The Constituents of a society and the processes within it maintain the equilibrium of the Social system. ” Religion” is such a part of the Society which inifies the systems of the Society which unifies the systems of the Society about its moral values. Rites and ceremonies are two essential components of the institution called “Religion. These, in one form or other, are met with in every culture. All the festivities are the product of religious motives and human activities. These bring happiness to the life of the people by associating it with merry-making. This particular item of culture symbolises the basic social values,norms and views of the community.
Though the Karbis do not like themselves to be called as MIkirs even today the term Mikir is used to a great extend. According to Dr. D.N. Majumdar. ” The Karbis are a combination of four smaller groups each of which is ideally endogamous. These groups are : Chingthong, Ronghang, Amri and Dumrali. The Karbis family is essentially nuclear, though a son or daughter may provisionally stay with the parental family for sometimes after marriage. They have a number of patrilineal clans and the society as a whole has a distinct patrilineal bias as already discussed in the topic social structure. They traditional Karbi religion had a belief in a supreme deity, Barithe. At present time some Karbis claim themselves to be Hindu, some have been converted to Christianity and very few adhere to the traditional religion.
The Karbis perform various rites and rituals throughout the whole year in order to appease different deities and spirits. Every step of traditional life is marked by some kind of ritual with religious or magical significance.
Karbi ceremonies can be divided into three levels viz. Individual, Village and Regional. Sacrifice of birds and animals and the use of rice beer are indispensable part of every religious rite.
The Rongker is the annual festival of the Karbis which is observed once in a year by each individual village. There is no specific times for the observance of the festival. Different villages may observe this festival at diffferent time. This observance of the festival depends entirely on the convenience of the villagers concerned. In order to meet the expenses of the rituals, conected with the festival, the whole village contributes in cash and kinds. Sometimes subscription and donation are also collected from the neighbouring villages. It is better to mention that the worship of different deiteis, during the Rongker may vary according to the locality. Here I shall describe the performance of the Ronker with reference to the Village in Ronghang area.
The Rongker is observed in order to appease the local deities, associated with the welfare of the village, and also to get rid of all eveil happenings. The festival lasts for three days. The main part of the festival is performed in an open field, where a thatched roof is collectively constructed by the villages to provide sitting accommodation for the participants. The whole festival can be divided into four major parts, viz
1) Sadi====The Process of inviting the deities.
2)Karkli==== Worship of the deities. This part can again be subdivided into two parts..
- Kibo-Kaba===offering of meals to the deities.
- Koia-abida===Offering of areca-nut and betel leaves to the deities.
3) Rongphu-Rongling-Kangthin====Drivingout of evil spirits, from the lower to the upper part of the village by way of dancing, and
4) Langhe Rongker===Concluding part of Rongker performed near a bathing “ghat” to prevent attact by tigers.
All together 12 deities are worshiped for the Rongker festival.
1) Longri sarpo : The is the presiding deity for the Festival Rongker. The deity is the Local god where the village , which is conducting the festival falls. This deity is responsible for the welfare of the the Longri ( meaning Kingdom or jurisdiction).
2)Hemphoo : The supreme household god of the Karbis , believed by some of the scholar to be ” Vishnu of hindu mythology ”
3) Mukrang : He is also a households god, His position is next to Hemphoo believed by some scholar to be “ Mahadeva of hindu mythology” .
4) Rosingja : A domestic goddess of the Karbis, She enjoys a position next to Hemphoo Mukrang in the hierarchy.
5) Bamun : A local deity believed to be vegetarian.
6) Ningding Sarpo : The god of Patience.
7) Rit-Anglong : The deity in-charge of agriculture.
8 ) Than : Another local deity who lives in the jungle. It is believed that this deity can protect the crops and people from wild animals ans insects etc.
9) Murti: A headless malevolent spirit who lives in a hole under the earth.
10) Arlock : The deity who lives in a land that stands between two hills.
11) Kuthepi: The deity who looks over kuthepi territory
12) Theng : It is another deity who lives in the jungle and can cure some deases like flue, body ache, head ache, tooth-ache and other physical pains.
The male folk of the village are gathered at the site in the morning with all necessary items required for the Karkli. 10 ( tens) earthen duwans (alters) are made on the eastern side of the site. The shape of the laters are semi-lunar except the later of the Murti , which is a pedestal shaped one.It has already been mentioned that the Murti is a headless spirit. So, the shape of the alter for the spirit is made in such a manner, so that he can rest there with comfort. It is to be mentioned here that Hempho, Mukran and Rasingja , are regarded as brothers and sister and they share a common alter. so only 10 duwans are made though 12 deities are worshipped. the duwans are constructed in a row heading south-north direction. The duwans are made in accordance with the names of the deities listed earlier except for the second duwans , which is shared by Hemphoo, Mukrang and Rasingja. A horbong (gourd with tapering mouth, for holding wine) filled with horso( first made wine offered to the deity) isplaced on the alters in the name of the respective deity. On the duwan of Ningding Sarpo two small branches of bamboo are erected. On the duwan of murti a few branches of Basil (Ocimum sanctum) and a few bamboo sticks are erected. Similarly a branch of Fongrong (a kind of tree used for worshipping god) is placed on the altar of Arlock . Nothing is placed on the duwans of the other deities except the horbong .
Though the entire male folk of the village take part in the Karkli, the main tasks of it are performed by the Kurusar (the main priest), who is assisted by the Deuri, The Barwa, The Thek-kere (all religions specialists) , the Burtaman ( an official of the Karbi Kingdom) the Rong-A-sarthe (Village headman) , the Riso Basa ( youth leader of the village) and a few elderly villagers who are well versed with the system of worshipping the deiteis. It isnot cumpulsory for the participants to take bath before performing the Karkli buth they must purify themselves by sprinkling water with the leaves of the sacred basil (Tulasi, Ocimum Sanctum).
All the sacrifices needed of animals and birds are made in the name of all the deities except for the deity Bamun, who is believed to be vegeterian. Then feast is orgainised at the end of the rituals.Thekere predicts the future of the village by looking at the heart and intestine of the sacrificed animals.
The third part of the Rongker is called Rongphu-Ronglin-Kangthin which means driving out of evil spirits from the lower half of the village to the upper half. It is also called Ajo-Rongker, It is performed at the night of the second day. A duwan is made at the end of the village road and a chicken is sacrificed in the name of Ajo-Angtarpi.
The forth and the concluding part of the Rongker is called Langhe Rongker. It is observed at the third day of the festival.A duwan is made in the bank and a cock is sacrificed in the name of Arnam-teke ( The tiger god).
Taboos observed during the festivals:
1) Husking is prohibited during the performance of the Rongker in the Village.
2)Participation of the female folk in any part of the Rongker is strictly prohibited.
3)No one is alowed to go to ‘Aar’ (Jhum Cultivation) or any agriculture activities.
4) No villager is allowed to leave the village during the performance of the Rongker.
This article was taken from the bulletin of Tribal Research Institute, Guwahati. 1982