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Mon, 16 Dec 2019

Northeast Today

Chapchar Kut: The Festival of Bonhomie

Chapchar Kut: The Festival of Bonhomie
April 19
13:12 2019

As the winter breeze dwindles away, Mizoram gears up for the much-awaited annual festival –Chapchar Kut, which is observed as a mark of welcoming spring in the state of Mizoram. It is that time of the year when young and old, friends and foes come together, resolve all the bad bloods and sing to the spirit of brotherhood in unison. Kaushik Deori describes.


Meaning and importance

Chapchar Kut is an annual festival celebrated in the month of March every year after the completion of Jhum operation i.e. jungle-clearing (clearing of the remnants of burning). It is the season in which the Mizos devise the process of “Chapchar”, as they wait for the chopped bamboo heaps to dry under the sun before being burned. “Kut” means festival. The people of Mizoram begin preparing the land for cultivation from the end of February when winter begins to retract and the spring is about to set in. After a short period of relaxation, when the activity of sowing is about to begin, it is time to celebrate Chapchar Kut. People from all walks of life join hands and come together to bask in the joy of oneness. Men and women dressed in their colorful costumes and distinctive head gears and jewelries, assemble and perform various folk dances, sing traditional songs accompanied by beating of drums, gongs and cymbals. They are divided into teams based on the region they belong to, and they dance in joyous celebration of life, each team displaying the best of its region.



The history

Chapchar kut is considered to be the Mizo’s ‘festival of joy’. The festival begins with kut puipate or the inauguration ceremony, followed by the then Katna, where dancers assemble themselves. As thethen hnihna begins, the elderly members of the society come dressed in their traditional costumes, representing the individual tribes of the region and take part in a mass procession called the kut rore. Throughout the procession people dance, perform skits, play musical instruments to celebrate their beloved festival. It is said that the festival aims at rejuvenating the long lost camaraderie among the people. All kinds of disputes and differences within the community should be settled. Even the feuds between married couples are to be resolved during this auspicious occasion.


Legend has it that, once in Chawngtui Village, the Chapchar Kut celebration went on and on for so long that the entire village forgot about their jhumming works and by the time they realized, it was already harvesting time! The entire village had to disperse to other neighbouring villages for support. Such was the spirit of the people to celebrate the festival. Mizo’s are usually hardworking people, engaged in tedious activities throughout the year. The period of Chapchur Kut is the only time when everybody forgets their work and makes merry to their heart’s content.



Types of dance form

There are several forms of dance performed during the course of the festival. The Bamboo dance known as ‘Cheraw’, is one of the major attractions of Chapchar Kut where only women folk take part. The men tap the bamboos and open and close in rhythmic beats as the dancers steps in and out gracefully to the beats of the bamboos. It requires extreme precision and an alert mind; otherwise it can be very hazardous. The other main dances performed during the festival are Khuallam, Chheihlam, Chai and Sarlamkai.“Khuallam” is an auspicious dance performed by a group of dancers celebrating new beginnings. It is also a welcome dance for guests during community festivities.The “Chheihlam” is another community dance performed by both men and women. The war dance “Solakia”, a prerogative of the male population of the community, is accompanied by rhythmic beating of the drums. The most fun and hilarious dance form is the “Chai” dance, where all the people of the community join in, standing in circles and swaying from side to side to the slow moving tunes of Mizo songs of yesteryears.


Embracing new ideas

The festival was initially characterized by abundant supply of meat and home-brewed liquor. But at present, with widespread awareness and general consensus, the Mizos have been able to curb the menace of narcotics. The “Young Mizo Association” which has been a lynchpin in upholding the spirit and unity, has a curial role to play in the combating of drugs and alcohol across the state. They are also one of the organizers of Chapchar Kut. They understand that along with maintaining the culture and tradition of the state, it is also pivotal to shed away customs which are redundant and detrimental to the health and wellness of the people.



Chapchar Kut has in many ways tethered the people of the state together. In today’s world it is very easy to lose grip of our rich heritage, but the people of Mizoram have made sure that they propagate their values and do not allow the bonhomie to decimate even a wee bit. For some it is a virtuous celebration, for some it is a means of spreading love, while for some it is a tryst with history. Sheer joy and delight prevails as everyone gears up to start their lives afresh, leaving behind all the woes and lamentations.




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