Festivals of Northeast

The Oriah festival of Arunachal Pradesh is celebrated by the Wanchos, adjoining Nagaland in the easternmost tip of the state in the Tirap district. Wancho are not exposed to urban civilization so they are quiet hard working and clustered people.

The three-day Oriah festival of the Wanchos was celebrated earlier at the inception of spring and now on 16 February every year, is celebrated to propitiate the Almighty Rang for a good harvest. But an actual preparation happens month before an advent of the same.

During this event local Wancho people comes into fold of cultural expedition and through their celebration they seem to realize their cultural importance and the diversity they have within them. The immense beliefs towards their natural gods reflect their association and ancestral beliefs towards their sole orgy. The mark of celebration is traditional. The first phase starts with a common sacrifice of animals which believes to call upon natural gods and then prayers and hymns comes to picture. The thanks giving prayer and sacrifice rouse natural gods to bless them with another eventful year filled with prosperity and wealth. Tri (Ginger), Joo (Rice-Beer) and Lai (a particular leaf) are used as sacred offerings. Key components of the festival include: Rangwan Daki, bringing sacred bamboo foliage, Rangwan Kai, preparation of sacred altar and sacrifice, ritual chanting and dance called Shion. Villagers exchange bamboo tubes filled with rice beer as a mark of greeting and goodwill. Pork skin is then offered to the village chief as a mark of respect. Pigs, buffaloes and mithuns are sacrificed and feasts are arranged in each and every morungs (dormitories). Boys and girls, wearing ceremonial costumes, sing and dance around a “Jangban”, a long ceremonial pole planted during Oriah. The interesting part of the celebration is that both male and female get into an act of celebration and their cultural dance that they perform together reflects an importance of both in running social life in peace and tranquility. The traditional dance and songs are simply fascinating and through their moves they look to describe the colt of nature and its attachment with local people. This festival continues for several days.

 Shapawng-Yawng Manau Poi
Shapawng-Yawng Manau Poi is a post-harvest festival and also the most important dance festival of the Singpho (Jinghpaw) tribe of Arunachal Pradesh. The word ‘Poi’ means festival and ‘Manau’ means dance, thus Shapawng Yawng Manau Poi stands for Dance Festival in honour of Shapawng Yawng. It is usually celebrated from 12th to 15th of February every year and is often a common day of celebration. The Supreme Being, Mathum Matha, (Dharma Devata), the ancestors and all the aspects of Nature are worshipped. At the centre of the altar is placed Dungla-Dungwe that represent the male and female deities. Dumsa, the Priest, performs the rituals. Tithi, the main dance is based on the elements of nature.

The festival is opened up by putting up shadung, a set of ceremonial pillars, which is regarded as the symbol of the Festival. During putting up of the shadunggidhing gumdin manau, the dance of unity is performed to proclaim praise, unity and prosperity. Very interestingly the two pillars of the Shadung in the middle of the set represents the idea of feminine gender called Dungwi and other pillars besides each of the feminine pillars represent male pillars called Dungla. The rest of the shorter pillars that stand around in the male and female pillars are called Dung Noi (Hanging Pillar). At the foundation of these Manau pillars a long plank is fixed across the pillars from side to side and is called Dung Bye or Dung Tawn. One end of this plank is curved into the shape of the head of the Hornbill and the other end being the tail. The pillars of the Shadung are appropriately designed with colorful paint and patterns. The designs with straight lines stand for Ninggawn Chyanun or Mathum Matha (creator of the universe) and the curved lines depict the creator’s finger print. Singpho culture believes that the sun and the moon were created by the same almighty and hence are given equal importance as found in the other imprinted symbols and figures. Besides prints of the animal and the water kingdom are also seen in the paints of the Shadungs and it stresses their relationship with nature.

The festival formally starts after unfolding of the festival flag. The flag emblem with two cross swords (N’thu) encircled by Dungwi and Dungla that shows the Singphos to be war like people and the Dau symbolizes as their laboring tools. The ground being home to the permanent set of ceremonial pillars called Shadung around which the people perform Manau Poi. The dance steps of the Manau are led by two leaders. They are decorated with masked caps having the head of the Hornbill and wear long robes on which the pictures of dragons are embodied. Each hold a long sword and all who follow the leaders hold handkerchiefs and take the steps of the traditional procedures. They encircle the Manau Shadung dancing in groups with the music. The steps are according to the spiral lines and designs written in the Manau pillars. After completion of outlining the design some would branch out and separate themselves from the leaders group by group and continue to perform the other Manau dances. Next is the Shadung Gidhing Gumdin Manau which showcases the dance of unity and is performed to proclaim praise, prosperity and unity. At the end of the dance, Padeng Manau dance which is a depiction of victory in war followed by Shut Manau, the celebration dance and finally the Kumran Manau, the farewell dance are performed.

The Bori (ADI) in Arunachal Pradesh celebrates their own festival known as DONGGIN. The beliefs behind the festival are rooted deep in the indigenous religious and cultural ethos of the Bori community. In ADI Donggin means spring season. They welcome spring season by celebrating Donggin on 2nd to 5th of February. They celebrate this festival for good harvest. In this festival, they sacrifice mithuns, pigs and chickens to ANE Donggin for healthy living and prosperity.

Among the supreme deities, Podi Meteh, is believed to be the deity of Domestic Animals, Togu Yugon, the deity of wellbeing and prosperity, Miti Mitak the deity of Food Grains, Miring Mising the deity of wealth and Pirne Toneh, the deity of Harvest. Donggin does not imply a single festival. Within the umbrella of Donggin Festival fall many festivals like LIIH, TAPU, GANEH, Solung and Mopun. These festivals are observed to appease various benevolent deities and ward off the malevolent ones so that people enjoy good health and prosper in their lives. Among all such festivals within the month of Sobo Yere, Sobo panon (Mithun Sacrifice) is treated as the main and the most important festival which come to be known as DONGGIN by the people of Adi Bori community.All the rituals and ceremonies are observed by the village folk for the wellbeing of mankind that falls within this season is termed as Donggin.

In the past days Donggin Festival was celebrated for 6 days. On the first day Donggin is called Binter. On this day, women folk of the village woukd collect the food grains from the Kunsung (Granary) and get it dried in the sun followed by husking and grinding. When all the rice and other food stuffs are ready for the festival with collective effort of women folk a party is organised on the occasion called Binter.

On the second day Donggin is called Esing Eko which means gathering of materials from the forest that are required for the festival. Esing Eko means firewood and Jungle leafs. During the second day, the youngsters of the village ventured out in a group to collect firewood, leaves from the forest to be used for packaging of food items, bamboo etc which are required for the festival. During such occasion, food, Apong (local beer) are served to youngsters by the host family of the festival.

On the third day Donggin is called Siling Tanon. On this day, a special kind of a tree called Aamit Esing is cut down and split into small pieces and dried In the sun. These Siling Tanon is used for the decorative items and for firewood during the festival.

On the fourth day Donggin is called Sokang Ranon. On this day, village folk collectively construct the Sokang (altar for Mithun Sacrifice) in the Lotteh (Corridor), Batung,( Near Staircase), Kunsung (Near Granery) of the host family.

On the fifth day Donggin is called Sobo Panon. This is the most important day of the festival. On this day, the actual sacrifice of the domestic animals (mithun, Pigs etc) to appease various deities is being carried out. The priest will be engaged the whole day to chant the mythology related to Sobo Panon. The priest also narrates the history of the past achievement of forefathers of the host family in chronological order where their genealogies are also narrated in detail. The priest here plays the role of communicator and the mediator between the mortal humans and the deities.

The concluding even or the sixth day of the Donggin is done after 3 (three) days of Sobo Panon, which is called Gumbo. Three days of social taboo called Nyonon is observed by the host family immediately after Sobo Panon (Mithun Sacrifice Day). After those three days of Nyonon, the youngsters of the village collect four numbers of very long bamboos for Gumbo. (a specially decorated bamboo). The Gumbo is decorated and sprinkled with Apong (Local rice beer) Etting (Rice Powder) etc and then they erect two pieces on each side of the host’s roof which are made to join each other at the top of the roof. This marks the conclusion of the festival of Sobo Panon in Donggin. On this day the priest through his ritual chanting bid farewell to all the deities and urge them to shower the choicest blessings to human kind and especially to the members of the host family.

In olden days when there was no fixed monthly calendar, there was no particular fixed date for the Donggin festival; people had to count on the season for the festival. The winter season which falls within modern day calendar of February to March was the season for such festivals which is also called as the Sobo Yere Polo in local dialect, the months of domestic animals. In the due course of time, it has taken the shape of modern days Donggin Festival which is being observed officially on 2nd February every year.

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