Festivals Of Karbis
Festivals of the Karbis
Among the festivals observed by the Karbis, mention may be made of the “Chojun”, “Rongker”, “Sok-keroi”, “Hacha-Kekan” , “Dehal Kachirdom or Dehal Rongker” and “Chomangkan” etc. While the former four festivals are socio-religious in nature, the letter is a social one.
The spot for “Chojun” is when “ancestors” are propitiated is generally selected near the house of the family which wishes to perform the ritual. The deities in this festival are Barithe, Sar Arnam, Arni and the Hi:i and other smaller deities. Hemphu, the greatest God of the Karbis is also propitiated. The ritual is performed for the welfare of the family.
Rongker is performed at the beginning of the new year by propitiating the different deities for the well being of the entire village. The deities are worshipped by all the elderly male people of the village so that with their blessings the people of the village could be free from diseases, natural calamities during the year and the families could have a good harvest. The women are not allowed to enter into the worship arena.
There is an another kind of Rongker performed in a greater scale. This type of Rongker which is performed at the beginning of every 5 years is called ‘Wofong Rongker’. This Wofong Rongker is performed for the well-being of all the people of the villages that fall within a larger jurisdiction. Each village is represented by the village headman and a number of village elders (males only) in the performance of the Wofong Rongker. While the Rongker performed for a village is only of one day’s duration, the Wofong Rongker continues for two days.
Sok-keroi festival is observed at the end of every harvesting season. The ripened paddy is cut and taken to a place specially cleared in the field. Then the paddy is husked on the floor and the paddy is collected. A large number of young men go and collect paddy in bags and bring them home. There starts a great rejoicing and the young ones dance to their hearts’ content. Sok-keroi means ‘carrying of the paddy’ from the field. In the festival, one person is selected as the leader who provides the leadership in dancing and singing. He is called ‘LUNSÉPO”. He is the director of singing and dancing.
The Hacha-Kekan is not exactly based on the folk-tales.Hacha-Kekan festival is associated with post harvest rejoicings. There is no fear element in it and there is no need to propitiate any god. Hence it is to be assumed that the Hacha-Kekan is secular in its activities and differs substantially from another festival – RONGKER. Because, the latter needs the propitiation of god.
Although, the Karbis perform the funeral ceremony at the time of the cremation of the deceased, they also perform the death ceremony called “Chomangkan” at a later date for the eternal peace of the deceased. It is the most elaborate and expensive socio-religious ceremony of the Karbis, which continues for four days and four nights non-stop.The ceremony does not require any formal invitation and all are welcome to it. In spite of the sad undertone, it is an important occasion for the family to welcome all with great warmth. They come in batches and everyone carries a symbolical and ceremonial totem with 5 (five) branches. At the top of main totem, there is a wooden “Vo-jaru” (racket-tailed drongo). The totem is called “Jambili Athon”. This is the symbolical representation of the tribe and it is also the symbol of clan unity.
Photo Above:-Jambili Athon
The Jambili is a very interesting phenomenon. The tribe has five Kurs or clans and the Jambili has five branches. Under the cover of it, the Karbis listen the story of their origin. It is called “Muchera Kehir”.
|RONGKER & CHOMANGKAN|
|Blue and lusty green hills, covered with mist, the giggling springs, fragrance of wild flowers, and the call of the cuckoos have made Karbi Anglong the peaceful abode of the Karbis, the Mongoloid group who migrated to this land several hundred years BC. Karbis are very peace loving people.|
|On the other hand, Chomangkan is a festival, dedicated to the dead. It is primarily a death ceremony. It depends upon the convenience of the locality. This festival is a must for every Karbi. It is a non-stop four days rituals
Amongst The Plains Karbis there are basically three main social festivals:
It is celebrated in the months of March-April. It is a festival of thanks giving to the almighty Hemphu, the traditional god head of the Karbi Household. Each member of the social setup of the village is known as MEKAR, which might be the origin of the word MIKIR as the tribes were known till very recently and in fact still do in some of the official documents. However this is just a hypothesis I would like to go more deeply into. During the festival all the ancestors of the village are remembered and worshipped, which is indeed very similar to the practice of their hills cousin. This practice is known as SAR-KACHERDUNG. “lit. ANCESTOR REMEMBER” the same as SAR ANTHOK among the Hill Karbis.
2) MONO KE-EN
Literally Mono means Paddy or Rice and Ke-en means to take. It is generally an affair of 2 days, once in five years. All unmarried males and females of the village are to take part in the occasions. In the house of Riso Bangthe (an authority concern with the affairs of the youth of the village) the traditional folklore about the origin of rice and the route of migration taken by the Karbis from the place of their origin are retold. It is very much the same story which is told amongst the Hills Karbis (Mosera-Kihir) but with the name ‘Karbi Kevang’ “ lit. Karbi Coming” with some addition like the reason for the Karbis to start moving out from their ancestral village somewhere near Inglong Kelok “ lit. Mountain White” , which is unmistakably the Himalaya mountain range. There is a mentioned of Lhasa also on the way. The mentioning of KLENG MEKAR, on whose head a flame of fire always glow to lead the Karbis during darkness is intriguingly interesting and to be noted. He is not mention anywhere in Mosera-Kihir, the hill version. Terang were supposed to be the porter who carried all the essential items needed for the whole village. The reason mentioned for the Karbis to move out of the ancestral village is also very interesting. It is said that the Karbis being very poetic and romantic once tried to touch the moon and play with it, seeing it stationed beautifully on the top of the INGLONG KELOK. But when they climbed up to the top of the mountain and found the moon to be still afar and unreachable, then only did they realized their mistake. Since they felt ashamed to return to their ancestral village they decided to move forward towards the east and settled down somewhere else, which is not found in MOSERA-KIHIR. The mention of the river TERON LONGSO, where the TERON with divine power helped the others to cross a river with huge width by stretching himself like a bridge is also very interesting, which has again no mention in Mosera-Kihir with the exception of the river TERON LONGSO, where the paddy was supposed to be discovered by the Karbis which coincide very much with the version of the hills Karbis.
3) RONG KEHUM
Literally Rong Kehum means Village Curfew. It is generally a three days affair once in five years. Just like the name suggested a kind of curfew is imposed in the village with all the roads leading to the village being blocked with thorn and bushes. No outsider is welcome to the village during these three days affair. However they can come and witness the ritual by taking non traditional route. This festival is generally celebrated during the winter. It is very much similar to the Rongker of the hills Karbis. This is all male affairs and no female is allowed during the rituals. The fences are broken and lots of hue and cry is created during the rituals as a symbol to chase away evils from the village during the night using a long stick. If any person comes out of the house during the ritual then he might be killed assuming to be an evil spirits and no blame is to be confer upon the evil spirits chasers.
4) DEHAL KACHIRDOM OR DEHAL RONGKER
During the beginning of every year Dehal Kachirdom or Dehal Rongker has been performed with all ritualistic flavor and gay amongst the Karbis of Kamrup and some part of Meghalaya. Dehal Kachirdom has been celebrated by the Karbis of the plains since time immemorial. The Same or similar rituals in the hills is called Roongker by the Karbis of the Hills.
This Ritual is basically related with the agricultural life of the people. Karbis are basically a cultivator and they depend on agricultural product for their survival. Before a new session of agricultural activity is started every year, this ritual is performed by each and every individual villages in the Karbi Kingdom asking for protection and blessing from the main deity of the Karbis so that the year to come will be well and fruitful for all. Basically It is peformed for the well being of the wealth, health and also for the better return for the agricultural activities to be undertaken by the people.
Earlier days when people go for cultivation in those thick forest areas, wild animal sometimes comes in conflict with man. It is believed that sacrifices is also provided for the deity of the Jungle also so that the conflict with wild animal will not happen and the man and nature will peacefully co-exist. Dehal most probably is derived from deohal , which means the place of the Gods and Dehal Kachirdom means Propitiation of the Gods where they stays.
This is the season when, the maiden dances to the tune of the Murik-Pongsi, and the village priest chanting the language of the hundred gods to appease for the welfare of the village. This is the time of the year when the Karbis in the plain district of Assam celebrate the national festival, “Rongker Dehal Kachirdom”. Basically Dehal kachirdom or Dehal Rongker is a three days affair when the main deities Tamlong, Bilimi and Bolia are propitiated and asked for protection and blessing. Tamlong is the head male deity where as Bilimi is the main female deity. Bolia is smaller in status than the two.
The first day of the ritual is known as Jogan Kethan where the rituals and the lores behind the ritual is recited and all the deities are invited to be present in the rituals to be performed which is held on Monday. Tuesday is the day of main rituals where all the deities are propitiated and sacrifices are offered to all of them. Wednesday is the day of the feast and gay and festivity when the blessing from all the deities is acquired.
Recently 20th central Dehal Kachirdom under the aegis of Karbi Bangthe Asem was organized in Tamulkuchi, Byrnihat. Every year one branch of the Karbi Bangthe Asem is chosen to organize Central Dehal Kachirdom or Rongker where many villages from many localities comes together to celebrate the rituals centrally. This effort was started in the year 1993 in Khepinijal, Lokhra at the outskirt of Guwahati with people such as Longki Phangcho, Ratikanta Teron, Ambar Rongpi, L C Bongjang, Boloram Ronghang etc in the forefront, and has been comntinuing ever since in different villages of Kamrup District of Assam and Ri-Bhoi District of Meghalaya. During the centrally held Dehal Rongker Fest, competition on Ritkenong, Domahi Kekan, Lun Chingbar, Murit Kebut, etc is held and winners are awarded to encourage youth from the rural as well as urban areas to be zealous about their custom, culture, language and Identity, which years after years was getting affected in the plains due to several reasons such as Urbanisation.
Central Rongker Dehal Kachirdom starts with installation of “Lai Khutta” by the village elders at the place where the rituals is to be performed. The priest then chant the language of the hundres gods inviting the gods to be present during the rituals so that sacrifices be well accepted and all are blessed. During the rituals villagers from each household brings their offering to the dehal present it to the village priest who sacrifices and asked for blessing from the gods so that the people and the territory of the Karbi Kingdom is blessed and fruits are borne for all the cultivation that is to follow. The next day all the cultural activities like dancing, making merriment, dancing to the tune of the flute and the drum follows. It is the same season during which the Bushu of the Dimasas and the Bhogali Bihu of the Assamese are celebrated, when it is plentiful and the people are readying themselves for the next season. So we can safely assumed that it is the festival of thanksgiving, indicates or rather suggests the beginning of the agricultural cultivation. It is also a sowing festival when blessing is sought from the almighty.
Dehal Kachirdom is the only festival of the Karbis of the Plains besides the Domahi which is celebrated with all merriment and cultural enthusiasm when the old and the young come together to share and pass on the knowledge of the forefather to the younger generation.
It is indeed heartwarming to see the rituals being preserved in spite of the cultural onslaught due to urbanization of the Karbis of the Plains.
Central Dehal Kachirdom sow a seed of Identity revolution under the patronization of Karbi Bangthe Asem.