Poumai Naga Plantation Festival
By: John Basho Pou
It’s a season of celebration and gaiety for ‘Poumai Naga’, one of the biggest tribes in Senapati District, Manipur with its population totaling 1, 60,534 and Four villages in Phek District in Nagaland with 6500 people…
Agriculture being the sole source of livelihood and backbone of the economy, traditional plantation festival called “ Paoki ” has been celebrated by various Poumai villagers around this time of the year since time immemorial, so as to invoke gods for healthy crops, protection for natural disaster, good monsoon and bountiful harvest.
Another significance of this annual celebration is making friendship with neighboring villagers and deepening the bound friendship between the relatives with exchange of yummy delicacies and best drinks. Usually the date of the festival has been slated differently from village to village usaually starting from the end of April; however, the rituals, customs and mode of celebration remain identical.
Prior to the main day of the fest, there is a sequence of rituals, fast and observations mainly done by the village king and pagans. The genesis of the observation and celebration generally begin in the last week of April (Nakhou) with series of rituals and observations. There will be ‘Dilai’ on the fourth day of the month (i.e. is Khoukhai Adaiki, poumai’s traditional Lunar counting in reverse order) on which the king will fast for his subjects, foretell the future climate performing certain rituals and ask deity for favorable monsoon.
On the ‘Diidilai’ (khoukhai Asiiki), the village pagans and the king will observe and make sacrifice to deity for regular water supply for the crops. On the ‘Murasoulai Day’ (khoukai Ahai ki), they will fast and pray for the avoidance of pests, rodents and other natural destructions.
And there is also a day called ‘Deiranailai’ observed by the village pagans to mark the completion of the last four observations and ask for fertility of the soil. On the day of the first week of May (Dziikhou) village elders will put heads together and pencil in the day of plantation in accordance with the convenience of the villagers and arrival of the monsoon.
Thus most of the Paoki falls in the month of May with ‘Ranai Teithe’, another significant day, is observed as the preparation for Paoki . Healthiest domestic animals are butchered. Delicious items and drinks are made ready out of household stocks for the guests and visitors.
Having tilled, ploughed and kept fields ready for plantation, young paddy sapplings are uprooted from the dry land where they have been sown and grown and placed them in the wet field on the eve of the main day fixed by the elders. The day is called ‘Thaopaiki’ or Guest Arrival day. When the night falls, everyone is fed to their content and charged with joyful spirit, Men folks of the host village will war cry about the village in group and get blessing from the king before wrestling contest kick-starts mostly between the hosts and the guests. The young and old, men and women will gather at the sacred spot to witness the great event usually held in front of the king residence. The winners are greatly awarded and highly honored in a traditional manner. The night of revelry is indeed a great moment for every one. Entertaining guests with singing folksongs, drinking, relishing best food, dancing and chit-chat, sharing great moment especially between young girls and boys are parts of the night.
At the crack of dawn of the ‘Paoki Day’, the main day of the festival, the head of every household would set out to the field and make sacrifice to gods before anyone steps in. The auspicious day begins thereafter with everyone streaming to the fields in festive mood and high spirit. There is much fun and cheers every where; buffalo horns blaring out triumphantly to arise the spirit of the day and add to the sound and colour of the occasion.
With a bunch of young paddy plants in their hand, everyone will be reveling in the field, transplanting them. Herd of enthusiastic volunteers, men and women, old and young would roam about in the field entertaining and helping especially the needy and the guestless hosts. The hosts lavishly dish out fabulous food and best drinks for the guests and the helpers. It’s also a time to find new friends and meet old ones.
Cocktail of folksongs and modern music can be heard belting out melodiously across the fields, green meadows and over the hills lending the festive color to the great day. In order to make the day memorable, everyone would enjoy each moment and pass the day with great jubilation and festive spirit.