The origin of Kut and its cultural heritage

Published on October 18, 2009

By George T. Haokip 
 
Kut, popularly known as ‘Chavang Kut’, is one of the largest and most popular festivals of the Kuki-Chin-Mizo, the people who were once subjugated and divided by the British in the Anglo-Kuki War of 1917-1919 to different political divisions. Although they are one and the same by blood, by history and by custom, this people are today divided and known by different names in different countries. They are known as Kuki in Manipur, Chin in  Myanmar (Burma), Mizo in Mizoram, and Kuki or Ralong in Tripura, etc. Kut is a cultural heritage which has been enjoyed once a year by the young and old, rich and poor forgetting all their worries. There are different kinds of Kuts – Mim Kut (job’s ear), Pawl Kut (Guava harvest) and Chang Kut (Paddy Kut) Chapchar Kut or Chapphou Kut.
 
The practice of Kut wherever they live symbolise their cultural unity and of their common identity as a nation with same history and origin. Kut for this community is their culture which nothing can replace it on earth. It has also connection with their religion. Sominthang Doungel says “Kut is a common feature of their social life but not because of its pomposity, merriment and gaiety of the celebration but because of its religious aspect.” The beginning of the practice of Kut is in oblivion. But if the ancient Israelites’ Passover celebration is to be its origin, it is more than 3000 years old. It is not a state invention like many festivals of today such as Lui-Ngaini festival of the Zelianrong, etc. 
 
The People: The people of Kuki-Chin-Mizo are a numerous ethnic group whose proper limit according to Horatio (1982) has not been defined and they are classified linguistically under the Tibeto-Burman group of languages. Majumdar and Bhattacharyya (1930) recorded that Kuki existed in prehistory. Their presence in the present state of Manipur was as old as the history of the land itself. Kuki Ahongba and Kuki Achouba – the two Kuki Chiefs were allies to Nongba Lairen Pakhangba, the first recorded King of Manipur in 33 A.D. Manipur State Royal Chronicle, the Cheitharol Khumbaba, mentioned that Taothinmang Kuki became the King of Manipur in 186 Skabda (264 A.D.). Their population according to Chinlung Israel People Convention, Aizawl is more than one billion in India, Bangladesh and Myanmar. And on their earlier settlement, Capt Pammberton (1835:15) wrote: 
 
“…stretch from the Southern borders of the Munepoor valley to the Northern limit of the province of Arracan, that the Kookies have gradually advancing for years in a northerly direction, and have hitherto established themselves on the ranges which are originally occupied by more northerly tribes or committed such fearful aggression upon the latter, as compel them to retire and leave an unoccupied tract between themselves and these formidable opponents” 
 
Origin of Kut: The origin of Kut was not recorded and so it is based on oral tradition, legends and stories. There are different theories on the origin of Kut. They are as follow:
 
1. Pass Over of Red Sea: The origin of Kut have close relation with the Kuki-Chin-Mizo Jewish Origin Theory which has been one of the most authentic studies on their origin as a tribe with more research work undertaken in recent time. According to this theory, the people of Kuki-Chin-Mizo belongs to Menashe tribe – one of the 12 lost tribes of Israel. They were lost in 720 B.C. when the Assyrian conquered the Northern kingdom of Israel and they exiled. Since the Southern Kingdom of Judah was spared from the conquest, the Jews of today are primarily descendent from the tribe of Judah and Benjamin who live in the southern kingdom. The Menashe in the course of their exile have passed the Red Sea or Tuipi San which is also recorded in the Bible. On successfully passing over the river, the tribe had celebrated it. This ancient celebration has been habitually practiced by the tribe till today. If we take this theory to be true then, we know that Kut is old more than three thousand years. 
 
2. Nature Worship: The Kuki-Chin-Mizo ethnic tribe before they were exposed to the great religion of the world such as Christianity were worshipers of nature. They had the beliefs that certain object was the source of power, wealth and can provide their needs. They worshipped with prescribed rituals which were performed by the village priest. T.S. Gangte has subscribed to the view that the origin of Kut was from nature worship. He wrote that "the observance of different Kut is originated from the worship of various objects considered as supernatural associated with good and evil attributes of life." He also wrote that "the purpose of such festive function was to create a sense of identity and social solidarity reinforced by the performance of communal rituals, which expressed social contents, and behaviour of a group….it is thanks giving to the almighty, creator of the universe who blesses the people through their deities of various crops cultivated in olden days of variegated and sectional one." 
 
3. Mim Kut: The name Mim Kut is derived from a plant called Mim (a grain). There is a legend on the origin of Mim Kut. The wife of a loved couple died and the husband spent days weeping for his beloved. One day it happened that while weeping he visited into a land called Mithiko and met his wife. His wife was but famished for no enough food to eat. His wife told him to go back and bring vegetables from the jhum which he did. Soon his wife became well, lovely, and happy. There, he told his villagers which the entire villagers started offering to the death. This was said to be the beginning of Kut. On Kut day, fresh vegetables were offered to the spirit of the dead persons of their families. That is why Kut was called ‘Feast of Weeping’. 
 
4. Pawl Kut: Pawl means ‘straw’ and it was celebrated by the villagers when they were off from work between felling of the jungle trees for jhum field generally in the month of January and burning of the trees by March every year. All the families of the village prepared zu (Rice beer) for the Kut. It was celebrated with lots of merry making. It was celebrated in the jhum site and last for about a week. 
 
5. Chapchar Kut: During their stay in the Kabaw Valley of Burma (Myanmar), famine took place for three years. However, on the fourth year when they were rejuvenated and owned abundant rice and vegetables, the chief advised his council to organise a grant feast for the whole villagers. The villagers in this feast had meal to their satisfaction with dance and music. Since then, the villagers organised such feast for the whole villagers every year and it turned out to be Kut. Kut, as already mentioned above, is the cultural heritage of the Kuki-Chin-Mizo people which has come to be celebrated since time immemorial.
 
Today, its practice has undergone a significant change. All the existed traditional Kuts are now merged into one; the date and time however vary in different places and countries. It is celebrated in almost all the states of India, Myanmar, UK, USA every year. In Manipur, it is celebrated on 1st November every year at the village, area, district , and state level. The main event generally are singing, dancing and beauty show. Modern Kut celebration lacks both traditional value as well as the need of our society under the new setting. Many have shared their opinions on the need to introspect and retrospect on the nature of Kut celebration. The value has diminished day by day. It has come to be controlled by few middle class groups who under their wish organise the festival; no input system takes place and suggestion from the public are not taken into consideration.
 
Modern Kut celebration is considered to have less meaning and lost its traditional significant. T. Misao from Kangpokpi, like many others, has his suggestion that Kut should include various competition items and display of the past traditional games and sports, debate, and essay writing competitions. He also stresses the need to discuss the subject during the concluding day. The need to include seminar, presentation of award and reward to outstanding personalities among the community is felt by many Kutters as better option. Today, beauty show has become the main event and larger parts of the fund have gone to the price for Miss Kut.
 
There are instances where invited singers and cultural troupes coming from different and remote distance places were not reimbursed, resulting into complains and boycotts. It has become too westernised which should be treated antagonistic to the  need of the Kuki-Chin-Mizo society. Kut for the people of Kuki-Chin-Mizo is more than a festival or ritual; it is their way of life reflecting their rich tradition, common identity which at the same time has relations with their socio-economic and political system. Kut has the potential to promote unity among the already shattered Kuki-Chin-Mizo community and provide reunification which becomes imperative. Let us march on for our own nation.
 
 
References
 
1. Gangte, T.S. Origin, Concept and Growth of KUT, webcasted in the Kuki International Forum, www.kukiforum.com, Washington DC (USA).
2. Haokip, George T. Kuki-Chin-Mizo: The Lost Tribe of Israel, publish in the Sangai Express, Imphal dated 1 September 2008.
3. Rowney, Horatio Bickerstaff. The Wild Tribes of India, Low Price Publication, Delhi 1982.
4. Doungel, Sominthang. KUT and its People, webcasted in the Kuki International forum, www.kukiforum.com, Washington DC (USA).
5. Pemberton. History of India, Shyam Publication, New Delhi.
 
The writer is a research scholar in Manipur University, India.

2 Comments

  1. Piang

    “Their population according Chinlung Israel People Convention, Aizawl is more than one billion in India, Bangladesh and Myanmar”. As a writer, it is not necessary to use some organisation’s propaganda. It diluted your writing and sound like propaganda as well.

  2. Gou mate

    Ur article is good…bt i hate to say its too much base upon myths and critics…and most of all i cud find a lot of spelling mistakes…no offence