Chavang Kut – Keep a Tradition Alive

Published on October 18, 2008

By Lunminthang Haokip

Introduction: Kut is an old tradition kept amazingly alive today. The Thadous and all the Kuki sub-tribes settled mostly in the up-lands in the past. Jhum cultivation was the only means of sustaining livelihood that the Agri-education-deprived hill-folks knew and practiced.

Patches of the pastoral setting mother nature gifted to the  sub-Himalayan ranges of Northeast India provided perfect ground for the traditionally lyrical Kut celebrations. Overtures of old-culture-inclined adventurous new generation folks had  enlivened kut-culture through out the centuries.

Came September: Came autumn and could Chavang Kut be far behind? Immensely relieved of the back-breaking routine hard toil in the shaven slopes of their fields, the Kukis indulged themselves in weeks of wining and dining after harvest.

The paddy that they planted being of quick-yielding variety, the Chavang Kutting happened around the later half of October every year. Freed as a bird with the zeal to notionally fly as high, post harvest, the highlanders greedily seized the months between autumn and the fall of spring to resort to social activities the monsoons denied them from doing.

Main Intent: Native appetites may have been whetted with strong home-brewed rice beer in up-beat mood by the elderly in instinctively choreographed traditional knee-bending circle-dances. The young in age, endowed with surplus raw energy to flaunt around, may have celebrated the autumnal fest with indigenous sports like pestle-throw and mithun-jump.

But, deep down behind the colourful carnal event lurked the main intent to praise and give glory to an imaginary “God” who blessed them with enough food-stuff to keep them going for the next 365 days.

Modern Day Kut: Thanks to the initiation of the Kuki mass-leaders of the late  70s and eighties, an ultra-glamorous Kut Fest, replete with a state-of-the-art blend of the traditional and the sensational, came into being in 70 mm format. The Gen-Next grabbed with capital G the high-decibel entertainment of remixed pop songs and poetic folk-songs.

Kut ramp-walks and fashion parades had become an annual show every young girl, who thought she was above average in appearance and style, liked to associate herself with. Yes it was the “golden Calf” of ‘Miss Kut’ contest that made tens of thousands of poster-invited crowd elbow their way through to Kut premises to patiently stand for hours  just to have a distant glimpse of the over-prized “booty queen”.

The aura and frenzy that Kut Beauty Contest generates state-wide, rain or no rain, across all communities and the high entertainment value attached to it, makes Kut fest of today a frankenstein of a show even the pioneer Kut Committee cannot undo.

A Renewed Tradition: “Hillman Hillman na raha – Chavang Kut Chavang Kut na raha”. The youth would love more to have fun as “glass-fellows” than as “Class-fellows”. Exposure to the electronic media had totally changed the Kuki mindset of late. We have a generation akin to ABCDs (America born confused desi) in our own home-turf who would settle for nothing less than the ultra-glitzy Kut.

The church-allergic says, “we have a full 364 days in a year to go gospel.  Why should we be hassled with spiritual messages on 1st November. Spare it for fun yaar”. But ours being  a predominantly Christian society, the churched lot retort, “You are sadly mistaken boyo. The imaginary reckless licence to drink  on 1st November. has the potential to wash away what is being preached in the remaining 364 days”.

Bold Initiatives: Worried by the impact of Kut-culture on juvenile sensibilities, the Sadar Hills Kut Committee, in a bid to spiritually diversify and swim against the popular Kut–current, managed to stage a Gospel Kut sans all the glam-frills on Nov. 1st 2005. Stray sad shouts of protest against the non-conduct of Miss Kut contest were heard.

This author, who was the chief Administrator of Sadar Hills then, aired his views from the podium: “Sorry boys, beauty contest neither goes well with our traditional culture nor with Christian culture. If you are all hell-bent on having Beauty Contest, we will have “Miss God” contest in place of Miss Kut Contest.”

Keeping Good Tradition Alive: In a small bid to curb the influence of the wrong things of the 21st century in their own far-flung area, the Chandel District Kut Committee had decided to have a “Kut-Eve Gospel Meeting” at Standard English High School, Sugnu (T) on 31st October 2008 from 5:00 pm to 7:30 pm.

The best Gospel crooners of Aizawl like, Mami and Nancy and of Chandel District like Betsy and Ngirshua are eagerly clearing  their throats to perform live under the theme, “Enlarge the place of thy tent”. Posters are pasted everywhere with the catchy slogan, “GOD’S FOLD LET’S ALL SWELL; GOOD OLD KUT GOES GOSPEL”.

Come Kut-nite, on 1st November 2008, the open ground at SEHS, Sugnu (T) is going to witness a historic MISS KUT contest that will tilt heavily on outer and Inner beauty, general awareness and Christian character.

The following poem sums up the lyrical observations on Kut Fest of this obscure author:

1. If autumn and spring in the hills come,
Can Eimi Kut Fest be far behind?
If rhythm of strings make the hills hum,
It’s Eigam’s good fest that years rewind;
And he who gets from Kut a welcome,
Forgets who he is from nine to nine.

2. “Let’s dine, let us wine and make merry,
It’s fine, time is mine, let us marry”;
That’s the bad and mad cry of the youth;
The brat is the fruit and sin its root;
It’s sad that Kut-freedom set the trend
When the good Lord’s kingdom is at hand.

For all Emi-links, it is a truth—

      In Eigam, ties cling to good old Kut;
      Kut of yore was a post-harvest spree,
      Kut of ours is a high cost-fest free;
      Old folks sowed seed and wined in kut-hype,
      Let’s, on kut-day, sow the seed of life.

3. Kut is a carnal spree oldies nurture,
Kut is a vocal plea for bold culture;
Kut’s a flip to uplift our stature,
But Kut is a trip back to nature.
Where the Lord’s ordained can never reign,
How will godly refrain ever gain?

4. Songs enthrall as the show larks and crams,
Catcalls follow catwalks on the ramp;
Labours to grab ‘booty’ knows no pain,
“Favour beguiles and beauty is vain,
A woman who fears God shall be praised”;
For Miss Kut, why not Miss Good be raised?”

The author is Additional Deputy Commissioner under the government of Manipur, a Northeast state in India.