Moatsu festival, the premier festival of the Ao-Nagas, is celebrated during the first week of May every year. Initially lasting for 6 days, the whole festival is now observed for three days after the sowing season. Moatsu was celebrated to please the Gods of Nature and invoke their blessings for a bountiful harvest where the whole village get together to celebrate with singing, dancing and feasting.
On 2nd of May 2019, the village of Chuchuyimlang, being known as the village that invite people from neighbouring trans Dikhu tribes and designated “Moatsu destination” of the state, organized a celebration of the Moatsu festival, staying true to their valued old age tradition of “Ancha”, invited people from other tribes rekindling ancestral friendship and diplomatic relationships.
We travelled about 7 hours to attend the long Moatsu Mong at Chuchuyimlang. Cultural troupes from other Naga tribes including Chang (Yangpi village), Sangtam (Chungliyimti village) and Phom (Hukpang village) and also Adivasi and Assamese troupes from neighbouring Assam state added colour and variety to the celebration with each their own performances. As we walked towards the Anu Mai amphitheatre, we were welcomed by troupes of the various tribes lined up and singing their folk songs accompanied by celebratory gunfire.
On arrival at the venue, the chief invitee along with the other guests was led to inaugurate the exhibition on indigenous knowledge, traditional skills and innovation. The opening prayer was delivered by the Pastor of CBC. The ceremony commenced with a curtain raiser traditional folk dance presented by the students of Green Hills Academy. This was then followed by the welcome address delivered by the chairman of Chuchuyimlang Village Council, Shri. Ao Sanen Pongen. While welcoming the gathering, he highlighted the significance of Moatsu Festival stating that Chuchuyimlang is one of the few remaining villages among the Ao tribe who have been celebrating the festival with all seriousness. It is for this reason that the government of Nagaland has declared Chuchuyimlang as the “Moatsu Destination” – a place of tourist importance. He talked about how Moatsü festival is based on community bonding, and celebrating its ancestral friendship and diplomatic ties with neighbouring villages of other tribes and communities by inviting them to join the celebration.
Moatsu greetings were delivered by the President of Ao Senden and by the P.A. to DC, Shri Noklentuba. Dr Aotoshi, Managing Trustee of Nagaland Gandhi Ashram, Chuchuyimlang, in his speech announced the opening of “Aruju” Centre of Learning, a unique experiment aimed at promoting the rich cultural heritage, skills and practices of the Ao Tribe. He said that in the olden days, Aruju, generally called Morung across the state used to be a one-stop centre of learning, in fact a university where the young boys learnt from the elders through oral tradition. The subjects and themes included farming and hunting practices, art and craft, traditional healing, songs and dances, folklore, warfare, governance, etiquettes and mannerism, public speaking etc. The proposed centre would aim at reviving indigenous knowledge that would be productively deployed in the present-day globalised scenario. He said that the said Centre would be run under the aegis of the Mahatma Gandhi Academy of Human Development (MGAHD), a collaborative effort between Nagaland Gandhi Ashram, The Hans Foundation, Delhi and Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai. He further mentioned that the Academy, which is currently conducting MSW Course in Livelihoods and Social Entrepreneurship, will be gradually developed into a University and will have other unique institutes relating to Gandhian Studies, NE Affairs, Vocational Training, and Teachers’ Training etc. A new campus is being developed at an area of 232 acres of picturesque undulating terrain donated by the Village Council of Chuchuyimlang to Nagaland Gandhi Ashram.
Lt. Gen. (Retd.) S.M. Mehta, CEO of Hans Foundation, New Delhi, who was the Principal Invitee of the festival, lauded the efforts of Chuchuyimlang Village Council and the entire citizenry for their painstaking effort in preserving the rich cultural heritage as well as the indigenous knowledge of the Ao Tribe in general. He said that the Hans Foundation, which is a philanthropic organisation devoted towards promotion of livelihoods of the less privileged people of the country, has come to Nagaland to implement various programmes with particular focus on healthcare, education, livelihoods and skill development. It has entered into an MOU with the government of Nagaland to cover the entire state of Nagaland. He said that currently their activities are confined to Tuli and Chuchuyimlang. On the happy occasion of Moatsu, Gen Mehta announced the launching of a water supply system which will address the water needs of each and every family of Chuchuyimlang.
Cultural presentations from Yangpi cultural troupe, Hukpang cultural troupe, Adivasi Tea tribe cultural troupe, and the Assamese cultural troupe enhanced the musical-cultural ambience of the event with their folk songs and dances.
A chilly day with low clouds and patchy drizzle, the whole village gathered to witness the celebration as women were participating in weaving competitions while men participated in basket weaving. The whole village was filled with laughter and joy as they feasted together and parted their ways to their own houses. The men later gathered at the house of an elder for what is known as “ki-maak” where they sang songs of old and feast on pork and tea prepared by the hosts. They walked to two more houses singing the whole way and women cheering for them from their houses. It was a festival like no other, the village stayed true to their customs and tradition.