Friday, November 28, 2008

Kopati goddess praised for bountiful harvest

(Jaintia’s Thanksgiving Festival)
The Niamtre People (people who still adhere to tribal animist religion) of the Raij Raliang in Jaintia hills today lay to rest the goddess Kopati in a colourful religious festival held at Raliang. The Kopati puja is a harvest and thanks giving religious festival which is being celebrate by the tribals of this area after rice which is the main crop of the people is harvested.

The three days festival which was started on November 26 reaches its crescendo on the second day which is the 27. The ritual on the second day begins with a ritual in the wee hour of the morning followed by the warrior dance at the sacred grove of the Raij (state comprising of several villages) Raliang. After the warrior dance; the goddess was then taken to the river Umiurem to be laid to rest.

The final journey for the goddess started from the house of the Sutnga clan which is the “ksoh blai” or the keeper of the goddess. The goddess was carried by the wamon (priest) from the Sutnga clan accompanied by the people of the Raij under the leadership of Chawas Lyngdoh the dalloi (governor) of the Elaka Raliang. The dalloi along with the pator (chief of staff) and other dignitaries of the Elaka bate goodbye to the goddess before it crossed the boundary of the village.

The procession continues and then the Harmuid and the Laram along with the drums under their command also has to bate farewell to the goddess. The remaining of the procession along with the beating of the two remaining drums; proceeds on a long and arduous journey of more than 5 KM towards the Umiurem River. After walking for several hours; passing through hills and vales and walked by the harvested paddy field, the processions finally reached the river. On reaching the river bank, everybody took their shoes off before proceeding towards the altar. The wamon then immersed in the river bunch of flower and simultaneously the Wasan-noh-blai released a dove in the middle of the river. The pigeon crossed to the other side of the river and that is a good sign that the god(s) has accepted all the sacrifices and offerings provided by the people.

After the goddess was immersed, the wamon along with his helper arrange for the offerings which include rice, sugarcane and other fruits and vegetables. The offering was offered on the altar and later it was then shared among those who were present in the ceremony. The sharing also symbolized that people can now use or partake the newly harvested rice, fruits and vegetables.

The puja Kopati is the last religious rites of the Elaka Raliang, it is people way of expressing gratitude to the gods for the plentiful harvest this year, it may be mention that people are forbid from partaking new rice, fruits and vegetables before the puja was performed. Its only after the offering was first offered to the goddess, that the people of the raij can enjoy its blessings.

Under the Elaka (state) Raliang there are 5 raij, the raij Raliang, the raij Khonchnong, raij Ynniaw Kmai, raij Ionglang and raij Lapne. All these raij has a role to play to make this religious festival a success.

The last part of the programme was the warrior dance performed by the elders of the different clans of the raij and the climax of the festival was the warrior dance between C. Lyngdoh the dalloi versus the Firstly born Synnah the pator of the Elaka. The festival which started yesterday will continue till tomorrow.

The third day of the festival consist of many more rites and ceremony like “choo daloi” escorting the daloi and the fourth day will be the final day which is called “hiar rep Langdoh” or the priest symbolic act of starting the cycle of farming again after the harvest.

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