Phei.. Phei Lam Whistle Dance At Chavang Kut Autumn Festival

Chavang Kut (Autumn Festival) the pre harvesting festival of Assam’s Thado-Kuki tribes was celebrated with traditional gaiety centrally at the Kuki settlement near Manja Township just 16 kilometres away from Diphu yesterday.

Thousands of youth in time-honoured clothing thronged the venue of the 32nd Chavang Kut. The celebration became a lively festivity with the performance of the Phei.. Phei Lam bamboo whistle dance. This dance kept the spectators awestruck for a long time.

According to legend, the bamboo flute is the only melody accompanying the dance, which produces a weird resonance which ricochets akin to Ku-ki … Ku-ki from where the imperial rulers named the tribe Kuki; the beat of the dance is produced from the bamboo which keeps on shifting with the cadence of the ballet.

In Myanmar, the original homeland of the mainstream Kukis, they are known as Chin and the finer divisions are Zomi and Mizo.

Hundreds of Kuki families descended from the high ridge of Singhason hill range to join the pre harvesting festival ordered by the Kuki Festival Organizing Committee.

“We have come from Zawlian village to take part in Chavang Kut. Many have come from Saijang and Borjan locality. We really enjoy this event. Lots of reminiscence is attached with this, and for at list two days we overlook our hardship of life. Our forefathers travelled a long way to settle in this land but we have kept our traditional values in one piece as far as possible because we Kukis believe that our very distinctiveness is hidden in this type of traditional cultural performances” said James Kuki, an elderly person in fluent English

“No wonder a large percent of our community is familiar with English, we value education above all, amid many hardships we try to send our children for education” said Reverend N. Lumkam, who also led the Christian entreaty to set in motion the celebration.

In the opening ceremony, youths and elders cheered Biren Sing Engti, MP of the hill districts of Assam, the chief guest. He announced that the venue of Chavang Kut will be presented with a permanent cultural hall from his development fund. Guest of honour Bidya Sing Engleng, MLA of Diphu also announced that he will provide five lakhs rupees from his fund to cover the additional expenses for the project.

“The Kuki Chin or Mizo are all hill people, we toil hard daring sunshine and rain in the slops of the hill throughout the year for a good harvest and in the month of October or November we observe Chavang Kut as a thanks giving gesture to Almighty God for his compassion, we are associated with multi ethnic community in Karbi Anglong, we should uphold the spirit of brotherhood” said Tongthang Touthang, president of Kuki National Assembly during a short deliberation at the beginning of Chavang Kut.

Apart from the usual speeches by the guests and leaders of the community, the unplugged feats of the Kuki tribes was a rare sight to see. From the bamboo dance to ballets interrelated to folk tales, songs having direct bearing to cultural life of this aboriginal tribe could have been a fiesta for tourists and scholars as well, but there were not many to admire the unique event.

Sushanta Roy is a journalist in Assam, India, who photographs and writes about the people, animals and flora of Assam, and the things that affect them.