Nagas in Manipur are all set to celebrate Lui-Ngai-Ni, the seed sowing festival. Preparations are in full swing in Tamenglong district headquarters as the main programme of this year’s Nagas’ seed sowing festival will be celebrated in the district headquarters on February 14 and February 15 under the aegis of the United Naga Council (UNC). The two-day gala event will be hosted by the Joint Tribes’ Council (JTC). As usual, blowing of trumpets, cultural dances and folk songs will be main features of the two-day event.
This year’s theme of Lui-Ngai-Ni is “Quintessential cultural resurgence”.
Nagas from various parts of Manipur will conglomerate in Tamenglong for the two-day seed sowing festival, which is usually marked by feasting and cultural bonanza.
This year’s Lui-Ngai-Ni celebration will be graced by Awangbow Newmai, Minister for Water Resources, Relief and Disaster Management, as chief guest. Lok Sabha MP, Lorho Pfoze will be the principal guest while MLA Ram Muivah and MLA L Dikho will be honoured guests of the occasion. Tamenglong MLA Janghemlung Panmei will be the chief host. Special guests of the occasion are MLA N Kaysii, MLA Leishiyo Keishing, MLA SS Olish and MLA Kumo Sha.
Delegates have started arriving in Tamenglong district headquarters for the gala event.
Meanwhile, according to a note from the organising committee of the festival, the need to re-formulate a comprehensive conceptual cultural frame -work in the emerging situation and context of globalization cannot be overlooked.
“Of course, culture is a system of conventions, laws and practices that are consciously or unconsciously framed by a group of people to regulate their socio-economic-politico-religious activities,” it stated. It has material and immaterial aspects attached to it, and both play a pivotal role in the conduct of an individual or a collection of individuals in a society, and also play an intrinsic role in the formation of a people's identity, it added.
Nagas, in general, are community oriented and the individuals gain community recognition, respect, adulation, and status depending on his contributions to society, the note also said. An individual's identity is determined by one's participation in a society's culture and devoid of it, his identity is at stake, it further said.
“An individual may also be stripped of his identity if his actions contravene the established customary and traditional practices. It is in this context that culture has played a prominent and significant role in shaping and molding an individual's and society's identity. Seed sowing festival or festival of merit, etc. are cultural practices prominent amongst the Nagas. These festivals have both material and immaterial aspects attached to it,” the note further stated.
The festival of merit demands a lot of hard work, determination, sacrifices, benevolence, goodwill, etc to perform it, the note of the organizing committee also said. The givers magnanimously give to his villagers, friends and neighbours without expecting any reciprocal material benefits from his fellow men, demonstrating that Nagas prioritise the greatest good of the greatest number of people over an individual's material prosperity, it added.
The performers of such festivals are given social recognition, status and goodwill of the participants. Seed sowing festivals are performed by all the Naga tribes to offer gratitude and praise to the almighty for the bountiful blessings in the year past and invoking Him to continue showering His blessings on the villagers in the coming seasons. These activities of identity formation, reliance on and supplication to the
Almighty, emphasis on cardinal moral values etc. have of late been relegated to the background and individualism, consumerism, capitalism have taken centre stage, resulting in degeneration of moral and cultural values, the note also said. The reasons for such a state can be traced to the proselytising of the Nagas, Christianity per se is not responsible for the degradation but the ignorance of the western teachers has contributed to our cultural decadence.
“Our interactions with the outside world or ‘the other’ first with Meiteis and Ahoms, next the Britishers and our subsequent meeting with the Indians have had almost distorted our understanding of ourselves and culture. Modern education has, in spite of its various positive contributions, had a huge impact on the worldview of the Nagas as it is responsible for introducing multiple and contradictory worldviews to our society, leading to our cultural corrosion and dilution, thereby impacting our identity,” the note also stated.
It then stated, “Our Naga society is now confronted with these multiple issues, which need immediate attention and determined conscious intervention to reclaim our past glory, reconstruct our culture and reorganize ourselves on the basis of democratic, humanitarian and Christian cardinal values and principles to establish a just society”. This endeavour must synthesize both the socio-cultural ethos, values and practices with the cardinal principles and teachings of Christianity so as to evolve a dynamic relationship between culture and religion, it also stated.
The process of synthesis has been initiated by various people but it still lacks a coherent conceptual framework, which has resulted in relegating culture to the background. Such an exercise demands a conscious determined concerted effort from all stake-holders making the intellectual appropriation of our cultural values, principles and practices a basic necessity. The lack of this exercise exposes us to the danger of cultural assimilation and dilution or loss of our identity by the more pervasive and dominant cultures. Thus risking being uprooted from the moorings of our cultural ethos as our land is presently flooded with foreign cultures, the note from the organizing committee of Lui-Ngai-Ni added.
It is in response to this imminent threat and the basic necessity of protecting, preserving and promoting “our culture that UNC initiated a consultation with all Naga tribes in South Nagalim” and the nomenclature ‘Lui-Ngai-Ni’ was christened in 1986 and a collective Naga seed sowing festival was organized on February 15, 1987 and every year since then. This day is officially recognized and declared a state holiday by the government of Manipur in 1988, and the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India listed Lui-Ngai-Ni as one of the tourist festivals of India in 1997. “Therefore, to protect, preserve and promote our culture and corollarily our identity, we must persevere in reclaiming our socio- cultural ethos and practices and blend it consistently with Christianity”, it stated.
The note of the Lui-Ngai-Ni organising committee then stated, “We must reconstruct a socio-cultural-religio body of knowledge to make it relevant and applicable in our christianized society. We must emphasise imparting moral standards amongst our youths”. The immaterial virtues associated with such cultural events should be emphasised and practiced, it also said. “It is in this context that the theme, ‘Quintessential cultural resurgence’ is adopted. May it rekindle our love for our culture,” it further added.
Lui-Ngai-Ni committee appeals
The Local Organising Committee (LOC) of Lui-Ngai-Ni 2024 festival, while informing that the committee is gearing up for the celebration in full-swing, has appealed that no bandhs nor any kind of hindrances be made to Nagas on February 14 and 15.
The LOC of Lui-Ngai-Ni 2024, in a release, has stated that the state level celebration for this year would be hosted by Joint Tribes Council (of Zeme, Liangmai, Rongmei and Inpui) at Apollo Ground in Tamenglong district HQs.
“As it is a state-level celebration, 21 Naga tribes are expected to come for the festival from all nooks and corner of the state, and it is hereby appealed that no bandhs or any kind of hindrances be made to Nagas travelling for the celebration especially in NH 37 and NH 153,” the release stated.
There shall be a lot of interesting performances and cultural activities of each tribe, added the release.
It also appealed to all village authorities of host tribes to necessarily attend the event and make it a grand one. The committee also made an appeal to the general public of Tamenglong to extend their support and cooperation in the state level celebration organised in the district headquarters.