The Khiamniungan tribe is one of the major tribe among the Nagas, with habitation both in India and Myanmar. Geographically, the land of Khiamniungans is located in the Eastern part of Nagaland and in the North-Western part of Myanmar. The nomenclature of the tribe ‘ Khiamniungan’ is a compound word formed by three words: ‘Khiam’ means water, ‘Niu’ means great and ‘Ngan’ means source. Thus, the meaning of the term Khiamniungan is ‘source of great water or river’. The nomenclature derives from the biggest river of the land (laang) and to the river to which it ultimately confluence (Chindwin). The main river formed from the watershed of Khiamniungan area is ‘Laang’ known as ‘Zungki’ in the downstream that ultimately flows into the Chindwin river in Myanmar. Some earlier written sources wrongly referred to the Khiamniungans as ‘Kalyo-Kengnyu’ named after the snow clad mountain of patkoi ranges locally known as Khulioking.
The people of Khiamniungan trace back their origin to a place called ‘Khiamngan’. Legend says that there was a great flood. There upon people began to go up into higher elevation. As the flood subsides they descend downhill and started the first settlement of the new era at ‘Khiamngan’. The Khiamniungans after living for three consecutive generations in Khiamngan gradually moved to different directions to form several hamlets/villages. One group migrated to a place known as Lumoking and further to formed Pathso and Peshu ranges. Likewise another group migrated to Nokhu thangsoun and gradually wemt northward to form the present Thang and Wolam ranges. Whereas, one group who got settled at a place known as Shiadkhan and finally to form Nokhu range. Later on with the increase of population, migration to the further East started and eventually extended up to the Northern bank of Chuhoongan (Chindwin) river and beyond in Myanmar.
SIGNIFICANCE OF TSOKUM SUMAI (FESTIVAL)
Celebration of festivals is the essence of unity, peace and harmony for the people of the khiamniungans. There are various festivals which are celebrated throughout the agricultural seasons of the year involving a series of different forms of rituals, ceremonies and sacrifices. Tsokum is one of the most important and significant festivals which is celebrated with great pomp and gaity.
Tsokum Sumai is celebrated in the month of September or in the first past of October to invoke blessing for a rich harvest. It has immense impact and meaning on the Socio-religious life of the Khiamniungans. During Tsokum Sumai, each and every family offer prayer and make sacrifices by killing domesticated animals to the gods (Ko-a) for fertility of crops, bountiful harvest, to bless their livestock and grant good health to human beings as well.
Tsokum is the festival of dedication to commence the harvest in the jhum field. The harvested food grains from the new jhum field is brought and tasted only after the celebration of Tsokum Sumai. Further, the activities of collecting new materials for building houses and granaries begin after the festival. Tsokum is a weeklong celebration that lasts for eight (8) days by performing different forms of rites and rituals.
On declaration and announcement of date by the village priest (Am-pao) for commencement of Tsokum Sumai, every family starts preparing to celebrate the festival in a befitting and grand manner. The first day of preparation is called ‘SUMAI JEMTHAO’. On this day, womenfolk from each family prepare and brew enough Rice-beer to last the entire celebration. The womenfolk perform rites for tasty and good brewing of their rice-beer to suffice for the whole celebration.
The second day is called the ‘SUMAI JANGKOM’. On this day, the menfolk go to the jungle in search of Mithun, buffalo or cow of the rich men or warrior of the village. The dragging and pulling of Mithun, buffalo or cow continues and completes on the third day.
The fourth day is called the ‘PAIUPIU’ , collection and bringing of a ceremonial and rituals tree called ‘Memei Pai’ is done on this day. This is done for the rich man/warrior who hosts the community feast by killing and sacrificing Mithun, Buffalo or Cow. This ceremonial and rituals tree will be brought only by a passionate and bosom friend of the host (Janglao Memei).
The fifth day is the most significant and important day for every individual, family, villages or community. On this day, every family kills domesticated animals like Pig, dog, or chicken in the morning to perform sacrifices and rites in their respective paddy fields. This sacrifice and rites are performed for bountiful harvest and to avoid any unforeseen misfortune among family members during the time of harvest. Such sacrifices and rituals are performed by spraying the blood and placing the liver and intestine of the killed animals at the ritual place of the paddy fields.
The sixth day is called ‘JANGLAO’. Here the rich man/warrior who hosts the community feast kills Mithun, Buffalo or cow by performing traditional rites and ceremonies. Janglao ceremony is performed only by a bonafide, matured and married man of the khel or village, because the wife also has to perform certain important rites and ceremonial rituals throughout the festival and during killing of animal. The man who hosted such community feast is respected and honored by the community or villagers as ‘JANGLAO MEIMEI’. To show the concern and love to his khel/village, the host invites the people irrespective of gender on the first feast as ‘JAANGMONGKHOW HIE’. However in the evening, the host invites only the menfolk to dine called ‘JANGKHAIU HIE’
The seventh day is the ‘JANGLAO ANOU’ which is a day for rest in honor of those families who killed and sacrificed animals during Tsokum Sumai. On this day, everyone stay back at the village and enjoy themselves by drinking rice beer along with meat etc.
Tsokum Sumai is concluded on the eighth day which is called ‘EMYAMYAM’. The village menfolk goes for community works like cleaning of community ponds, improving of footpath leading to paddy fields for convenience of bringing food-grains during the harvest and repairs bridges between villages. During this festive occasion, the young boys and girls also play traditional games and sports which are to inculcate the sense of mutual understanding, cooperation and unity. Tsokum Sumai marks the beginning of harvest before which no one is allowed to reap and take the newly harvest rice/food as it is believed that unfavorable events and famine befalls upon the village or the family.
Thus, concludes the festival of Tsokum by enjoying and sharing of food, meat, Rice beer to relative, friends and guest or even to the strangers who happen to come during this festive occasion. After celebration, people resume their normal activities. The hosting of community feast by Meimei pou and inviting rich and poor alike signifies love, concern and unity.
KHAOTZAO SEY HOK-AH SUMAI (FESTIVAL) SIGNIFICANCE
Khaotzao Sey Hok-ah sumai (Festival) is another important festival of Khiamniungan Naga which marks the end of all agricultural activities for the year, a time to rest and give thanks to god for the bountiful harvest and triumph over adversities all throughout the year.
Khaotzao Sey Hok-ah is a combination of four word; the word ‘Khaotzao’ refers to bamboo container (mug)used for drinking rice beer, ‘sey’ means preparation of rice beer inside a large container made of bamboo, ‘hok’ means leg and ‘ah’ means rest. Thus in short ‘Khaotzao Sey Hok-ah’ means festival of rest and feast with abundance of rice beer. It is celebrated in the month of January (Hok-ah lei)
After completion of all agricultural activities, if any particular khel (kam) in the village intends to replace their old log drum, a particular tree is sought out in the jungle in advance. After careful consideration, an owner ( Bhen Pau) is then selected for the tree who pronounce the following prayer “ O Great Grand Tree, you shall be the keeper of my village, keep yourself clean, O Great Grand Tree, you shall be the keeper of my compound, guard yourself well” after this prayer, he delivers the first cut. The log drum is then curved continuously without break. Upon completion, the owner (Bhen Pau) in full traditional attire led all the menfolk for pulling the of log drum. While pulling the log drum, the older men pushes from the rear and the younger men pull from the front.
Upon reaching the village with the log drum, a cock is scarified and the owner offers a prayer seeking blessing from the great grand tree to bestow handsome boys and beautiful girls in the village during its reign. On completion of log drum ritual, preparation for festivity start.
During the festival, every male member in the village gathered at their respective khel Kamnoi (Morung) and celebrates it with feasting and folk dancing. Every khel rears community mithun, cows, buffalo, pigs etc specifically for Khaotzao Sey Hok-ah celebration which are killed and feasted upon during the festival. Women are not admitted inside morung therefore, the male member feast at morung and food and meat are distributed to every household for female family members and children. Nonetheless, women folk can watch/witness the folk dances and celebration from outside.
The menfolk share their rice beer from their ‘khaotzao’ (bamboo rice beer mug) to their friends by letting them sip from it which is known as ‘khaotzao-la’. They also feed each other by stuffing handful of rice and meat in their friends’ mouth and that particular act is known as ‘chipha-yeh’.
Khaotzao Sey Hok-ah celebration is also hosted by wealthy person (mei-mei pou) in the village whereby he invites his relative and clansman for celebration with abundance of food and meat provided by him.
With a view to further strengthen the unity and friendship between individuals as well as between khel or villages, a treaty known as ‘liamkie’ is also done during Khaotzao Sey Hok-ah sumai. The friendship made during this festival is popularly known as ‘Liamkie pioh’, which means a strong bond and trustworthy friendship. The friendship made through this ‘Liamkie’ will be kept and honoured between individuals till death or even after death; it’s maintained by living family members.
After completion of Khaotzao sey Hok-ah sumai, the villagers begin their agricultural activities of sowing millet in the old/previous year jhum field and after which the newly slash/jhum field is burned and begin a new cycle of jhum cultivation.