Tuluni Festival of Sumi Nagas

Tuluni festival is one of the main festivals of Sumi Naga community of Nagaland which marks the end of dry season and the beginning of new fruits. According to the tradition, there was a time when people did not know how to cultivate and so scarcity of food prevailed and people suffered starvation. But when the month of Anni (July) comes, it is the time to taste the fruits of the field. By the end of May, the previous year’s collection of fruits becomes scarce and so by June, there is nothing for people to eat. But, as July approaches, everyone including poor and needy can at least collect wild fruit or green leaves to sustain their hunger. Therefore, since people were able to reach a point of new life in the month of July, they called it Tuluni.

Drinking rice beer indispensably forms as part of the feasts. Rice beer is served in a goblet made of bamboo or made from the leaf of plantain. This drink is called Tuluni which gives the festival its name. This midyear festival is a time of communal harmony and merry-making for the Sumi community. Slaughtering of pigs, cows and mithun is an important feature of this festival.

Tuluni is also very important for young people for those who are in a relationship. During this festival, people will come to know that the relationship between a particular boy and a girl is authentic. On the day of Tuluni, the girls’ parents will invite the boy and his parents for a meal and there they would fix the bride-prize and engagement is also done. During this feast, the boy along with one of his best friend will consume a large amount of Pork-Fats (Fats and a handful of rice) to show that he is strong and healthy (It was a belief that a man who can consume a large quantity of Pork-Fats are always strong and fit). Once engaged, it is mandatory for the marriage to take place before the next Tuluni.

The celebration originally stretches for seven days. It begins with Monday till Sunday.

Monday (Asü-zani): Asü is one of the staple foods in place of rice, which is familiar with sooji and yellow in colour. Among the paddy’s Asü is tasted first. Therefore, on this day people prepare Asü-ji (beer) for the big day.
Tuesday (Aghi-zani): Aghi literally means rice paddy. This day is celebrated for rice. On this day, people gather vegetables and prepare rice beer for the big day.
Wednesday (Ashi-gheni): It literally means, slaughtering of cattle for meat to be used for the big day. On this day, people clean and clear the way for ferrying water. People in groups will slaughter animals and share among themselves. They slaughter cattle and keep aside for the Big day.
Thursday (Ani-ghini): This is the big day everyone has been waiting for. Anighini means the day of Anih. On this day, people gather at the house of the leader of the group and prepares big feast. Before people par-take the Tuluni party, there will be different kinds of cultural competitions between different groups. There will be kicking (Apukhu-kiti), high jump, thigh kicking and javelin throw (Angu-chekuxu) is done among the boys. While among the girls; there will be jumping competitions (Püxa-kuxu). There will also be singing of traditional songs and performing war dances. In the feast, every group is obliged to call upon the chief of the village which is mandatory and also those who are poor and needy.
Friday (Mucho-lani): The day after Ani, is Friday. The word Mucho-lani literally means the day of men. On this day, men go and clear the way to the field. The whole village collects good rice beer, egg and meat and goes to the field. On the way they throw some rice-beer to invoke the blessing of the spirit to give good harvest.
Saturday (Tupu-lani): Tupu-lani literally means the day for women. On this day, mothers and young women goes to the field by the way which the men-folk has cleared the previous day and brings home vegetables, as they cannot go out of the village on Sunday.
Sunday (Tügha-khani): Since, the ancestors had worshipped spirits; all those spirits which have not been able to pacify during Tuluni is bound on Sunday. Hence, the name tügha-khani which literally means bounding the spirit. On this day, no one is allowed to go anywhere outside the gate. Those who do not observe this day will be doing so at his/her own risk.

Photography: Manash Pratim Gogoi .
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