Gudui Ngai: Ginger soup drinking festival

Dr Budha Kamei
Culture can be preserved when the religion of the community survives. Culture is a vehicle of religion. Culture and religion are inseparable in Zeliangrong indigenous religion, Tingkao Ragwang Chapriak. Cultural festivals are times of “worship and prayer to Almighty God for plenty and welfare and celebration for them.”1The social and cultural values, the aesthetic and creativity are expressed through dances, songs and music. In a year, the Zeliangrong people celebrate nine festivals at different stages of agricultural operations according to lunar calendar with festive spirit and prayer. “The Zeliangrong religion is sustained by their colorful festivals accompanied by religious rites and prayers, dance and music and feasting during different months of a year.”2
Gudui Ngai is a popular festival of Zeliangrong inhabitants of North East; (Gudui means soup of ginger and Ngai, festival). It is a festival of worship of Tingkao Ragwang, the Supreme God for plentiful harvest. It is celebrated on the 13th day of Guduibu (May) for one day after completing the seed sowing works in the field.3 In the early morning of the festival, every household of the village performs a ritual called Malengkeimei/Tingbankmei, offering of Zou-ngao (rice-beer) and Gutam (crushed ginger) to Tingkao Ragwang and Kangdailu, rice goddess with relevant religious hymn.4 It is performed at the courtyard by the head of the family or an elder of Pei, village council. Napkao, calling of paddy is also performed in every household by sacrificing a big and beautiful cock to Tingkao Ragwang. The intestine of the victim (Loirei) is removed and hung on the outer side of the wall near the main door of the house in the belief that Kangdailu sees it hanging she is pleased to distribute the paddy (Nap). The main objective of this festival is for timely rainfall of the season, to grow the paddy plants well and nourish and to root to the soil, expand its stems quickly not causing any disturbances by insects or pesticides or warding off disease etc.5
It is believed that ginger represents the toes and fingers of formless Creator, Tingkao Ragwang. They use Gu, ginger in important ritual worships and sometimes to ward off evil forces (Rasi-Rarou). Drinking of ginger soup means one is holy and blessed. In Gudui Ngai, ginger soup mixed with chicken meat is served to every member of the family for good health and long life. It also signifies the deliverance of life from hunger during scarcity or famine.6
In the afternoon, people organize entertainment programme in which there is a Duidom Phaimei (throwing of the water put in a plantain leaf container) among the boys and girls (Tuna Gaan) followed by Loijaimei, (pulling of rope) tug of war between boys and girls, males and females as a symbolic representation of competition between gods and goddesses for possessing the paddy. It is usually performed at the Danshanpung (village jumping ground) and girls ritually win the game, for there would be good yield in the year.7 According to T.C Hudson,8 there is a festival in the month of May in which the girls have a tug of war against the boys in order to take the omens for the future of the crops. In the evening, elderly men will sing Katu, an agricultural ritual song by marching from one end of the village to the other end for plentiful harvest in the year. It starts from the Khangchiu (Bachelor’s dormitory) and comes to end at the same place.
On the next day of the festival, a complete Genna locally recognized as Dikap-Neih is observed abstaining from earth or muddy work; (Di means Mother Earth and Kap, cry). It is believed that Mother Earth (Apui Kandi) cries in agony as men burnt the woods for jhum cultivation; and killed all creatures by fire. In this faith, they strictly observe Neihmei to give relief to the Mother Earth. The term Genna comes from the Angami word Kenna meaning prayer.9 Neihmei is the collective form of worship of Tingkao Ragwang, the Supreme God by the whole village community or individual families abstaining from physical work on the occasion of the beginning of various agricultural operations. During Neihmei, no one is allowed to go beyond the village gate and no outsider inside the village. Everyone does abstain from breaking it because of the fear of evil consequences flowing from the will of a divinity.10 Colonel McCulloch remarks of the Zeliangrong that “A whole village or individual members of it are often ‘Neina’ or under prohibition. Sometimes this state of things lasts a day, sometimes several. The ‘Neina’ may be against the entrance of strangers or the exit of members, or of both, or allowing the entrance of strangers, disallow their going into houses, etc.”11 To Nagas, a genna is a community worship of God. The purposes of Gennas are to avert epidemics, natural calamities/misfortune circumstances and restoration of prosperity.12 According to M. Horam, gennas are compulsory rest days, mass abstention of work at the height of the agricultural season, sacrifices and prayers, all have the same and single aim, that of plentiful harvests.13 On this day of Dikap-Nei, people worship Mother Earth for the fertility of the soil and fruitful cultivation.

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