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KUT, OUR CULTURAL HERITAGE IN DESPAIR

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Chavang Kut and Chapchar Kut: A Non-Traditional Modernity Showcase

By Yochanan Phaltual - Shavei Israel Administrator, India

In the past the Bnei Menashe celebrated several Kut (festival) in tune with the changing seasons of the year. There are many harvest festivals of the Bnei Menashe that have similarity with the Biblical Jewish harvest festivals.

Regrettably, the advance of Christianity and western cultures discarded many of our customs and tradition. Not only does it change the belief system but also the rites and rituals involved. However, change in the traditional culture does not mean getting rid or abolition of the same. There is continuity as well and this is the reason why some harvest festivals are still celebrated with pomposity, merriment and religious fervor. Kut is celebrated with jubilation when farmers finish harvesting their paddy crops after year long labor. People remember the Almighty G-d and the Creator and give thanks for His abundant blessings.

There are generally four kinds of Kut which were all related to agriculture and whose origin is lost in oblivion as it is based on oral tradition. They are Mim Kut (Festival of Grain/Maize harvest), Pawl Kut(winter harvest), Chapchar/Chapphou Kut (Spring harvest) and Chavang Kut (Autumn harvest).

Picture Source: Bombiel.com
 Kut is a culture and cultures are meant to safeguard the unique customs and tradition of certain ethnic group. These traditional Kut were celebrated with varied traditional fervor. Dances such as Saguol-Kengkhai, Suhtah Laam, Cheraw (Mizo bamboo dance), Phit Laam, Laam-kuol, etc. with indigenous sports like pestle-throw (Suhtum-kho), mithun -jump (Siel-Kal/Siel kungkal), Kibot/buontol kho (wrestling, traditional WWE) and others were showcased. Traditional musical instruments were played in competition such as Goshem (bagpiper), Theile (flute), Pheiphit, Lhem-lhei, Dah (Gong) and Dahcha (cymbals).

The modern day liberty and culture invasion brought about a sea change in the meaning and content of the festivals. With State government sponsorship and thanks to the initiation of political bigwigs, new elements were added to spice up the Kut flavor. It is unfortunate that attractive items like Fashion show, beauty contest (Miss Kut) and the likes which are not in any way essential to promote and imbibe the culture and tradition identity of the people were over emphasized.

In fact, the cultural aspects and elements of celebrating Kut festival have been reduced to MISS KUT CONTEST. The Christian Church lamenting the Kut becoming a kind of reckless license to drink and free-for-all brawl wrestling mania night. Poor Christian society tries to rectify the wrong things by influencing the Kut Committee in a bid to spiritually diversify against the popular Miss Kut contest and Beauty pageant, manage to stage a gospel Kut with the theme “Kut for Christ” in many places.  The result of change is clear and stark – Kut becoming a boring gospel musical show sans all the glam – frills and few crowd with the larger unholy and wild boozers.

Kut is our culture through which the outside world could identify who we are. We let it drain to dwindle in our un-holistic attempt to add more new elements of going with the modern times. Kut is not a showcase entertainment event. We should redefine the celebration in order to protect and relive our culture and tradition by using modern tools and elements.
Until a corrective measure is introduce, our esteem heritage (Kut) will be nothing less than an ULTRA-GLITZY KUT.

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