India is a land of such diversity and melange that each of its part has a unique style of celebrating life. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that for every day of the year there is a festival celebrated in some or the other part of our vast country. After all, life for Indians is nothing but a celebration!
Indian culture draws heavily from nature and each Indian festival has its own significance to celebrate. But amongst the myriad of festivals that are popular in India, there are so many those are yet to be discovered by the majority. One such lesser known festival is Chavang Kut!
Did you know that the 1st of November is celebrated as Chavang Kut festival in the North-East of India? Celebrated by the tribes of Kuki-Chin-Mizo group, it is a festival that is celebrated to mark the end of the harvesting season and also to thank deities for a good harvest.
Chavang Kut is yet another harvest festival in India that celebrates the bountiful nature and all the happiness that comes with it! The festival is named Chavang Kut as Chavang stands for ‘autumn’ and Kut mean ‘harvest’.
Patches of the pastoral setting gifted by the sub-Himalayan ranges in the Northeast India provide for a perfect ground for the traditional Kut celebrations. This festival is celebrated by the Kukis in Manipur, Chin in Myanmar (Burma), Mizo in Mizoram, and Kuki or Ralong in Tripura, etc.
Based on oral tradition, legends and stories, Kut celebrations has numerous possible origins that link the festival with crossing of the red sea by the Menashe tribe – one of the 12 lost tribes of Israel or to a possible biblical origin. However, mostly it is believed to follow the Indian tradition of honouring the nature’s cycle as it corresponds to seasons, harvests and nature worships.
Most of the stories follow a pattern which narrates how death was defeated by a good rainy season or how a good harvest saved the people from a harsh famine or lack of food. That is why it is sometimes called “The festival of weeping”.
Each story emphasises the Jhum cultivation pattern (shifting cultivation or slash and burn farming) followed by these people in the older times. This jhumland crops are usually harvested during the month of November. With all the grains gathered and store up, the villagers find a respite from their long tedious hard labour to enjoy this festival. Based on such folklores we can very well conclude the importance of nature in Indian way of life.
Typically, the celebrations of the Kut festival last a number of days revolving around many rituals culminating in the distribution of the ju (a type of rice beer) to the locals by the village priest. The celebration also includes dancing and singing along with sports competitions, beauty pageants and feasts.
There are different kinds of Kuts (harvest):
- Mim Kut (job’s ear or grain/cereal harvest)
- Pawl Kut (Guava harvest) and
- Chang Kut Chapchar Kut or Chapphou Kut (Paddy harvest).
The north-eastern states of India have numerous individual tribes; Such events not only highlight the vibrant colours of our country but also play an important role in strengthening bonds between different tribes. Kut for the people of Kuki-Chin-Mizo is more than a festival or ritual. It is a way of life reflecting the rich tradition, common identity which at the same time has relations with the socio-economic and political system of this ethnic group.
Sadly, today most of the North-eastern population has been converted to Christian faith. With this most of the traditional rites and rituals are lost and the celebrations have undergone significant changes. Modern Kut celebrations are considered to have less meaning and lost their traditional significance. However, the spirit and enthusiasm of Chavang Kut remains the same.
But constructive and conservative majors are the need of the hour. For if such traditions are lost, we risk a loss of our cultural identity! With modern times, such festivals have to become a symbol of unity among people.
Our identity is held securely by our traditions and festivals. These festivals also play a significant role in cultural conservation. It is only through festivals like this that we can preserve our unique and valued cultural traditions.
Here’s wishing for a better conservation of intangible heritage of India…
Have happy and joyous Chavang Kut!
Feature Image Courtesy: Official Logo of Chavang Kut 2017
Image and Info courtesy: e-pao.net
© 2019 Ashwini Nawathe, Kaleidoscope of My Life
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