Chothe Achui Lin festival
Dr Cheithou Charles Yuhlung
In the past, the Chothes celebrates different types of festivals and ceremonies but nowadays only few festivals are celebrated. The Chothe of Lamlanghupi village, Bishnupur celebrates two main festivals annually i.e.: Achui Lin and Innampei Linbesides, other ceremonial rituals. The Achuilin(Post-harvest) festival is celebrated in the month of September (Langban in Meitei) while Innampeilin (Pre-seed-sowing) in the month of February/ March (Phiren-Lamta) depending upon the Lunar calendar. It clearly established the royal identity of the Chothe community by indicating about their intricate social structures and systems, and how other socio-cultural activities were guided by various religious norms and principles.Such festivals convey different meanings, valuesand ethos of the society they live in. Festival in one way is an act of thanksgiving and a time of seeking blessing for bountiful and prosperity.
In the past, most Northeast tribes celebrate atleast one festival or a ceremony every month. Some festivals has strong religious connotation while others are not but symbolically all implies group cohesion in their belief. In fact, Emile Durkheim (1915) said such festivals and ceremonies helped group cohesion. Therefore, certain ceremoniesareperformedto appease their gods. For example, the Hopi tribe dances ceremoniously in circles, so that the rain god pleases them and sends rain. However, even the most traditional indigenous festival and ceremonies have become asymbolic celebration to commemorate the occasion, since many of theirsocio-cultural, religionand custom havebeen simplified and modified to suit theirpresent socio-political and economic conditions, unlike in the past.
The AchuiLin/ RhinFestival
Location:LamlanghupiChothe, Bishnupur ward No. 12.
TheAchuilin/ rhinalso known asChultukrhinorTuitukrhin is another very important festival of the Chothes. Traditionally, theycelebrate for seven days with pomps and shows. It begins on Monday in the month September (Langpanin Meitei). They believed that the name of the festival derived from Achoi(lit. yeast).
The Achuilin is generally consider as the festival of youth, while the Innampeilin as the festival of elders. In Achuilin most socio-cultural ceremonial aspects like dancing, drinking and singing are done outside the house, unlike the Innampeilin where it is mostly performed inside the house.
Day1 (Monday):The Achuilin festival began withthe benediction ritual (Heirukkeipa)carried out in the afternoon at their sacred grove (Khumanleikai) headed by the village priest (Theimpu) along with his associates, who offeredhomage to their Supreme Guardian God (PuChotheThangwaiPakhangpa, Pi Leimaand PuLungchungpa). The head priest after offering the benediction prayer and seeking protection also consults divinationabout the future course.
Secondly, in the evening the head priest and assistant priestperformedthe appeasement rites(Lou houpa)to the four villagedirections deities(Shunglung/Bambu) to help protect and guard the village against the unseen evil forces,so that, no unfortunate events maybefall upon them during the festive days.
Thirdly, the Council of Elders (Urinta) and Council of Matured-adult (Tangnga-rinta) had their assembly at their respective unit’s houses. This assembly sessionis known as the counting and re-assigningthe political portfolios (i.e. Think-bompaor think-tumpa think-tepa or CheitharolKumpapa) for all the cabinet leaders with the scroll sticks. In the house of Council of Elders, the Finance Officer (Keirungpa) conducted the counting while Tangsha performed the act in the Council of Matured-adults. This is a very important ceremony. New members inducted or any changes occurred within were asigned their political porfolios. The Meitei called it as CheitharolKumpapa.
The ceremony concludes by the act of thanksgiving (Thoukeipa).
Day 2 (Tuesday):In the morning, the Council of Elders(Urinta) at its festive house (Ruishang) performed the inauguration ceremony of tuning of the drums(lit. Hung Matheipa) with theMuipaZuron(lit. wine served to tame the drum) after a simple prayer was offered by the village chief, followed by several customary fomalities.
Two junior leaders inspected their drums’ and tested to perfection. In the past, it was taboo for the villagers to venture outside their houses freely until this ceremony was over. Accordingly, if the family that host the youths Ruishangor Lomtun (festive place)was rich and wealthy, he offeredlunch to all the members of Village Council as part of the inauguration ceremony.
The afternoon session form three parts – i) Fho-parakpa(lit. Shield movement dance), ii) Chamtun lam(lit.Sword danceor war dances)and,iii) Thoukeipaact (lit.Thanksgiving).
The shield movement dance (Fho-parakpa) signifies how the Chothes used their shields to defend and protect themselves against the enemiesduring thewars.
The act involves defense, striking with sword and slaughtering an enemy with loud shouts. The sword dance (Chamtun lam)symbolised the jubilant celebration of successfull battles with their swords,whodefended their village and country bravely and couragously.
Both these dances portrayed how the Chothes fought and won many battles in the past and is symbolised to commemorate their ancestors.
Contd from previous issue