A FESTIVAL IN NAGALAND CELEBRATED BY THE CHAKHESANGS IN JANUARY
SIGNIFICANCE AND HISTORY:
Tsukhenyie festival is celebrated with great pomp by the tribal peoples of Chakhesang Nagas in the Phek district of Nagaland, a state in the far north-eastern part of India in the month of January. The joyous colourful festival marks the onset of the hectic sowing season ahead.
There are no records of their origins except that they are from the east of India and the historic records prove that the present day Naga people had settled before the arrival of the Ahoms in 1228 AD. The origin of the word ‘Naga’ took place when the Burmese guides on being inquired by the British who came to India before 1947 A.D. about the people living in northern Himalayas, told the Britishers that they were the ‘Naka’ which was recorded as ‘Naga’, and has been in use thereafter. The Nagas are Chakhesang people who are the major tribal residents of ‘Nagaland’ which is a state and contains many tribes and each tribe is unique in character with its own distinct customs, dress and language. Chakhesangs are one of these Naga tribes and are the former Eastern Angami, who separated from the Angami Naga tribe, due to which now they are recognised as a separate tribe. The tribe is basically divided into two major groups known as ‘Chokri’ and ‘Khezha’ and one minor sub-tribe known as “zhamai” and are mainly found in the Phek district of Nagaland. It is a major tribe in Nagaland most of whose villages falls under the Phek District.
Nagaland is largely a mountainous state with the Naga Hills a part of the land area of the state is covered with forest which is rich in flora and fauna. The important thing about this ceremonial ritual is that female livestock is not allowed to be slaughtered during the celebration of the festival of Tsukhenyie.
Nagaland is known as the land of festivals in India. The diversity of people and their tribes, each with their own distinct heritage and culture, creates an atmosphere of celebrations. A vast majority of the population of Nagaland is directly dependent on agriculture as a result of which the traditional tribal festivals revolve round agriculture such as the festival of Tsukhenyie of the Chakhesangs tribe.
RITUALS AND FEAST:
Tsukhenyie is a festival, during which the Chakhesang Nagas celebrates the culmination of all leisure activities for welcoming a successful and prosperous new life and year. The celebration of the festival lasts for four days. The first day is believed to be the most significant part of the festival which begins with the sacrificial offerings made by the priest’s in which the rooster that crowed the first that particular morning is sacrificed as offerings and after which the ritual of purification takes place with great dedication and devotion in which all the men folk gather up at a well and take bath. Next they dress up in new clothes and with immense devotion offer prayers to the Gods to be blessed with prosperity, strength, longevity and bountiful harvest.
Later during the celebration of the festival the devotees spend their precious time for enjoying by engaging themselves in activities like sports, games etc. It is of tremendous joy to find people coming together in groups to join and participate with great pleasure in various indigenous games and activities during this festival. They arrange music competitions and feel proud to enjoy themselves in singing, dancing and in this way glorifying their ancestors’ valour. The traditional Naga culture includes folk dances, tales and songs. Naga folk songs are both romantic and historical that narrates the entire stories of famous incidents and ancestors and seasonal songs that describe activities done in a particular agricultural cycle. Folk dances of the tribes are performed by both men and women, depending on the type of dance in groups in synchronized fashion and are performed at festivals and religious occasions. The men mostly perform the War dances that are athletic and martial in style. All dances are based on the involvement of songs and war shrieks by the dancers. The tribal people make and use their own musical instruments like bamboo mouth organs, bamboo flutes, trumpets, cup violins, log drums and drums made of cattle skin.
Grand feasts are organized in which traditional delicacies are served as part of the celebrations and the best of the male livestock are slaughtered to be cooked and served during this festival.