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The Moatsü Mong festival is celebrated by the Ao people of Nagaland, India.
Moatsü is celebrated in the first week of May every year. Various rituals are performed during this period. The Aos observe Moatsü Mong after the sowing is done. The festival provides them a period of recreation and entertainment after the stressful work of clearing fields, burning jungles, sowing seeds, cleaning up the Tsubu (wells) and repairs and construction of houses by elders of the Putu Menden, stretching over a week. The Moatsü festival is marked by peppy songs and dances. The whole festival full of merry making and fun is observed only for three days from May 1 to 3. During this festival one of the symbolic celebrations is Sangpangtu, where a big fire is lit and men and women sit around it putting on their complete best attire, the womenfolk serve the wine and meat. Village witch doctors forecast whether good or evil days are awaiting the people and the village by readings of the celebration of the Moatsü festival. This festival was also marked with ritualistic public fornication of a young virgin and a pubescent boy to mark the fertility of the land at the time. This ritual was stopped since the advent of Christianity to the land.
Customs and rituals
The natural customary practice of the forefathers was competing in making the best rice-beer and rearing the best possible pigs and cows to be slaughtered during the festival. The women weave the best of traditional garments and adorn themselves with all their finery. They join the men in dancing, eating and drinking and composing warrior songs. Singing songs in praise of the lover and the village as a whole is done and the older men encourage the young people to be bold and heroic to defend and protect them from enemies as head-hunting was practiced during their fore-fathers time.
During this festival one of the symbolic celebrations is Sangpangtu where a big fire is lit and women & men sit around it. The best women serve the best wine and meat and make merry. Forecast is made by the righteous men who live by the guidance of the Almighty to see whether good or evil days are awaiting the people.
Aos have another festival called Tsüngrem Mong. It is celebrated in the eve of the harvest. However, nowadays the Aos celebrate this festival from August 1 to 3.
Prior to the start of this festival the village will declare the Süngküm (Village Gate) closed and free entry or exit is restricted and regulated for people who do not belong to that particular village.
Parties of old and young wearing their colourful costumes sing songs and perform dances to express their gratitude to the supreme power for helping the crops to grow well. They provide the best offerings to the supreme power for abundant blessings.
These festivals provide opportunities to the budding generations and village stalwarts to demonstrate their intellectual skill and physical powers.
A handful of young men hold the stage and tell amusing stories about their elders. Peals of laughter greet them and young & old jump in excitement.
These festivals are usually rounded off by a tug of war between men and women. Stories are galore that men lose to please their womenfolk. But none has refuted the argument that attracted by charm of their opponents, absorbed by their sweet songs and regaled by their very presence men lose gracefully.
The only defense offered is that men have to pull uphill and the women downhill. Whatever the spirit behind this sport it is a treat to see and an honour to participate.
The festival's meaning
The principal aim of this festival is to invoke Almighty God's blessings after finishing such diverse activities:
On completion of all these manifold activities celebration of Moatsü Mong takes place.
After Moatsu-The spring festival, the Ao Nagas celebrate another festival called Tsungremmong-The eve of harvest during the time of the forefathers, this festival was held for six days, marking the end of rigorous plantation besides nursing the paddy fields followed by sacrificial offerings.
In some village as per the Ao customary law, before the Tsungremmong festival a event of change of putumenden or a change of powers or transfer of powers from one generation to another takes place in the beginning of the village new year chosen by respective tribes. In connection to the Tsungremmong festival during the occasion the new Tatars carry meat curry for all persons busy in path making works. The leading man among them proclaims that there is the meat curry to mark the appointment of the incumbents to the house of the next putumenden. Ceremonies differ in every Ao village. Today the old custom is abundantly modified in the changing situation.
‘Tsungremmung’ festival is not just a festival but a source of building unity,’ The highlights of the day-long celebration among others were folk dances presented by Longra and Chari, and Amok Lushi cultural club Chuchuyimpang and folk songs presented by the Watsu unit of Chuchuyimpang.Prior to the start of the festival, every village declares the Süngküm (village gate) closed and free entry or exit is restricted and regulated for those who do not belong to that particular village.
Customs and Traditions
During the festival, wearing their colorful customs both the young and the old sing songs and perform dances to express their appreciation to the supreme power for helping the crops to grow well, while they also give the best offerings for abundant blessings. This gives an opportunity to the youngsters to reveal their intellectual skill and physical ability. A handful of young men hold the stage and tell amusing stories about the elders while greeting them by jumping in enthusiasm. The festival is usually rounded off by a tug-of-war between men and women. It is now commonplace for the men to deliberately lose to please the women. In keeping with the spirit of the festival, no one disproves the argument that the men lose the tussle since they are fascinated by the sweet songs of the women and regaled by their very presence. The only defence offered is that the men have to pull the rope uphill and the women downhill. It is a treat to watch and an honour to take part in the festivities.
Today in history, the past days are counted as the ‘Golden Age’ for it is a memory kept alive in old folk tales. They are repeated over and over again in different interpretations. A short passage of the tsungremmong festival that exists in some books is scribbled down.
During the forefathers time, the Tsungremmong ceremony is performed in all the Ao village which is a yearly celebration to honor of all Tsungrem (God) in general. It takes place in august. The first day a pig is sacrificed outside the oldest hut and a piece of meat is given to the house at each end of the main village street.
This is a present for Lijaba- The supreme being (mentioned in almost all the Ao tales), distributed in this way he is bound to find it ready for him from whichever directions he enters the village. The rest of the pig is eaten by the elders. On the evening of this day every family makes a free offering at the hearth and for that night the man and his wife must abstain from intercourse. The next day is very strict. No one may leave the village and even rice may not be husked. Men and boys spin tops and women and girls play games with sword bean seeds. In the evening the bucks visits the girls’ dormitories and the house of young widows and divorcees.
The women are bound to supply their visitors with drinks. If they decline the men may carry off the doors and all the firewood’s there is in the house. The next day is spent in the same way, but is less strict and people may leave the village to gather jungle leaves and so on. While on the third day all go and take bathe. There is no visiting of girls house that night, for the god are abroad and so all go to bed early and avoid walking about.(the passage ends there-The Ao Nagas)
Just like in the Moatsu festival, all celebrations are identical. Only the offering and some rituals are apart but with times changing only few are hardly taken and observed in one particular day.
It is sad to see that Nagaland being the land of festivals is not given much significance also ignoring the rich heritage while other countries are taking great interest to our tradition and culture of our folk songs and folk stories.