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THE ORIGIN OF THE CHAPCHAR KUT(A Glimpse of Mizoram’s Cultural Heritage)

Posted by Ramesh Khati on July 18, 2009

Mizos doing Cheraw (Bamboo Dance) to celebrate Chapchar Kut Festival

Mizos doing Cheraw (Bamboo Dance) to celebrate Chapchar Kut Festival

Mizos Celebrating Chapchar Kut Festival

Mizos Celebrating Chapchar Kut Festival

A Mizo Couple in festive mood during Chapchar Kut Festival

A Mizo Couple in festive mood during Chapchar Kut Festival

In the halcyon days of Mizo History, around 1450-1700 A.D. (no-one could tell the exact time), a Kawlni Chief ruled over the most famous and most populous village called Suaipui. Geographically this Suaipui village of the ancestors of the Mizo was located within the territory of Myanmar. The highest aspiration of every young man in those days, was to excel in a feat of strength, skill or bravery in the field of battle or in hunting or even in sports. Such exploits or achievements of young man enhanced the fame of the village and sway of the chief. Often, it was the chief or his son, who used to lead young men of the village to war or to hunting expeditions. It was such practice which prompted, in later years, Col. John Shakespeare to write ‘The Lushais are not to be driven but led’.
One fine morning in spring, the Chief of Suaipui gathered his village braves to a hunting expedition into the deep animal-infested forests, taking their flint-lock muskets, spears and daos. Sufficient gun-powder manufactured with the help of the village maidens were carried. Incidentally, it may be of interest to know that forefathers of Mizos knew how to manufacture gun-powder locally, since time immemorial. The hunting expedition took several days, it may last till they finished the stock of rice they carried or till they bagged enough big games with their guns. The villagers anxiously waited with expectancy for their successful return which will be followed by feasting with meat and drinking of rice-bear and general rejoicing. The village maidens were even more anxious, because, they would then make ear-rings, hair-combs and such other ornaments out of the ivory, bones and teeth of the big games they would be bringing home. Housewives took their turns and brew rice-beer with the biggest beer-pots available and made sure that there would be no dearth of Zu to go round when the intrepid hunters return with their booty.
Unfortunately however, as the legend says, the chief and his desperadoes were not blessed by ‘Chawngleri’ (the Guardian Queen of the beasts) or they were cursed by Black Hollock by sprinkling its droppings on them. The hunters came back to the village with no booty, empty-handed. Imagine their discomfiture when they saw their village folks who waited for them with great expectancy. The worthy young chiefs’ initiative and inventive mind, however saved the situation which gave birth to the Chapchar Kut which Mizos celebrate even today.
To cover up the shame and disappointment, the chief proposed an impromptu feast instantly- he showed up his fat pig and asked his hunting-mates to contribute a fowl each. A feast was thus made with meat aplenty and rice-beer zu was flowing. The spirit went high and the mood was changed from disappointment to joyful merrymaking young men and young women threw their hands around each other and danced in a circle; there were singing and clapping of hands all the while. The entire community enjoyed themselves even more than they would ever do even if the hunters had come back with rich booty. They have turned ‘defeat into victory’ as it were, and Chapchar Kut was born. Every year ever since, around that fateful time, the festival of a sort was repeated by Suaipui, and many other villages followed suit with their own innovations and time.
Along with the birth of Chapchar Kut was also born a particular dance which the Mizos now call Chai. It is also interesting to note that, the incident which was responsible for the origin of Chapchar Kut also carried along with it the tradition of contributing zu or rice-beer and food (including of course-meat) for the festival. The time also happened to be the most opportune time, when the chilly winter thaws into Spring, when the intense cold is over and the summer heat is not yet known. The trees begin to bear new leaves and wild beast and birds begin to welcome the bright warm morning of Spring. Added to this, the Mizo people have by this time completed their arduous task of clearing of the forests for their Jhum and left them in the sun to dry till they would be burnt a couple of months later. Thus, for the hard-working Mizo villagers, this is the rare respite they can enjoy leisure in a year. It may not be out of place to say here, that in most of the North Eastern States a gay festival under different name is celebrated around this time. It is therefore meet and proper that the sister States of the North East India come together to share their respective Spring Festivals with the spirit of fraternal reciprocity.

IN COURSE OF TIME

In course of time Chapchar Kut was celebrated in all the villages in Mizoram and very soon assumed a very important cultural tradition in our society. Each village must have developed their own brand of celebration to suit their own time, idiom and ethos, over the years. The general standard of celebrations was of four to five days with specific emphasis or programmes for each day. Following are the normal order of celebrations –

Day One – ‘Lusei Vawktalh’– Pig slaughtering and feasting in Lusei Style- i.e. they kill their pigs late in the day so that by the time the feast in ready most urchins were deep in sleep. Upas-Elders spent the day drinking beer. Young people prepared things for the festivals.

Day Two –Ralte Vawktalh’– killing pigs early in the day. Collecting their kith and kin to a pig-feast. Elders, including women spent the day drinking beer-Young boys and girls, busy in preparations enjoying themselves singing and dancing. At evenfall old women-carrying cooked food and boiled eggs-feeding passersby with food at entrance to the village-usually under the banyan trees/near memorial stones.

Day Three – Young men and young women turned out at night dressed in their fineries – necklaces of amber, ear-rings of ivory and beautiful headgears, (for information – Mizos do not value nor possess gold ornaments) – Boys and girls formed circles in the village yard-threw their hands over each others swaying to the left and to the right rhythmically to the beat and tune of the drummer and the singer in the middle who kept the time of his song with the clanking of mithun horns. While the young men and girls were dancing thus it was the duty of the small boys and girls to ply them with rice-beer to quench their thirst while they were dancing. They sing and danced in gay abandon far into the night and right up to the next morning. If they could set the festive mood the next morning they could join in the next proceedings, if not, not.

Day Four –Zupui Ni’Zupui is a rice-beer brewed with husks on it is a mild beer, specially made for festive and special days-One can drink Zupui for the whole day and not get drunk, so they say. Zupui is normally drunk through syphon or pipe immersed into the beer-pot. On this day Zupui contributed by various families were passed around the whole day. Towards the evening cultural sing-song and dancing got underway again which may last till the small hours of the next morning once again, depending on the mood.

Day Five – ‘Zu Thing Chawi Ni’ – on the fifth day – it was customary to try and finish all the Zu (beer) contributed or collected for the Chapchar Kut.

Day Six – ‘Eipuar Awm Ni’ – A day of Siesta – shall we call it. Having fed themselves with meat and drinks to the brim -they called this, a day of rest. Going out on this day for work or for hunting – outside the village perimetre was ‘taboo’ – Not Done.

-Courtesy Information & Public Relations Govt. of Mizoram

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