CHAD SUKRA FESTIVAL

Spring is synonymous with festivals marking the sowing season. Wa-I-Sa Sumer writes about the Chad Sukra Festival.

Since times immemorial, we, the acolytes of the indigenous faith – the Niamtre – have propelled the Chad Sukra, a spring festival comprising of various activities from dance to broadway and street parade. In many cultures, spring has been celebrated in accordance with the rites and rituals, revolving around its importance in food production. In simple language, this time of the season is associated with the sowing of crops.

During this time of the year, all plants, including cultivated ones, begin to grow anew, after the dormancy of winter; it is a universal belief that spring season gives birth to something new in a way that it isn’t just a mood booster, it can actually change the way people think.

Spring is in the air. There is new beginnings, opportunities, life and hope. As we embrace everything it has to offer, come spring and the festive mood is all lined up.

Chad Sukra is a community festival celebrated every year by the Pnar people of Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya. With the arrival of spring, the indigenous people embracing Ka Niamtre religion is all set to prepare themselves for the sowing season.

However, it is the custom as practiced from ancient times and tribute should be given to the mother earth “Ka Bei Rymaw” as she shields us in her lap and feeds us for our survival, as long as we are destined to live on the surface of the earth. Hence, it is celebrated in the Jaintia Hills in the easternmost part of the State, marking the spirit of joyfulness and fraternity amongst the people, before all arrangements are made for the sowing season.

It is also a season where people express their inner love to the divine power for all his affection, care and blessings, showered to humanity – that the sweetness of life can always be savoured and its beauty, enjoyed.

It is an occasion where people express their gratitude to his glory, as the seasons roll by the blessings of love on mankind, adding a sparkle to life.

Literally, Chad Sukra means dance with a joyful heart, and remembering the importance of health and vitality. Farming and agriculture are the chief occupation of the people in the rural areas, whereas in the urban side, there are people who excel in all fields of life. Before the sowing season, the tradition is for all the people to get together and celebrate life with dance and merriment.

This implies a wakeup call to the other villages, towns and cities to start the sowing activities in their respective fields. To pass this signal to the world, a cultural programme known locally as Ka Lehke is organised the night before, on a Mulong night, where a drama is staged.

Here, producers, directors and musicians, along with young artistes and likeminded individuals, get a platform for showcasing their talent in scriptwriting, directing, acting, singing and dancing, and in tune with the legacy of U Khon Ynniaw Wasa Ynniaw Wasung Ynniaw Trep U Ynniaw Skum, meaning the sons and daughters of the seven huts, as bequeathed to the present generation from the holy palms of U Trekirot.

The two words ‘Chad ‘and ‘Sukra’ symbolises a dance with peace and joyful heart. Chad Sukra provides a platform for all classes of people – young and old, alike – to exhibit their inner talents. Simultaneously, it aims at reviving the cultural heritage, bequeathed to the present generation, in the lines of cultural dance and song, as a gateway for the flow of talents and providing a mirror for the world to view from different angles.

It is an occasion where we shed off our ill feelings, hatred, enmity and suffering, and replace them with love and admiration; a paradigm, proliferating as a message of love and oneness amongst the people.

As a community festival, filled with peace and vitality, this is an annual festival of the Pnar people of Jaintia Hills.

Symbolising love and oneness, this festival is a projection of our love to our Mother earth – “Ka Bei Rymaw”.

Before all agricultural activities are to be carried out in the lap of mother nature, our elders under the aegis of Seinraij Jowai, a socio – cultural and religious organisation and the custodian of culture and tradition, under the leadership of the President of Seinraij, along with all the officials and the executive members and U Dolloi, the religious head and his councilors, i.e., “Ki Wasan” hold a series of rites and rituals for paying rich tributes to our mother earth.

To top it all, songs and dances are set as a manifestation and rejuvenation of one’s feelings which ultimately reflects the way of life of the people in this tribal belt of the country.

Chad Sukra is a time where life is designed to start afresh. People from all walks of life begin their professional life to a new beginning, signaling a better and prosperous year ahead, and paving the way for a joyful life, eradicating enmity.

It is a period of thankfulness to U Tre-Kirot, our almighty for the blessings he showers to each and every household through ‘Ka Chad Pliang’, the plate dance. It is a reflection of faithfulness and loyalty to the divine power – and open the minds of the people with good thoughts – a vanguard for a brighter future.

This festival is an occasion where good moral lessons/teachings become a message to the world, by showcasing different cultural dances – like Ka Chad Rwa, Ka Chad Pynjaw, Ka Chad Kieh-ke, among others. It reflects the uniqueness of the Pnar people.

Ka Chad Rwa is performed by young girls and women of all age groups, blooming like colorful flowers in varying traditional attires, moving their hands and feet with broad smiles, in synchronization with music – giving a message – that the sowing season is approaching.

Ka Chad Sukra also lends a platform to showcase cultural dances like ‘Chad Kieh-ke’ and ‘Chad Pynjaw’, which have been revived and given a facelift.

‘Chad Pynjaw’ presents images of the Pnar people and their way of life in the olden days, who, for their business purposes, used to walk for long distances on occasions of market day in different parts of the Jaintia Hills, showing their qualities as hard-working people. Tired and exhausted, while journeying to their respective destinations, men and women, sing and dance, jeering at each other – in a cheerful way – symbolizing acceptance of the hardship of life.

It is also an occasion, where we express our secret love and admiration to our environment, the basis of our survival on earth. Mother earth feeds the hungry mouths and shields all living beings and maintains continuity of life, through prayers of thanksgiving.

This festival, however, has earned its fame in the recent years with the participation of other cultural troupes from within the State, as well as, from the other states of India. This allows for projection of the festival at the regional, as well as, national level.

Tourists, both domestic and foreign, come from every corner of the world, and experience this majestic cultural extravaganza.

The second day is marked by the congregation of the public at Myngkoi Pyrdi of Loompyrdi Iongpiah, Jowai. Diverse cultural dances by the eight localities in Jowai – Panaliar, Dulong, Loompyrdi Iongpiah, Tpep-pale, Loomiongkjam, Chilliangraij, Loomkyrwiang, Umchangiar, along with Sein Tylli Lang Ladthadlaboh, Seinraij Ummulong and Seinraij Shillong are displayed. Men, women, youth and children dance with joy and enthusiasm. This is followed by a carnival procession called “Ka Mih Iaw” towards Iawmusiang, where everyone dances in unison, in synchronisation with music and dance.

As practiced every year, the theme for the celebration of Ka Chad Sukra this year is “A Syiem Myntdu To Kit To Da Kam Ka Hukum Naduh Nachwa”. It signifies the status of the river Myntdu, as one of the guardian angels of Jowai.

As Chad Sukra signals the arrival of spring, it also sends a strong message to the world that our farmers are all set to get started to their diverse agricultural activities. Chad Sukra also has a parallel sync with the onset of Ka Behdeinkhlam, as it coincides with “Ka Dih Soo Pen” – one of the rituals performed to kickstart the beginning of this majestic festival along with “Ka Chat Thoh” – marking the sowing season for the community.

Ka Chad Sukra is an expression of the uniqueness of the Pnar people/culture and their dignified life, enhancing the richness of their cultural heritage, in an Indian land, with immense diversity.

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