Every year November 1st marks the beginning of a cultural extravaganza in Manipur. Chavang Kut is a one-of-its-kind harvest festival to be witnessed
If you happen to visit Manipur on November 1st, it will introduce you to a different avatar of this state. Wondering why? During this time, one of Manipur's most popular events, the Kut festival, also known as Chavang Kut, takes place every year. The Kuki-Chin-Mizo tribes of Manipur essentially celebrate it with great fervour and enthusiasm. All of Manipur's communities come together to celebrate this incredible fiesta. The festivity is held to commemorate the harvest season's end and convey gratitude to the gods for a fruitful one. The festival is hence known as Chavang Kut, where Chavang stands for autumn and Kut for harvest. It serves as an occasion to foster peace, unity and prosperity in the state.
Celebration of CHIKIM
Autumn's arrival signals the start of Chavang Kut, a celebration eagerly anticipated by India'sIndia's Chin-Kuki-Mizo community or CHIKIM. Kut is a festival with a variety of styles. Manipur's Kut is the most popular. Both Chapchar Kut and Mim Kut are extensively observed in Mizoram and Nagaland. Regarding how to celebrate Kut, there is no set of formal guidelines that must be followed. Its primary focus, however, continues to be the cultural dances performed by the numerous CHIKIM tribes and the display of traditional clothing.
Tales of origin
This state-level event, also known as Paddy Kut, is a significant and historic festival spanning three thousand years. According to one of the festival's tales, it is the Menashe tribe's version of Thanksgiving. One of the twelve tribes of Israel that went into exile due to the Assyrians' conquest of the Northern kingdom of Israel is the Menashe tribe. The tribe had to cross the Red Sea on their journey, and as a mark of gratitude for their safe passage, they celebrated Kut. Other traditions hint that it has been around since the time of nature worship, which was practised before the arrival of other preachings.
Ju, the highlight
Rice beer, Image Source: Twitter
The Kut celebration used to extend for several days in the past, and numerous rites were also performed. The festival featured dancing and singing along with grand feasts, including local dishes. In the North-East region of India, local rice beer has always been a staple drink and in some way related to most festive celebrations. Chavang Kut is no exception.
Thus, as a tradition, after the main rituals, the village priest used to feed the inhabitants Ju (rice beer). In the past, the local folks used to hum "Lakoila or Pu-la Pa-la," twirl in "Lamkol," and enjoy rice beer.
The occasion reminds them of heritage, diversity, and the need to uphold and advance traditional and cultural values. Following the custom, the priest would perform ceremonies, praising the gods for a bountiful harvest and asking for his favour for the upcoming season once everyone had come and had brought their homemade rice beer. Following that, everyone started drinking and having a good time. To the sound of drums and horns from animals, they sing and dance.
Man harvesting in field, Image Source: Freepik
The rituals have gone through a change over the years. During bygone eras, festivals were vibrant with activities that enticed both young and old alike. The male adults would battle for the coveted title of "strongest man in the village/area" while the younger lots would play games like "Kangchoi" (Spinning Top).
Rice beer at the event, Image Source: Twitter
A significant portion of those ceremonies is still practised today to help the current generation appreciate their origins and preserve and advance their traditional and cultural values. However, modern Chavang Kut festivities have incorporated new elements, such as the Miss Kut competition, to better adapt to the times, enable women's involvement, and respect the message of women's empowerment.
Chak-hao Kheer, Image Source: mycurryveda.com
This year, the Kut Committee has also conducted the 'Kut Marathon' at Moreh town. The theme is: 'Run for Unity and Diversity. As you are in Manipur, don't miss to try Chamthong or Kangshoi, Eromba, Morok Metpa, and Paaknam, and end the course with the state's most famous dessert, Chak-hao Kheer.