Kalum Kai (House of worship) : Its origin and significance

Dr Budha Kamei
Contd from previous issue
With the temple as the centre of religious and other social activities, attaining full status of successful man and spiritual man, after performance of his Taraang Kai sacrifice, Jadonang abolished irrational and obscurantist religious practices and social taboos. Abolition of taboos and gennas had purified the Kabui (Rongmei) religion.
The basic contribution of Haipou Jadonang was the worship of the Almighty God Tingkao Ragwang in a rational form; individual and community worship of God for welfare and prosperity through prayers, ritual hymns, dances and sacrifices; discovery and exploration of the ancient holy abodes of Lord Bisnu in the caves of Bhuvan Hills, Assam and pilgrimages to these places.
In 1859, Major W McCulloch (Account of the Valley of Munnipore and of the Hill tribes; with a comparative vocabulary of the Munnipore and other languages, Calcutta: Bengal Printing Company, p.54) wrote, the Koupooee believe “there is a Supreme God, the creator of all things.” Tingkao Ragwang is everywhere that He is ‘like wind’ and ‘like air.’ There was no such time when He was not there, and there will be no such time when He will not be there. He is the origin and mover of all things in the universe.
He was never born, and will never die. Fire cannot burn Him. Water cannot wet Him. Air cannot dry Him up. No weapon can cut Him. He is beyond change. He is formless and colorless. He is the protector of men. It is “Who guides below and rules above, the great disposer and the mighty king; than he none greater; next him none can be, or is, nor was; supreme, he singly fills the throne.”
Kalum Kai is separate from the rest of the village in the way it is conceived, as physically treated and respected. Every TRC village has a Kalum Kai; it is the most sacred ground for the people.
It is usually built on the highest point of a village or a proper place. It is done in the same model of the first temple built by Haipou Jadonang and Rani Gaidinlu invoking tradition as a chain of memory for legitimation. Every Kalum Kai must be constructed facing to the east or north. East is vital for two factors: it signifies the direction of Bhubon cave, as well as that of the sunrise. To Evans Pritchard, east indicates to life and west to death. Arnold Van Gennep says, the rites connected with laying the foundation for a house and constructing a house falls into the category of rites of passage. They follow certain ritual formalities in building of a house, without which the house is considered incomplete.
Once the proposed site is selected, the ground is levelled and then an auspicious time,day and month for laying the foundation post is chosen by consulting with the priest/priestess. It is also considered good to lay the foundation when the moon goes up but never after the full moon (Buhpumei). On the favorable day, they perform a ceremony called Tengdai Khunmei, upright of foundation pillar invoking Tingkao Ragwang for successful completion. Usually, Tengdai stands for the backbone of the house. This is followed by offering of holy wine to Tingkao Ragwang and deities. The front of the Kalum Kai looks like the front of ornamented ritual house of Tarang Kai sacrifice. After completion of the construction, in an auspicious day, the House of worship is dedicated to Tingkao Ragwang with hymns, ho, hoing, libation of holy wine, devotional songs and offerings. The offerings are consumed by the devotees as Prasad.
Before entering the Kalum Kai, the devotees are purified by sprinkling of water with Ten Mhaimit; shoes and sock must be removed. It consists of one room; inside, at the far end is a pulpit/platform, centrally placed and elevated. One must climb the 5/7 steps to it, proceeding the right leg, then left, and right…… On the left of the platform there is a bench for the office secretary and on the right is reserved for the secretary, president and priest of TRCP.
At the center of the platform, Bamdon, a kind of chair made of wooden plank is adorned with male’s traditional clothes like Renglan and Pheingao muffler and a gold ring, which symbolizes the resting place of the Almighty God, Tingkao Ragwang. It is about three feet from the Boudaan, which is fixed firmly on the wall. Two jugs are placed on both sides of the Bamdon for oblation of holy wine (Joupan Keikhang). Two spears are also upright on both sides of the same.
There is an offering box for coin and paper money in front of the Bamdon; fruits, flowers and rice can be placed close to it. This offering is accompanied by a prayer (personal and private).
Once that is finished, one must turn anticlockwise (away from the right) and return to one’s place. Secretary, president and intellectuals of TRC give lectures from the platform. Facing the platform is the space for worshippers; the right side is for the male and the left for female.
(To be contd)