In Dima Hasao,
Festivals are not about ritualistic events.
They are all about emotions and bonding.
The people believe in an emotional contact.
Dima Hasao has many moods and many hues.
Here people celebrate each mood, which is reflected through the seasons.
A land nestled in myths and mysteries, lore’s and legends, Dima Hasao, the erstwhile North Cachar Hills is almost another world, the coloured wonderland of India. Dima Hasao, the predominantly tribal district is blessed with Barail range, deep valleys and rich flora and fauna. Dima Hasao – the enchanting Shangrila in the North East of India, is a mixing pot where culture, heritage, tradition, lifestyle, faith and belief of her numerous tribes and sub-tribes, drawn from various hives at different points of time have gone into form the unique culture – a fascinating and exotic recipe of delightful flavour.
The culture of Dima Hasao is a rich tapestry infused with multi-coloured yarns of distinguished heritage of all the races that populate her. The main constituents of the hilly tribes living in Dima Hasao are the Dimasas, the Zeme Nagas, the Hmars, the Kukis, the Biates, the Karbis, the Khasis, the Harangkhols, the Vaiphes, the Khelmas and the Rongmei Nagas. Besides, a sizeable number of other non-tribal people like Bengali, Assamese, Nepali, Manipuri, Deswali and others have also chosen Dima Hasao as their abode. The people of Dima Hasao are in fact the result of fusion of people from different racial stocks who migrated to Dima Hasao down the ages.
Dima Hasao is a conglomeration of various ethnic tribes and groups each having a distinct language, culture, way-of-life, festivals, songs and dances. Perhaps nowhere in India, such a spectrum of people representing a number of distinct ethnic groups reside within so small a geographical periphery like Dima Hasao, which only underlines an inner harmony in the sphere of emotional integration.
The superb blend of heritage extracted from numerous races have made Dima Hasao the home to the most colourful festivals at once blazing, compelling and mesmerizing. The perfect combination of heritage of her multifaceted races have made Dima Hasao the home of the most colourful festivals which are enthusiastic, compelling and enchanting, exhibiting the true spirit, tradition and lifestyle of the people of Dima Hasao. Some tribe or the other has a celebration throughout the year. Every social community of this District celebrates number of festivals that’s why Dima Hasao has a large number of colourful festivals of its own replete with fun, music and dances. Most of the festivals celebrated in Dima Hasao have their base in the multifarious faith and belief of its inhabitants.
If anyone really wants to understand Dima Hasao – they will have to just follow the festivals of all the colourful tribes of the district. Nothing captures the essence of Dima Hasao better than these special occasions.
Festivals form an essential aspect of Socio-Cultural life of the people of Dima Hasao. As a matter of fact, festivals of Dima Hasao reflect the real culture and tradition of the people of Dima Hasao. The festivals of Dima Hasao are generally – agricultural, religious and socio-cultural, which give them ample opportunity to enjoy and entertain freely. Most of these festivals in Dima Hasao revolve round agriculture, which is still the main occupation of tribal society. Although some religious and spiritual sentiments are inter-woven into secular rites and rituals, the predominant theme of the festivals is offering of prayers to a God. The concept behind all these festivals is simple but powerful: acknowledging with gratitude whatever is the source of their livelihood. Through the festivals, communities try to propitiate God, for a bountiful harvest either before the sowing or before reaping the harvest. Dima Hasao is replete with festivities throughout the year as all the tribes have their own festivals which they greatly enjoy. The people of Dima Hasao celebrate their distinct seasonal festivals with glitter, colour, music and fanfare.
Festivals bring joy and happiness in our lives.
If we celebrate all festivals alike,
We can spread the message of joy, happiness, brotherhood and
Humanity among one another,
And live as one family and community.
Festivals of Dima Hasao celebrated by varied cultures and through their special rituals, add to the colours of the Indian Heritage. Some festivals welcome the seasons of the year, the harvest, the rains, or the full moon. Others celebrate religious occasions, the birthdays of divine beings and saints, or the advent of the New Year. Many festivals celebrate the various harvests; commemorate great historical figures and events, while many express devotion to the deities of different religions. Every celebration is centred around the rituals of prayer, seeking blessings, exchanging goodwill, decorating houses, wearing new clothes, music, dance and feasting. In Dima Hasao every religion has something to celebrate. The festivals reflect the vigour and life-style of its people. Vibrant colours, music and festivity make the region come alive throughout the year.
The festivals of Dima Hasao speak of its rich cultural and traditional background. The colorful festivals are an integral part of every people of Dima Hasao. The festivals play an important part in promoting the traditional handicrafts of Dima Hasao. Every community celebrates their festival according to their own customs and rituals. The commonness in all the celebration is that it celebrates humanity. Some of the common rituals, which are followed in most of the festivals, are processions in the streets, decoration of homes and sacred places and traditional and folk song and dance performances. Most religious festivals have elaborate prayers, traditions, customs and rituals attached to them. The elaborate celebration and the multitude of festivals in Dima Hasao, each with their own unique legends and significances often awe the outsiders who come to visit Dima Hasao.
The post – harvest period is festive season for all agrarian societies, and the Dima Hasao is no exception, as witnessed by numerous folk-festivals celebrated around this period amongst various communities that constitute the people of this region. The colourful people of this land have their various festivals. Songs and dances, display of colourful dresses, tasting of innumerable varieties of dishes and drinks mark these festivals.The astonishing number and variety of these festivals testify to the mind-boggling ethnic and cultural diversity of this area.
In this era of globalization, cultural changes and intermixing is bound to occur to some extent, particularly in urban areas and among the educated younger generation. Despite of this, it is heartening to note that the different communities in this area have largely remained steadfast to their cultural roots, thereby retaining their distinctive identities.
Dima Hasao is the sum total of the colour, the vibrancy and the rich flavours that blend as seamlessly as her celebrated diversity. The mystery and mystique of this Land of Blue Hills lies in the fact that, here people celebrate life every day, and they do that by weaving the thread of tradition into the fabric of contemporary culture. Let’s have a glance of the major festivals of Dima Hasao.
Festivals of Dimasas
Busu is the gayest and the most important community festival of Dimasas. The festival is usually celebrated in the month of January, when all sort or Works of the jhum are completed. Thus the Busu is an occasion for relaxation from hard toils. It can, therefore be termed as harvesting festival or a festival of rejoicing and merry making. In all festivities they used to make a “heih-ho” (Haoba) as to mark the grand festivities and ceremony.
The grand Busu festival is of three categories, namely
Busu Jidap : When the Busu is celebrated for three days, it is called Jidap.
Surem Baino : If it is observed for five days, it is called Surem Baino.
Hangseu Manaoba : When it is observed for seven days it is called Hangseu Manaoba.
Festivals of Zeme Nagas
Helei-ngi is the seed sowing festival of Zeme Nagas. Zeme Nagas celebrates this festival annually according to the convenience of the villagers during the jhum cultivation season, which is in the month of March or April. Helei-ngi is sometimes known as Heleibambe. Generally, Helei-ngi is celebrated for two or three days continuously.
Nchang-ngi is celebrated after the completion of their hard labour in seedling and sowing in their respective village. Generally this ritual day is observed in the month of June, two months after the celebration of Helei-ngi. This is observed in order to signify that the seedling and sowing period is over.
In the month of September or October when the paddy and grains become ripe and ready for harvest, then it is the time to celebrate the Puakpat ngi. Literally puakpat means ‘Period of scarcity is over’.
Just after the collection of crops and all sort of work is more or less completed, ‘Nsim-ngi a festival of harvesting is observed annually. Although it is a harvesting festival, basically it is considered as a festival of merry making of the youths.
Hega-ngi is a year ending festival of the Zeme Nagas. It is usually celebrated in the month of December or January every year. It is last for five days. Hega-ngi being considered as the year ending festival, it has some strict obligations right from the beginning of the observation unlike the other celebrations.
Festivals of Hmars
Sikpui Ruoi is the foremost among the festivals of Hmars. It is observed during the winter season when all works at the field as well as at home is more or less completed. The festival is organized for a fortnight and may even extend to a month-long celebration. During that time there will be singing of songs and community dancing every night. It is a festival marking peace and all round prosperity and therefore elaborate preparations are needed for the occasion.
Inchawng festival is a big feast by the rich and wealthy person of the village to celebrate or commemorate his success. Therefore, it is also associated with a family worship. Inchawng is of two types –Sielsun and Khuongchawi.
Sahlang Dawm is a distinctive festival organized by prominent hunters and warriors. This may be organized as a supplementary ceremony during major Sielsun but it may also be done separately as a festival.
In-ei festival can be performed for any success. When a person bags ferocious wild animal in hunting, or when a brave warrior brought home heads of the enemy, or when a person achieved all-round success in cultivation resulting in abundance of food and drinks, the ceremony can be performed.
Festivals of Kukis
Chavang- Kut is the greatest festival of Kukis. It is usually celebrated in the month of November or December after harvesting season is over. It is celebrated only when the villagers have completed all works of cultivation. It was a time for the villagers to have amusement after the whole year toiling under the heavy monsoon season and it is a time for the villagers to give thanks to ‘Pathen’ (God) for guiding the whole year in their works of life. The Chavang-Kut festival lasted for two days. Its normally begins on the October 31 with a programme of songs, dances and various cultural items. The most exciting items of the festival are Mr. & Miss Chavang-Kut contest.
Some other important festivals of the Kukis are Chon, Chang-ai, Sa-ai, Gal-ai, Lom-kivah, Toh-phat- kut, Muchi-lhah-kut, Anchuh –kut, Gamsa-kut and Mim-kut.
Festivals of Karbies
The spot for Chojun festival 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 festival 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.
Sok-keroi festival is observed at the end of every harvesting season. 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.
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.
Ok-kepru festival is one of the oldest traditional festivals of the Karbis. It is observed during when the Ritnongchingdi festival begin, meaning working together in the Jhum. It is generally observed in the month of April and May. All the young boys and girls of the village get together and work in the Jhum happily and make joyous with feasting singing, dancing together by displaying the art of cultivation through the rhythmical tune of Muri tongpo and chengburup .
Festivals of Biates
Nûlding Kût is the most important festival of Biate tribe. It is observed and celebrated during the month of December or early part of January every year. The importance and significance of this festival is that it is regarded as the “Festival of Renewal of Life” by the Biate people.
Pamchar Kût is observed in the month of March just after cutting jhum before burning for the cultivation. In this festival the village gathered together in appointed places where the village priest lead the people and pray to God for His blessing and prosperous cultivation
Lebang Kût festival is observed in the month of May after sowing seeds to thank God after hard labour of sowing seeds in the jhum cultivation. The village priest offered religious rites and thanks God and pray for good germination of seeds in their jhum.
Tamthar Kût is generally observed when all the vegetables come to harvesting stage. The people happily gathered together to thank God for the blessing they received.
Festivals of Hrangkhals
The most important festival Ruolsafak means feasting together. It is a harvesting festival as well as the bedding goodbye to the passing year and welcome the New Year .The festival is celebrated according to the convenience of the villagers, during the last part of January and first part of February. During the festival, both boys and girls of the village take the leading parts under the leadership of tangva ulien.
Chemchoina festival is related to cultivation, in fact just before the Jhum cutting season. When the villagers selected their own land sites, during the first part of March, the entry gate (daikot) of the village is well decorated by bamboo splits. This festival is to save people from unwanted accident and hurt while working in the Jhum and for the good crops, protection from pests and damage. A performance of eldership is arranged and only male child up to the age five to eight years participated in it.
Parngot festival is for the youths for merry making, mocking, and rejoicing, it is a kind of carnival for enjoyment.
Festivals of Rongmei Nagas
Chakaan-Gaan Ngai is one of the greatest and joyous annual festival of Rongmei Nagas, celebrated in the winter (Chakaan) between December and January of the year. As usual just after the harvesting and collection of all kinds of food-grains in their barns/ store – houses is over after hard working for many days and months, the villagers used to get recreation.
Rih Ngai is a celebration commemorating the bravery deeds of village champions who sacrificed their lives in protecting the villagers against the enemies, who won victory over the village enemies in defense of the village, those who secure success in hunting or fighting. It is celebrated in the month of February. This celebration is particularly meant for man folk only and not for females. During the festival men are prohibited from taking food prepared by women.
Ginki Ngai festival is celebrated for greeting and entertaining the guests coming from different houses, clans, tribes or communities from different places or villages in the month of April.
Pokfaa Ngai is celebrated in the month of July just after the completion of cultivation. The main objective of this festival is to invoke Goddess of food-seeds for enhancing the production in coming years.
Festivals of Vaipheis
Chapchal Kut festival is celebrated after cutting jungles for jhuming. This is the beginning of yearly jhum cultivation and hard tolls of the villagers. This is observed in the month of February.
Chichawi Kut festival is being celebrated when sowing seeds after cutting jungle for jhum cultivation and burning clearing “Chap felt trees and bamboos”. This festival is celebrated in the first week of April.
The unique festival of Lawmkivak is celebrated in the month of May after sowing seeds.
Chavang-Kut, the festival of autumn is observed in the month of November after the harvesting is over.
Festivals of Jaintias (Khasi Pnar)
Some of the major festivals of Jaintias (Khasi Pnar) are Siat Khnam, Raliang Daloiship, Beh dien Khlam, Knia long raid.
Festivals of Khelmas
One of the major festival of Khelmas is Rabuthum.