Festivals of Zeliang
Tribe are the numerous festive overtones that mirror the spirit of the people and the tribe in general. Hega festival is one of the most important as well as the largest festivals among the Zeliang community that falls in the month of February from 10th to 15th every year lasting for five days. It is a festival that inculcates in the invoking of the Almighty God to cascade his blessing upon his populace with richness, luck and courage.
As all festivals are and should be even this is a festival of joy, rest and get-together that is quintessential to the spirit of festivity. On this day, people venerate to Almighty God and lay bare their heart and soul for protection and guidance about their mortal life in this fleeting illusory world. Their prayers are at once a request for bequeathing the keys of the afterlife and road to eternal quest of salvation.
Even young couples are united for their future during this ceremonial gesture as the nuptial knot is the symbolic gesture of perennial pleasure and ecstatic security. The festival is announced earlier and all the preparations are done before-hand to ensure the success of the festival. A variety of programmes and merrymaking mark the festival aura of the season`s gleeful overtones. The first day is known as Hega Teu Dap, the second day is known as Herie Kap, the third day is known as Tsing Rak, the fourth day is known as Rodi and the last day of Hega is known as Koksui.
The First day or (Hega Teu Dap) unfurls with the not so divine abundant killing of animal for carnival fiesta in nearly every household and those who are not in the inclination of rearing animal husbandry either buy or share with other member. Again it is on this day itself that the eldest of the family call upon all his grandsons and daughters for a common meal to his house and the duration of the meal are marked by the array of special songs which are composed especially for their grandsons and daughters. The Grandsons and daughters generally wear new shawls for the special occasion. In the evening, the engaged couple, especially the bride, presents traditional dress like shawl and other garments. Together with the boys and the elders there will be a common gathering at the bridegrooms Morung.
The Second day known as Herie Kap falls on the second day of the festival when the gatekeeper of the main gate will have a special and separate prayer invoking the protection of the almighty to the villagers and to shower his blessings in all walks of life for the year to come. After the prayer, he would go to a jungle and there also he would offer special prayer asking god to show him the right tree for the sacrifice. When it is shown the youth will cut it and shape it into a hornbill and put it up in the main gate with decoration and other necessary things. In the evening, the elders and the boys will make noise (Nro) and go up and down the whole village for two or three times and at the end they will try to pierce the heart of the wooden hornbill. As and when they manage it is good luck. Richness and blessing will be bestowed on his children. After this all men and boys will gather in their own Morung
to offer special prayer for good luck in hunting.
The Third Day (Tsing Rak) is the occasion when the brides will gather all the girls from her Khel. They will go to the jungle to cut firewood for the evening. This firewood is split into small pieces and the bark is also taken out. The firewood will be fresh only. In the meantime, the elders and youth from the Khel will go to jungle and cut a big tree which is shaped after which colour is put on the two wooden pieces showing the purity and virginity of the bride. In the evening, the bride will carry the two wooden pieces which signify her life. The firewood and the wooden pieces are kept in the main gate or the last gate of the village. With these two heavy wooden pieces (ten to twelve in height) the bride will start from the gate and the rest of the girls and boys will carry the firewood and follow the bride to the girls Morung. On this night, the bridegroom will provide food and drinks to the girls in the Girl`s Morung.
The Fourth Day or Rodi even is the last day of the festival is the most important day of the festival. In the morning, the boy will prepare a place for long jump and wrestling (a place which is set apart by their (forefathers). On this day traditional dresses like shawls and other garments are worn. In the evening, the entire villager will gather at the particular place where long jump and wresting takes place. The men and boys will make noise (Nro) and go up and down the village for 3 times. After this they will come to the jumping place and make noised two times again (invoking god to bless the villagers for their work). Then (Nro) the long jump will take place and after that the wrestling. The winner of long jump will have to give in kind or in cash to the village high priest. Then there will be singing together with the bride up and down the village. The songs are of love praise and farewell to the bride and the bridegroom, especially to the bride, because she can never take part again in dance or in such practice. At night the bride visit each household encouraging them, boys and girls to take part in the dance. For the elders (men), she will prepare special soup from meat and give them for their health and strength to participate in the dance.
Last Day (Koksui) is the last and most important and exciting day of the festival. Here one will see early in the morning people putting on their traditional dress getting ready for the dance. The bride, together with some of their friends would go round the village and give bath to those who are unwilling to join the dance. For the bride it is the last days in her life (a girl married cannot join the dance again). This dance is includes the participation only by virgin girls. For boys and men, whether they are married or not, they can dance all through their life if their healths permit. The dance is performed in the evening with different steps and meaning. After the dance, the entire dancer goes around the whole village singing and dancing, at some place they would play games and sing songs together with the bride and bridegroom.
From the first day of the festival a new fire is lit by the eldest from each Khel and these elders have to take only pork throughout the festival. Also, during the festival, no male should sleep with his wife for fear of losing good luck and courage especially in hunting. On the sixth day, elders put off the new fire and celebrate. But the rest of the villager can start their work from that day onwards with all the blessing and luck from Almighty God who always care for his children.
Chega Gadi is another important and popular festival of the Zeliang
people. The genesis of this festival marks the people`s belief that on this day the Almighty showers blessings and brings good harvest and health. However, the date for the celebration often differs between communities and villages which usually are fixed according to their convenience. The Liangmai Community celebrates this festival usually in the last part of the Chegahiu that is October.
Earlier, the forefathers observed this festival for duration of 4-5 days. However, the duration is reduced to three to four days in time of any casualty. The people wait anxiously even at mid night to see the first new moon which is believed to be a boon and being blessing of God. After the appearance of the moon the priest of the village (Sungkupiu) makes an announcement and the people makes necessary preparations such as dresses, attires, food and drink. After all the preparation is over, the priest makes another announcement as a prelude to the festival. The next morning, the youth of the village, men and women folk go to the jungle to cut firewood and bring them to their respective Morungs. At noon the men folk go to make new cups and plates out of a bamboo to be used only in the festival. In the evening, the men folk again will go to draw water to be used in the Morung
. From this day onwards a separate fireplace will be made for men folk usually at a room called "Akhangki" and cooking is separated from the women folk of the family, at sunset all the men folk along with 2 (two) high priests will go outside the main gate of the village for making new fires to be used for the festival and the males are then blessed after which they shout signifying that they have been sanctified. The men folk collect the fire and return and moreover even the cups and plates of the festival, till the third day of the festival. From this day onwards all the men folk irrespective of age leave their home and sleep in the Morung.
On the third day, two males who had observed fasting will go to the jungle to collect wood which would be carved like a man and tattooed. This wooden statue is then installed at the two gates of the village and then spearing of the wooden statue takes place. After that, all the men folk gather at the main ground of the village which is also called the jumping pit and various competitions are held viz., long jump
, wrestling, cock fight, etc. later, the high priest would declare the condition of all the arrangement and lift all prohibition imposed earlier. The folks of the village irrespective of men and women are now free from all bindings and they start feasting and merrymaking till the end of the festival.