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SIKPUI RUOI FESTIVAL (Festival of the Hmars)

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

/ Posted by Simon L Infimate
~ Lalhmarthang Tuolor

Sikpui Ruoi is the foremost and the greatest among the festivals of the Hmar people. It is normally celebrated in late autumn or early Winter when all the works related to cultivations are completed. It is a festival marking good health, overall success in cultivation, peace among the people and prosperity among all.


During the fortnight or month-long festivities, there are Singing of songs and dancing every evening which can continue through the night. It is a festival marking overall success and well being In the community. A village which may have serious sickness or bereavement may postpone it till such time as it is convenient for all people to have a spirit of celebration. As such when people are in a position to celebrate the festival, people look forward to the celebration of the festival and there is a need for elaborate preparations. People try their level best to settle disputes and try to be at peace with every single person in the village. As it signifies peace, health, success and abundance, it is celebrated with all pomp and splendour, forgetting all past troubles and sufferings.

Preparation for the Sikpui Festival 

As the festival is to be celebrated at least for a fortnight which may extend to a month long festivities, the preparation also require that all should cooperate with one another. Especially, the young people of the village are to be united and determined. Whenever a decision has been made for the celebration of the festival, the Elders of the village are approached seeking the permission and blessings. When this is obtained, a good and efficient Song Leader, called Zaipu is chosen. He is to lead in all the songs and dances during the festival. The Chief and his council of Elders also do their best to ensure the successful celebration of the festival by coming to the help of the young People as and when needed. A pair of outstanding young man and young woman are chosen as Lawmlaisa. It is their duty to extend invitations to the entire village and to encourage People to wholeheartedlY support and join the festival. A new drum is specially made to which a horn of a mithun is tied and Zu is poured in the horn and the drum as a mark of the dedication of the instrument for use during the festival. The ceremony is known as KHUONG-TUI-BUR. For the venue, a flat land is chosen and in the absence of such convenient flat land, one is prepared by cutting away the earth and making it flat to accommodate the dancing villagers. A platform is erected in the centre to seat the physically challenged and elderly persons of the village. and is known as HRINGTLIR.

Dresses 

People put on their best attires and dresses during the festival. The successful hunters put on TAWNLAIRANG, a head dress decorated with the plumes of birds of paradise known as VAKUL. The women puts on LUNGUM cloth and decorated their arms with HARBAN and CHAUPHENG, which are made of brass metals. They tie sashes on their loins to keep the loin clothes in place so that their hands are free to hold other dancers hands while dancing. All male members will put on turbans of colored clothes. Elderly persons have plain clothed turbans

The Dances 

Most of the dances are performed with males and females positioning themselves alternately. They hold hands and dance while singing. The Zaipu laming in all the songs and dances.

The first dances are Performed by the children and is called DURTE LAM. There are a number of variants and the smaller sized children take the tail positions while lining themselves for the dance. These are very enjoyable and they offer unspeakably wonderful dances. Even the infirm and aged people cannot but enjoy these dances. The children dance encircling the Song Leader and the Drummer.

From the second or third night. other dances follow. In all such dances also the children can participate by joining the dance circle and forming the tail end of the lines. In this way, the youngsters also learn to sing and dance the Sikpui dances. Other dances are known by the name of DURTE LAM, THLAWRAN LAM, LAMTLUONG LAM,KETEK LAM, ANRANLAI LAM, SIMSAK LAM (PALSAWP LAM) and finally TINNA LAM. These dances are performed randomly till the Simsak is performed. This is the dance performed from the tenth night of the dances. It is known as LAMLAITAN and it ushered in the Simsak and Palsawp Lam. These final dances are very much lively and charged, and dancers are prohibited to have intoxicating drink of zu before these dances. ZAWLSUOK is the final ceremony which is performed to mark the close of the Sikpui festival.

Members of nearby villages who may not be privileged enough to organize the Sikpui Ruoi are invited to join this dance. At the end of Zawlsuok. Tinna Lam is performed for departure to their respective abodes. Strangely, the Lawmlaisa, the young man and woman who officiated at the beginning of the festival, are not allowed to be a part of the Zawlsuok. And Sikpui festival close till such time as it could be organized once again.

Modern ways of celebration of Sikpui Ruoi

With changes in time, the ways of life of people also changes. However, deep may be the wish of the people to organize and to celebrate Sikpui Ruoi as was done in the past, it is no longer possible nor practicable to dance & Sikpui the way they do in the distant past. To add to this, with the advent of Christianity among the Hmar people, the old habits, cultures and the celebration of important festivals have been neglected for a long time. Because of this, only the rudiment of cultural practices remains, and the modern-day Hmar people have to be contented with singing of cultural songs ad a show of some cultural dances by way of presenting the culture of the people.

However, the spirit and message of Sikpui Ruoi prevails and is deeply ingrained in the way of life of the Hmar people. As is the duty of all generations to preserve and practice the cultural practices and keep their values, it is with the Hmar people also. However, distant may have been the time when these festivals are observed, the value still remains fresh even after so many years may have elapsed. It is for this reason that the festival is kept in a refined manner and an urban orientatiob.  The Autonomous Councils of Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao Districts have been kind enough to declare local holiday on the 5th December every year to mark the occasion of Sikpui festival. The duration and practice may be totally different,but the spirit and message of Sikpui remains, and is an occasion of blessing for peace, prosperity and goodwill for all. May the spirit and message of Sikpui Ruoi live forever. Jai Hind.

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