The most comprehensive festival of the Zo people that shows almost every aspect of their cultural practices is Khuado, which is celebrated with pomp and show. It is an elaborate ritual followed by communal feasting. It is also a preparation for the New Year to come, as the Zo calendar goes along the agriculture cycle. The most important activities of this Khuado festival is deciding the site to be cultivated in the next agricultural year with certain ritual. The festival is celebrated after the paddy, maize and other khariff crops are harvested from the jhum field. So this Khuado festival is also called Kumkhen Pawi in common parlance, which means the festival that divides the years, based on agricultural cycle. As much as its importance the celebration also lasted for three days and each day is assigned one particular event whereas every night is for merry-making accompanied by Zo musical instruments: dakbu (set of small gongs), sialki (mithun horn), Zo khuang (Zo drum), phit (pipe), zam (gong), gosem ( Zo gourd-piper), Salang (Zo violin), etc. Zo traditional songs are sung while dancing Lamvui which is accompanied by drinking Zozu (Zo rice beer).
The festival is given various names at different corners by various groups amongst the Zo people, viz., Tho Puai in Haka and Khualsim, Thaithar Puai in Thantlang and Zahau, Fanger Puai in Laizo (Falam), Dongpi Puai in Zanniat, Kuk puai in Rulbuh, Cak Zoem Puai in Mat, Nampui pwe in Kanpalet, Chavang Kut in Thadou and Lusei
In Burma, the government recognised this festival with the name Khuado Pawi. Perhaps, it might be chosen due to the comprehensive meaning in the name, which clarifies the very essence of the festival. It is celebrate in the month of October during the Burmese festival Mithun Pwe. In India, the government of Manipur and Mizoram recognised this festival as Kut (Thadou/Lusei language) and declared as state holiday.
The meaning of the Khuado is rather complex, so to understand one have to delve deep into the Zo cosmic view. Khuado is a combination of two words Khua and Do. So it has a multi-dimensional meaning and the explanation of these dimensions is all about the festival itself. The term Khua means village. It also means god that control the spiritual as well as material realm of the universe. The word Khua with a suffix Zing i.e., Khuazing means darkness. When it personifies a god it is called Zinmang, which is regarded as the god who controls the spiritual as well as the material world of mankind. Zinmang mean Master of the darkness, when Zing is put in the prefix, the letter ‘g’ is omitted, Mang means master or lord.
The sacrificial chant of the Zo people while performing sacrifice says: ‘let my god and my Lungzai be well fed and pleased’. So Lungzai, which is often invoking for a blessing, personifies khuazing/zinmang, the earthly power. Lungzai is traditionally believed to have been the communal benefactor. Thus Khua represents the gods: Pasian (the Supreme Being), Khuazing (the communal/village benefactor), dawi leh kau (demons and evils spirits). Zingmang is not, in a strict sense, a village benefactor rather he is the one with power to harm the people. The Zo people believe that Pasian (God), the supreme being, as a source of blessing but his blessing can be disturbed by Zinmang who is the ruler of the earth. They believe that Pasian is good to humankind that they need not to appease. This can be seen in one of the story of Zo mythical hero, ‘Muneithangzai’. He was helped by the vantung Pasiante (Gods of heaven) in his war against the leinuai mite (people of the under earth). Therefore, the sacrifices performed by the Zo people to the Zinmang is rather an appeasement out of fear so that he will not disturb the blessings from Pasian. In short, the Khuazing, who is addressed poetically as Zinmang and personified in the name Lungzai, is the highest god in the hierarchical of the earthly gods. Under him the dawi leh kaute (demons and evil spirits) dwell in earth.
The term ‘Do’ has two meanings – to fight and to host. As the first meaning of ‘Do’ goes, which is to fight, it is on the second day of the festival that the demons and evil spirits that could harm mankind are driven away from the village by playing all sort of musical instruments and holding torch. In a way, they are fighting the lower category of god that afflicts the welfare of humankind. So, the second day of the festival is called Pansikni/Kaubetni meaning ‘day of warding off the demons and evil spirit’.
The meaning of ‘Do’ is also ‘to host’. So, on the second day they host the communal/village benefactor by performing sacrifice for his blessing in the coming year and feast is prepared with the first fruits of the year long toiling. The women go to the cemetery and feed the departed souls of the dead by keeping food at the grave. The word Pawi means festival. The Burmese also used the word Puai for festival. So on the Pansik day everyone, except the demons and evil spirits, were well fed.
From the above discussion, it can be said that Khuado is a celebration of the successful harvesting of the year by hosting with grand feasting, the village benefactor and departed souls of the household members and relatives with the new harvests. It is also the preparation to welcome the New Year by driving away the demons and evils spirits that harm them from their hearth and home, and their village.
It can be seen from their belief system that Khuazing (god) is representing darkness. He is the highest earthly god. So to drive this darkness (Khuazing) light from torch (Khuavak) is used on the day of driving away demons and evil spirits. It is because of this some even go to the extent of saying Khuado Pawi as a festival of light.
The Khuado Pawi is celebrated in the month of khuado i.e., August in the Gregorian calendar. However, with the changing of staple food from maize/millet to paddy the khuado month have to be delayed from the month in which it was celebrated in the olden days as the harvesting of paddy is delayed and continued till even November. However, to continue with the festival we have to take into consideration the wetland cultivation as harvesting finished only in the month of October or November. Starting from the first day, the events of each day during the khuado pawi is as below:
LAMSIAL NI / TUNKIM NI (Pathway constructing day)
The first day of khuado is, in fact, the final day of preparation for the khuado pawi as well as for entering the New Year. It is called Lamsial ni / tunkim ni. On this day they clean up the source of the village water supply, the village path, and the pathway to gather firewood. Boys and girls will collect pinewood slice to be used as torches, women folk clean up the house, utensils, mattress, blankets, and musical instruments for the dancing event. Some are sent to invite the souls of the dead; they say to the souls, “come home, we are going to have a feast with meat and wine”, after which they dismantle the hearth within the hut that they constructed in the field and come back.
Khuabet ni (Day of driving away demons and evil spirits)
This is the second day of the khuado pawi. In the morning around 9:00 a.m., which is called Vahamsan, an animal is slaughtered for the khuado feast. The tanute (daughters group), the married off daughters of the household with their husbands, are engaged in cooking activities. In the afternoon, the portion of liver and heart of the slaughtered animal was kept at the graves of the dead, for the departed souls of the relative of the household. This feeding of the spirit of the dead by keeping a portion of the meat and a lump of millet at the grave is called Sisiah.
In the evening, after dinner, they have a campaign against the demons and evil spirits led by the village priest. To begin the campaign the priest make a gun shot and sought:
Dawi hang, kau hang, hangsan pa aw,
uisan pa, duhgawlpa,vokno dawng kaipa, akno dawng kaipa,
na zun na ek namsia,
na inn, na lei, nagam zuanin ciah in,
na zi na ta hong lamet zawh sawt zo, hong ngaklah lua uh hi
na ni na kha cing ta hi, ciah mengmeng in.
Gutsy demon, gutsy spirit, the gutsy one,
The glutton, the epicure, piglet looter, chicken plunderer
Smelly is your urine and your shit,
Return to you abode, your home, your land
Your wife and kids expected you long gone
Can’t wait any longer,
Your time is up, immediately return to your abode.
To ward off the demons and evil spirits who are under the control of the Khuazing, the god that controls the earth and identified with darkness, from the village to their abode, khuavak (light) is used along with other musical instruments. They go around to each and every house starting from the house of the Tualteek. To scare the demons ad evil spirits they armed themselves with meilah (pine sliced torch to represent light), heiga (the handle of an axe), tuga (the handle of a spade), singkhuah (firewood) and all possible Zo musical instruments. They challenge the demons and evil spirits with abusive words and chase them away. This is called Kaunawh. It is the belief of the Zo people that evil spirits and demons dwell in every nook and corner of their houses and village.
After warding off evil spirits they then set about to make a bonfire. They watch the smoke of the bonfire so as to see which side it is moving. The priest invokes the village benefactor by saying the following:
Zo kum pha hen na cih leh, zolamah zaam in.
Sim kum pha hen na cih leh simlamah zaam in.
Zo kum kong ngetna hi, sim kum kong ngetna hi.
Mim bem kong ngetna hi.
Tang bem kong ngetna hi.
Cidam kong ngetna,
Lungdam kong ngetna
Lungdam khansau kong ngetn hi.
Tusawn tasawn kong ngetna.
Khi-awh tasawn kong ngetna hi.
Galmang lu, samangmang lu kong ngetna hi.
(If you say, the hillside would be good move toward the hillside.
If you say the lowland would be good move toward the lowland.
This is our prayer for successful year in the hillside.
This is our prayer for successful year in the lowland side.
This is our prayer for barn full of millet.
This is our prayer for barn full of maize.
This is our prayer for good health.
This is our prayer for happiness.
This is our prayer for longevity.
This is our prayer for grandsons and great grandsons.
This is our prayer for lots of necklace and bangles.
This is our prayer for the heads of our enemies and big wild animals).
At night, after ‘the ward off of demons and evil’ event, some went to the forest to collect wasp-comb. This is one of the most important activities, as the selection of the site for cultivation for the New Year is done by reading the wasp-comb. For this purpose not every wasp is used, but only wasp like tunpi, ngaltun, ngalthen, khuaithum, and khuaimul can be used. Those who went to collect the wasp-comb bring along with them all possible Zo musical instruments, cim (a kind of potassium Nitrate) powder and two bamboo-plait hats. They also bring along zu (rice beer) which is called Khuaisiah zu, only those who went to get the wasp-comb can take that zu. On reaching the spot the priest perform certain ritual and they got the wasp-comb. After which they come back home and on reaching the khuamual (a table land above the village hill), they shot gut in the air and sing hanla ( a victorious song), blow the phit (pipe) and spray the cim powder over the torch to make sparkling light. This is called khuai phawnna. As soon as they heard the gun shot and saw the sparkling light all the villagers gather together and run toward the Khuamual to welcome them along with Zo musical instruments, so as to celebrate the successful mission, whereas the ladies were ready with zu to greed them.
At Khuamual the priest takes out the wasp-comb from the hats. The priest and elders have a thoroughly look at the wasp-comb and cleanse it up and then they show it to everyone. For quite some time, at the khuamual, they will dance and sing songs like:
Mual ka bawl ka bawl aw e,
Lamtual ding mual ka bawl aw.
Lamtual zilhin za hen aw,
Luai naubang kivei leng e.
(Making a hill, I’m making a hill
For dancing ground I’m making a hill.
The dancing ground may it be large,
Let’s all swing together like a baby in a swing)
In the afternoon, the priest and some elders went ahead and waited for the crowd and the wasp-comb at the village alter where they perform the Tual biakna. All others come along with the wasp-comb. When they were, about to move from the khuamual they sing another song:
Ciah ning ka cih ka omna,
Om ning ka cih ka ciahna.
Ciah ta leng bang a sam diam,
Innah ka ngaih om hi e.
(I will return where I belong
I belong where I will return.
If I return what will be missing,
At home my love is waiting).
When the one who carry the wasp-comb and the crowd arrived, the priest and elders say to them that, “if you are sanpi-sanno (sickness), go back, but if you are maize and millet come in”. The one who carry the wasp-comb usually answer as, “I am not sanpi-sanno, but maize and millet”. This was repeated for atleast three times. After which they enter in the Tual biakna and sing a song by walking around the Wasp-comb. The song is:
Ngaltun e, ngalthen e, khuai aw e
Ka lou paam a khuai aw e, sim ngaltun zo ngaltun
Nang in kumkhua na thei e, kong dong e.
Ningzu-ah ken kong dong e, aisa-ah ken kong dong e.
(O! Ngaltun, O! ngaltun, O! wasp.
O! Wasp beside my jhum field, hill wasp, lowland wasp.
You know the year, I ask you.
With drink, I ask you, with meat I ask you)
Then they hang on a tree. Young girls and pregnant women are not allowed to have a look at the wasp-comb.
Khuai aih ni (Celebration of Wasp-comb)
The day of the celebration of the wasp-comb is the last day of the Khuado festival. On this day, no one is allowed to go outside the village. It is celebrated with animals like pig, fowl, goat, etc. It is believe that those who celebrate with goat when they die the wasp will keep their dead body from flies. In the afternoon, the priest began to read and interpret, and forecasting what is going to happen in the coming year. They take it as a bad omen if any of the baby-wasp is dead. Whether the wasp-comb is good or bad everyone will say that it is good. This is followed by drinking Geelzu. For this, each and every household brought together their zubel (wine pot). First the Priest suck/sip with the straw and blows towards the village and chanted some words asking for blessing in the coming year for the village. Only then everyone can have the zu. At night everyone, especially, the youth come together at a place call Lamtual (dancing ground). This is followed by drinking zu, singing and dancing accompanied by all Zo musical instruments and the celebration goes on through out the night until the zu become peng (lost it taste).
It is interesting to see how they drink the zu. All the zu prepared by women before the khuado were brought together and the pots were arrange in such a way that the biggest pot is kept nearest to the house at the bikhalap (below the edge of the thatch roof) and continue towards the lamtual (dancing ground). For a person to show his or her affection to the other person they practice what is called angkhak. This is an act of giving one’s chance to suck the wine from the pot to the other person.
The whole activities in the Khuado involve every members of the village, which reaffirmed the communitarian nature of the Zo society. So everyone is eagerly waiting for this event from the very beginning of the New Year and prepared by rearing pig or any other animal. As the duration of the celebration is at least three days, its significance is also more than any other festival. In short, Khuado is a celebration of the successful harvest of the year, hosting the departed souls of their household members and relative with the fresh harvest, preparation for a new beginning in the new year, cleansing or sanctifying the household, village and its surrounding from the demons and evil spirits that harm them, and invoking the communal/village benefactor for blessing in the coming year and more importantly selecting the site for cultivation in the new year.
Some of the popular Khuado songs
Kum kikhen e, sawlkha dang e,
Zin in vangkhua zong hen aw.
Zin in vangkhua zong hen aw,
Siangsung tuibang siang hen aw.
Tukawl tawi kum khua i khenna
Ningzu khum leh aisa aw e,
Ningzu khum leh aisa aw e,
Khan kum sawt ciam lai eng e.
(New Year begins, the moon has changed.
Let the demons return to their abode.
Let the demons return to their abode,
May our hearth and home be clean like clear water.)
Sweet is the wine and the meat of our celebration;
The separation of the years of our toiling in the field.
The sweet wine and the meat,
Let all strive and promise to live long.
Do na lingling do na lingling e
Gual in kumkhua do na lingling e.
Gual i kumkhua do na lingling e
Do hanah nau bang va kap tang e.
Tuan a pupa ma bang patsa, zota kum khen, Khuado Pawi
Tuang hong tung, tuang hong tung e.
Lia leh tang aw I kim nam aw, ciin leh tuai, tun leh ka zua
Gual ngaih teng aw lam bang paak, lam bang paak ni e.