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The Chapchar Kut Festival is one of the main festivals of Mizoram, India. This weeklong annual spring harvest festival is celebrated in the Month of March.
Chapchar Kut marks the preparation before the onset of the sowing season and is celebrated during the time when jungles are cleared, bamboos and trees are cut down, and the land is prepared for jhum cultivation.
Chapchar Kut is estimated to have started in 1450-1700 A.D. in a village called Suaipui of Mizoram. Each village has developed their own brand of celebration to suit their own time, idiom and ethos, over the years. The general standard of celebrations was of four to five days with specific emphasis or programmes for each day. Following are the normal order of celebrations –
Day One – Lusei Vawktalh – Pig slaughtering and feasting in Lusei Style- i.e. they kill their pigs late in the day so that by the time the feast in ready most urchins were deep in sleep. Upas-Elders spent the day drinking beer. Young people prepared things for the festivals.
Day Two – Ralte Vawktalh – killing pigs early in the day. Collecting their kith and kin to a pig-feast. Elders, including women spent the day drinking beer-Young boys and girls, busy in preparations enjoying themselves singing and dancing. At evenfall old women-carrying cooked food and boiled eggs-feeding passersby with food at entrance to the village-usually under the banyan trees/near memorial stones.
Day Three – Young men and young women turned out at night dressed in their fineries – necklaces of amber, ear-rings of ivory and beautiful headgears, (for information – Mizos do not value nor possess gold ornaments) – Boys and girls formed circles in the village yard-threw their hands over each other’s swaying to the left and to the right rhythmically to the beat and tune of the drummer and the singer in the middle who kept the time of his song with the clanking of mithun horns.
Day Four – Zupui Ni – Zupui is a rice-beer brewed with husks on it is a mild beer, specially made for festive and special days-One can drink Zupui for the whole day and not get drunk, so they say. Zupui is normally drunk through syphon or pipe immersed into the beer-pot. On this day Zupui contributed by various families were passed around the whole day. Towards the evening cultural sing-song and dancing got underway again which may last till the small hours of the next morning once again, depending on the mood.
Day Five – ‘Zu Thing Chawi Ni’ – on the fifth day – it was customary to try and finish all the Zu (beer) contributed or collected for the Chapchar Kut.
Day Six – ‘Eipuar Awm Ni’ – A day of Siesta – shall we call it. Having fed themselves with meat and drinks to the brim -they called this, a day of rest. Going out on this day for work or for hunting – outside the village perimeter was ‘taboo’ – Not Done.
The Bamboo dance is one of the major attractions of Chapchar Kut where only women folk take part in it. It is a very interesting dance form where the men folks tap the bamboos and open and close in rhythmic beats as the dancer steps in and out gracefully to the beats of the bamboos.
Image Courtesy: Flickr.com