Courtesy: John Basho Pou
Fiftyfive years ago, my village (Koide) was purely a pagan village. But now, only eight pagans have been left unconverted into Christianity. The rest of the villagers have now embraced Christian faith. I said, these eight persons are the bravest defenders of the traditional religion, and invincible warriors. I hail them as the heroes of the aged old traditional pagan’s faith like Chinua Achebe who immortalizes Okonkwo, the protagonist in his famous novel” Things Fall Apart”. Okonkwo, the main character in this novel was a hero in his village, Umuofia in Africa who have bravely defended his native faith and culture till his last breath. He fought against the whites vehemently, knowing very well, that his culture and native region was slowly eroding due to the invasion of Christian faith and colonial rule.
Being a lover of culture and customs, and admirer of Okonkwo for his unconquered ambition and faith who courageously withstood against colonialism and died unwanted due to his die-hard spirit, I can proudly conclude that those eight pagans in my village are the bravest warriors who defend my culture and traditional practice which are on the verge of extinction.
To many, my admiration for these strong pagans from village and others may seem like a laugh-at write-up. But, don’t get me wrong, folks. I am not through up religion conversion debate here. Let freedom of conscience do the talking. What exactly I am worried is who will take care and uphold our rich culture and traditions with the extinction of pagans who are the true keepers of the native faith and traditions. How many of us know how to count aged old traditional date and month just by gazing at the moon in the sky? Are we still celebrating traditional festivals at the right time or seasons? Are we not misusing cultural customs which are sacred, and highly valued and honoured by our great forefathers? And still many more reasons why I strongly opine that these pagans should stay and uphold the culture, customs and tradition which is the very identity of my generation and many more to come.
To be frank, Christian priests and pastors came knocking on their doors with the similar message “We have been sent by this great God to ask you to leave your wicked ways and false gods and turn to Him so that you may be saved when you die” that has been used by the Christian Missionaries as a weapons for wining over the native faith in Umuofia in the novel “Things Fall Apart”, but these pagans in Koide village have politely shut their doors for culture and tradition sake. They foresee that someday this great culture and traditions will also vanish with the death of the pagans as they are the only traditions and culture keepers in the village. An old folk in my village got converted into Christian fold of late. But after then, he found no solace in his life as he was one of the few old pagans who used to observed sacred rituals and practices. Finally, he got reconverted into his original pagan faith. And he said, “I will die as a pagan, and in a pagan way”.
It happens in many other villages too. For instance, Maiba village in Senapati has only a single pagan who still practises pagan’s faith. I hail Him too as a great hero. He is another Okonkwo. The rest of the villagers are all Christians. And my thumbs-up to Liya village that has, perhaps, the highest population of pagans in Senapati. It has more than 300 pagans.
They work on the Sabbaths. Fast and pray to their deity after the deadly storms or lighting to save life of the humanity. When the villagers suffer from drought, they pray for rainfalls to save them from starvation. They tell the correct date for genna, and season of the year, time for festival, seasonal activities looking at the moon or else the whole villagers would be cursed by their deity. They have no records for folklores, yet they entertain villagers every festive time with forks songs and folktales. They pray before meals or drinks, and offer a pinch of their share to the spirits of their households before they put their hand into the plates. They observe rituals before the transplantation of paddy to save from nature fury, and for bountiful harvest. They believe all humanity will enter the same gate after death. Those who live a good and sinless life, their soul will go up into sky through seven stages, and the souls of sinners will go deep down the earth passing through seven stages. To live a good and sinless life is their motto