Mimkuut is the harvest festival of the Kukis. Kukis of Nagaland celebrate this festival on 17th Kuki month of Tolbol (January) every year. The celebration lasts one week. Besides Mimkuut, Kukis celebrate Chapphou Kuut, Chavang Kuut, as well as other smaller festivals. It is believed that Mimkuut and other festivals came into being from the fact that in order to appease Thilha (demon).
During this festival, the people used to make sacrifices and at the same time, they also believed in the existence of a Supreme God – whom they call “Chung Pathen” (Heavenly God). To get the blessings of such gods, the village medicine man (Thempu) would sacrifice fowls to propitiate the spirit of the demon-god by performing a series of rituals and prayer.
Tradition handed down orally from generation to generation says that the Kukis originated from subterranean underworld. They came out from this underworld in search of better land. They brought with them a number of cereals such as millet, tapioca, beans, yam etc. After they came over ground, they found paddy and job’s tear together, which were brought across a river called Twinanhem by a pair of wild rat on a bamboo sheath (Stipule) tucked to their mouths. Gradually, they found Mithun from a place called Sisep, Pig from Bonnol, and Fowl from Molkon which they domesticated.
They would lavishly use these animals during such festivals. Thus the cultivation of this job’s tear started. They found that it was more productive and yielded a better harvest.
The celebration of the completion of the year’s harvest is done with the instructions and guidance of the village Medicine man (Thempu). On that day for the entire village, the Medicine man would chant incantations to the God for the rich harvest and to invoke the spirit for more abundance harvest in the coming years. The Mimkuut is essentially a wrap up of the year long toils of the land.
The celebration is marked by feasting, drinking of Madhu (rice-beer), the youths engaged themselves in various types of merrymaking, fetching of water and firewood, traditional sports like wrestling and other games and different kinds of tamashas continue throughout day and night. The older people sit by the fire-side singing traditional songs and more enthusiastic ones dance and crack jokes from time to time.
A simple translation of one of the songs sung during the celebration of Mimkuut is as follows:
“Job’s tear is harvested and gathered. Time to wrap up the year’s toil and relax; Countless birds encircle the job’s tear field. Suddenly one Kite swoop down and away it carries off one; Before a stone could be pelted at” Sequence of Seven Days Mimkuut Celebrations:
“Job’s tear is harvested and gathered.
Time to wrap up the year’s toil and relax;
Countless birds encircle the job’s tear field.
Suddenly one Kite swoop down and away it carries off one;
Before a stone could be pelted at”
Sequence of Seven Days Mimkuut Celebrations:
(1) The First Day of Mimkuut is exclusive for the Village Priest-Shaman. He would perform series of rituals asking the god Thilha (demon) for the good or bad of the time for celebration. Accordingly, he would announce the date and manner of celebration. The announcement is done early in the morning at cock-crow with the accompaniment of the sound of Gong and Drum. Everyone then start prepared mentally and physically.
(2) On the Second Day early in the morning, the Village Shaman would perform rites and rituals at Village Water Point and other ominous places like biggest tree, and biggest rock near the Village believed to be the abode of god Thilha (demon) by sacrificing blemished white fowl.
(3) The Third Day is devoted to cleaning of the village, footpath to Water point, Kheti and neighboring Villages. The womenfolk prepare food, ju and other drinks. They would serve them to the men folk who are working.
(4) On the Fourth Day, able-bodied men from each household and youth from Phan (Dormitory) would go to the jungle to rope Mithun. The Mithun is brought to the Village and tied with a post having three branches. No ordinary tree or post is used. On this day, the womenfolk and youngsters bring millet, yam, pumpkin, job’s tear and other kheti products. They prepared country baked cake and cooked yam, pumpkin, Tapioca etc. These will be served to the men folk on arrival with the Mithun. The boys and girls fetch firewood, water, leaves required for the feast.
(5) On the Fifth Day, the Mithun is ceremoniously killed after observing rites by the Shaman. The men folk cut and prepare the Mithun. The womenfolk continuously serve Madhu and other drinks. The boys and girls wearing the best of clothes and other garments sing and dance throughout the day. The whole day is devoted to merrymaking, jest, singing and dancing. New songs are taught and learnt. The whole evening is spent in feasting and revelry. The main Kuut Feast is enjoyed together by one and all.
(6) The Sixth Day is devoted to sports. Different age groups are formed and competition goes on through out the day. The elder group, the younger group and the women group would vie for the coveted prize which is normally a lump of Mithun meat set aside for it. The sports competed are mostly shot-put, race, pole climbing, wrestling, mithun jump, pole throw (pole use for pounding rice) etc. Other traditional games are also played. The women section also compete various types of sports, whereas the aged and children would enjoy watching. The night is a get-together night. A big camp-fire is lit and folk song, folk dance punctuated by jokes continues throughout the night.
(7) The Seventh Day – the last day is the coming together of mainly family members and neighbors. Married daughters with husband and children would visit their parents, brothers and sisters and exchange gift. They will be reciprocated and sent back after being entertained.
The Shaman would announce closing of the celebration after performing rites and rituals in the same manner by again releasing spotless white fowl to please Thilha god (demon) and with good omen for the village (prosperity and health), he would announce the closure of the celebration officially. The Village will then begin the year’s activity.
Source: National Informatics Centre, Nagaland State Unit website: http://nagaland.nic.in/profile/festivals/kuki.htm (retrieved on February 26, 2003)