Reaffirming love, affection, and brotherhood through Chavang Kut
By PS Haokip
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! Psalm 133:1
On this occasion of Chavang Kut 2015 at Tuibong, Zale’n-gam, we share a historic moment of joy and jubilation over a re-union with our long separated brothers. As enshrined in stone for posterity, which is located by the entrance of Peace Ground, the venue of Chavang Kut 2015, the list includes:
1. KUKI 2. MIZO 3. KACHIN 4. CHIN 5. KARBI 6. ZELIANGRONG 7. KACHARI 8. BODO 9. KONYAK 10. SINGPHO 11. HEIMI 12. SOMRA KUKI 13. PARA 14. MAKURY 15. LAINAU 16. NOAW 17. PHOM 18. YIMCHUNGER 19. KHIAMNUNGAN 20. UPPER CHINDWIN SHAN 21. Tagin 22. Mishing 23. Miji 24. Adi 25. NOCTE 26. WANCHO 27. APATANI 28. BUGUN 29. MISI 30. PADAM 31. SHERDUKPEN 32. TANI 33. KHAMBA 34. KHAMTI 35. LISHPA 36. MEMBA 37. MILANG 38. MISHMI 39. MONPA 40. NYISHI 41. SANGKHEN 42. TANGSA 43. ZEKHRING
They are spread out in Northeast India, North and Northwest Myanmar, Yunnan province in China and the Chittagong hill tracts of Bangladesh.
Today is a day of reunion of long-parted brothers in the course of our millennium journey. Though separated by political boundaries and a gap of time and space, the bonding tie of brotherhood was never broken, only not entirely realised until now, which is why today is a day of special significance to affirm our relationship of love and affection and the eternal bond of brotherhood. Together, we have had the rare occasion to honour our nine martyrs, which would not have been possible if this event, which was already planned prior to 31 August, were not held.
An exception to this celebration of brotherhood is that the entire 43 groups are the chief guests, not an individual dignitary as is the norm for such functions. However, besides the 43 groups and their respective teams, I do extend appreciation also to all who have come to grace the occasion, including my esteemed colleagues, friends, ladies and gentlemen, and each and every member of the public.
CHAVANG KUT CHIBAI to all of you.
This year, Chavang-Kut is being celebrated for three consecutive days at Tuibong, Zale’n-gam with our 43 brothers. This special extended celebration is also intended to enable each and every Manasseh ethnic tribe to display our unique God-given, colourful and spectacular traditional dances and songs.
Among the Manasseh people, the post-harvest festival is celebrated by Kachin as Shapawng Yawng Manau Poi, the Chin call it Khawdou Poi, Mizo call it Thar Favang Kut, in Tripura they call it Tharlak Kut, and Kukis call it Chavang Kut.
Despite our dispersion in different countries, besides numerous customs, culture and traditional ties, celebration of the post-harvest festival is another common practice, which has preserved our ethnic identity. Today, as we celebrate Chavang Kut, I trust our people’s unity, which is also championed by Zo Re-unification Organisation (ZoRO), will also be greatly strengthened.
Concerning our unification, owing to ZoRO’s initiative, the year 2013-2014 witnessed unprecedented awakening amongst us. To begin with, besides solidarity of Kuki, Chin, Mizo being enhanced, the Kachin Independent Organisation, the highest decision making body of the Kachin people declared Kukis as their blood brothers. At M Songgel, Churachandpur, on 22 March 2014, Professor Za Gun from Kachin state shared his views on similarities of our dialects, customs, culture, and traditions. Hearteningly, too, Kukis of Tripura, Chittagong hill tracts and barrack valley sent representatives to ZoRO conferences held at Moreh and Saikul in sadar hills, Manipiur.
Following these developments, I would like to submit a theory to ponder upon: if Kachin and Kuki are blood brothers, logically the fold to which SS Khaplang belongs, i.e. Heimi, Naowa, Lainow, Makury, and Para with whom we share a common culture, customs and traditions are also part of Kuki-Kachin group, and not part of the disparate Naga groups. Sharing similar traits, Konyaks, Phom, Khimnungan and Yimchunger in the state of Nagaland are our blood brothers, including all the tribes of Arunachal Pradesh and Bodo, Karbi, Kachari and Mishing people in Assam. Pu HC Ngurdawla of Tripura has stated that half the population of the Ranglong Kuki people migrated from Tripura to the Peren district in Nagaland, NC Hills in Assam and Tamenglong district in Manipur, where they are called Zeliangrong, comprising Zeimi, Liangmei, and Rongmei.
It is rather strange that all these groups are one and the same people. However, we did not know this reality for such a long time until the mystery and truth was revealed through the faithful servants of God.
In connection with the revelation, by AD 75, our forefathers, descendants of Manasseh, were taken captive by the king of China, following the fall of the kingdom of Israel in AD 70. Even though the Chinese king wanted them to work daily, they did not obey his order. Rather, they devoutly observed the sabbath and worshipped God according to the order of worship written in the scroll. Therefore, the king made a devious plan to stop them observing the sabbath. While they were at work, the king took hold of the scroll and hid it. The scroll contained their religious tenets, doctrines, laws and commandments. At that stage, even in the absence of the scroll, our forefathers could still observe the sabbath and other religious feasts as long as the high priests, who memorized the order of worship, were alive.
However, after their deaths they were unable to perform the religious rites and worship God. In due course of time, they forgot their God and eventually lost their Jewish identity. After a gap of years, their physical features transformed and they became part of the Mongoloid stock. However, a thousand years passed and the thought of freeing themselves from captivity preoccupied their minds. One day, a hunter discovered a tunnel dug by a porcupine. He followed the tunnel, which led to the outer side of the wall, i.e. the great wall of China. Gradually, the people widened the tunnel and made their escape.
Our forefathers were known by the names of two brothers, namely, Songthu and Songja. Pu Songthu (the warrior-leader) led the exit of the children of Manasseh, and Pu Songja (Kachin) and his group remained as the last guard. In the course of their long journey from China, Pu Songthu left a trail (marks cut on the lhanket, a common local tree and slashed the plantain groves) for his younger brother, Pu Songja’s group to follow. The Lhanket is peculiar specie; once cut, the mark would turn darkish in no time.
The plantain would sprout fresh shoots in a very short period. When the group (Konyak, Khimnungan, Yimchunger, Phom, Mishing, Heimi, Nahen, Para, Makury, Noaw, Tagin, Mishing, Miji, Adi, Nocte, Wancho, Apatani, Bugun, Misi, Padam, Sherdukpen, Tani, Khamba, Khamti, Lishpa, Memba, Milang, Mishmi, Monpa, Nyishi, Sangkhen, Tangsa, Zekhring etc), who were in the middle reached the trail left behind by Pu Songthu, they appeared very old. This made them think their brother’s party was too far ahead to keep up with, and decided to move towards the northern parts of present-day Sagaing region of Myanmar, northern Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.
Similarly, when Pu Songja’s group (Kachins) saw the trail left by Pu Songthu and his group and thought it to be old, they felt their brothers were too far ahead to catch up with and so decided not to proceed further and settled in present-day Kachin state of northern Myanmar, and parts of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. Pu Songthu’s group moved towards the Chin hills, Mizoram, Chittagong hills tract of Bangladesh, Manipur, Nagaland and Assam. Our forefathers were scattered and dispersed, which is the will and purpose of God: dispersion, loss of the scroll in China and their Jewish identity has made them receive God’s salvation through Jesus Christ.
Yes, this is the story of God’s chosen nation, lost in the wilderness of this great universe for millennia. A strong nation, forsaken by God, uprooted from their homeland in the Middle East, were taken to China and worked as slaves for thousands of years, eventually escaped through a tunnel under the great wall of China. They were free from slavery in China, but could not return to their original homeland. Spread out in South East Asia, forgotten by their nation and left unnoticed, they were virtually non-existent for over 2000 years, lived as gentiles, and finally converted to Christianity.
The great nation that I speak of, which was lost for over millennia, is, as mentioned above inscribed on stone for posterity’s sake.
It is perfectly understandable that many would be curious about the relationship of these groups of people, who appear quite different from one another. To explicate this apparent enigma, a narrative is no doubt essential:
The Kuki genocide from 1992-1997 was carried out by the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah). Casualties included more than 900 killed – innocent men, women and children, specifically of the male gender; over 360 villages uprooted and more than 1,00,000- souls rendered refugees. During this difficult period, the Kukis were completely without help. Neither the Manipur state government, nor the government of India provided them any help worth mentioning.
A prayer group, Kuki Nampi Taona was formed by late Pu Helkhoon Haokip, late Pu Seithang Doungel and Pu Onhol Lhungdim and a group of God fearing old and young people. They adopted for their prayer theme II Chronicle 7:14: If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
The prayer group went to mount Koubru, the highest mountain in sadar Hills of Manipur, India where they fasted and prayed for days on end.
After years of persistent fasting and prayer, in 2007, God told Rev Chomlhun of Phailen village in Myanmar that He has heard the prayers of His people, the children of Manasseh, who prayed on mount Koubru, sadar hills, Manipur, India. Therefore, God sent Rev Chomlhun to Manipur to meet Kuki leaders, but to no avail. Five years later, in 2011, the Reverend and I finally met after I returned from abroad. The Reverend explained in detail God’s revelation for our people. Ever since, in simple faith, I have listened to him and followed all instructions from God, which is why, brothers, I would like to add, we are able to gather here today.
The theme of Chavang Kut 2014 and 2015 is ‘Celebration of Brotherhood’. Last year, 2014, those gathered together at Moreh included Kachin, Karbi, Zeliangrong, Chin, Mizo and Kuki. The basis of our brotherhood, according to God’s revelation is that we, the forty-three groups gather today at peace ground, Tuibong, Manipur are descendants of Manasseh. That, by God’s plan, the children of Manasseh were scattered for generations to become followers of Christ and preach the gospel of salvation, particularly among the Jews. In this connection, a belief exists among the Israelites that ‘Manasseh will be the bearer of a new seed’ – indeed, Jesus Christ is the ‘new seed’ (the Parable of the sower, Mark 4:1-34). For this purpose alone, over two millennia, God erased traces of our links to Judaism, but preserved parts of our Manasseh cultural heritage to reunite us at His appointed time.
According to revelations by God to Rev Chomlhun, 70 AD witnessed the siege of Jerusalem by the Roman army led by the future emperor Titus. Following the siege, the Jews were taken captives as slaves the world over and later on they were massacred in large numbers. Among those taken into slavery was the Manasseh tribe. In the oral tradition of our people, in 75 AD, the Chinese king, who enslaved the descendants of Manasseh deprived them of their leather scroll in which was inscribed the order of worshiping Yahweh, their God. Within a span of time, after the priest who recited the order of worship from memory died, the people forgot how to worship God, ceased to practice their age-old traditions and eventually forgot who they were. Over time, assimilation by neighbouring communities’ cultures and vice versa, resulted in the ‘completion’ of being lost, a fulfilment of God’s plan, and also His merciful blessing because wherever they were He led them to embrace the Christian faith and to His glory celebrate the first centenary in 2014.
In another folklore, the forefathers witnessed a miracle of God, that underneath a banyan tree (Boungthing in Kuki terminology) at Khampat, a village along the Indo-Myanmar border, sat a high priest, who pronounced,
Let these people separate, part their ways, henceforth, adopt varying nomenclatures, and identify with different tribes and nations.
Perhaps, this relates to the fact that we have been known by so many different names, including by the countries we live in.
On this occasion, I wish to take the opportunity to highlight the blessings and graciousness of the almighty, who has bestowed our land with rich flora and fauna besides immense natural resources. For instance, the combined oil reserves in Kuki hills of Manipur, the Chin hills and Mizoram exceed the reserves that exist in the gulf countries. The natural gas deposit in Tripura alone constitutes one-third of the world’s reserve. Uranium has also been discovered in the Kachin state, which is also rich in precious stones such as jade. The Kuki areas in Sagaing region in Myanmar have huge gold and coal deposits. Recently, large deposits of petroleum, gas, and iron ore have also been found in the Kuki hills.
With regard to language, a common aspect that we share is worth highlighting. God took away Hebrew and gave our people a new language. This is why many of the vocabularies and usages that the groups have are similar, which is indicative of our common origins. Had we retained the Hebrew language, it is more than likely that following our escape from China we would have attempted to return to Israel. This would have been different from God’s plan to erase our roots in order that we may be freed from Judaism. However, today, as intended by God, significant elements in regard to dialect has been preserved to re-connect us as in His time. We could neither have hurried the process, nor delayed. The gathering in the present-day is, as it were, happening ‘in the fullness of His time’.
Let us recall Acts 4:10-12:
- Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this men stand here before you whole.
- This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.
12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
On the occasion of Chavang Kut 2015, I give thanks to the almighty God for beginning an awakening among our people and a process of cultural integration, which is a blessing. As in the scripture Psalm 133:1: ‘Behold, how good and how pleasing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity’.
I look forward to continued cultural events to celebrate our brotherhood.
God bless and HAPPY CHAVANG KUT.
PU MANASSEH CHATE: Composed by Pu PS Haokip
i) KUKI, ii) MIZO, iii) KACHIN, iv) CHIN, v) KARBI, vi) ZELIANGRONG, vii) KACHARI, viii) BODO, ix) KONYAK, x) SINGPHO, xi) HEIMI, xii) SOMRA KUKI, xiii) PARA, xiv) MAKURY, xv) LAINAU, xvi) NOAW, xvii) PHOM, xviii) YIMCHUNGER, xix) KHIAMNUNGAN, xx) UPPER CHINDWIN SHAN, xxi) TAGIN, xxii) MISHING, xxiii) MIJI, xxiv) ADI, xxv) NOCTE, xxvi) WANCHO, xxvii) APATANI, xxviii) BUGUN, xxix) MISI, xxx) PADAM, xxxi) SHERDUKPEN, xxxii) TANI, xxxiii) KHAMBA, xxxiv) KHAMTI, xxxv) LISHPA, xxxvi) MEMBA, xxxvii) MILANG, xxxviii) MISHMI, xxxix) MONPA, xl) NYISHI, xli) SANGKHEN, xlii) TANGSA, xliii) ZEKHRING
Ibon chauva Namkhat ihiuve
Pu Manasseh chate jouse
Pu Manasseh lenggam tungdoh din pangkhom taute (2 times)
1. Vannoi leiset kolning lia
Chehchao sa kanam mite jouse
Pu Manasseh chate ho
Hung kikhom cheh un
Chungmang Pathen in eipeh u gamlei ah S
ihtuinu bang lengkhom in
Long khom del- del taute
2. Chung Pathen in eiholnau
Malai Pi le Pu gamlei chulsa
Lo kit ding leh jemhoi din
Selung mit in ahung lang nge Zale’n-gam
Pahcha namkim bangchan
Em sil sel in apah-e
PS Haokip is president of Kuki National Organisation.