Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Noh-sa-kyriat: A Sowing Fest of a Different Kind

Imagine oscillating on a giant Seesaw made of an 18 feet tree trunk, which is placed on a bigger pine tree trunk, and over 7 feet high. It is indeed a very huge seesaw and the most gigantic one that I perchance had ever seen. No, I am not talking about Disney Land or about a seesaw in any one of those entertainment parks, this is not a child play either; this is the annual Seesaw fest that the people in certain area of Jaintia Hills still practice till date. In the local Pnar parlance, it is called “Noh-sa-kyriat” which literarily means playing seesawing. Traditional belief had it that, since time immemorial before going to their field for sowing rice (Rice is the main staple diet of the people) in their paddy fields people would celebrate a kind of Festival to pray God or gods for the seeds to be put on the Mother Earth and for a bountiful harvest in the season.
To appease the Deities rituals were performed early in the morning of the first day and then in the after noon, villagers would collect at the village playground to take part in the Seesaw fest. As the appointed time arrived, people from all walks of life young and old alike gather around the two seesaws erected in the middle of the playground. When it is all set; elderly ladies! (yes elderly ladies) were helped to climb the 7 feet tall giant seesaw and were pushed up and down by men to the merriment of the people present. One after another daring couple of ladies in their traditional fineries join in the seesawing and was help tilting up and down by men of the village.
The traditional attire of Pnar ladies consisted of a black and white jainsem called ‘Khywang’ wore round waist-down with a golden muga with two red stripes ‘Muka’ tied from one side of their shoulder down like a Jainkyrshah. And to add more colour ladies also wore a red blouse with ‘Paila ksiar’ and gold locket bedecked their neck. The traditional costume would remain incomplete if a woman failed to adorned golden bracelets festooned with precious stones in both of her wrist. The seesawing goes on till the ripe Sun kissed the hills on the western horizon one last good night kiss.
The next day is the last day of the Sowing Fest is the ‘Chad Sukra’, or it can be called a day of Joy and Merriment. The day consisted of a Cultural dance by young lads and beautiful damsels of the village. The traditional dance consisted of some dance that was rarely seen even by people from Jowai, these are the ‘Chad Kti’, ‘Chad Myrwa’, ‘Chad Rwai’ and of course the usual plate dance or ‘Chad Pliang’. These entire dances were performed to the tune of the music played on the backdrop by the local artist. And talking of synthesizing music, the village people of Jaintia has done that long time ago. The musical instrument consists of a Harmonium, Tablas, local instruments and even a Clarinet, the music blends harmoniously to the folk song that was played for the lasses to perform their dance. And that is not all the whole community join together not only in cheering to the music, but applauds the dancers too. When asked how come the Harmonium, the Tabla and et all were incorporated to the instruments used by village people in the remote part of the District? The answer was perhaps since the yester years of the mighty Jaintia Monarch, which ruled Jaintia also had part of the plain areas in its dominion. Influence of Plain People’s culture in the day-to-day life of the tribal people particularly the Pnars of Jaintia is still very prevalent till date.
The Traditional Sowing Festival is being performed by the people belong to Elaka Nangbah, namely Nangbah village, Mukhla and even Ialong village which is now in the Elaka Jowai, but was once upon a time it was historically part of Elaka Nangbah. Recently Raij Nangbah and Raij Ialong celebrated Seesaw Fest respectively but Sad to say, that the tradition is dying. History has it that in the olden days even Jowai folks used to perform what they called “Chad Mih Iaw” but for reason not known it was stopped. If it is not for the effort to revive the tradition by the organization like the Sein Raij of Ialong Village, Sein Raij of Nangbah Village and the Sein Kyntu Niamtre Khad-Ar-Dalloi, the traditional Seesaw Fest, Chad Mastieh (Warrior Dance) Rong Kusi and other alike tradition would have died a natural dead like a fallen leaves in the Autumn only to fossilized in the layers of history.

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