and sowed it. The yield was, however, poor so a priest called, Nyibu Kharii propitiated Harniyang Pubyang following which crop yields increased. Ever since, people celebrate this festival for good crops every year.
Another version says Abotani, the ancestor of mankind, obtained paddy seeds from god Herii. While hunting in jungle one day Abotani saw a bunch of paddy hanging on a branch of a Herii Tangu Sanii tree. Since it was too tall for him to reach, Abotani waited until winter for it to ripen and fall down. As expected, with the approach of winter the paddy bunch, ripened but fell into a river known as Hachi Hassang Ka Hado Siigang which flowed beside the tree thus becoming out of reach for Abotani.
The ancestor of mankind then searched the paddy seeds all around and finally obtained it from two fishermen called, Dirri Aki Diiro Aro and Nalyang Tamho Garo Taku, who had caught it in their fishing trap. Having obtained the paddy seeds, Abotani began growing them in field with his wife Ayo Diiyang Diibu. They prospered and became happy. However, this fortune came to an end when he married Tiini Rungya after divorcing Ayo Diilyang Diibu. The crop yield dwindled quickly while Ayo Diilyang Diibu’s prospered.
After a year the year paddy plants began dying, culminating in a famine. When the situation worsened in the second year, Abo Tani consulted Abo Liibo and Anii Donii who advised him to perform rituals like Chandii, Metii, and Dree by propitiating various gods and goddesses. He appeased Tamu god for destruction of pests, and Yapung, the rain god for protecting them from hailstorm.
Ever since, Apatains celebrate Dree evry year during Dree Piilo, June –July, for goods crops and family and social welfare.
Before 1967 when Dree was given a modern outlook by the educated sections of the society led by Lod Kojee, the festival was observed on a suitable date in villages. A priest inaugurated the festival and then people took out a procession from Lapang, a community platform, with chanting of hymns to appease spirits. Taboos followed performance of various rituals such as Tamu, Metii, and Danyi. During taboos they conduct social discussions, games and sports and entertainments.
Main highlights of present day Dree celebration are inauguration of the festival by a chief guest, hoisting of Dree flag, rituals and presentation of cultural activities. Cucumber, symbolizing sacredness of vegetables, is distributed to guests and participants. Games and sports, community feast, and entertainment also form a part of the celebration
Murung of ApatanisMurung is a socio-religious festival of the Apatani community which is observed by a family when it is affected by some misfortune. Traditionally it is performed by a family under following circumstances:
When a couple remains childless for years; A member of the family is mentally and physically challenged; Domestic animals remain deformed; Insects or reptiles enter house or granary; Mushroom grows in the hearth; Sickness of a member persists despite treatment; Members dream of banana growing in house or dreams of granary.
Called Pahin Konin, egg-examination by a priest is the first step to performing of Muruing. It is followed by preparation of a special dish, known as Kaji, which is offered to the patient and relatives. If the patient recovers after it, Murung is performed; otherwise it is ignored.
By the onset of winter relatives and neighbours collect firewood. Puja materials including leaves and canes and bamboo are collected a few days before beginning of main event. Mithuns and cows are tethered at house yard.
The next step is selection of sacrificial animals after examination of chicken liver by the priest one day before the festival. It is followed by preparation of Subu-sa (cane rope) on the eve of the festival. Firewood stocked and dried in fields is shifted to the house. Soon after, rice beer prepared by clan-members is brought to Lapang is served to guests. During the day relatives and neighbours visit the family on the day. The priest chants narratives and prays for success of the festival. He also performs omen to decide persons to sacrifice animals in the festival.
Main events of Murung:
Early in the morning all animals are brought to Lapang where the priest chants prayer before sacrifice. Relatives attend the sacrificial ritual conducted at Lapang. Men decorate the animals with bamboo shaving materials and rice paste and rice beer. Assisted by a few helpers, chickens numbering same of mithuns are also sacrificed with chanting of narratives.
On the second day relatives and neighbours contribute rice, cash, meat, millet among other items while the hosts entertain them with meat and drinks.
Chalo Loku of NoctesTirap is an enchanting land blessed with many unexplored treasures. Historically the district is shrouded in myth and legend. It emanates an aura of vibrating cultural life of the tribal people and throbs with the lovely rhythm of their music, dances, customs and traditions.
In tune with their ethnic backgrounds and social binding, the Noctes celebrate a number of festivals at different periods of the year. Chalo Loku is by far the most colourful and popular festival. Like most of the tribal festivals, Chalo Loku is also an agricultural festival. The name derives from three words: Cha, which means paddy, Lo, which means season, and Loku, which means festival. So Chalo Loku means harvest festival.
It is celebrated in the month of October-November annually after the harvest of paddy and before the start of the new jhum cultivation. It is also an occasion to bid adieu to the old year and welcome the New Year with renewed hopes. The festival lasts for three days. The first day is called Phamlamja, the second day is Chamkatja and the third and final day is called Thanlangja. As the festival gets nearer, every minute detail is taken care of and supervised by the elders to ensure smooth and grand celebrations. In fact, lots of efforts are put in to keep everything ready for the festive occasion. It includes preparation of rice beer and traditional dresses and arrangement of buffalos and pigs, all sine qua non for a good celebration. Invitation to the dear and near ones and friends in the neighboring villages are sent well in advance.
On the day of Phamlamja, animals like buffaloes and pigs are killed for meat and the villagers engage themselves in hectic preparations for the next day. It is also a day for checking and rechecking the traditional costumes, which would be worn during the celebrations. In the past there were many rituals and ceremonies associated with Phamlamja. However, they have been modified or even given up with the passage of time.
The second day of Chamkatja, for reasons more than one, is the most important and a very hectic day of activities. The Noctes, since time immemorial, have been having a powerful institution called Paang or Morong, which is in every sense, the pulse of the village and also the highest seat of decision-making. To enable the male members of the family to become full-fledged members of the Paang it is mandatory that every household performs a ritual called Chamkat for every male member who has attained adolescence. This important ritual is observed on Chamkatja. It is only after performing Chamkat that any male member of the village is socially recognized and entitled to participate in all Paang activities and other community works pertaining to the village. But physically disabled and mentally unsound people do not normally perform this ritual for the simple reason that the moment a boy becomes a member of the Paang he is a responsible person having to perform, at times, important assignments of the Paang which a disabled or insane person cannot. Those families who solemnize Chamkat during the Chalo Loku arrange food and drinks for the villagers and friends and also observe a number of rituals related to the ceremony. The maternal uncle of the boy whose Chamkat is being observed has the most important role to play throughout the ceremony.
The Thanlangja, which is the final day of the festival, villagers, irrespective of age, sex or social status, take part in folk dances. Dances are performed at the Chief’s house and in the premises of the Paang. The families observing Chamkat also invite the dancers to dance at their houses and in return treat the participants with food, especially meat and drinks. Thanlangja is also a day for the people to visit their relatives and friends and exchange pleasantries. The guests invited for the festival are also warmly sent off on this day with gifts as a token of love and affection. However, today, many of these practices have been done away with for good or conveniently modified to suit the present-day ambience and needs. But the spirit of the celebrations, though rapidly on the wane, has somehow survived at least for now.
It is needless to mention that like all festivals Chalo Loku also fosters love, unity and brotherhood. It is an occasion to share happiness and joys with fellow-villagers, friends and relatives. During the Chalo Loku the Noctes invoke the blessings of the Almighty Rang and their Ancestors for good crops, health, happiness and well being of all human beings and animals. The festival also gives the much-needed break to the ever-busy Noctes from the daily toil and moil. The Chalo Loku can easily be described as a celebration of life itself. However, today, enthusiasm among the Noctes in celebrating their festivals has dwindled owing to various factors. But the Noctes must realize that it is only through their culture that they will be identified. So they must not leave any room for levity in protecting their traditional systems at any cost. Today, the youth in particular, have begun to realize the importance of the traditional costumes. In fact, preservation of these costumes with improved varieties, it necessary, can be a great asset for generations to come.
The Noctes are the proud inheritors of a rich culture. However, today the big question is: have they been able to preserve and propagate the rich culture so lovingly bestowed on them by their caring forefathers? The answer, I am afraid, is ‘no’. This has greatly been due to the influence of the so-called ‘modernization’. If the trend continues, the Noctes will then sink into oblivion without leaving any footprints on the sands of time.
We have heard of tribals vanishing from the face of the earth for failing to protect their identity. Let not the Noctes be one of those. Agreed, today they are living in a dynamic world and they cannot remain prisoners of dogmas. But to protect their identity they must make a conscious effort to safeguard their culture, which was so dear to their ancestors; otherwise history will not forgive them. One big way of preserving their culture is through meaningful celebration of significant festivals like the Chalo Loku.