Chothe Achui Lin festival

 -Dr Cheithou Charles Yuhlung
Contd from previous issue
When these ceremonies werecompleted, two junior leaders (Hacharis)performed the official thanksgiving ceremony (Thoukeipa) to the host and the three chiefs – Village chief, Assistant chief and Wine manager (Hulak, Luplakand Zupai), thus, ending the session with simple prayer by the host. Such acts indicate the esteem royality of the Chothes’ ancestors.
After dinner,the village elders gathered at the youth’s Ruishangand after offering a short prayer, they began to practice their folksongstillmid-night. In the mean time, as the officials has approved,some youths went in groups to notify the villagers to start preparing their indigenous bread (Butoi) for the festival. Traditionally, some youth after performing a simple prayer escorted one by one theirthree chiefs:(Hulak, Luplak and Zupai) to their respective houses.
Day3 (Wednesday): There are no ceremonies in the morning and afternoon,since every familymembersare busy pounding the rice into flourto preparetheirindigenous bread (Butoi) for the grand festival. However,in the afternoon the Council of Matured-adult(Tangnga-rinta) members were engaged incarrying out their inauguration ceremonies of:Muipazuron, Fho-parakpa and the Thoukeipa, like the Council of Elders (Urinta) who executed yesterday afternoon.After performing a simple prayer, two Tangnga-rintamembers wenttoinviteofficially their group leader Pakhanglakpaat his resident (like the village chief)for the ceremony to begin.ThePakhanglakpa on reaching the place performed hisopening prayerwiththe rice beer (Zuting)by directly inserting the bamboo pipe(Tongthi) into the pot and also offeringsomepiece of meat(Maytum) and breaking the V-shaped bamboo stick(Cheiche).
In the evening by 4-5 pm, theyouth in groupswentto collecttheir indigenous breadsin each member’shousefor thelate evening refreshments. They depositedall the collected breads to one of the senior most girl(Nungakmapi), who again re-distributes the breadsto three senior girls to keep it safely.
TuitukRhin:John Shakespeare briefly described about the Tuituklin that the Chawte (Chothe) and Purum celebrates this festival “before cutting their jhum, sacrifice a pig and go down to the stream and sharpen their daos...” (1912:169).
By 5-6 pm after dinner,the villagers gathered at the riverbank in their best traditional attires when they heard the drum beats for the Tuituk(lit. water discovery) feast. After they sang the Tuironlaa (lit. song ofrunning water/river flowing), the village head priest performed the ritual(Tuituklethoi)with rice beer (Zuting) on the running water with awine pipe(Tongthi) piping directly from the pot. When thisis over, all the villagers assembledthere purify themselves in the river by washing their faces, hands and legsand readies to return to the main festive place. Then, some of the singers began to sing the Waiwalaa(lit. Bright/illuminating song) and all proceed towards the festive house singing. They stop at three stations/ junctions to signify a break from a long journey,in which some youth entertained the gatheringby singing and dancing around, amusing themselves to relieve from exhaustion.
On reachingthe festive house after three stops, they carry out the ceremony of hanging small packages of dog meat (Muithidang/Yuithidang)in a string from the husk rice beer (SawaiZu) pot placed in the middle of the house to the western horizontal upper bar of the house (Khandang). They killed the dog ceremonially in the morning. (The Chothepeople no longer practice this Muithidang/Yuithidang tradition now). The host,then performed the opening prayerfollowed byserving the wine to all (Zurum),after which,they carry out the ceremony of Tongthigitpa(lit. insertion of the bamboo wine pipes on the SawaiZu pot)likethe Innampeifestival.
After this ceremony, the boys gave the drums to the girls/ womenfolk who sangtheir folksongs:Tamparailaa, Ajunlaa and some other selected songs for few hours. Womenfolks exclusively sing these songs. After completing, they returned the drums to the menfolks, and began to sing and performedtheirwar dance (Chamtun lam)inside the house as part ofrehersal.
Somesocio-cultural significances observedbetween the Innampei and AchuiLin/ Rhinwith regards to this evening session is that;the womenfolk initiates the choir of singing using drums,unlike in the Innampeilinwhere the menfolks initiate the choir. Secondly, an elderly person (should)introduce this evening sword danceChamtun lam with thedamsels as part of rehersal,where the young boys are refrained from participating, but left them to admire the maidens. Later by mid-night,the host performed hisclosing prayer,signifying the end of Tuitukfestival andeveryone retires. Later, the youth escorted thethree chiefs to their respective homes.
Day 4 (Thursday)–Since, there is no strict formal ritual and ceremonythe village eldersdiscussed certainvillage issues while they ate the dog meat (Muthidang)and drink.Initiation of the youthor promotion ceremony of Matured-adult, if any, iscarriedoutat this session. Besides, the village council resolves any public petition and grievances brought to them. They said any petitionssubmittedto the village council on this very daythe decisionsarelenient and merciful, since the chiefs/ leaders are in good festive spirits.
This day also markthe beginning ofthe main Achui(Chultuk/Tuituk) festival.Therefore,a common meal is usuallyorganised by the village council, where theyinvite special guests and friends from far and near. After the common meal, they spentthe rest of the day visiting other families totaste their rice-beers and indigenous breads (Butoi).
However, by 5 pmafter the dinner,all the village council members assembled inside the festive house to begin the main celebration of Achuilinfestival.The host performed the opening prayerTongkaipa,followed by Zurum. After which,as they began to sing the Achuilaasongs,some youth leaders beganthejubilant war dance (Chamtun lam) encircling the housepillar as part of the customaryintroduction. After completing three songs,the dancing team first went outside the house,followed by drummer and elders. Here, theyoung boys and girls including the children who awaitoutside eagerly joins the party. Soon, two lines were form: boys (on right/ outer side) and girls(on left/ inner side) led by senior youth leaderswho dance encircling the big courtyard/Laman (supposed to be with bonfire under full moon).
This Chothe jubilant war dance (Chamtun lam) appeared similar with the Kachin (Poi/Pong/Shan) war dance.They performed the same jubilant war dance, songs after songs. According to the type of songs, the drumbeats are changedto suit the enthusiastic mood of the dancer and the audience. There wasa break after three-five songseach, followed by Zurums. Often, experience dancers replaced the dance leaders when they got tired during the breaks. Before they conclude this evening session, there is along break where some youth entertainedthe audience with their expertise performingskits and dramas, jokes, western dances, singing competition and other entertaining items. After this main break, they continuedfor a while singing and dancing. Then, when all participants got tired then, only senior dancing boys went inside the house dancing followed by the drummers and eldersto wind up the session. They dance inside the house till the song ends. After a short chit-chatthe host performed the closing prayerTongkaipa, followed by the Zurumand all retired home.
Day 5-6 (Friday-Saturday) -No ceremonies are performed on Friday and Saturday morning and afternoon, except for the dancing session in the evening. Therefore,people go visiting housesby this time to taste their indigenous bread and sticky rice-beer (Zu-ngou).
However,after dinner by 5-6 pmall villagers gathered at the festive house to see the youths’ dance like Thursday evening. The same procedure was carried outuntill mid-night on Friday and Saturday evenings. This means three days of youth dancingwas organised, except on Saturday. However, from last year they have cancelled these two days because of socio-economic reasons.
Traditionally, to conclude on the last day,the youthperformedthe ceremonies of Tongthi-lashukpa(lit. removing the wine pipes) and Thoukeipaceremony.And in the past, (L) H. Gulapsingsaid,”In earlier days,on Saturday afternoon the youth units’ made formal report (Nungak-lutheiSikanOngpa) ceremonywherePakhanglakpaandTangshawouldpunished the disobedientyouthbythrashing with canestick (Sikan) and imposeda bottle of wineas fine”. It may be noted that training, education and morality were taught even during the festive season especially youths who were enrolled in the dormitory of youth’s unit or bachelor’s house.
Day 7 (Sunday)–To conclude, in the morning,the village head priest (Theimpu) and his associates performed thevaledictory ceremony Konjaijaichepahongpa(lit. the gathering of crystal ball divination) at their sacred-grove for theAchuilinfestival by paying homage, making thanking giving offerings and finally consulting divinationto their deities. Then the head priestreturn to the village chief’s house and reported the divination prophesiesto the village chief and other village council members present by offering simple prayer.
Traditionally, after all the important ceremonies and formalities were completed, the village organises‘Indigenous Youth Games and Sports’ like- shot-put throw (Tanghunglungthong),javelin throw, hunting, race, longjump and others. The winners were adjudged as the strongest man and women for the year. Finally, when all the games were completed the village chief made his conclusion prayer (Tongkaipa) inside his house, thus, winding the celebration.
Conclusion: From the above description, it is observe that all the Chothe festivals began on Monday on or after (10 days) of the Full/ New Moon of the lunar calendar. The festivals signifies the Post-harvest (Achuilin/Rhin) and Pre-seed sowing (Innampeilin/ Rhin) feastivals to express their thanksgiving to their Almighty Heavenly Supreme GodsThangvanRengpa,PuLungchungpa(Pakhangpa) and Pi Leimathe elementary cosmicGods.Three basic forms of worship in their daily practical life is witness. First, they adore, revere, and worship the above three Gods.Secondly, they revere andhonour their ancestors withrespect and gratitude, and thirdly, they offered appeasement rituals to the lower gods orother deities to be on safer side in their daily interaction. This is clearlyvisible from many of their rites and rituals performed in thebenediction,valedictory ritualsand in many parts of their socio-religious ceremonial offerings. The second most important aspect is the different types of divinations performed in all major rituals as prescribed accordingly. The third significant aspect is that anysimple prayer (Tongkaipa)followed by Zurumwas performed at the same place to signifies the beginning and endof each session. For example, in the Innkulin, Fho-parakpa, Chamtun lamandThoukeipaceremoniesit all indicates that it end where it started. All these ceremonial aspects show that the Chothesin the past had well established socio-culturalsystemswith well define structures. 
Note: This year the ChotheAchui Lin festival will commence from 9th-12th September 2019.