The origin of Kut and its cultural heritage
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 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:
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.
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.