KUT Goes Global

Published on November 4, 2010

By Lunminthang Haokip

Kut Was Ethnic: The Chikimi (Chin-Kuki-Mizo) ethnic group grew together and got grafted to diverse national cultures, throughout the past centuries, mainly in North West Myanmar and North East India. Successive regimes they were subjected to give them community names, that suited the former’s interest more than the latter’s, in the countries they came across in the frenetic search for the ideal place to settle down for keeps.
Of that, enough historians and research scholars had inked their findings in volumes of books. One thing that was not adequately dealt with is the common binding Chikimi seed-sowing and post-harvest fest known popularly as Kut. Periodical bids to change the form and format of celebrating the unique fest could not lessen the essence or dampen the spirit of Kut merriment.
The Original Motivation: Chikimi cycle of life was simple in the hilly terrains they took shelter in. Lifesustaining food-grain seed were sown in spring in the jhum fields. Monsoon came soon, giving way for autumn to ripen paddy grain. Not much thought was given to the God of creation who gave the former and the latter rain and provided “manna” to humankind through the fructification process of the sown seed. Nevertheless, there was an innate sub-consciousness in the native Chikimi that there existed a supernatural authority who gave the seed, made it grow and brought forth a hundred-fold in ultimate fruition. Kut was a visible show of gratitude to the invisible provider who, as sure as the seasons, made men fit to breathe and live from one year-end to another.
The MainShow: In the absence of sports-infrastructure, on the pristine slopes, manually flattened spots served as playgrounds, post-harvest, to display male agility and prowess in traditional games and sports. Competition was in the air. Inter-village rivalry in ethnic events, as to who is the better athlete in the area, drew crowds in hordes. Mithun-jump was a sport watched with keen interest. It had nothing to do with the Bollywood actor. It was the Chikimi answer to modern-day high-jump. Piles of shawls were added on to a badly-beaten and tightly-fastened live mithun as young men, out to compete and impress, jumped one after another over the beast-of-burden. The guy who could fly over the maximum number of shawls kept on the domesticated animal emerged as the winner. Kaang-kaap, pestle-throw and macho-wrestling etc.  were other favourite masculine sports during Kut.
The SideShows: While the rural womenfolk crashed fresh food-grain with alternate manual pounding with pestles on a wooden mortar that would be the material for feast-bread, the older folk sipped  and sucked with bamboo-pipes from earthen jars of rice-beer, fermented well in advance for the occasion, in festive mood. The kick they got out of the brew was stronger than the thrill pub-stuff can deliver today. While a sozzled quartet crooned an endless two-liner folk-song that was pregnant with meaning, a tipsy couple would stretch and flap their hands, bend the knees and dance in circles to the tune of the emotion-arousing folk item. Merriment peaked as the singing reached a crescendo. In terms of intensity and impact, songs sung on Kut-stages of this century are no patch on the lyrical melodies of the distant past.
The 70 mm Kut: The eighties and nineties of the last century saw all forms of kutting like Mim Kut, Chavang Kut, Thalfavang Kut etc. squeezed in an annual event called Chapchaar Kut in Mizoram, Kut in Manipur and among Thadou/Kuki diaspora, and Khuado Pawi among the Zomi diaspora across the continents. The venue of celebration may be strangely urban and the style outlandish, but the spirit of pastoral Kut remains the same everywhere. What is there in a name? Kut with any other name would be as exciting. This is one annual fest that reminds the Chikimi ethnic group of their common progenitor and cultural homogeneity. Here is a fest each of the Chikimi tribes can call its own, has no grudge over its naming  and  has a stake in its promotion.
The Gain Off-Balanced: The ethnic annual jamboree must also reflect the social changes and spiritual shifts that took place down the years. There is a worldly concept doing the rounds that we have 364 days in a year to feed on the Word of God as a Christian. What is wrong in dedicating one day in a year in pursuing true Kut-culture on wining and adopting ramp-culture?. The danger lies in the bitter truth that  a singular day of wanton ultra-modern Kut-type carnal merry-making can turn the net gain of 364 days of passionate preaching off-balance. That folks who have  no appetite for principles of  the Church and Christian worship hold status of prominence in Kut set-up, which enjoys a huge following of believers, is an alarming issue that needs serious address.
KPI-Kut 2005: A Turning Point: I was the unfortunate ADC of Kangpokpi, Sadar Hills in the year 2005. The odds were aplenty. But as a servant of the Lord, the Spirit prompted me to moot the risky idea of celebrating Kut the Gospel way sans the frills of glamour that Kutters got used to. Surprisingly, the authorities and the Churches of my subject were willing to play ball. A solid sermon was delivered by Rev. Prim Vaiphei from Kut platform.
The audience lapped up the message word for word. Suddenly, a dissenting clamour was heard, “Why the hell are we not having Mis kut contest this year?” As the Administrator of the sub-district, I mounted on the podium, held the mike and gently pleaded, “Dear brother, the Bible we bank on says favour is deceitful; beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord shall be praised (Prov. 31:30). If it is absolutely necessary that we should have Miss Kut contest, we will have “Miss Good” contest on Biblical lines.” A responsive applause that ensued silenced the voice of dissent.
Sugnu Tribal Kut 2008: On 31 October, 2008, 2000 church-people gathered at the designated campus for District-level Kut celebration, Standard English High School, Sugnu (T), to listen to Gospel vocal renditions and message. C. Lalhmingmawii and Abea from Aizawl and local Gospel artists like Esther Sitlhou and Ngirshua Aimol lent their talents to keep the audience glued to their seats. God gave the boldness to this nondescript author to speak on the pressing issues of the year. The Spirit of the Lord lit up the Kut-ambience. Undivided attention was given to the Gospel content.
Of course, some guys were massaged the wrong way.  However, the impulse to create nuisance was checked by the Word of God. The same class-fellows sitting sober on Gospel-night became glass-fellows on Kut-nite on 1st November. That was the side-effect of song items, which are taboo  in Church-services, but were presented to entertain Christians who attended Kut.
Moreh and Sugnu Kut – 2010: This year Kut started early at Moreh border town. Traditional sports were conducted on 30th October. On 31st October, Moreh’s Galngam Lentuol hosted Kut Gospel meeting. Local church services were combined at Kut venue. Hechin Haokip and Esther Sitlhou sang gospel numbers to help the audience switch over from kut-mood to worship-mood. Later in the evening, their full-throated solo numbers gave pep to Gospel atmosphere at Sugnu (T) to gain momentum. God gave this obscure author the privilege of giving the Word to thousands of Kutters at Moreh and Sugnu in Kut-eve meetings.
The rapt-attention of sermon-hearers, exhibited whole in the hall,  at both places of Kut celebration in Chandel district of Manipur, proved that God favours Kut to go Gospel. The same  kutters went berserk the very next night when love songs were sung and beauty contests were conducted. If we want tipsy glass-fellows to become sober class-fellows again, and save gen-next from progressive serial self-destruction, Gospel Kut is the only answer.
Reproduced below is a lyrical take of this author on 21st century Kut that has been converted into a Gospel song set to tune by Abea and sung with local flavour and vocal verve by C. Lalhmingmawii in GGMI’s latest video venture, Gospel Goes global.

1. If autumn and spring in the hills come
 Can Eimi kut-Fest be far behind?
 If rythm 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 Eimi-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’s a carnal spree oldies nurture,
 Kut’s 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 ‘boooty’ 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 Manipur government, India.

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