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Festivals OF Dima Hasao


In Dima Hasao, festivals are not about ritualistic events.

They are all about emotions and bonding.

 The people of Dima Hasao believe in an emotional contact.

Dima Hasao has many moods and many hues.

And people celebrate each mood, which is reflected through the seasons.







DIMA HASAO: The Land of Gorgeous Festivals

-  Zahid Ahmed Tapadar


              A land nestled in myths and mysteries, lore's and legends, Dima Hasao is almost another world, the coloured wonderland of India. Dima Hasao, the predominantly tribal district is blessed with Borail 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 & 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.


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 any one 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.


In Dima Hasao, festivals are not about ritualistic events. They are all about emotions and bonding. The people of Dima Hasao believe in an emotional contact. Dima Hasao has many moods and many hues. And people celebrate each mood, which is reflected through the seasons.


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.


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.


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.


With a view to highlight the real culture and tradition of the people of Dima Hasao - which is always in the tune of harmony and equalness, we have compiled articles on the various Festivals of the people of Dima Hasao. This is also a humble attempt to acquaint the people of the plains with the socio-cultural-religious life of the hill tribes as well as for documentation of the festive mood of the people of Dima Hasao.


We have included articles on the colourful festivals of the Dimasa, Zeme Naga, Hmar, Kuki, Hrangkhol, Rongmei Naga, Karbi, Jaintia, Biate and Vaiphei communities of Dima Hasao.


In this compilation of “Festivals of Dima Hasao” we bring to you the coloue, gaiety, enthusiasm, prayers and rituals that mark the festivals of all the tribes of Dima Hasao. We are thankful to all the contributors and all others associated with this project.


It would be our proud privilege to receive feedback and suggestions on our compilation from the learned readers. Feedback may be sent through e-mail to dipro-nch-as@nic.in . Our objective would be fulfilled if this compilation receives due attention and affection from the readers.






- Ramdina Lalsim


               The Dimasas of Dima Hasao, being agrarian people, celebrate various agricultural festivals in different ways and at different times. Mostly Dimasas inhabiting North Cachar Hills and Karbi Anglong districts are successful in preserving their age old traditional religious beliefs and practices in and through the celebration of several festivals, with some exceptions, due to being Hinduised.


The Dimasa festival can be categorized into community festivals and local festivals. The local festivals are performed by each village separately, and participation is restricted to the people of the village concerned. The community festivals are Misengba and Busu, while local festivals are Korongfang Gerba and Maisalai Gerba.


BUSU (The joyous harvesting festival)


Among the festivals of the Dimasas, Busu is the gayest and the most important community festival. 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. Hence the participation in this celebration is not restricted to any one. The festival may be celebration at an agreed time according to the convenience of the village people. But since 1994 as per the decision of Dimasa community of Dima Hasao, the Autonomous Council of Dima Hasao had officially declared 27th January as Busu festival day.


The grand Busu festival may be divided into three categories:-

  • 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

In all festivities they used to make a “heih-ho” (Haoba) as to mark the grand festivities and ceremony.


Let us give in details the following categories:-


Busu Jidap


  •  Busu Jidap is generally observed for three days. It is celebrated under the guidance of the leadership of the Khunnag or Gaonbura. The first day is called mi-staiba meaning slaughtering day of animals for feast. The animal is slaughtered in the morning and in the afternoon they held a community feast called Khalaima khamba in the house of Khunang. When the sun goes down the competition called Baiba Bdailaiba consisting of singing, dancing and playing musical instruments of Muree are held in the court yard of the bachelor’s traditional house called Nodrung. The bonfire is lit in the middle of the dancing ground which lightens the ground and serves to warm up them selves from the cold night. The best dancers and Muree players are given prizes. The whole night is then passed in dancing and merry making. 


  • The second day is called Busuma, meaning the main Busu day. It is on this day the children or juniors pay respect and adoration, to their parents or elders. It is done individually or collectively. This kind of ceremonial blessing is called Busu Gaba, and is usually undertaken before the mid noon. The whole day passed in eating meat and drinking rice beer. In the afternoon the traditional long-jump called Harong baiba and Shot-put or longthailemba are played in a particular selected level area. The game is meant only for the senior married persons, naturally householder. Interestingly the declared hero or winner has to entertain the villagers with rice beer and meat.


  • On the third and last day young boys and young girls pay a house to house visit by singing and dancing in the courtyard of the selected well to do persons of the village. Whatever they collect either in cash or in kind from this process is eventually used for their feast. In the evening or at the dawn of the morning according to the instructions of the village priest they end their dance and playing musical instruments. On behalf of his village the priest then perform Gerba on the main road of the village by sacrificing a fowl to the deity of the village for omissions and commission during the festivals. This is called Lamphungba, and by sacrificing this ritual means the end of the festival.


Surem Baino


It is generally celebrated for five days. Surem Baino, unlike the Busu Jidap, is celebrated under the guidance of Gajaibao not of the Khunang or Gaonbura. When a village is supposed to observe the Surem Baino, they would have to elect or select the Gajaibao or leader or guardian for it long before the celebration. The Busu celebration is then undertaken in the courtyard of Gajaibao. The function like dancing, singing is also held in the compound of Gajaibaos whereas in the jidap they observe in the Nodrung. These are the differences between jidap and Surem Baino.


Hangseu Manaoba


The Busu, the most joyous festival of the Dimasas are celebrated widely through its stages of Jidap or Surem. But the third and the grandest category Hangseu Manaoba is mostly celebrated by a large village where there are large numbers of Hangseu or youths. As Haangseu Manaoba is to be celebrated for seven days or seven nights without stopping of the Khrams (drums) and Muree (trumpet), music, dance, feasting and drinking, therefore the undertaking of this particular category needs a sound economy and healthy background of the village. Due to this the youths take initiative to collect fund long before its celebration. They therefore sometimes engaged as day labourers in the jhum of their fellow farmers for fund raising. Some village youths sometime even make a special jhum for this purpose and thus produce like vegetables, pumpkins, chillies, paddy etc. which are used for the occasion. Provision for sufficient quantities of meat, and rice beer- Zudima, Plantain leafs, Pontho-bamboo cups, firewood for the whole night’s bonfire as well as for cooking for the whole seven days have to be making by the youths accordingly. Busu being termed as community festival of merriment, generally the entire responsibility of the celebration is borne by the youths of the village. Throughout the celebration period the village people observe holidays called Genna, meaning restricted holiday. During the celebration of Busu the village people do not go out for work or take up any kind of journey. Each and every one has to try their level best not to spoil the festivity spirit but to celebrate in its fullest way, which ought to be made.


It is in this Hangseu Manaoba as a mark of festivities and reception; the youths use to erect the traditional welcome gate called Fangsla, at the main entrance gate of the village. The Fangsla is wholly constructed with a bamboo, which is artistically designed and decorated with a splattered bamboo itself. In the by one days the Fangsla is supposed to be constructed only during the Hangseu Busu, not on the surem or jidap. But now a day, whether it is Jidap or Surem, one can see the Fangsla in the celebration of Busu, especially in the urban areas.


The celebration of Hangseu Manaoba is led under the guidance of selected leader Gajaibao. Besides this leader, they also have boys’ leader called Nagahoja and girls’ leader called Mathlahoja. In Dimasa, young boys or men are called Nagarao and young girls or women are called Mathlarao. Hangseu or Hangso is a youth organization of which both the Nagarao and Mathlarao are members. They therefore work hard day and night under the guidance of the said three leaders to make the Hangseu Manaoba Busu a grand success.


First Day :The first day is called Hangseu Busu Rajini Sthaiba, which means the slaughtering day of animals by the village elders. In the morning g the village deities are pacified by offering sacrifices either pigs, fowls or goats by the elders group. As each village has its own patron Madais, it therefore, is difficult to mention the names of the Madais here to whom the people would offer. But in every ritual Sibrai is remembered, as he is specially considered as the main deity of the Dimasas. The Madais are offered sacrifices to bless the celebration of the festival so that no accident or untoward incidents take place during the time of celebration. After the ritual ceremony is over a portion of the sacrificial meat are then cook in the house of Khunang or Gajaibao, and the rest are distributed to each household as per their contribution. Then the village elder would feast together by eating the meat and drinking the rice beer. The youths and children are not allowed to join this feast, it is purely sacramental one. This is called Mido garba.


Second Day : The second day is called Nagaraoni Sithaiba, which means slaughtering day of the animals by the youths. In the morning the buffalo which was solely bough by the Hangseus or youth members is killed and prepared a portion of the meat for their grand feast and the rest are distributed to each Hangso members. Before they eat the cook meat, a handful of the meat curry is offered to the deity Sibrai. While offering the meat to Sibrai, the following sacred songs are pronounced by one and all, so that they could have a blessed Busu.


                                Ningmijing ang mijing saimaiya,

                                Sibrai ribani saimaiba,

                                Sainjora dojijang sainmaiba,

                                Horjira dujijang hormaiba,

                                Waimusa gelekbo diodanang

                                Dimusa gelekbo didanang

                                Baithelik baihining lailadi adungrao

                                Lu thilik lu hi ning, lailadi ajangrao.



                                Not by our wishes,

                                But, because of Sibrai we see this day,

                                Let us make merry and be happy,

                                as this day comes only but once.


After one and all saying the above songs, on behalf of the Busu leader (Gajaibao), and Hangsong youths` association they hold a community feast called Suba jiba. The whole day they eat, drink and rejoice. In the evening, when the sun is about to set, the youths hold a community singing fiesta called Bagaoba. The song is sung generally in a position of standing in lines in a procession type in the open space as if they recharged the spirit of festivity in their midst. The following song is one of the oldest songs of the Hangseu Busu, which is believed to have its origin from the Zeme Princess. (It is said that once a Dimasa Prince married a Zeme girl which is traditionally considered to be the source of this song).


Hangso Manaubani Bagauthai


                                Baoring jawing jingswe,

                                Araonjai baoring jiwang jingse

                                Jiwang jingse sonai soni wangselei.


                                Jawring gainlao aki hangmai gao,

                                Heleo ronjai mairing gede gom

                                Aki longo kilong longba meser,

                                Gesemsa lairui nihangloba meser,

                                Gesemsa lairui lai.


                                Sengmai gaomai senem bamse,

                                Baigaoke atem maigao,

                                Goke naisong naigaoyalao,

                                Semringpake ningrimjen atem



This procession is held to call the people to participate in the festival forgiving debts and forgetting grievances, differences and enmity. The second day ends in eating. Drinking and in entertaining guests, friends and relatives.


Third Day : The third day is called Busuma. It is considered as the main Busu day. One this day the children or juniors show respect to their elders and pay ceremonial homage to the elders and offer a Busu present like a handful of cook meat and a cup full of rice beer. It is done individually or collectively and is usually undertaken within the 12 noon. This kind of ceremonial blessing is called Busu Gaba. One this day not only pay homage to the living but they also pay homage to the spirits of the dead of the preceding year. This last offering of food and drink to the dead “homage ritual” is known as Makhamgarkhaoba.


A community feast is also arranged on this day. Every family entertained people in the house with a handful of meat in a plantain and a bamboo cup of Zu. In the afternoon the badailaiba or traditional sports like longthailemba meaning stone throwing and harong baiba meaning long-jump for the elders are held. The winners are sometimes given prizes by the selected persons like maidung and beseng. (maidung and beseng are the two persons, 1st and 2nd in rank who got more paddy than the others in the preceding year) but traditionally, it is expected that the donations whether in cash or in kind may be used for the feast. These competitions, held in the spirit of friendship and understanding, are meant to entertain and the people have fun and laugh.


When the sun goes down, on the courtyard of the Gajaibao a bonfire is lit to warm up from the breezy cold night or to lighten the dancing ground. The young boys and girls, men and women then put on their best traditional dresses and ornaments to take part in the famous Baiba dance. They perform various kinds of dances like Baidima, Jaupinbani, Daislaibani, Jaubani, etc. The good dancers are given prizes. The boys and girls merrily dance together to the music of Khram and Muree throughout the night, while old men and women and children assembled to witness the gleeful dance of the youths. While watching the skill of their young ones, old men, old women sometimes recalling their sweet bygone days even join the dance for a while just for mirth and fun. A gallon of drinks like Zu and Zudima in a bamboo tube and a bundle peace of meat in a wrapped-up leaf plate are served to them now and then. Drinks are an essential part of the festival and are distributed in fresh pontho (bamboo tube cups) while meat is served in plaintive leaves. While the old aged group cannot take part in the entertainment, they gather in a Khunang house sitting around the fireplace, chatting, joking and tell stories, drinking, eating to their hearts` content. This is how the third day and night passes by.


Fourth to Sixth days : The fourth, fifth and sixth days are called Baikhaoba or Jokhaoba. On these days too community feast are held. The days are spent mainly in eating, drinking, singing and dancing and merrymaking. People go from house to house to share the joy of the festivity and each family provides them with ample food and drinks by each family.


During these days they will perform the dances in the court yard of the selected well to do family and to the leaders house. This is called Baisingba. This Social festivity continues till sixth noon. In the morning of the sixth day the youth go round the village singing, dancing and playing music. This is called digarlaiba. For the last dance, they again assembled in the dancing ground by performing the dance in merry go round. In the middle of the arena they made a pothole in the ground and let a pitchful of water and the blood of an earlier sacrificial buffalo, and make watery muddy for playing purposes. After singing and dancing for sometime the dancers, children along with their bachelors leader Nagahoja or Mathlahoja facing to the main door of the house of Gajaibao (Hangseu Busu Leader)and proceed as if in the coming and going for three times. In the same time some youths behave like monkeys and pull out the main door of the Gaijaibao`s house replace it the new one. Pulling out the door may symbolize the end of the Gajaibao`s responsibility. This is known as derga khouma, meaning the door id pulled off. The pulled door was then carried in procession to the river. During the procession they throw the prepared watery muddy at each other in a playful way. This kind of playing with mud is known as Didap Hulaiba. As soon as they each the river the door is thrown in to the water and everyone takes their bath. This simply signifies that the festival has comes to an end.


Traditional Dress and Ornaments


Mens’ Dress

Womens’ Dress














Ornaments:- Kaudima, Khadu Kamaotai, Longbar, Pantaubar, Chandrwal,Rangborsha, Engrasha,

                     jongsama, Ligzao, Jingjri, Yausidam  etc.


Traditional Musical Instruments


During performances of any Dimasa dances the following instruments are absolutely inseparable and indispensable.


Khram is a wooden drum. It has a long wooden crust measuring about 1.25 meters. The mouth of the right hand side of the Khram player is called Jang Jang-ba. And the other, on the left of the drummer is called Khumba. The different rhythmic patterns played on the Khram are known as bathai.


Muree is a long pipe consisting of three wooden pipes or sections and its length is about 1.75 meters. It produces trumpet like sounds and in every dance instead of singing a song this particular sound of music guides and controls the enchanting movements of the dances. The Murees are of two sizes, the small one is called Mureesa and the bigger one is Mureema.


Muree Wathesa is a smaller Muree or Trumpet made from a special kind of bamboo tube. It has six fingers keyhole, which are collectively called Yaothi.


Khram Dubong, somewhat like an ancient Jewish harp is made from the reeds of the dubong grass. The sound is producing by plucking with the fingers as on the Mandolin.


Suphin, the flute is made of small and thin bamboo.


(Courtesy: Cultural & Publicity Department, Dima Hasao Autonomous Council)






- Pauramduing Jeme




Helei-ngi is the seed sowing festival of the Zeme Nagas of Dima Hasao. Each Zeme Naga villages celebrates this festival annually according to the convenience of the villagers during the jhum cultivation season, that is in the month of March or April Helei-ngi is sometimes known as Heleibambe. Helei means seed and bambe means puja, Heleibambe, therefore, literally means the puja of seeding or sowing. Generally, Heleingi is celebrated for two or three days continuously. The first day is observed to invoke and appease the spirit of the crops Chuprai by sacrificing buffaloes and pigs Religious rites and sacrifices are generally performed by the priest also known as Tingkupao, assisted by some chosen elders. After rites and ritual performance comes to end, the meat of the sacrificed animals is prepared for the grand feast in the Hamgseuki or Paiki .Every member, young and old alike enjoy the community feast so as to mark the happy occasion. In the evening and at night young girls of the Leuseuki and young boys of the Hangseuki starts singing and dancing in sync with drum bells and gongs continuing throughout the night. On the second day young and old alike to the jungle and river collecting wild vegetables, hunting animals, birds, fish, prawns, crabs, etc. By doing so whatever they collect if thus used again for feasting. As rice beer is one of the indispensable items of the feast, so a bamboo cup of rice beer and boil rice with meat goes side by side with the occasion. The third and last evening is particularly spent in singing on the street or caroling house to house by the young folks. In this carol, after songs and blessed works are offered to the household where they visit, as a token of warm festivity the house owner in return usually gives what-ever he wish to the youths in cash or kind. The collected cash or kind is kept for the next festival.


Unlike the other festivals, entertainment and merry making, sports etc. are strictly prohibited during the Helei-ngi. In fact holding this festival is mean only to appease Chuprai the God of crops, to protect whatever they would sow in their respective jhums. So, Helei-ngi is celebrated under the strict religious direction of Tingkupao, the village priest. There are also many taboos to be strictly observed by all during the important stages of the festival. One of the common beliefs is that one should not go outside the village, or enter the village, and also one should not do any kind of works. And Helei-ngi being the festival of seeding, after its celebration one can begin their sowing in the jhum until Nchang-ngi or the closing ceremony sowing.                           




After the completion of their hard labour in seedling and sowing in their respective village, there is a puja called Nchang-ngi. 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. As seedling season is one of the most painstaking among the stages of jhum cycle, Nchang-ngi therefore, is considered as one of the most welcomed festival. As a mode of custom, it is in this festival parent offer a grand supper to their laborious chilled like meat, food and wine as much as they can, so as to nourish their tired body. The ritual is performed only by the priest and one should go according to his order. As it is a closing ceremony of the seedling, season, after the Nchang-ngi ceremony no one is expected to undertake seedling and sowing. It is totally prohibited.




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. Literally puakpat means ‘Period of scarcity is over’. So far rice and crops are concerned, for an agrarian hills villagers one of the worst season is said to be May to August, in which their granary also becomes more or less empty. When one sees his vegetables, crops and paddy ripening, one can make out that the time for harvesting is not far behind and the period of scarcity is over. Imagine the relief they would feel on celebrating this festival. On the other hand this is also a thanks giving ritual ceremony and a time for seeking blessing for the grains and crops, so that they can harvest in good time. It also can be celebrated in two manners. One is individual and the other collective. The first day is the thanks giving day in which the village priest or Tingkupao and elders perform rites and ritual in the Hejuadekung by sacrificing animals and fowls. In case of individuals, the second day-On the eve of the festival each family prepare any kind of food and rice beer in their respective house and deposits it in the Hangseuki. Through the guidance of the leaders, the collected and stored items of food are arranged for a grand feast and thus the mix-up varieties of foods are dined together by the entire villagers. In case of collective celebration the villagers kill the pigs and fowls according to their sufficiency and hold a grand feast. Either individual or collective, this festival lasts three days only.  


It is in this festival that pregnant women are treated with lots love and respect by the bachelors of the Hangseuki .Sometimes they are given gifts. This is mainly done, in order to reserve the baby of the womb for their respective dekichang. In a large village where there are two Hangseuki and two Leuseuki, the members of each gender compete to woo the lady by giving giefts,in order to get the would be new member in their respective fort. Therefore, a pregnant woman of a large village gets more reputation than the small one. In fact, in the Zeme tradition the day the baby is born he or she is a member of the dekichang. His or her name would be enrolled in one of the dekichang according to her mother’s wishes. In this respect, the wife has more rights than the husband as she is the bearer. Traditionally, the Zemes consider that the Puakpat festival is a good one for the well being of the women, so as Hega-ngi for the men. This is the custom. By nature, universally a woman is regarded as a weak person, but this good privilege given to the women at such days by their tradition is noteworthy and praiseful. The Puakpat-ngi being a festival of the ripening season of the crops and paddy, it therefore is believed to be a blessed one for the women.




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 by the Zeme villages of Dima Hasao. Although it is a harvesting festival, basically it is considered as a festival of merry making of the youths. As such the kiangna or members of the club, whatever they had earned from the whole year for their association is used in this festival. The entire expenditure for this particular feast is especially borne by the youths. As such they call it as a festival of the youths. This joyous and grand occasion usually fall in the month of November. Generally it last for five days. But in the year where the villagers are blessed with more bumper crops than the former years, they also celebrate it by the name Haangleuteube and Matuibe. Among these two names the former is small and the latter is the bigger one .In fact of all the ceremonies of the Zeme, Matuibe is said to be the grandest and biggest. It is also celebrated when bumper crops are harvested continually for some year and this in turn brings prosperity in the village. Hence it takes place for a gap of ten years or so only. Therefore, Matuibe is considered as the grandest and most famous of all the festival of the Zemes. Being a prosperity feast, the Mathuibe alone is observed for seven days and seven nights. On each day a grand feast is given to all the villagers in the Hangseuki. After serving the children and aged persons in the evening young boys and young girls feast together in a single wooden long plate known as Chingkuak, takkuak. The particular meal for these members are prepared only by the Hangtingme or leader of the youth and served them too accordingly. At night the leader of the Hangseuki arrange the bonfire of three to four fire places in the hall. According to the order of the leader of the bachelor and maidens alternately sit together on a single beam long bench called Njunjei by touching shoulder to shoulder and hand in hand. With the fireside they sing songs with drumbeats like that of their forefathers. Sitting in a relaxed posture they hold hands and swing them to and fro like dancing paddy in the autumn. On intervals trays of meat hanging on the fire side is prepared and distributed along-with gallons of rice beer.


The following chorus is one of the famous songs of the ‘Nsim-ngi festival:-


                                HELIM LEU GUT CHURAIBEGE TEU BELEU


                                Akihangki biang bam lei hang lim lau

                                Hang ket penai gau,akihang ki hanglim,

                                Buipong ringka makka melai kum chului lei.


                                HELEU ME WANGBE LEU


                                Helim limje,Ilim chi melei aki leu lim,

                                Limsa seu helim –lim hangket pauki,

                                Ajai wang nchang genung.





Hega-ngi is a year ending festival of the Zeme Nagas of Dima Hasao. 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. Apart from singing and dancing, playing and merry making, following are the main basic principals in regards to the observations of the festival.

  • On the eve of the Hegangi, the one who had lost his dear one in that year only can cut his hair on the Helakmai, a day within the period of Hega-ngi.


  • It is only in this festival one can bid the final farewell to the sprit of the dead of the passing year. The last farewell ceremony for the departed soul is given by the household of the deceased family along-with the invitee pries and elders, during the celebration of the Hega.             


  • It is in this Hega, one and all have a special grand feast only from the new harvested crops like rice and vegetable along with the red meat so as to mark the year ending and dancing of a new year.


  • Hega Ngi, being a year ending festival, is sometimes considered as the gayest of all the festival as the celebration is under taken in December/January where one and all have more or less free time. As the season is just after keeping their crops in their grannies and the new jhum is yet to be prepared it therefore is a free season for every one. From this philosophy and speculative point of view, none who is able to participate in a great number of Hega-ngi at different villages at one season is considered to be the luckiest man on earth.


  • During Hega-ngi, men-folk avoid relation with their wife to keep them selves pure and holy till the festival is over.




- Vanlal T. Bapui


Introduction of the tribes


                The Hmars are a fairly large group of tribes, sub-tribes, sub-tribes, clans and sub-clans forming a scattered section of the tribal groups living in NE India. They form a part of the great Mongolian race found all over South-East Asia. According to Anthropologists, they belong to the Tibeto-Burman stock of the Tibeto-Chinese race. Of this, linguistically they belong to the Lushai-Kuki-Chin family. They are a distinct tribe having their own culture and language.


There are no written records of their past history. However, their traditions strongly maintain that they originated from Sinlung which is believed to be located somewhere in South-Central China. Authorities on ancient Oriental History like Colquhoun, A W Graham and Glover Clarke mentioned about the periodic southward exodus of ethnic minorities from Kuangton and Kuangsi provinces of China. The Hmars are believed to have come along with one such migrations and the reason of their migration has been largely supposed to be the coming of the superior Chinese tribes.


Whatever be the reason, their ancient folk songs and oral traditions maintain that they migrated to Shan in Myanmar where they settled. A great famine drove them out and may have migrated towards the Himalayas. Being unable to cross the high mountains, they retraced their steps back into Myanmar and following the Chindwin River; they finally settled the Kebaw valley for along time. Scholars believed that they might have developed their folk dances and other cultural traditions during that settlement. From there, they began their migration into Indian territories which took place in several waves. They entered the Lushai Hills of undivided Assam and settled the land. Many places in Mizoram continue to be known by Hmar clan names like Thiak, Zote, Khawbung, Lawitlang, Darngawn, Keivawm, Khawzawl, Lungtau etc till today. From Mizoram, many migrated to further west and north due to famine, inter-nescient raids and unfavourable living conditions and became dispersed all over the southern areas of NE India. Unfortunately for them, the re-organization of States and political divisions further divided them and made them scattered over almost all the States of North Eastern India.




The Hmars celebrate a number of festivals where men and women, young and old, gather together and make merriments; the festivals are of mainly two kinds. While some are organized by individual families, others are organized and celebrated by the entire village communities. The most prominent feature of any of the festival is dancing which is known as Lam. Dancing is often accompanied by the drinking of Zu which is the tribal rice beer. Some of the important festivals are described below:




Sikpui Ruoi is the foremost among the festivals of the 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. If there be any serious sickness or bereavement in the village during the year, the festival is postponed for the next year. Hence it is not possible to organize the festival every year. Because of this people expectantly look forward to Sikpui Ruoi whenever it is possible to be organized. The importance being such, the people also try their level best to settle disputes and try to be at peace with all the people of the community. Every night, the people, young and old alike, gathered together at the appointed venue to sing and to dance. The festival signifies peace, health, success and abundance in the village and hence, whenever organized, it is done with great pomp and splendour, forgetting all past troubles and sufferings.


Preparation for the Dance


As the festival is to be enjoyed for a considerable period of time, the preparation also requires that all should co-operate with each other. Especially the young people are to be of one accord with a firm determination. When a decision has been made to celebrate the festival, the young people meet the elders of the village to obtain their permission and to favour their blessings. When this is done, they approached the song leader called Zaipu. On his part, the chief also summons his council of elders and conferred with them. If all parties agrees. Two pairs of young men and women are appointed Lawmlaisa. It is their duty to extend invitation to one and all in the village to dance the Sikpui. The Zaipu, on their part, call together the young men and women and practice singing the songs for the festival. The drums are mended and a ceremony known as Khuongtuibur is performed, in which a horn of a bison is tied to the biggest drum and Zu is poured over it. This is done to bless the drums for best performances during the festival.


For the venue, a flat land is chosen. In absence of a suitable flat land, a plain area is prepared, cleaned and consecrated. In the middle of the venue, Hringtlir is constructed. A large tree is usually planted and around it seats are erected for the song leader, his assistants, the old and the infirm of the village to take their seat.




The men and women are dressed in their finest clothes. Hmar puon is usually used by the men. Distinguished persons put on distinctive clothes to show their achievements are bravery as well as success in life. They wear the plumes of Vakul, a bird of paradise as headdress along with Tawmlairang to tell their success in hunting etc. the leader of the dance group will held a long sword upright and will move it sideways as he dances. The men and the women are alternately positioned as they dance.


The women put on Lung-um clothes and decorate their arms with Harban and Chaupheng. They tie their loins with sashes and put on the best ornaments of stringed beads as necklaces, and they put on their best clothes for the dances.


The Dance


The dancers are alternately placed, the man leading and followed by the woman and so on. The song leaders and the drummers are stationed in the middle and the dancers encircle them while dancing.


The first dance is usually performed by the children of the village and is called Durte Lam. The song leader commences singing and the dancers enter the dancing arena. The dances do not involve much complicated steps and some even amount to slow walks, and therefore, they are not at all difficult. Swaying to they songs is all that is done, but in doing this there certainly are some rhythmic movements. The dance of the children is only for merriment and may last for the first night only. Of course, children are allowed to dance as tail dancers in all the other dances.


During Sikpui, a number of dances are performed and are known by the names of Thlawran Lam, Lamtluong Lam, Ketek Lam, Anranlai Lam, Simsak Lam, and Tinna Lam. All this dances are also performed around the song leader and drummers.  All the people join in the singing of the songs. The tempo and repetitions of songs are regulated by the song leaders and the drummers. On the tenth night Lamlaitan is performed and new dance forms like Simsak and Palsawp are introduced. Prior to Lamlaitan, these two dances are forbidden to be performed. Zu is plentifully provided to the dancers and the two new dances are danced with high spirits.


Conclusion of the Festival


The dances are continued till Zawlsuok when the dances are finally scheduled to be concluded. If there is rain during the festival and dancers are not able to perform, at least the drums are sounded to commemorate continuity. Finally at the end of the agreed period of dancing, Zawsuok is performed. The dancers and singers commenced their song and dance from the house of Zaipu. The concluding dance will last for a night and a day. Before Sikpui Zawlsuok, nightlong dances are held and in all preceding nights, dances are organized till bed times only. At Sikpui Zawsuok, the dance may continue for two whole days. The last dance to be performed is Lawm anhroui Tuolsuok which normally last for a day.


One such final night, the neighbouring villages, which may not have the privilege to organize Siukpui Ruoi, are welcomed and allowed to join as part of the celebration. The amazing nature is that during all these times of dancing and singing, no animal or bird is harmed or killed. The only entertainment is Zu. After the performances of the concluding ceremonies, the Lawmlaisa are not allowed to enter the arena and Sikpui comes to end with all the people eagerly looking forward to the time that they will be able to dance Sikpui once again.




The term Inchawng simply means `rich` or `wealthy` The 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. It can be of two types –Sielsun and Khuongchawi.


Sielsun also can be of two (i) Sun Fang and (ii) Se hmaituok sun. Sunfant is when only one bison is killed, whereas in the Sehmaituok sun, two bison are killed. The option depends on the resources of the Inchawng. For exceptionally rich persons, more than two bison are killed.


Whenever a rich person of the village announces his intentions, the young people of the village gathered together to husk rice for preparation of Zu as well as for consumption during the festival. This is known as Chawng busuk. In a similar way, they also collect fire-woods for cooking and lighting during the festivities.


The host will assign a suitable place near his house. A Y-shaped wooden post, known as Sewer is made and firmly planted on the ground. Sawl meaning greeneries are collected and planted near the Sipper. The Sawl consists of seven young and straight Inkheieng Tuoi (magar Sal), seven saplings of Inse thing, seven young Mata trees, seven young bamboos, which are tied together with Vawmhrik creeper vines.


On the appointed day, the marked bison is tied to the Sipper. It is fed with boiled beans and made to drink plenty of water. Its legs are bound and its tongue is pierced. In some places, the young men will often play a form of bull-fighting sport with the bison. After it is firmly tied, the village Priest comes and performs certain ritual, reciting mantras in preparation of the bull as sacrificial offering. The animal is pierced by the maternal uncle of the Inchawng with one stroke at the armpit. Then its head is cut off, a Cornelius bead is hung from one of its ears and a cowry shell on the other ear.


The method and ritual accompanying the killing of the animal may vary from place to place. Sometimes, the host dresses himself before sunrise with Thangsuo Puon (a special cloth for warriors, successful hunters, and highly honoured person) and a turban and comes to the spot. He is followed by the members of his family. He pierced the bull with a spear at the axial (armpit) making a small cut. He then goes back to the house straightway without turning back. Then one by one the other members of the family will push the spear further and further until it is killed. While piercing the bull, the head of the family chants mantras which are mainly for worshipping the ancestors:


Tiena khuon sienga ka Pi le Puhai rau nuor naw ro

Nangnihai zar ki zo, ki khatin zo naw ning;

PiPu rau nin nuor chun zo naw ning.

In thangsuona ka suona, ken tangna ni sut ro

Pipu chunga Pathien, ka Puma Pathienhai,

Ki Pu … (naming the ancestors) a Pathien.


My ancestor’s spirit of old, do not be offended with me,

I have enjoyed your favour, let me not enjoy it alone,

Your success is mine as well; release me from what prevents me,

                My ancestors, my Gods and Lords

              My…(naming grandpas serially…)’s god.


Inchawng Sielsun may last from two to seven days, and during those days, the rich host will treat the villagers with meat and drinks. There is much eating and drinking during such festivals. The young people will demand Zu and the children will demand meat. Until they receive their legitimate share of Zu and mean, they will shake the house of the host. For the Zu, they would sing –


                Zu ngen e, zu ngen e,

                Inchawng chawngin zu nei lova

                Khuoivatepa’n zu nei e.


We demand Zu, the rich has no Zu, but the honey-bee has Zu

Then they would continue singing for the mean –


Sa ngen e, sa ngen e,

Inchawng chawngin sa nei lova,

Saratangpan’n sa nei e…


We demand meat, the rich has no mean,

but the monitor lizard has meat.


They will also sing other songs while shaking the house of the host till the family of the host comes out and offers them meat and Zu. Sometimes, if the host takes his time in coming out, they will even sing songs of curses. But such are not real curses, but done in playful mood. As their demands are met, they will change the wordings of the songs to that of blessings for the host. Inchawng-Sielsun is a great entertainment given by the very rich and generous people.


Khuongchawi is the second form of Inchawng. It is also a public feast given by the chief or the rich of the village. In big Sielsun festivals, this is organized as a supplementary ceremony, but it can be performed as a separate festival. The villagers prepare a big Hlang (a platform made of bamboos) in which they carry a big drum to be beaten. The host or his youngest son and his nephew is made to sit on the platform. The entire contraption is taken up and carried on the shoulder by the villagers. A pompous procession is made from the outskirt of the village to the house of the host, passing through the main street of the village. The host or the entertainer throws away cornelian beads and other ornaments to the young people who scramble for the gifts.




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. A public feast is prepared by the host (the celebrant). During such ceremony, all the village people will prepare a big litter in which they carry the host with all the dried skulls of the wild animals and human skulls that he had bagged. The skulls are the trophies of successful warriors and hunters. The people make a big procession along the streets of the village with the litter.




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. The ceremony for successful hunting is Sa-in-ei, the one for the enemy’s head is Rallu-in-ei, and the one for abundance of food and drink is Bu-in-ei.


In such In-ei festival, the host will provide food and drink and the villagers will organize singing and dancing. Victory songs such as Hlado are usually sung during such festivals. The host or any other successful hunters may join in the singing of victory songs.




The Hmars have various kinds and forms of dances for various occasions and ceremonies befitting the occasions. Some of these dances have almost been forgotten. Most of the typical Hmar dances are still remembered in the District of North Cachar Hills of Assam among different sub-tribes and clans. The following are some of the prominent dances forms.




This is an ancient victory dance. It is performed in honour of successful warriors and great hunters. The Hranglam songs are believed to be among the oldest songs of the Hmar people. They hearken the past glories as well as the miseries of the people in different stages of their past history.


Pheiphit Lam


This dance may also be called the Pipe dance because it is performed to the accompaniment of playing of small bamboo flutes (pipes) of different sizes and length to produce different pitches of sound. The dancers themselves blow the pipes to play certain tunes of music as they dance in circle, the males and females positioned alternately. The leader of the dance conducts the dancing with the beating of a drum which he carried. He can also play the flute while beating the drum and dancing. A gong is also sounded at intervals, and victory songs Hlado are sung by the successful hunters and warriors. This is one of the popular dances performed during any In-ei ceremonies.


Khuol Lam


This is a colourful dance performed as a gesture of welcome accorded to a distinguished visitor to the village. It is also called Chawn Lam and the rich are often entertained during Inchawng festivals. The dancers dance around in circle, holding on to two corners of Hmar puon cloth and making movement of pulling down the corners to accompany the bending of the legs on the knees.




This is a war dance and is performed during big festivals. Each of the dancers carries a shield in his left hand and a sword in his right. He brandishes the sword and moves the shield swiftly as he dances. Songs of victory are sung and this is mainly the dance of the men folk and warriors.


Lal Lam or Vai Lam


This is a royal dance accorded to the Chief. It resembles the dances of the people of the plains and hence the name Vai Lam. It is performed by two or more dancing girls during the coronation of the village Chief, or high officials like the Kalim in some tribes.


Feitung Tawl Lam


This is a peculiar dance performed during Sa-in-ei as the hunter’s dance. The dance imitates how the hunter has killed the animal with the use of his spear. A spear is held in position of throwing by the dancers, and imitates the hunter as he stalks the prey.


Dar Lam


This is a common dance. It is most elaborate and is performed with orchestral music. It is performed to the accompaniment of a set of gongs of different sizes called Dar-bu, Rawsem and Chawngpereng. Theihle is the flute made from Bamboo, Rawsem is a reed instrument made with gourd and bamboo tubes, Chawngpereng is another bamboo pipe instrument. Dar Lam is usually performed during threshing of rice paddy.


Butu Khuonglawm


This is a dance performed as dancers sow the seeds of rice in the jhums. It is a community activity of sowing rather and cannot be strictly said to be a dance form. However, orchestrated movement and singing with drums to the accompaniment of sowing with hand hoe in the field. And therefore may be said to be a dance form.


Besides there are a number of other forms of dances which are no longer danced and have become obsolete and forgotten. Some dances are performed at random, whereas there are others that needs elaborate preparations. There are many folk songs for every occasion. Besides what has been mentioned there are also folk musical instruments like Bison horns, tingtang, darbenthek, darmang, darkhuong, darlaipawng etc which are also in use.



- Neingkhothling Doungel





                       The term Kuki referred to the hill tribes of the elsewhere independent people whose settlement and power was well acknowledge and recognized even by the British. The origin of the Kukis is shrouded with myths and mythologies. The traditional account that had been handed through generations and maintained strongly is that, the Kukis originated from the bowels of the earth or a cave called ‘Chinlung’ or ‘Shinlung’ or ‘Khul’, which is believed to be located somewhere in China. There are not much written records about their past histories. But various historians, anthropologists, writers and academicians mention about their past histories, rich culture and traditions, besides their physical features, their prowess and velour and they have been known for being a mighty hunter.


They are a fairly large group of tribes, sub-tribes, clans and sub-clans spread throughout the contiguous region in the North-eastern states of Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura and in Burma and Chittagong Hills track in Bangladesh. The Kukis form a part of the great Mongolian race. They belong to the Tibeto-Burman family of the Tibeto-Chinese race. (Grierson, G A (ed) (1904), Tibeto-Burman Family: Specimens of the Kuki-Chin and Burma Groups) In his book “The Lushai Expedition 1871-1872”, R G Woodthorpe described the Kukis (Kookies) as a “...fierce tribe inhabiting the lofty hills to the south of Manipur, Cachar and a portion of the territory to the south-west of Cachar, known as Independent Hill Tipperah, from the earliest times and who had been the terror of the surrounding country, and whom successive military expeditions had failed to subdue...”


The ‘dispersal’ of the people by the existing international boundaries is the result of initial British colonialists’ deliberations. By the late nineteenth-century, however, when British colonialism came in contact with the people, the identity Kuki had crystallized to represent a significant section of the ethnic population.




The Kukis have rich traditions and cultural heritage that are distinct and unique, interesting, and impressive. The land of the Kukis is blessed with rich customs and traditions. The folklore of the people abounds with the heroic adventures of Galngam le Hangsai, Chemtattepu, Lengbante, Jamdil, Sangah le Ahpi etc. The poignant romances of Khupting le Ngambom, Jonlhing le Nanglhun, Changkhatpu le Ahshijolneng, Khalvomtepu le Lenchonghoi; and folktales, such as Chipinthei le Mailangkoh, and others, represent the rich variety of the Kuki culture.


The Kukis have several festivals celebrated since the time of their ancestors. It may be mentioned that the ancestors performed many rites and rituals as part of their religious beliefs, many of them being performed to invoke their ‘god’ whom they called Pu-then’ or ‘Pathen’ and seek his blessings for their well-being and prosperity. These rites and rituals form an important component in their festivals. While most of the festivals are celebrated in honor of the great warrior and hunters when they are back from hunting with the kill or prey, others are celebrated as an occasion of great joy and merriment after a rich harvest from jhum cultivation and before the onset of the next jhuming season. The rich customs, culture and traditions of the Kukis, a legacy from their forefathers are one of the best organized and well reflected by the numerous festivals celebrated by the Kukis with great pomp and gaiety and with pride till today.


A great feast is generally organized at the time of festivals. The most prominent and significant feature in any of the festivals is ‘Lam’ or ‘dance’. Old and young alike used to dance to the tune of different traditional musical instruments and folk-songs, and chant songs of praise in honour of the great warrior and hunters. Drinking of different kinds of ‘Ju’ (traditional rice beer) such as Vaai-ju’ ‘Ju-ning’ ‘Ju-kha’ and ‘An-thom’ epitomized the celebration of the festivals.


Some of the 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

  • chavang-kut

  • mim-kut




This is the most highly prized feast of the lot and can only be performed by those who have done the Sa-ai three times. In this everything has to be done seven times. Seven ‘‘mithun’s’ are to be killed and everything else must be in multiples of seven. This has not been done for a very long time and so the exact rites are not clearly known. A person is supposed to have achieved a high social status only when he entertains the community with a grand feast. Thus, it becomes significant that one puts on as much show and sacrifice in the form of many ‘‘mithun’s’ as far as possible. It was originally done by Kuki himself. Even the songs and genealogical trees had to be repeated seven times. The whole ceremony takes days to complete and the expense incurred being fabulous. A person who performs the Chon ceremony in his lifetime such person after his death, his corpse had to be carried round seven times and everything pertaining to burial rites had to be done seven times. For that they resorted to smoking the bodies of such persons to avoid decomposition before the entire rites are completed.


The performances of the Chon gave the soul of that person a paramount seat in Mithikho (the village of death) and insure eternal happiness. Chon was basically a feast where the performers show off the wealth of his family. Thanksgiving ceremony is performed in honour of his ancestor whose blessings have brought him wealth and prosperity. It takes several days to perform this feast. Villagers and neighboring folks congregate for this celebration, feasting, dancing, drinking of ‘Ju’ (rice beer) and merry making marked this auspicious occasion.




Chang-Ai is a feast celebrated by the entire village in honour of the womenfolk. It is significantly a celebration of bountiful harvest of paddy ‘chang’ at the end of the season. It signifies success and accomplishment by the women, of their hard work and labour in the jhum all throughout the year. This festival is equivalent to the SA-AI, which is performed in honour of the great hunters. This festival reflects the status and prestige of the women in the Kuki society, which they hold with pride and dignity.


Chang-Ai festival is usually hosted as a symbol of status and pride only by the wives of the Chiefs or of a very wealthy man as it is an expensive affair. On the day of ‘Chang-Ai’, women who have performed this feast are permitted to wear the dark blue cloth or shawl with intricate embroidery at the two ends in red and white cotton, which is the ‘Thang-nang puon’.


Chang-Ai festival begins with invitation sent to kith and kin. In the evening, prior to the day of ‘Chang-Ai, announcement is made by the ‘khosung lhang-va’ regarding the celebration of the festival. It is repeated early in the morning on the big day and the entire village then proceeds towards the field from where begins the ‘Chang-Ai’ festival. A priest called ‘Thempu’ leads the community. He performs the rituals by reciting mantras to invoke the ‘god of paddy’ called ‘Chang-lha kou pathen’. The priest then puts bowls of paddy into the bamboo basket/bowl or bags of each individual and as he does this, he remains silent and undisturbed. Once the priest finished doing the rituals, the entire villagers proceed back to the village to the house of the person performing ‘Chang-Ai’. As they proceed, the villagers broadcast and throw the paddy on all sides along the way and shout ‘heijam’ a victory cry, accompanied by the sounds of ‘pheiphit’, which is a traditional flute. This is necessarily done in order to please the ‘Chang lha pou Pathen’ for his blessings.


The women performing the ‘Chang-Ai’ then feed the entire village. A yak ‘sel’ or a buffalo ‘‘mithun’’ is sacrificed for the grand feast. She puts up a platform about 6 inches above the ground level. Small upright stones representing the numbers of the women’s ‘beng’, basket of paddy are placed on the platform, which are consumed on that day. On the centre of the platform two stones are placed upright, one larger than the other which is known as ‘SHONG-MUOL’ (Spirit stone). This stone does not represent the spirit of the woman performing the ‘Chang-Ai’ or of her husband, rather it is placed for the ‘Pathen’ or Supreme God to know where ‘Chang-ai’ has been performed before he selects a good place at ‘MITHI-KHO’ (Village of the death) for the one performing the ‘Chang-ai’.


The ‘Chang-ai’ feast can be performed only three times by a person. Singing of folk songs, dancing to the tune of different traditional musical instruments and drinking of ‘Ju’ goes on for the whole day and night in the house of the person performing the “Chang-Ai’. Apart from these, traditional sports such as ‘siel tuol del’ (catching of let loose ‘mithun’), ‘siel kal’ (high jump or jumping over the yak), bonkho (wrestling) and ‘lhochil dances’ are also performed on the day. The entire village celebrated this festival with great enthusiasm, with great pomp and show.


SA-AI: The great Hunters’ ritual: The Sa-ai ritual is performed by a great hunter to gain complete dominance over the spirit of the killed animals. The sheer act of the killing of the animals, as is believe, is not effective enough for the hunter to have total dominance over the killed animals. According to legends, if the spirits of the killed animals are left unsaddled and are not brought under the hunter’s control they may afflict the hunters spirit during his life time and even after his death. By performing the ritual of Sa-ai during his lifetime the hunters gains absolute control over the spirits of the killed animals.


Sa-ai is performed only by hunter of great eminence and caliber who have the distinction of killing large numbers of animals, particularly elephant and tigers, besides other small and big animals.


Preparation of the SA-AI: Arrangements are made by the hunter in advance for the Sa-ai. First of all he collects all the Skulls of the killed animals. Sufficient quantity of wine is kept ready by the female members of his household for initial discussion for fixing the date for the ritual.


Once the wine is ready and the skulls are collected, the hunter invites the priest and the chief of the village along with the Tucha, Becha and the other elders of the village to his house. Offering them wine to sip the hunter tells them about his desire to perform Sa-ai and seeks their help. A date is then fixed for the observance of Sa-ai.


The Tucha and Becha are entrusted by the hunter to prepare sufficient quantity of wine and Tuhpah for the occasion.


A dance yard is prepared by the Tucha and the Becha with the help of the youths in front of the hunter’s house.


Requirements for performing SA-AI


Kempi: It is an elevated platform raised on wooden posts by interlacing crushed bamboo lengths, with space for about thirty persons at a time. The platform is made at a height of about six feet and is enclosed on three sides with a network of thin bamboo slats. At the entrance a block of wood with notches is placed as a ladder.


Selkhom: Selkhom is a wooden post erected for tying the ‘mithun’ during the Sa-ai rituals. The Selkhom is made from the trunk of Sething (Oak tree) and is about 12ft. high with a girth of about 50 inches. The top of the pole branches out in three directions. A notch is cut round the pole to hole the rope.


Thing-giel: Thing-giel is a square wooden block of about three feet height, which is made by the Becha of the hunter. Lives are chiseled out in a geometrical design on all sides of the block. Each live represents an animal killed by the hunter. The upper portion of the Thing-giel is made gradually smaller and a hole is made on its top. A piece of bamboo or wooden staff is put in the hole.


The lives on the Thing-giel are cut in such an intricate manner that even an intelligent person is puzzled in counting the lives. This is done deliberately to obstruct the spirit of a tiger killed by the hunter in completing the count of the lives. It is believed that, if the tiger’s spirit is able to finish the count of the lives on the Thing-giel, the hunter is distressed grievously during lifetime and after death as well. Further, a contrivance called lheh-leng, is suspended stop a post put up near the thinggiel. It produces a capering sound when shaken by the wind. It is believe that the noisy sound disturbs the tiger’s spirit while it counts the lives.


On the evening before the day of commencement of the Sa-ai, the Becha performs the formal ceremony of invitation to all the persons.                 Wine is serving to the guests by the Tucha of the hosts. The guests in return, offer to the host the wine they have brought from their houses. This wine is called ‘PHUNGPI JU’. The Becha then formally makes the announcement about the proposed ritual of Sa-ai to commence on the next day.


Early in the morning on the next day, the Becha and Tucha bring the “SOL” (a collection of three green bamboo culms) from the bamboo groove.


A piece of ‘Sething’ wood, measuring about 4 feet in length and called as nung khom’ is collected. ‘Vangui’ a creeper and a couple of two-pronged small branches of a tree are also collected. The two branches are called Sa-mol khom. These are set up as a stand to hold the twigs, called ‘Samol’. Each twig represents a skull of an animal killed by the hunter.


Early in the morning on the day of Sa-ai, the Tucha and Becha dress the hunter in the cloths of a woman. Dressed as a woman, the hunter takes a spinning spindle made from the knee bones of an elephant and strikes on the scull of a tiger. This action, according to legend, symbolizes the bravery of the Kuki woman who first killed a tiger using her spinning spindle. This is how the Sa-ai ritual begins in the presence of the invited guests.


The hunter then gets back into his own cloths, and with his bows and arrows performs the mock action of shooting the tiger through the forehead. This is observed in solemn silence by all those present, as if it were real affairs. After the mock killing of the tiger, the hunter hold the  bows and arrows in his hand, jumps over the tiger’s skull several times and uttered the following words sarcastically in a sneering tone, denoting total subjugation of the tiger.


                Nang ngamton chapa,

                Nadung ka chop, chop khop lou,

Na pu’n ka pu jou lou, na pa’n ka pa jou lou,

                                Nangin kei nei jou lou tin angiel lin

                “Vi – hi – hi “ ati.


                                O you tiger though you are the son of Ngamton,

                                The length of your body appears to be so insignificant.

                                O you dead tiger

                                I can jump over your body as many times

                                As I like and that too, both lengthwise and breadth wise –

                                Not to speak if you, Even your father and

Fore-father could not defeat my father and my fore-father                      

and now you too are subjugated by me.


The hunters then jump and yell a shrilling victory cry. A group of young people called the tiger’s party then tied the replica of the tiger with its skull and then start moving around the village, making a sound, like the roar of a tiger. Another group of young persons, playing Gongs and Drums, start moving in a clock wise direction around the village. When they come nearer to the tiger’s party, they obstruct their way making more noise.


The purpose of this action is to signify that the men of the village are always alert to drive away and kill any tiger intruding into the village. It also indicates that not to speak of a living tiger, even the spirit of the dead one is not allowed to enter the  village and that every tiger, living or dead, must always remain subdued by men.


Driven out by the men party, the tiger-party takes away the skull and the skin of the tiger outside the village at the periphery, where they suspended the tiger-skin on a cross-bar and the skull on the three-pronged top of posts.


Both the parties then stand opposite each other and sing the ‘Sa la’, song of the tiger.


                Ka in sah a Keisan pi kuol ngiel nguol,

                Hangin lhouve lhum mei jong daije,

                Eija eija chin kho noija,

                Lho le mi ka cherng khome,

                A hangjou thijang daije,

                Eija eija hei cham gam laije,

                Pa mang um na kho saije cham gam taije,

                Eija seijadam gam laije, Patong um na kho saije,

                Eija eija cham gam laija,

                Sahol keipa bon nang sel na-e.


The striped tiger with its reddish skin prowls at the foothill in search of prey, near a house perched high above, seeing it, the villagers from all sides surround the tiger raising the cry –

Heija heija – and kills the tiger.

Like flames extinguished of a fire,

The spirit of the tiger is vanquished.


The tiger is now dead and its carcass cold.

As the cold water of the hilly brook.

Heija heija, yells the crowd and says:

O you tiger you came from your lair

In the jungle where wild grass grow –

To the village and sought contest in fight against Pamang,

the village hunter, and Patong, the weapon maker.


Heija heija, the crowd shouts and says,

O you tiger you attack Pamang, the hunter,

at a place where the trail gets narrow.

With you the hunter grappled, causing

subjugation and death to you.


After singing the song, both the parties proceed to the hunter’s house and prepare for erecting the ‘Nungkhom’ and the ‘Sol’. The ‘Tucha’ also dig holes for erection of the stone block, called Sa-Song. After the ‘nungkhom’ ‘Sol’ and Sa-song are erected, the priest performs a separate ritual called ‘ai-san’.


Ai-san: Ai, in Kuki means wild turmeric and is very significant and very important in Kuki traditional rituals. This ritual ‘ai-san’ is done to beseech the blessings of ‘Ailhimpinu and ‘Ailhimpipa’ for the hunters to attain success.


The priest slices the ‘ai’ with a ‘dao’ and if the sliced piece of ‘ai’ falls turning upward, it is considered as a sign of good luck for the hunter, if instead, the ash-smeared slice of the ‘ai’ falls with its surface upward, it is considered as a sign of bad luck.


Sel-bonchon:     The next part of the Sa-ai ritual is the ‘Sel bonchon’, which means wrestling with the ‘‘mithun’’. The ‘‘mithun’’ is tied to the ‘Selkhom’ a post, and about forty to sixty persons stand around the ‘mithun’ and perform the body-swaying movements with handclapping.  A few young persons then wrestle with the ‘‘mithun’’ and try to bewilder the animal. This ritual is more of an entertainment and competition for the youths to show their strength and bravery rather than to show their strength and bravery rather than to ritual itself. There are conical and almost clownish interludes in the game providing plenty of laughter and fun when some old people try to jump over the ‘‘mithun’’ making grotesque postures.


At the end of the game, the ‘‘mithun’’ as such is bought to the hunter’s house and the ‘Seljangboh’, a rite, is performed.


Seljangboh: This rite is performed before the ‘mithun’ is killed. The hunter stands by the side of the ‘mithun’ with his wife on the left. On the other side of the ‘mithun’ stands the priest facing the hunter sprinkling drops of wine on the ‘mithun’, the priest’s chants an incantation, which is hardly intelligible to the others.


The senior most elder of the hunter’s clan then kills the ‘mithun’ with a sharp pointed end of a bamboo spike or with a spear. After the ‘mithun’ is killed, all the people stand in circle around the dead ‘mithun’ and perform the ‘Selpanglam’.


Sel-mei-lah: The next part of the Sa-ai is called the Sel-mei-lah. The hunter with his wife, his Tucha and the Becha and some elders of the village along with the priest nominate a person of his own clan with whom the hunter has full faith and confidence. It signifies the hunter’s total confidence on the nominated person that he will stand by him in times of calamity and misfortune caused by evil elements.


After this rite, the ‘mithun’ is chopped and as per tradition distribution of meat is done for the most honourable and the dearest person of the family.


Once the work of distribution is over, the meat is made ready by the Tucha for cooking. During these activities, drinking of wine goes on in unabated gusto and every one is in a very joyous mood. The Tucha of the hunter’s family brings out several large earthen pitchers of wine for the guests. Boys and girls too are served with wine so as to make everyone get extravagantly merry.


The drinking ceremony is followed by the grand feast where the hunter (host) dines together with his kith and kin and his guests.


After the grand feast, drinking of wine goes on with dancing and singing all through the night. This is called ‘Sajanha’.


The purpose of ‘Sajanha’ is to keep on with the singing, dancing and drinking all through the night in celebration of the hunter’s complete dominance and victory over the spirits of the animals killed by him.


Dancing and singing continues through the next whole day and night after the guests have left. This is done by the b ‘lom’. They all eat together again in the hunter’s house. At night the hunter prepares a wine called ‘Lom lhah na Ju’ specially for the younger folk. Young folks sing some songs which are called ‘Lom la’.


The great ritual of ‘Sa-ai’ end when the boys and girls finally depart from the hunter’s house, singing love – songs or ‘Dongma la’.



This is another ritual practiced by the member of a LOM. At this celebration of LOM – KIVAH reveals the integration of the Kukis in our ancestor times. The ‘mithun’ is to be killed in this feast of Lom-kivah. On the first day an exciting even takes place where every boy tries to demonstrate his individual prowess and grapples with the tied ‘mithun’. While wrestling takes place, old and young, men and women drink ‘JU’ and the night is spent in singing and dancing.


The second day of Lom-kivah requires the boys and girls to sing and dance in the courtyard of well to do persons in the village. For the celebration of this ritual to be a success, the services of Lom-Becha, Lom-Tucha, Lom-lhangva, Female Lom-upa is required. During this ritual the Lom-Upanu serves a special wine of honour called Lal-Ju. The wine prepared by the girls is called Jutep special meat called SAPANG is served to the Semang – Pachong and HAUSA of the village, SELJU wine is also served and distributed in three rounds. In a spirit of mirth and hilarity wine is poured into the mouth of dancing partners. Inspite of the participation of young and old alike in the ceremony there is no clash of opinions between them. This is because there is in the traditional Kuki custom, a reverence towards those in authority a tradition consecrated by the society. The ceremonies performed and rituals observed are considered most sacred by the members of the Kuki society. The members of the ‘Lom’ sing in the house of the person who is celebrating Lom-Kivah rituals. A feast is then laid out for them in this house. After the feast, the ‘LOM’ members go to spend the night in the house of ‘Hausa’. The next night the ‘Lom’ members take leave of the house owner and departs bidding farewell, while the house owner pleads with them to stay on. In this way the ‘Lom’ members sing and gradually depart bringing the ‘Lom-kivah’ ritual to a close.




This feast is quite similar to Lom-kivah. This festival is observed by the ‘SOM-GIE’ group, the permission of the ‘Hausa’ is first sought, and when it has been granted, the ‘Thempu’ offers a sacrifice of a few chunks of heart meat and  a little of greasy meat to appease the evil spirits and makes an incantation. Thus, propitiation of evil spirits takes place before the feast begins. Following this, the villagers’ part takes the feast served by the ‘Som-gie’. Dancing, singing and drinking of ‘JU’ continue the whole night, till the early hours in the morning. The first day is called ‘Som-kivah pini’. The second days functions are called ‘Som-kivah Sapang, Ju-choini. Here pitchers of wine with measuring sticks called ‘Leng’ and sipping pipes are given. All are supposed to sip from a set of Jars. This sipping of wine is called ‘JU-TUILUON’. The third day function is called ‘In-nei-Ju-buhni’. Drinking of wine and merriment continues in the midst of singing and dancing. The last days function is called ‘Ju-chih-don-ni’. Where the best quality of wine preserved is drank in a Mug. The owner of the house also offers wine called ‘Som-lhah-Ju’. Early the next morning the guests leave the house and the Tucha and Becha clean the house, drink the remaining wine and the ‘Som-kivah’ ritual comes to a close. In any social or religious celebration, the rituals performed are mostly for the propitiation of evil spirit. There is always excessive drinking of wine which often leads to intoxication of the villagers in the Kuki society.




In literary Chavang means autumn and Kut means festival. So, Chavang- Kut means autumn festival. It is usually celebrated in the month of November or December after harvesting season is over. As we must say after all works of the farmers are retired. It is celebrated only when the farmers or villagers have a complete retirement from 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 sooner the harvest season is over; the village Chief ‘Hausa’ and his minister Semang-Pachong arrange the programme of Kut celebration in their village before 2 to 3 weeks ahead. On the day of the Kut ceremony, the village priests in the early morning offer a sacrifice of White fowl to appease the evil spirit and make an incantation. Thus after a well preparation of the villager the celebration begin as all the villager will come out in a traditional dresses proceeds to the ‘Hausa’s  courtyard where the ceremony is to be held. The village women bring their ‘JU’ fermented rice-beer in their pitcher. The women folks served the ‘JU’ and at the same time games or sport like Bonkho, Suhkho, Kungkal, Selkal etc. continued to play till the noon.


When the evening approach the grand feast prepared for all were served to each and every one with un-limited dish. As the night approach the youth of the village set up the bon-fire in several places from the gathered fire woods then to begin the  moods of the Kuts the woman served again the ‘JU’ the singing, the dances of the merry making and Jokes continued till late night.


In the modern day the Chavang-Kut festival lasted for two days. Its normally begins on the 31st October with an evening programme of songs, dances and various cultural items. The most exciting items of the evening were Mr. & Miss Chavang-Kut contest.


The main day-long programme is observed on the 1st November. The villagers gathered in the public ground at 8 am. The chief host inaugurates the by offering prayer by 9 am. The chief guest hoists the Chavang-kut flag. After the flag hoisting ceremony was over, the cultural dances were displayed from different groups.


In the meantime, the felicitation is given to the toppers and young achievers who have done the community proud by excelling in their respective field of studies. A certificate of appreciation is awarded to them. The village chief, community leaders and other guests give speeches on Peace and harmony and national integrity. The whole day were observed with playing games. In the evening the popular artistes and invitees display their talent followed by distribution of prizes to the winner of Mr & Miss Kut. The people enjoy the function with great enthusiasm. The youngsters display different kinds of dances as well as the comedian gives exciting shows. The people eagerly wait for the result of the last night. The show goes on up till midnight. The organizer announces the result of the competition of each item. The people enjoy the show and laugh at the top of their voice, shaking hands and embrace each other.


traditional musical instruments of the Kukis


Some of the important traditional musical instruments are - Kho’ng-pi (big drum), Kho’ng-cha (small drum), Dah-pi (gong), Pe’ngkul (trumpet), Gosem (bagpipe), Theile (flute), Pheiphi’t (whistle), Se’lki (horn), Lhe’mlhei (a peculiar mouth instrument) etc. These instruments were useful not only for raising the festive spirit, but also for adding solemnity to certain serious occasions.


Folk Dances of the Kukis                                   

                suhta lam

                pheiphit lam

                Jangcha lam

                vakol lam

                salu lam

                vachih lei thai

                khul lam

                saipi khupsuh lam

                sagol phei khai lam

                sel pang lam





Mens’ Dress

Womens’ Dress






















- Lalphirthang Hrangkhol


                The Hrangkhols believe the supreme God, called ‘Pathien’ also believe the existence in various kind of Gods such as the Hills, the River, the range etc. The customary religious performances are celebrated with social festival or feast in season throughout the year.


Like the other tribe the Hrangkhols observes a number of community festivals, they are more or less related with agriculture and life style of the nature. After hard occupation of Jhum at day time, only few hours of the night is left for rest, in this period the youth group of boys and girls use to go to the aged men of the village to learn the folk songs, to listen the traditional legends etc. The most important festivals are:-


  • Ruolsafak

  • Chemchoina

  • Parngot

  • Fahlamkai




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 with fresh and prosperity the day was not fixed, the festival was celebrated according to the convenience of the village, during the last part of January and first part of February, But since 1998, the 1st February, the Dima Hasao Autonomous Council warmly welcomed the festival and has declared as the Local Holiday every year.


In the observance of the festival, both boys and girls of the village (Kho-tangva) take the leading parts under the leadership of TANGVA ULIEN. The preparation started well ahead of the time of the actual celebration. The earning (Vengasuo ilho) of the village youth (Khotangva), by doing physical labour and the earnings from village women (Kho-nupui) are spent in the festival. In some village, the youth cultivate a patch of Jhum land themselves and what ever earnings they could get from the cultivated land, is spent for the celebration of the festival. This festival is celebrated for two or three days continuously.


After collecting the required money for celebrating the festival, a meeting is held in the village to select the venue (Tunkung) of the festival. Generally the Tunkungs is select by turn of village head’s (Kho-kalim) residence or to the conveniences of the villagers.


After selecting the Tunkung, the youths starts to make the place suitable for celebration, constructs pandal and collects fuel, water etc. The Tunkung holder will get one day service from youth in his Jhum work on free of cost for next year.


The first day, early in the morning the village Priest (Kho-ochai) along with his co-elders purifying themselves by taking bath solemnizes the ceremony, performing the ritual TARPA PHAK, or pray to God, sacrifice an elder cock and hen and cooked it with rice called Nempok. After eating the Nempok with Zu (rice beer) the priest announces and declares the festival and its purpose to the people. He and his co-elders hold fasting till noon.


In this season as there is no hard work, so people passed the time by hunting, fisting etc. In fact, this RUOLSAFAK is also time of rejoicing and merry making, thus the village youth kills big pigs or a buffalo for a grand feast to suffice their needs. While chapping the meat a group of young boys steal some meat from chapping place for themselves and other will chase them called SERAPHIT as the mark of enjoyment.


Holding of grand feast with meat, rice beer (Zu), now singing and dancing are main components of this festival with traditional dress. The aged men and women are may enjoy apart from the youth.


Second day is for competition (RUOL SIET) on traditional game and sports and for other variety programme. At the night all have a mini feast (dinner). The aged men and elder person give blessings and guidance to younger boys and girls. On the very day the people were in one accord, discontentment, enmity, anguish are supposed to be wipe away by forgive and forget, thus the RUOLSAFAK festival ceremony ends for the year.




This festival is related to cultivation, in fact just before the Jhum cutting season. When the villagers have selected their own land sites, during the first part of March, the entry gate (daikot) of the village is well decorated by bamboo splits. The word CHEM means dao and CHOINA means handling, 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 (PUONPU CHOI) is arranged and only male child up to the age five to eight years participated in it.


In the morning hours the priest with his co-elders performed CHEM CHOINA ritual by fowls end pig near the decorated gate (DAIKOT) of the village. While the priest is performing the ritual works, villagers or out spiders one not allowed to enter or out of the village, even the women are also restricted to come out from their house and the five of hearth extinguished fully .There acts are called “KHOSER” this will be last until the further discuss is passed  by the  priest.


When the ritual performance is over, the village people engaged to make fine by rubbing/friction by a spited bamboo with bamboo strings on the village ground. there is a mode of competition among then, that who will make fine first, one is awarded, As well as  the new holly fine is come out , there built a bon fine for their hearth. Then every house is resumed their cooking with the holly fine. It is to recall/ remember the ancient time, the fine was too precious, and so every one’s hearth was not extinguished till the next holly fine is produce.


After that the people of the village enjoy with singing end dancing for the day. There is no heavy feast, only the ZU (rice beer) is taken.




The Parngot festival is for the youth boys and girls for merry making, mocking, and rejoicing and seeking friends each other, it may say the kind of carnival enjoyment. This festival is not celebrated annually, mostly it take place during the month of April according to the convenience of the village youths, it last for two days only.


The Par means flower Ngot means to collect/plucked the wild flowers from tree. The wild flower means Orchids (dang hang, Ruol tei, Chemjem, Nem eng etc.)


On the day from early morning the youths set out to collect the wild flowers/ Orchids to the jungle, on singing the traditional love song etc by parting the age group. When the TOLAI (PALAMKEEN made of bamboo) is full enough with the flowers, they carried on shoulders by shouting in joy, to the selected house (TUNKUNG). The Tunkung is selected where youth girls are there. On reaching the Tunkung, they are offers Zu (rice beer) served by the youth girls of the village. Now the flowers distributed among themselves and every one adorns their hairs and ears, also decorated each of the house by hanged as the mark of happy PARNGOT DAY (happy carnival day) And thus celebrate the festival by drinking Zu with  enjoyment by cracking jokes, making merry, singing and dancing throughout the day and night. In this theme is no heavy feast, light refreshment may serve if necessary.





FESTIVAL of THE Rongmei nagas


- Buithan Rongmei

 - Royal Rongmei




        It is one of the greatest and joyous annual festivals 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, mostly the youths both boys and girls use to get recreation with joy in this festival. The important highlights are -

·         The joyous chorus of ho, ho.

·          Village Games & Sports like High Jump, Long Jump, Stone throwing, etc.                     

·          Entertainment of elders, relatives, friends, guest with drinks, meat, food, etc.

·          Singing and merry making.

·         Dancing and so on, continued for 3 to 5 days.


        RIH NGAI


It 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 of the year. This celebration is particularly meant for man folk only and not for females who are prohibited from participation in this festival. During this festival all types of men/ are prohibited from taking food or any kind of thing prepared by women. Hence all men are to prepare food or drink for themselves separately in a common place till the celebration in over. The highlights of the festival are-

·         Cleaning & sharpening of all kinds of fighting weapons, arms and ammunition with deployments to the public.

·         Recitation of war hymns, rites, songs, stories.

·         Rededication of all able men collectively to the God in the defense of the village.

·         The procession of youths with full armors from one end to the other end of the village with the chorus of “Ho, Ho”, jumping, singing and shouting victory and challenging the enemies.

·         Target spear throwing, shooting.

·         Manly games and sports.

·         Kavouna Rihtaak ganmei recitation of Warrior talks, war hymns, war rites, etc. by the elderly men, and so on.




It means the celebration for piercing the ears of the baby children (NUKON ROUMEI), and offering the thanks giving to the mother – goddess, DAA-MPAAPUI in the month of March of the year. The highlights of the festival are:-

NAASANGSAAN – MEI LU : Singing throughout the night invoking the goddess for procreation of more children.

NAA NU ROUMEI               : Piercing the ears of the baby children by the youths with needle and thread.

NAASAN KANMEI               : A celebration of seeking blessings for the child (new baby) with ceremonial administration by pouring Jangngao (a kind of wine) together with pressed ginger over the forehead of the baby by the local Priest (Mu).

NAANU TAMCHA PONMEI : Offering and distribution of sweets, meats fishes, hens, pork, fruits, fresh vegetables, etc. in the name of the baby child glorifying the goddess, to the children, old men and old women.

KON KONMEI  : Performance of dance by the old men and old women in each house-hold of the baby child concerned praising the Goddess with the stimulating sexual songs. (Tulamroi Kathoumei Khatni row-rupui lu roi son na keomei) and such performance is concluded with blessing song called KON KON PUI LIU at the end of the procreation of more children.




It means the festival 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 of each year. The highlights of the festival are-

·         Greetings and entertaining of Guests with the delicious food, meat,   fishes, chicken, pork, drinks etc.

·         Interested youths (boys and girls) organized sight-seeing on lofty hill peaks, water-falls, lakes, having picnic in jungles, plucking jungle flowers and new leaves, etc.

·         Games and sports including races, wrestling, whereas the young girls play the game of “GAA KAPINMEI” with the jungle Nuts of circular shape like the wild creepers beans.




It is a festival of taking the tasty ginger-curry soup cooked with the chicken or pork mixing with the ginger spices, chilies and salt celebrated usually in the month of May of the year. Men, Women, whether young or old, including children take enjoyment by taking ginger curry soup which purify the blood and are meant for good health.


The object of this celebration is to praise the Goddess of food-stuff, food-seeds with songs of KATU KAWMEI invoking the Goddess to supply the good seeds for production of abundant food-crops in the coming year. The highlights of the festival are-

·         Exchange and drinking of Ginger curry soup.

·         Entertaining of relatives and friends.

·         KATU KAWMEI. 

·         DHI-KAP NEIMEI – Prohibition the villagers from tilling or cutting the Ground or mud.

·         LOIJAIMEI - Rope pulling game.            

·         CHONG DAANMEI – To organize and have picnic in the jungle by erecting flags at the top of

                                           the highest point of the location.




It is celebrated in the month of July of the year just after the completion of field cultivation. The main objective of this festival is to invoke Goddess of food-seeds (Nap khatni Fulling Ponpu Sinmei Raa) for enhancing the production in coming years.


TUN NGAI (Festival in Rainy season)


It is a festival of recreation after the hard labour by cleaning fields of growing paddy plants and celebrated in the month of August. The highlights of the festival are-


The youths undertake the following social works for the welfare of the villagers.      

·         Cleaning and cutting footpath and roads.

·         Repair and construction of culverts, suspension bridges. Therefore, it is also called – CHANNGSU PUMDON NGAI, means the festival of community construction.




It is celebrated in the first part of December of the year for assessing the Talents (KALOTS) of villagers by measuring the produce collected by each house-hold as if the Annual Exhibition of Agriculture products of the village. The first and second prizes (sual) are awarded to the highest and 2nd highest producers by the villagers.




One for Male and the other for Female, and further there are different varieties of dresses and customs of both man and woman according to social status and age in the society.


Gent’s Garments

 1. Sinei Pheipon                 :- Young boy’s shawl.

                 2. Inthemphei                     :- Young men’s shawl.

                 3. Pheingao                         :- For both youth / adult man.

                4. Langthu Pheingao          :-

                5. Koukhram Pheingao      :- For old man.

                6. Langbong Phei                                :- Ordinary shawl for young man.

                7. Laakpu Phaipong           :- Ordinary shawl for married man.

                8. Chingkhong Phei            :-Decorated shawl for prominent men who attains a high status in the



Male’s Dancing Costumes

                1. Langlan                             7. Phaikam

                2. Songnai                            8. BangChakiu

                3. Senlam                              9. Taan Tadu

                4. Laangsem                        10. Vei Tu

                5. Chei & Laa Ngton           11. Killed orchid slits with case

                6. Pikam                                                      anklet.


Female’s Dresses              

1. Lengrinaphai                   : -For little young girl.         

2. Pheingao Pheisoi           : -Long Skirts.

                3. Langjin Pheisoi

                4. Kinmei Pheisoi                                : -For young.

                5. Kharam Pheisoi               : -Girls as well as women.


Female’s shawl  

  Sinei Phei,          . Khamtaang Phei.


Female’s Dancing Garments

                1. Langhu Pheisoi                              

                2. Pheilaak

                3. Pheilaak Bungkam

                4. Faangphei

                5. Pikhim               :- Ladies decorated head gear.

                6. Pidong               :- Head Crown.

                7. Vei Tinggiam    :- Earring.

                8. Taan & Tadu    :- Armlet.

                9. Baanteng Taa  :- Bracelet.

                10.Tadan Tu, Vei Tu, Tapok Tu, Kaangchu Tu :- Necklaces.

                11. Counch & glass beads, red pebbles, etc.


Some other items

Ngan mei lam puan                                            :- Traditional Dance attires for boys.

Tuna lam puan                                                     :- Dance attires for girls.

Lapui/ Karapai nsuai-mei pheiban                  :- Dress of Women and elderly Women (mekhela)                                                     

Tunapui kai bam puan khatni pang puan       :-Dress of girls for wearing in any occasion as well as at home

Meipu khatni karapow baran phei                    :- Shawl of old men and middle aged men.

Ngan baan phei                                                   :-   Young boys Shawl.

Tuna nun lam puan ntu le nta.                           :- Nechlace and bangles used for dancing purpose.

Ngan mei khatni ntumei dadow guai                               :- Traditional instruments used by boys and girls.

Tujang mei puat                                                   :-   Traditional Food items.

Phei dah pui mang                                              :-   Traditional way of weaving.

Lang kaduai pui mang                                       :-   Women making thread ball.


Dances of Rongmei Nagas


Important dances of Rongmei performed during the festivals (each item of dances has specific meaning with different types of beatings) are given below:-

1. Hoilaam                : -Male Folk Dance with Ho-ho cry continuously.

2. Gaan Laam          : -Dance performed by young boys only.

3. Tunaa Laam        : -Dance performed by young girls only.

4. Kit Laam                : -Cricket Dance performed by both boys and girls.

5. Talaam Laam       : -Butterfly dance performed by both boys and girls.

6. Khoinguna Laam : -Bee dance performed by both boys and girls.

7. Makhom Laam    : -A special dance from Makhom village, performed by

                                   both boys and girls.


Music of Rongmei Nagas


Beating of Drums in different rhythms with particular kinds of regular succession and recurrence. These rhythms of drum beating were invented by CHOU and MONGDING according to Rongmei traditional story.

Some important rhythms are: -

(a) Chou le Mongding.        (b) Ting-thin khong khol.

(c) Tunaa khenchong         (d) Hoikaw khong.

 (e) Laam khong                 (f) Theiymei khong etc.

Musical Instruments

1. Khuangpui                        -Big drum.

2. Khuangna                         -Small drum.

3. Siamu                                              -Brass gong.

4. Siamtuai                            -Cymbals.

5. Nra                                     -Violin.

6. Lim                                     -Flute.

7. Guaichai                           -Flute made of Mithuns horn.

8. Siamman                          -Small cymbals or bell.

9. Pio                                      - Two small bamboos for each clapping sound.

10. Han                                -A large bamboo tube for stamping in the ground to make sound.

11. Tao khongmei               -Mouth organ.


Flute Musical Instrument

1. Lim monmei                     - A music played by with an indigenous flute made of tiny reed-bamboo species.

2. Raah gaatmei                  - Violin.

3.  Mhubung raahbung       - Guitar.

4. Intaao Khongmei             - Mouth organ.

5. Semmu                              - A circular gong with semi-ball shooting up in  the centre for stroking with fist

                                              producing the humming echo of music in long thrilling sound.

5. Senkheng                         - Cymbal of a oair round brass plates producing clanging sound by stroking



By nature the Rongmei people are very fond of songs. Both Ladies and Gents enjoy their life in singing songs and they greet and entertain their fellow friends with melody songs, etc. Whenever, a person feels disappointed or sad he or she used to express their melancholy or lamentation in songs. The Rongmeis have many classes of songs with different sub-songs according to the purposes, seasons, etc. Some of them are-

1. Raa Kalum Lu                                 - Hymn or worshiping songs.

2. Rih Lu                                                - War songs.

3. Maku-baanlu Lu                              - Highest traditional & religious

                                                             celebration songs.

4. Lujaam                                              - Common Folk songs.

5. Laam Lu                                            - Folk dance songs.

6. Lamlan Lu                                        - Friends Love Songs.

7. Mangui Lu                                        - Love songs.

8. Kailong ronlu                  - Village defense songs.

9. Laofun Lu                                         - Cultivation songs during tilling the ground.

10. Katu Kaw Lu                                  - Seeking good seed songs.

11. Naasang Saan Lu                        - Songs for blessings of new babies,

12. Majaa Lu                                        - Harvesting songs.

13. Sing Lu                                           - High classic songs for competitions.

14. Chapaa Lu                                     - High classic songs for competitions.

15. Luphai & Ludung                          - High classic songs for competitions.

16. Konkonpui Lu                                               - A kind of benedictory songs and so on.




(Water carrying dance song)


Hey chaphum meisuang

Lum bam jie.

Mbu dui puan guang heilu maipu

Kariu dung.

Kariu mei puan sin sum lo

Ri lui kin riu gai matha bam

Ni yeh ! ! !



Behold the young boys and beautiful girls

Are performing the water carrying dance

From the river they are bringing water;

Behold what a blessed generation ! ! !

Attired themselves with their beautiful

& colour traditional attires;

Isn’t a beautiful sight to see them?

Performing the water carrying dance;

Preparing for the beginning of winter festival.

Oh ! ! what a beautiful sight

See them bringing water.




(Horn Bill dance song)


Apui chamdin gwang rai loo ! ! !

Ai ngua nijee athian mai.

Huna sam khe raengna.

Kalung lui mei raengsuni kumei

Aram raeng nale raengdai kaliam

Kumbam me raengna samtuang




Behold ! We came to see our young boys

& young girls performing the beautiful

Horn bill dance in our native village !!!

Oh !!! young and beautiful ones

We received your love & invitation !!

We’ll come like the horn bill flight.

Oh!!! What a beautiful and blessed view,

Dancing like the horn bill flights.

Oh!!! Young & beautiful ones

It reminds us our youthful days !!!

Be blessed & beautiful

Like the horn bill;

This being your generation,

Blessed & be beautiful like the horn bill birds.




Festivals of the Karbis

- Zahid Ahmed Tapadar

- Mojari Ronghi



The Karbis, mentioned as the Mikir in the Constitution Order of the Government of India, are one of the major ethnic groups in North-east India and they are the principal tribal community in the Karbi Anglong district of Assam. Besides Karbi Anglong district, the Karbi inhabited areas include North Cachar Hills, Kamrup, Marigaon district, Nagaon, Golaghat, Karimganj and Sonitpur districts of Assam; Balijan circle of Papumpare district in Arunachal Pradesh, Jaintia Hills, Ri Bhoi and East Khasi Hills districts in Meghalaya and Dimapur District in Nagaland. Apart from Assam, the Karbis are also recognised as Scheduled Tribes in Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland. With a population of around 4 lacs 60 thousand as per 2001 Census, the Karbis constitutes the third largest tribal community in Assam after the Bodos and the Mishings.


Racially the Karbis belong to the Mongoloid group and linguistically they belong to the Tibeto-Burman group. The original home of the various people speaking Tibeto-Burman languages was in western China near the Yang-Tee-Kiang and the Howang-ho rivers and from these places they went down the courses of the Brahmaputra, the Chindwin and the Irrawaddy and entered India and Burma. The Kabis, alongwith others entered Assam from Central Asia in one of the waves of migration.

The folk-lores of the Karbis, however, indicate that during the long past, once they used to live on the banks of the rivers the Kalang and the Kapili and the entire Kajiranga area, the famous National Park situated in Assam, was within their habitation. During the reigns of the Kachari kings, they were driven to the hills and some of them entered into Jaintia hills, the erstwhile Jaintia kingdom and lived under the Jaintia suzerainty.

While a section of the Karbis remained in the Jaintia kingdom, others moved towards north-east by crossing the river Barapani, a tributory of the Kapili and entered into the Rongkhang Ranges. There they established their capital at a place called Socheng. The Karbis who migrated to the Ahom kingdom had to face the Burmese invasion.

The Burmese who invaded Assam perpetrated inhumane oppression on the people. The Karbis took refuge in the deep jungles and high hills leaving their hearth and home in the sub-mountain regions. In order to save themselves from the greedy eyes of the Burmese invaders, the young Karbi girls started to use a black line from the forehead to the chin which is known a “DUK” with a view to making them ugly looking. While some of the Karbis migrated to lower Assam, some had crossed the Brahmaputra and settled in the north bank.


The Karbi language belongs to the Mikir group of the Tibeto-Burman subgroup of the Sino-Tibetan language family. Notable Karbi scholars like Padmasri Prof. Rongbong Terang and Dr. Phukan Ch. Phangcho in their writings have pointed out the simmilarities between Karbi language and the Kuki-Chin languages like Meitei and Mizo (Lushai). However, it is of interest to mention at this point that in the Linguistic Survey of India, conducted under the supervision of Sir George Abraham Grierson, the Karbi language has been categorized between the Bodo language group on one hand and the Kuki-Chin and Naga language group on the other.

Like most of the languages of the hill tribes of the North-east, Karbi also does not have its own script and is written in the Roman script, however it is sometimes written in Assamese script too. Some of the earliest written texts in Karbi were brought to light due to the efforts of the missionaries of the Christian missionaries, especially the American Baptist Mission and the Catholic Church. The missionaries brought out a newspaper in Karbi titled Birta as early as 1903. Rev. R.E. Neighbor's ‘Vocabulary of English and Mikir, with Illustrative Sentences’ published in 1878, which can be called the ‘first’ Karbi ‘Dictionary’, Sardoka Perrin Kay’s ‘English-Mikir Dictionary’ published in 1904, Sir Charles Lyall and Edward Stack's ‘The Mikirs’ in 1908, the first ethnographic details on the Karbis and G.D. Walker's ‘A Dictionary of the Mikir Language’ published in 1925 are some of the earliest important books on the Karbis and the Karbi language and grammar.

The Karbis have a rich oral tradition. The Mosera, a lengthy folk narrative that describes the origin and migration ordeal of the Karbis which literally means ‘recalling the past’ is one such example.

The Sabin Alun, yet another traditional oral narrative relates the legend of Prince Rama (Ram in Karbi), Lakshmana (Lokhon or Khon) and Princess Sita (Sinta Kungri) in the traditional Karbi and rural setting where Sinta Kungri is adept in weaving clothes and helps her father Bamonpo (Janaka) in his Jhum fields. However, Sabin Alun is not a widely accepted tradition, and it seems to be of recent origin. Many Karbi themselves argue that Sabin Alun is probably an adaptation from the Ramayana, composed when some Karbi people were converted into Hinduism in the sixteenth century CE.

Culture and tradition

The Karbis are a Bi-lineal, (where both the lineage from the mother as well as father is equally important) society and the Karbis have five clans called “KUR”. These are Terang, Teron, Enghee. Ingti and Timung. Each of the five clans has a number of Sub-clans. While Enghee and Timung have thirty sub-clans each, Terang have fifteen sub clans, Teron have nine sub-clans, and the remaining clan Ingti has only six sub-clans. These clans are completely exogamous and marriage between a boy and a girl belonging to the same clan can never take place since the children of the same clan are considered as brothers and sisters. Violation of this customary law obviously leads to ex-communication of the couple involved. Even in the cremation ground called Tipit or Thiri, area is kept demarcated for each clan. Although all the five clans are socially on an equality, Ingti being a priestly clan was supposed to have a higher status in former times.

Although, monogamy is the prevailing practice, there is no bar to polygamy and the cases of polygamy are very rare. Cross-cousin marriage is a preferential one. Like other tribal societies, the Karbis do not have the system of bride price. After marriage, the wife continues to use the surname of her father. But the children assume the title of their father. Thus, the Karbis follow the patriarchal system of family structure.

The settlement pattern of the Karbis is in the form of a village. Each village has a headman called Gaonbura or Sarthe who is appointed by the authority of Autonomous Council. But each revenue village has a number of hamlets situated kilometers apart. Each of the hamlets has also a Gaonbura. In Dima Hasao, the Karbi village is named after the small streams or rivers, hill or a popular name of trees. The Karbis, like the other hill tribes, have a tendency to live on the hill tops.

Most of the Karbis still practice their traditional belief system, however, there is also a significant proportion of Karbis who follow Christianity. The practitioner of traditional religion believes in reincarnation and honours the ancestors, besides the traditional deities like Hemphu and Mukrang.

The Karbis have their traditional dresses which are artistically designed. These dresses are woven at their family looms. There are separate dresses for men and women.

The aged men use an artistically designed shirt called Choy-nangpo and the shirt used by the young men is called Choy-hongthor. The men use a loin cloth called Rikong.

The Karbi women and girls generally use Pinicamflak, a piece of cloth tied around the waist like a Mekhela. A piece of artistic cloth is used by them to cover the upper part of their body and it is called Pe-kok. A very highly artistic waist band called Wankok is also used by every woman and girl. The ladies use coloured and striped Endi scarf called Khongjari during winter.


The Karbis traditionally practice jhum cultivation (slash and burn cultivation) in the hills. They grow variety of crops which include foodgrains, vegetables and fruits like rice, maize, potato, tapioca, beans, ginger and turmeric. They are quiet self-sufficient and have homestead gardens with betel nut, jackfruit, oranges, pineapple, etc. which fulfill their nutritional as well as food needs. However, with the integration of the traditional lifestyle with the market economy, many of the traditional institutions and way of life has been left damaged, bringing about unending sufferings on the people.

Festival of the Karbies

Among the festivals observed by the Karbis, mention may be made of the:

·         Chojun,

·         Rongker,

·         Sok-keroi,

·         Hacha-Kekan,

·         Chomangkan and

·         Ok-kepru etc.


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 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 Rongke. 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 Lunsepo . 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.

The historical background of Hacha-Kekan is like this. Once upon a time there was a village. Among the villagers there are four or five families members were held a small meeting and decided that the present village is now became very old and numbers. So another new village is to be settled. Rukasen is one of the leaders. One day he told one of his followers to collect some rice, eggs and one hard bowl made of wooden. One a good day they went somewhere in searches of a suitable place for settling a new village. Then they found a suitable place called RONGKULAR for settling a new place. Rukasen told one of his followers called PHERANGKE means messengers to bring rice, eggs and bowl for omen and praising to almighty god and asked Goddess whether the chosen place is good for settling a new village or Jhuming. Then at night a dreams appeared to Rukasen that three beautiful young girls came across the river and met Rukasen and love him and wanted to marry him. On the next morning he told to his followers about his dream. They became amazed that the dreams come true. It means that the chosen place is good enough for settling a new village. After a few days they started for construction of their houses. At first they settled only three families. In that moment two of them went down somewhere searching a place for jhum cultivation etc. Lastly they found a hillock called CHEKSO ANGLONG for jhum cultivation and cultivate accordingly. Slowly more than 100 families were settled permanently. After that they have plenty of paddy and other properties and became rich. Rukasen became the Gaon Burah of the village. Again they held a meeting one day solving that by the grace of almighty god we had a lot of paddy, we should give thanks to him (god). So how to give thanks to almighty God is to have a beautiful festival called Sok kepam or Hachakekan.


Moonlit nights are preferred for the celebration of the Hachakekan, so that they can enjoy the festive amusement in its delighted way under the natural light of Mother Nature. On the first day of morning the priest perform rites and rituals by sacrificing animals and birds to the goddess of wealth, and they prey upon the deity for the protection of the harvest from the pests/ insects, wild animals in future. The whole day is spent in feasting by drinking horlang or rice bear with ok or pork. During the festival days relatives and other villages are also invited. Hachakekan is purely a male dance. The songs and dance mostly depicts the historical background of the settlement of the Karbis village, how the village came into being. The songs of the Hachakekan is known as Rongkim Alun means song of the settlement of the village and the dance was introduced by the Karbi poet Rukasen. There is no musical instrument during this festival but through the harmony and rhythmical notes of the music and the young the boys dance hand in hand in the moonlit night. The songs are mostly traditional and proverbs types. One of such kind of song is as follows:


Se Kasen senglang

Eli ke kasen acheplang

Tangte angnoan chechang

E kadeng ka munsikemklong,

Anle li ke tangjongjong,

E anle chetong kinmundong

Chephang ke rongkular binong,

E chephang nangkim chudon than

E kasen a chernam judong,

E jokve chekso a malong

Hadak malong khalang dong

O ladak malong khalang dong,

Sanglin pen jaidi phurikong,

E anle takso pangkep dong

Anle sangkarni chokdong

Ladak kasen acheplang,

E vorong hanjar nang kardon

E vorong ta keku thethan,

Te anle chikin cherchong

Ladak chephang rongniklong,

Jakve chekso amalong,

E anle tehang nanglum jong,

Kevang tim pen him along,

E kathi anle dovan nang lang chom

E kathi kachengbon angkan

Kathi ke cheju lapuson,

Tangho ru kasen,

E tangho ru kasen senglong

E kathi chutitan runjong,

E tangdon newreng kaso rengjong

O tangho kaseng kaso rengjong

E anle chernam nanglejong

O kathilake chupen sirungjong

E anle talong vekveiphoi

E ru achernam jujong

Lake rongkular binong

Hemphi pen chenanthi jujong

E anle chengvai lam chedan

Kathi ke kuleng a bijon

Elita kunangji au vangbon

Pu chengvai lam chedon

E irutasengmu thijong

E anle chejan bitelong

Anle animso etjong

Tangho ru kasen

E anle kathi kurdamjong

Anle dovari thirklong,

Anle ru ran patangkong,

E anle kathi muti nanglongpon

Se anle chopitangdun jong

Kathi ke kuleng pen vangbon

E juse doveri mejong

Lasi tandi pasangjong

E anle eju loti dochomdan,

Lasi loti nangsangnon,

Anle dovari chengton.

Tim pen kim dovari along,

Tangho ru kasen.


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 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. 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”. Jambili athon is made of wooden consisting of 8 feet length and three branches with nicely decorated designed. According to Sri Sarbong Enghi, former Gaon Burah of Umrongso village firstly the Jambili athon was made by Jorprop Phancho. One day all the senior leaders gathered in one place and took a decision that as the Karbis were living scattered in large area of the district and for the welfare of the society and maintain in harmony we have to divide three parts (1) Durong area (2) Nongkerla area and the other (3) Chongkhili area. Jambili athon should be made in one decorated and styled but according to the inhabited area it should make three branches. A bird called VOJARUI shall be on the topmost as a symbol of chief judges and a kind of small bird called Voleng Bengcheret shall be on the top of three branches. Some necklace beads and sobai (cowries) were nicely decorated on Jambili athon for good looking. Once who supposed to be observe Chomkan will invite area-wise. So that they will participate in festival and bring their own Jambili athon. Thus Jambili athon is made.



The Karbis have good numbers of traditional dances and songs in different festivals. 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 working in the Jhum happily and make joyous with feasting singing, dancing together by displaying the art of cultivation through the rhythmical tune of the Muri tongpo and chengburup (small drum).


After a hard working they took rest and during this time some young girls were collecting firewood and fetching water and prepare midday meal, while the young boys are going nearby the jungle to collect some leaf for plate, wild vegetable etc. During the search of leaf and wild vegetable they went down to the stream and saw some fish are playing in the river as the river is thin and dry. As soon as they collect one of the powerful tree fruits poisonous called Ruthe but most commonly used is Rumet, the roots of a creepers both commonly called Hiru. They beat the Ruthe and Rumet on the stone or pluck, mixed and make juice and allowed to float in the water which turns the water milky in colour. The fish then came out and running here and there as they are drunk and finally died and they picked up.


The collected fish then cooked and all the young boys and girls working together in the Jhum were eating happily. The remaining uncooked fish if any then distributed equally among them. At this moment some of them were engaged and married in a beautiful traditional ways.


As this age old common community fishing festival is one of the most leisure moments among the community outdoors games of the Karbis. Therefore the leaders of Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao Autonomous Council declared a Holiday on 6th April every year as Ok-kepru festival for the Karbi community. A few songs of the Ok-kepru are as follows:-


  • Rumet pen Ruthe,

                Kepru paju pre

                Korpi hanri be,

                Chire dei chire.


  • Korpi hanri be,

                Chire dei chire

                Chotur pa saine,

                Chekung pen nune,


  • Korpi hanri be

                Chire dei chire,

                Kopaile do te,

                Longji ok kithe.


Meaning: Dearest one, please be careful, catch even small and brown fish before, if you are lucky, you will

                get big fish.



Folk Instruments

  • Muri:       Trumpet, made of a wooden and small bamboo, similarly the Muri of Dimasa but short  in

                      size. It is used during the festival of Chomangkan.

  • Pongsi:  Fluite, made of a small bamboo. It can be used at any time as it is a melodious   sound.

  • Krongchoi: Mouth organ made of one small piece of bamboo and  small piece of iron. It can make a melodious sound

  • Cheng    Drum: Made of a wooden. It is used during the festival of Chomangkan.


Dresses of Women or Girls


  • Peh:                        Means cloth

  • Pini:                        A kind of garments in different kind of stripe.

  • Pe sarpi:                A small cloth with three colourful strips, black red and with same as shawl.

  • Pe kok:                   A small cloth wrapped over the body.

  • Pe-Jisso                :               A small cloth wrapped over the breast.

  • Vam kok                :               A long narrow strip of embroidered cloth tied over the                waist.     


Dresses of Man


  • Rekong vet-vot:    A small long narrow cloth worn to cover private parts.

  • Seleng:                  A kind of long white colour and embroidered waist cloth used during the

                                             festival of Chomangkan and other big puja.

  • Choi:                      Shirt.

  • Choi hongthor:     A kind of jacket, it can be use at any occasion.

  • Choi-ik:                  A black colour shirt

  • Choi-ang:              A red colour shirt.


  • Poho:                     A long white cloth for turban or pagri worn round the head. Mainly it is used

                                             during the time of Chomangkan and other big puja festival.

  • Rumpan:               A small narrow stripe long black colourful embroidered cloth worn over the

                                            waist (tied) hanged some Sobai (cowrie) both end to make sound. It is used

                                            only during the time of Chomangkan and Nimsokirung dance.




  • Norik:                     A men’s brass earring.

  • Prinsoroi:               A silver bracelet.

  • Lek ruve :               A silver necklace.

  • Nothengpi:            A large earring made of silver in designed usually put on by women.

  • Rup aroi:               A large silver bungle put on wrist of women or girls.

  • Lek lokso:              A women necklace made of white beads.

  • Lek sika :               A kind of necklace made of silver of one rupee fifty paise and 25 paise coins with

                                              red white beads.                                           

  • Jeng-jari:               A large silver necklaces.



Festival of the Jaintias

                                                                                - Sylvia Suchiang



The origin and historical back ground


Khynriam, U Pnar, U Bhoi, U War,

U dei U paid Khasi baiar”


 “The Khynriam, the Pnar, the Bhoi, and the War, are the people of entire Khasi Nation”. These four branches of tribe sprang from the same racial stock. It was often the practice under British rule to designate the entire tribes by a single name, the Khasis. The Khasis are a Paleo-Mongoloid people the earliest wave of the Mongolian invaders. They speak an Austric tongue, Mon-Khmer; have adopted different accent and dialect in course of their wandering long before they settled in their present respective habitat. Of them the Pnar or Synteng was probably the older branch of the tribe. Significantly, it preferred to be called itself ‘Pnar’ or the original people. The name ‘Synteng’, was given to the Pnar by the Khynriam, when they conquered the Jaintia Kingdom of Sylhet. However, the Pnar or Synteng adopted another designation, ‘The Jaintias’.  The Raja of Jaintia kingdom and his family was converted to Hinduism. Side by side, worship of natural forces was also prevalent. Thus a great deal of Syncretism in religion was taking place, whose base was ‘animisms’ but its upper layer was the Sanskritic religion.


The habitat


The Jaintia kingdom comprised of both hills and adjacent plains of erstwhile Sylhet with its capital at Jaintiapur, 15 Km from Sylhet with three distinct provinces, the plains territories in Sylhet (Jaintia Parganas), second the Jaintia hills and the third the plain territories bordering Assam. The Anglo-Burmese war shook the foundation of not only the Jaintias but all the princely states, (Ahoms, Manipur and Kacharis etc). The treaty of Yandaboo signed between the British and the Burmese on 26 February 1826 AD changed the course of history forever. On 15th March 1835 AD, under the last Jaintia Raja Rajendra Singh, the kingdom of Jaintia was annexed by the British on the pretext of human sacrifice.  The advance of the British had a far reaching effect on - the land, society, economic, tradition, heritage, festival and specially religion of the Jaintias. The Jaintias are now found in the Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya, Dima Hasao and Karbi Anglong districts of Assam. And the Jaintias of the Jaintia parganas mostly migrated to the adjacent districts of Karimganj, Hailakandi, Cachar and along the River Jatinga valley and reached Jatinga, in Dima Hasao by the end of the nineteenth century.


Social Institution


The Jaintias, who settled in the plain of Sylhet, embraced Sanskritic culture before the advent of the British. But the most remarkable social institution is the system of matriarchy or matrilineal. Therefore the Khasi-Jaintia social institution may be regarded as Unique. A characteristic feature of the Khasi-Jaintia matrilineal is the succession of the daughters to the family property. Especially the youngest daughter called the ‘Khadduh’  or  ‘Khonruid` is vested with the ‘custody’ to the main family processions and as such is expected to observe the traditional family rites and ceremonies, any violation of which may entail social disapprobation. Marriage is an important event, not only because it is sacramental but also due to the changes it brings about in the residence pattern of the husband. There is no greater sin than to marry within one’s clan. Marriage is strictly exogamous. Marriage within the clan pays the penalty to be disowned or outcaste from the tribe. The husband resides with his wife in his Mother-in-law’s house and children born, takes the title or clan of the mother.


The predominance of women in all spheres of life and the respect and honour in which they are held is undoubtedly the hallmarks of the Khasi and Jaintia society .But it  does not imply that males has no role to play in the family and the society. The most important and respected member in the Jaintia society next to mother is the maternal uncle (U Kni) who has special authority to the conduct and management of his sisters family. Another remarkable feature of the society is the extreme clannishness. The entire society is a conglomeration of clans which is called ‘Kurs` or ‘Jaits` The mothers are consider as the founders of the clans but  the heads are always male members ( the senior most maternal uncles).


Festival of the Jaintias


The word ‘Festival` means a series of performance of music, plays, dances, games, rituals  etc usually organized in the same place once a year or a series of public events connected with a particular activity or idea. Therefore it’s the time of fun; joy and merriment. The tribals were primarily land cultivators, so naturally harvest festival is common in all the tribes and Jaintia is no exception to it. The Jaintia festivals are also associated with the fertility rites, cultivation, preventing and driving of the evil spirits etc, which has an animism characteristic. Almost all rivers and mountain peaks were regarded as sacred abode of Gods and Goddess. The Borail peak was once worshipped and called in local dialect as ‘Lum Klongtam`. Jaintia’s most sacred river is the River Kopili to which human sacrifice was even offered. However festival differs from place to place and from deity to deity. Almost all the festivals are associated with the sacrificial of hen, goat, and pig. Therefore only the non-Christian Jaintias observed it now.  


Weeding Festival  


During summer season every year, before the removal of weeds from the field under cultivation, a weeding festival is held. A fertility rite is done to appease the deity. Than the farmers dance the `Longhai dance`, two groups of dancers, female and male in one line each facing one another. They hold a hoe on one hand. They danced against the background of music played with pipers and drummers. They dance with a hoe, bringing it down with one hand and lifting it up with another in alternate succession. It symbolizes the weeding of the field with a hoe. A similar dance is `Shyrnai` but stick is used instead of hoe.


Harvesting festival


At Raliang Daloiship, the most important rite called `Nohblai` is held in November before harvest season by sacrificing a He-goat. The Lyngdoh (priest) also releases a couple of doves if it flies eastward, is a good omen and if to the west, reverses. The festival ends with a feast of the slain animals and drink beers. At Nongkhlieh, tradition has it in the past that human sacrifice was performed to the river Kopili, which is now replaced by goats. 


 Beh dien Khlam


Another well known and important Jaintia festival is the Beh dien khlam’, chasing of plague held annually is performed only by the non-Christian in Jaintia hills. A minor sacrifice, `bam so pen` is observed at the Lyngdoh`s (priest) residence before the plague tree is fallen (dien khlam). The fallen trees are then carried to the market place to be kept for a night, amidst rejoicings with music of drums and sound of pipes and yelling. The next morning, groups of young men perform ceremonial chasing of evil spirit with clubs in their hands from door to door visit. Decoration called `Rots` and the festival trees are borne to the ‘Aitnar` stream for immolation. The ‘Aitnar` is in the centre, the stream having been dammed and the site with its surroundings making to serve as an amphitheatre. The ‘Rots`, after immersion amidst dancing, piping and yelling are destroyed at the final stage. The festival ends into a game called ‘Dat Lawak `in which a sort of football (the ball is of wood) is played among two teams of farmers. The winning party of the game is assured a good harvest.  The ‘Beh dien khlam` are fertility and driving of evil spirits rites. It is an amusing festival with prayers to God to yield good harvest and protect them from the bad spirits.


Siat Khnam Festival


Another adventurous festival for young boys and men is the ‘Siat khnam` or the archery competition and the ‘Dein Khlain` (Greased pole) as in 1854 Joseph Hooker, a journalist described the event he experienced  - “The usual toy of children is the bow and arrow with which they are expert, they ….also spin peg-tops like English, climb a greased pole, and round with a beam turning horizontally on an upright to which it is attached by a pivot”, (Himalayan Journals, page 486). The ‘Siat khnam’ or archery game is now has taken the form of a commercial business which is known as ‘Tir` or ‘Thoh Tim`, a sort of lottery. Betting –counters are found every where, where bidders can get cash prize, if one bets the correct number of arrows that an archer would hit.


The ‘Siat Khnam’ or archery was held annually in the early years of Jatinga inception till the thirties of the last century. With the demised of the first generation of the Jaintias that come to Jatinga the ‘Siat khnam` festival  ends along with them. The conversion to Christianity and with the advance of western education, it does little good but has torn the Jaintias from their ancient, age-old rich tradition and culture. The Jaintias in Dima Hasao has become a tribe with a derelict festival and tradition, except their language and their matrilineal customs. The newly converted Christian, of those early days considered these old festivals, dances and games as useless and waste of time. There is a long generation gap of not understanding until now the young and present generation of Jatinga eagerly wants to revive back the once rich culture and tradition of the Jaintia people. And as for the ‘Dein Khlain` (a pole smeared with pigs’ fat) competition is held sometime only during Christmas festival. This game too is fast dying unless boys underscore the richness of their old tradition. As E.W.Suchiang wrote - ‘If we forget the past, the present and future have no place to stand`.


Other festivals


There are other festivals like the Market festival known as `Knia long raid` performed in February. After the decision of the Council is taken, the ‘Pyrda` festival is held in the month of April. In act of conformation to such decision the rite called ‘Nguh Blai` (Homage to God) is performed. Festival beers are sprinkle. ‘Knia umtisong’, a fertility festival is performed in June. The Kopili rite is performed in June at ‘Umkoi Bir Jyrpa`, a pool symbolizing the great water goddess when simultaneously, weeds are removed from the field. ‘Pyrong shnong` and ‘Knia khlam` as a means of preventing epidemics and plague are observed in the month of July. ‘Thang bula` (effigy molestation) in November corresponds to harvest sacrifice. In the past, before the major festival took place, the Daloi (chieftain) in person went down to Jaintiapur and obtained from the Raja articles such as vessels, plates, flags, guns and gold.


Dances of the Jaintias


Speaking of dances, S. Tham, a Khasi poet thus remarks:-

                “Ka khor ka khriam ka ksiar barieh

                Ki sei ha rong ban shad mastieh”


The English version:-

              “The attire hidden and costume bright

               In dancing ground they melt in light”


Many of the Jaintia dances are religious but a few are non-religious. A popular Jaintia dance is the `Laho` dance, a woman with two men by her side, crossing hands with them over the shoulders, giving full expression to the movement and swinging of the body and hopping of the feet. This dance is performed in harmony with the music played with pipes and drums at the background.’ Laho` resembles the Bihu dance of Assamese people.


Another important dance is the ‘Shad Pliang` or plate dance. This was performed by young damsels in the Raja`s palace to entertain the royal guests. The plates symbolized hospitality for serving delicious food to the guests and special invitees. Now it has become a part and parcel of every Jaintias marriage celebration as ‘Shad Pliang` is a dance of joy, merriment and hospitality. Both the bride and the bride grooms` families take parts in this dance after feasting is over, which continue till dawn. It can be performed all alone, to show off the skilled in handling the plates without letting it fall to the ground. Some could even dance with four plates simultaneously, two plates on each hand, and one locked by the lips in the mouth and another in the head.


Shad Pliang` is also performed in the open field, girls dancing with plates to the sound of music and boys move their hands and body circling around the dancing girls, symbolizing as a protector till ones get weary, tired and than retires. New dancer takes turn and thus it continues for a long time. As mentioned already the `Longhai` dance is performed with a hoe and the ‘Shynai` is performed with a stick.


Another Jaintia dance is the ‘Shad Pdung`, which is performed in the harvesting festival. Young girls hold ‘pdung’ (round bamboo sheaf) in hands swinging to the rhythm of the music symbolizing the ‘harvested of plenty` and shearing the new harvest. Unlike ‘Shad Pliang`, the ‘Shad Pdung` is performed in open field with larger number of girls. This dance is performed by female folks. Dances such as, `Shad Stieh` a dance of spear and shield, ‘Shad Behmrad` a hunting dance, ‘Shad Mastieh` a fast dance, male dancers skirting off each other ,holding in their hands a sword and fly-flap, each stepping towards one another, the ‘Shad Pastieh` is an important ceremonial dance, ‘Shad Phurator` is a male dance against the sound of drumming and ‘Shad Wait` a sword dance which exhibits a type of an old war combat  belongs to the male folks. Other dances such as ‘Shad Lumkba Shohkba` and ‘Shad Nongrep’ are cultivation dance in which both male and female dances together. ‘Shad Pynioo Jaid Riam` is a dance of four distinct tribes of Khasis, in their different traditional attires, a couple from each group, dances together to show the spirit of unity in diversity. The word ‘Shad` means – Dance.


Traditional attire and ornaments              


‘Ryndia khyrwang’,  ‘Ryndia Saru`,  ‘Ryndia Stem`, ‘Ryndia Tlem` were worn by women in the past. A single mixed colour cloth, girded at the waist, looping downward to the ankle. Over it another cloth (Muga) tied from the collar bone while another end in fastened below the left arm pit. No stitching was needed for this type of weave cloth. These days blouse, skirt mostly mill-made fabrics and synthetic are worn underneath. ‘That kup`, ‘marina’, ‘saro’, (shawl) were compulsory to be used by married woman to cover her head.  The ‘Thatsem Pnar` (Sari) is also worn by woman but in a little different way. The ‘Achol`, is wrapped around the armpit and pinned it up at the shoulder. There is a little modification with the change of time.


Gold and silver such as ‘Khaila` (earing), ‘kpien ksiar` (golden necklace), ‘Kpien chabi` (long silver keychain), ‘Sahkti` (finger ring), ‘Khadu` (golden\silver bracelet), are commonly worn by women. ‘Pangsngiat` (headgear) is worn only during ‘Laho` dance.


As for men they wore,  ‘Sula` (shirt), ‘Yuslein`(dhoti), ‘Yuspang Phylli`( Muga turban), ‘Patoi` (waistcoat), ‘Dhara` a long coloured silk to wrapped across the shoulders   and waist. Ornaments such as ‘Kpien chabi` (long silver keychain) are also used by men during dancing, hanging across both the shoulders.


Food and drinks


The Jaintias relish pork the most besides mutton, chicken, meat of deer, wild boars, pigeons, jungle fowls. Very few Christian families take beef but the non-Christian don’t take at all. The most favourite Rice-dish is` Jadoh` prepared from a pig’s head. The head is cleaned and boiled. When the meat is cooked, it is cut into very small pieces and the brain  ( which is wrapped in a leaf  and boiled) besmeared with the local spices ready to be eaten known as ‘Dohklieh`. Then rice is cooked in the remaining boiled water, added by local spices, salt and when cooked it is known as ‘Jadoh`. Another rice-dish called ‘Jasnem` is prepared with the blood of pig or hen being collected separately and besmeared with rice, local spices and bits of meats. Jaintias are famous for the preparation of ‘Tungtoh` or ‘Tungrymbai`, prepared from fermented beans with ‘Nai-ong` black sesames  added with local spices and bits of pork meats. Indigenous cakes are ‘Pusain, Pumaloi, Putyrt, Pusyap, and Pusaw, Pukhlein, Pusla` made of pounded rice. ‘Kwai’- the hall mark of khasi & Jaintia, has served as an item of social recreation and entertainment. Fruits are abounding as they grow all the available fruits of the area.


There are various kinds of drinks. ‘Kiad` (beer) –‘Kiad hiar, Kiad um, Kiad thang, Kiad pyrnah, Kiad harak`- prepared from rice or millet.  Beer is used in all ceremonies like birth, marriage and death, festivals and entertainment.


Musical Instruments


String instruments: - ‘Duitara`, made of wood with three or four strings of silk thread                                                                                       ‘Sarong,` which has three threads and is played with a bow.


Drums: -                ‘Ka Nakra` a huge drum, a kettle drum made of

                             wood having its head, made of deer skin.

                                ‘Padiah` a small drum made of wood.

                                ‘Ka Ksing kynthei` - small female drum played in

                             female dance.

                             ‘Katasa`a small circular drum, its handle made of


                             ‘Sing Naila` another kind of small drum.


Pipes and flutes: - ‘Marynken` a jews` harp played by mouth.

                              ‘Chuwiang` a popular bamboo pipe used for


                               ‘Tangmuri` made of wood producing a hoarse

                              deep tune at dancing.

                              ‘Pyniein chuwiang` made of cane used by

                               cowshed generally.

                              ‘Bikur` a kind of trumpet.


The Khasis and Jaintias are music lovers and considered a musical race in this part of the world.  ‘Until recently, their songs had little or no words. These were simply tunes like whistling. It is said that except the Englishmen and the Khasis, no other people in the world are so prone to whistling at work, at leisure and merriment`.                  


The Khasis and Jaintias consider ` Ka Duitara` (the harp) as the queen of music for its highly flown and inspired melodious tunes a minstrel singing  on `Ka Duitara` is said to have drawn the hearts of his listeners to the world of legends and romance. And many things are mixed up in the singing and chanting of the minstrel playing on  ‘Ka Duitara`, with the tales of wonder, magic, miracles and philosophy. Sometime the musicians engage themselves in debates along with music on their strings and eloquence on their words.






- L Pianga Darnei


Origin and Historical Background


As the legend goes, the first Biate ancestors were said to have emerged out of a big cave called Sinlung. From this originating place, they traveled and wondered through out the length and breadth of the Chinese Country. At last, they entered Mizoram via the Rili Dil (Ri Lake) which is located somewhere Mizoram – Myanmar (Burma) border. So far as the known historic is concerned, the settlement of our ancestor may be traced back to erstwhile Lushei Hills (now Mizoram) during the early part of the 16th Century. Our forefathers once lived there at a place called “Lungver” (a stone hole). There they worshiped a python (Rulpui) as god. They were living in such a piteous condition that they had to feed Rulpui by offering their children one after another as and when the demand arose by making suitable rotation from house to house. This Python worshiping and the settlement of our ancestors at Lungver is confirm by the book name” The Lushei-Kuki Clans” written by J  Shakespeare. The Biate ancestors thence moved to the northern part of Mizoram and established a permanent village called “Biate Village” there. This village (Biate) still stands as the largest and oldest village in Mizoram today. There are also some places and rivers like Champhai, Saitual, Phaileng, Rengtetlang (now Vairengte), Raifan dung etc. exclusively named by our fore fathers during their settlement in Mizoram.


During the early part of the 17th century, majority of our forefathers emigrated from the Northern Lushai Hill to the present state of Tripura (Biates call it “Vairengram”). The then Maharaja of Tripura treated our community as subject loyal to him. He also granted them autonomy to look after their own affairs. They, in turn, paid to the Maharaja in the form of labour, paddy and other crops. For his convenience administration the Maharaja appointed two heads or Governors called Kalim and “Kabur from amongst the community. These two Heads were given the responsibility for the all round development and administration with in the Biate inhabited area. So, the Kalim and Kabur always maintained constant liaison with the Maharaja. It is important to note that as a token of his appointment and honour, the Maharaja presented a bracelet made of platinum or super fine Rupa (Silver) each to our Kalim and Kabur. These arm bracelets are known as “Bala’s. The Bala is handed over from generation to generation whenever a new Kalim or Kabur is appointed as per the Biate Customary Law. These two Bala’s are still worn by the incumbents Kalim and Kabur till today. The Maharaja of Tripura recognized the tribe as ‘BIATE’ or “HALAM BIATE” only.


From the land of Maharaja (Vairengram), they further moved to northern Cachar (now North Cachar Hills District) during the later part of the 17th century. When they enter North Cachar Hills, they began to live with Dimasa people under Hidimba Kingdom (headquarter at Maibang). The Dimasa king recognized them as a separate and distinct tribe. Since then the Dimasa people in their own dialect called as ‘Bedesa’ to distinguish the Biate from any other tribes. It is also undenying fact in the history of the Hidimba kingdom that once a Biate warrior was installed as Commander at Khorongma Fort (near Garampani) by the Dimasa king defend his kingdom from the possible attack of the Jaintias (now in Meghalaya). As told by the Biate elderly people, the story of a Dimasa General name Tuluram Senapati who personally visited the Biates villages like Khobak, Vaitang, Sangbar etc. to settle a petty dispute between the Biates and Hrangkhols over the matter of deity worshipping.


In the mean time, some of the Biate forefathers even moved as far as Jaintias hills of Meghalaya and settle at a place called ‘Saipum’ (now Saipung Ilakaor Constituency). Even after their settlement at Saipum, they still maintained their subjectivity to the Dimasa king of North Cachar Hills and paid tribute to him, which lasted for some years. As years passed by, they began to live under the Jaintia king who also recognized them as ‘Biate’ only. The Jaintia people, however, in their own language often called the Biates ‘Hadem’ to signify “people who have come from Hidimba kingdom”. In 1865, the final partition of North Cachar Hills and the Jaintia Hills took place and the British Authority took full control over the administration of the whole region. Thenceforth, the Biate brethren in Jaintia hills started paying taxes as imposed by the British, either at Jowai or Cherapunjee while the Biate in North Cachar Hills also dropped their taxes either at Gunjung or Asalu (near Mahur).


Again, back to North Cachar Hills, the Biates are one of the earliest tribe who entered the District, participated in the demand and formation of the present North Cachar Hills Autonomous (District) Council after the Indian independence. The North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council since its inception recognized the Biate Tribes as separate and distinct tribes of the District. It is worth -mentioning that Late C T Thanga, a Biate leader and elected member of the Council was the first man to occupy the prestigious post of the Deputy Chairman of the North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council, when it was it was formed in 1952, (SDO (Civil) was the Ex- Officio Chairman during that time).



Festivals of the Biates


The Biate used to observe community festival (Kût) for about five times in a year namely:

  • Nûlding Kût,

  • Pamchar Kût,

  • Lebang Kût,

  • Tamthar Kût and

  • Favang Kût.


The Biate people observed these festivals (Kût) from time immemorial. These Kût were observed and celebrated in every village and in different time and date according to their convenience.




Nûlding Kût is the most important festival of the 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. As such, it is the most revered festival which is being celebrated by the Biate people every year.


The ancient people considered this festival as a symbol for the beginning of a new year. The people observed this remarkable day by offering religious rites followed by social functions like performing cultural dances, singing folk songs, drinking liquor (Zu) and various kinds of merry-making. The people of all ages, especially the women folk dressed themselves in their colorful attires. People also indulged themselves in playing games and sports of various kinds all day long. They enjoyed it as the beginning of a new life of the New Year. Before they start new activities of life like cultivation, construction of dwelling houses etc, they enjoyed together during this festival so as to renew their strength and determination before they enter the New Year. The people were supposed to forgive and forget their short-comings, sorrows and discontentment arising out of their past deeds. Hence the occasion was also regarded as a day of forgiveness. Another important feature of this festival is that it was also celebrated as a day of prayer led by the village priest (Thiampu). People assembled together in one place and pray to God whole heartedly and with all humility and sanctity for the forgiveness of their past sins and errors. They also sought kindness and blessings from God for their prosperity in the coming year. In this way, the people indeed renewed their faith and commitment before God on that day. Another interesting feature of this festival is that the elderly people met together in the house of the village chief (Siarkalim) and held a village Durbar Meeting (Devan). There they sat down around a pitcher (Kola) full of home made liquor (Zu). They sucked the liquor one after another sharing a single bamboo pipe (Thlongthli) while they discussed about their agricultural activities, fishing, hunting and the administration of the village. Similarly, the youths of the village also had a day long programmed during this festival. Young men and women were led outdoors by their parents because of the variety of programmes they had to accomplish on that day. As a result, the youths were able to mixed up together, could meet and talk face to face to one another and availed an opportunity for choosing their would-be life partners.


Pamchar KûT


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. In this festival there is no much of merry making and enjoyment. However, the people use to drink rice beer to celebrate the occasion.


Lebang KûT


This 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. They used to drink rice beer (Zu) together for the whole day to observe and celebrate the occasion.


Tamthar KûT

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. The man and women folk use to drink rice beer to celebrate the occasion and they would also sing various songs like,

      ”A so muala e haithei an ra.Zongte a pham pui luatin huat    

       nan nei. Thanimnu neh kei nin di khua vonlai .

       Naifan a phane mo pui luata tlei nan kin nei”.


Favang KûT


Favang Kût is observed and celebrated when the paddy comes to harvesting stage. The people feel relief as the paddy had ripened and thus they would celebrate by feasting and merry making all day long.


In all festivals the village priests use to offer prayer and thank God for His blessings. People used to sing a song the whole day drinking home-made beer (Zu). The song commonly sang are:            

                                “Zarkhua mau hong ichoi a bete`n para ro,

                                 Taite vang hia kan

                                 Akhume hiro ritva chiar ei kan.”




In all festivals the Biate people dressed themselves in their colourful attires like hair band made of cane (Ritai), earring made of silver (Kuar bet), and their colourful cloths made by themselves.




During their dances, instrument like Jamluang (Gong), Khuang (Drum), Chongpering (A kind of guitar), Seranda (Violin), Rosem (A kind of flute made of bamboo) etc. are used to play during singing and dancing.




They have various kind of dances too namely - Buantum Lam, Darlam, Kolrikhek Lam which are performed by the men folk and Tuipui lenthluk Lam, Rikifachoi Lam, Ar-ek inuai Lam, Sulribum Lam, Mebur Lam are performed by the women folk.




Some of the popular song sang during the festival are:


“ E sechal tha kha sizol neh an hoi

Darvuai tha kha lamzol neh an hoi

A khi chunga ki chuang in

Sin na darvuai tha kha ka pom in sual ta e.”


“ Vuan sun taka simni sua hoia

Thadang lalin thai a ruai an ti

Chulkhothim ang ken ngil inunga

Sorla lir puan lan an athar ta e.”


“E zuang tho taro ka chim khuanpui thluk,

Narang lom hai sarang lam zoi ta.

Lam ta noning ka rual itha hai

Anemnu khan zoitur ane run e.”


 “E e nitho zamjoi kunga thlai ni ne thlaka,

Tu rai thabei lung ruka ni nei

Ei neisum sial la va ruai de rei e.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

These songs are generally sung during Nûlding Kût by both men and women folk. They killed mithun and pig for sacrificial purpose and great feast are arranged for the whole day. Thus the Biate people use to celebrate the festival (Kût) in great pomp and splendour.


Food & Drink items


The following are the main food and drink items used during the Biate festivals. Local jhum rice, Rice bear make of local rice, dishes prepared with pork, chicken, mithun meat, mutton etc.





Festivals of the Vaipheis


- Ginthang Vaiphei

- S T Kapa Vaiphei


The Origin


The Vaiphei tribe according to historians is one of the branches of Mongolian stock of race. It has also been claimed and ascertained by the geologists and chronologists and that, the Vaipheis and certain clans of the Tribes came from China, more particularly, from the Tan valley, in Kansu province. It is further claimed that the Vaipheis are one of the tribes who settled in the Tibetan foot hills after their exodus from the China.


Due to inaccessible heights and rough mountains deep terrains and gorges, our fore-fathers could not make China as a place of their permanent Settlement. As a result they move back from Tibet, to wards the plains and more fertile areas of (the then called Burma) Myanmar. Thus they gradually moved down along the Chindwin River. (the Meiteis called it as Ningthi River) and spread in the Kachin and Shan State of Myanmar (Burma).


After settling for quite for some time in that Kachin and Shan States the Vaipheis crossed the Chindwin (Ningthi) river and made temporary settlement there in the Chindwin valley. From there again they moved south-wards to Kalameo valley that is after crossing the Jangmual Range. (Also called as Indo-Chin by the Meiteis)


While settling there, the Vaiphei heroes’ in-course of their hunting and expeditional trips, they found out present Chin-Hills. It has been narrated that, there they found most of the vast virgin land, consequently they left their formal settlement of Kachin and Shan States and migrated at Chin-Hills and settling there, at first, at Saijang Area.


From that Saijang inhabitation, they again moved to Chimnuai Area of Burma. They established a village called Chimnuai Village. But that Chimnuai Area was also not fit for making permanent settlement. They, therefore, moved again to the Eastern Region, known as ‘Khawsak Gam’.


After living there for a pretty long time, the Vaipheis scattered and made separate settlements for themselves in different areas and places, viz: Phaiza, Khawsim and since then the Vaipheis adopted a more reformed village administration and compact cultural life.


In course of time enmity between different tribes came up and factional wars between sections of tribes been waged at intervals. The Vaipheis, who settled, then in-compact areas, had been broken up and scattered resulting, in later time, in spreading in different areas and regions. Some moved westwardsand settled in Manipur, some in Lushai Hills (the present Mizoram), some are in North Cachar Hills and Meghalaya and some other sections remained in the Chin-Hills of Burma until now.


With the expansions of British Power in the North Eastern region of India, the last and the final phase of mass scattering and collective migrations of the Vaipheis; in tune with their nomadic backgrounds had come to an end.


Festivals of the Vaipheis


The Vaipheis have many types of festivals. Some of major festivals are:

  • Chapchal Kut:                      Held in February

  • Chichawi Kut:                       Held in April 1st week

  • Lawmkivak Kut:                    Held in May 1st week

  • awichawkik Kut:                   Held in Engaging time

  • Lawmsial tha Kut:                                Held in October

  • Chavang Kut :                       Held in November

  • Khawhau Kut :                      Held in December Last week


Chap’ means the felling of trees and bamboos during jhum cutting ‘Chal’ means “keeping the chap” under the sunshine to dry-up for setting fire. ‘Kut’ means festival. Therefore, Chapchal Kut means the Festivals celebrated after cutting jungles for jhuming successfully. This is the beginning of yearly jhum cultivation and hard tolls of the villagers. This is observed in the month of February.


Chi’ means ‘seed’ ‘chawi’ means ‘sow’. ‘Kut’ means festivals. So, ‘Chichawi kut’ means the festival of sowing seeds. This 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.



 ‘Lawm’ means a group of youth working together. This is a very Unique Festival of the community that jhum cultivation and other hard works are done in a group by ‘young and girls’ doing the work of one household and others day by day that they complete the work in one jhum and more  in a day with merry-making. ‘Kivak’ means ‘feast’. So, This “Lawmkivak” means the festival of ‘Lawm-feast’. This festival is celebrated in the month of May after sowing seeds by ‘Lawm




Gawi’ means ‘engage’ or ‘hire’ ‘Chawkik’ means ‘engage in extra work’. Thus, ‘Gawichawkik’ means “an extra engage in extra work” by any household after the ‘Lawm work’. This means the Lawm work is done only of the members of the work for one day, which they generally completed in one day. However some works might be in completed. In this juncture, the householder will have to request the group ‘Lawm’. The ‘Lawm’ will work for the said house-holder and will organize a feast in the outskirt of the Village where the ‘Lawm’ will be back after completing the work in evening. After the feast merry-making is done by the group ‘Lawm’ for entertaining themselves and the host for completing the balance work.




Lawm’ means a group of youth for social service (Free of cost). ‘Sial’ means ‘Mithun’. ‘That’ means ‘killed’. This means a festival celebrated in the month of last part of September every year after the hard tolls of jhum cultivation when plucking of weeds thrice in the season by the ‘Lawm’ just before harvesting in the free time of the hard work.




Chavang’ means ‘autumn’, ‘Kut’ means ‘festival’. So, ‘Chavang-kut’ means ‘Festival of autumn’ which is observed in the month of November after the harvesting is over. This is celebrated with the arrangement made by the ‘Lawm’ or group of youth after the hard work of the year.




This festival is celebrated at the end of the year before standing of New Year’s work, which is celebrated only by the prominent elders and priests (Thiampu) for purification of the village. On this day no one is allowed to go out from their residence and must be confined in their respective houses. Such restriction is known as “UM-MIT-NI” meaning a day of total rest.


The villagers or the community should have put out all the fire in their respective houses, on this restricted day. The lights (Fire) may be then lighted by only priests of the villages. Then the villagers have to collect the new lights (Fire) from the priest (Thiampu) after throwing or putting out of the old lights (Fire).


Dances of the Vaipheis


The Vaipheis are rich in cultural heritage. Like other tribes, they also have different kinds of dances and musical accompaniments which are practiced as the occasion demands. Some of the most prominent Vaiphei dances are:-

  • Salu-Laam

  • Saipikhupsuk

  • Pheiphit-Laam

  • Laampaak- Laam

  • Laam-Kual

  • Sakh-luan-Laam

  • Sukta-Laam

  • Chawntaw-Laam

  • Thigalnaw-Laam


Musical Instruments of the Vaipheis


Of many musical Instruments, the following are the most prominent and commonly used ones:-

  • Gawsem: A bamboo pipe of seven reeds.

·        Diing Dung: The tribal xylophone made of wood.

·         Lilu or Heile: The flute.

·        Daakpi: Big gong bulging in the middle.

  • Daak-Chal: Smaller gong also bulging in the center.(In set)

  • Daak-Bu: Plate like gong non-bulging and of three gongs in set.

  • Khuangpi: Big Drum.

  • Pheiphit: A small bamboo pipes of 2-3 inches long in three sets.

·         Sial-Kikhet: Beatings of Mithun’s horn.


Songs of the Vaipheis


The following are the common songs of the Vaipheis with an explanation and gist’s:

  • Bollawng La:      Is special sung on the occasion of clearing the    house after the death of a family

                                    Member (Inthiansak).

       The Song: ‘Bollawnga  le vachawnga, Sial hi ngam pa bawl inge...’

  • Thaging La: Song for any festivals or function.

       The Song: ‘Pa pa la gui ding, Tu-sawn changbang dam hen aw...’

  • Salu La: Song for the Sa-aih festival or when a prominent  wild beast  was killed.

              The Song: ‘Tulai taka ka lungtup dang umlo, Thi mel muna’n  thangvan dawng nuaminge’

  • Kumsing La: This is sung especially on the death of a person who died   without leaving behind a

                              son to inherit him (Heirless).

       The Song: (1) Kumsing

                         (2) Mi’n ti luai luai e, Thai chuailo intha a kia hi aw...

  • Lachawm La: Song for the occasion of organizing Lawm zu,

                                     Lawm sa  festivals and function and in any other occasion.                      

      The Song: ‘Sialkal bungpilon nuai ah aw,Ka ngai lungnem Pumkhai  Ni aw e..’.

  • La khiang La: Sung in any drinking and feast occasions, and more  particularly sung on the way to


       The Song : ‘I chung sawltha a man leh, Si al lai thangvan tuanglam  Lo sul ang ngui e.....’

·         Laampak La: Song for the occasion of Buaih and Gaal aih festivals                                                                                   

        The Song: ‘A kum chin tumpui zika, Thi ang lang e, Lal dinga Khuan ei siam e....’

  • Zangcha La: Song for Sa-aih festival.

       The Song: ‘Saang ka kaap ding vaitui piau e, A tuap ga zaal aw e....’

  • Tual chawm La: Can be sung in any occasions where there is  singing, but is especially sung on

                                    the occasion of ‘Nau Zu Neek’ function (Swasti Puja).

             The Song: ‘Ka ding dung aw pigaw ding dung aw, Lal chang ten la ngai e,Ka thaw lama ngawi li

                                bang ting e....’

  • Siamkhuang La: Song for Gaw aih function.

        The Song: ‘Ka peng hukin deng ing e,Zawl lai ann sawl e, Nui hiau ah e......’

  •  Suangbeem La: Sung in Lawm zu nek function, and in jhuming fields.

        The Song: ‘Suangbeem te, Bem khawte lal sum lu tawk ,Khawmual sial ang suak e.....’

  •  Chilzaang La:    Are general love song and can be sung in any functions

        The Song: ‘Minva tui bang khata piang ka hi ei mawh,

                         Chun sun suangpi lai zawn; Selh ka hi ei maw....’

  • Kitual thaw La: The song is sung when children are in the spirit of playful moods.

                The Song: ‘Sial a lian Sial a lian aw e, Bual jaang te sial a lian aw  e.....’


Apart from the above songs ‘Chong ngo La, Khiang chawi La, Zaamang La, Zama diai La’ are equally popular songs of the Vaipheis.


Traditional Games and Traditional Sports of the Vaipheis


The Vaipheis, likes other hill tribes have their own traditional games and sports. Of the many, the following items are common and worth mentioning:


Traditional Games

  • Ki tukh tua: A games similar to that of Kabadi & kho-kho.

  • Kung Kan: High jump.

  • Kichawp: Long jump.

  • Ki taiteet: Running the Race.

  • Suang se: Putting the shots.

  • Kibawt: Wrestling.

  • Sukkhaw/Chei Cha khaw: Javelin throw.

  • Kikung mui chun: Target shooting.

  • Ki tuang kawp: Shooting tops.

  • Ki kawi kaap/Ki kaang kaap: Playing with one rounded shell nut.

  • Ki Kai Tua: Tug of War.

  • Thalpi kaap: Archery.


Traditional Sports


The Traditional Sports are usually played and engaged in the evening times and in the moonlit nights by children and young stars of lower age group. The collective term of such Traditional Sports and social pass time is known; in the local dialect as ‘Kitual Thaw’ of many such items of various tastes the following are more common and usually played traditional sports.


  • A kuk kuk a: Hide & seek.

  • Zang aw leilawn, leilawn.

  • Pi Pu Selai kawi.

  • Vamin aw him, him.

  • Sangsate dawllepa.

  • Lut hiai hiai.

  • Sawng sawng bawk bawk.

  • A lawng lawng a.

  • Nungak ê Tangval ê ki eng pim pem.

  • Sial aw sial aw ki than sak.

  • Aksi keng keng   vansam ken.

  • Sial sut (A major sports for grown-ups)


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