A Kut where there is no Miss Kut contest
(The Haipi Lho-lhun Kut)
By Lunsieh Kipgen IPS
The news of the annual Haipi ‘Lholhun Kut’ (a post harvest festival) being celebrated had gone viral in certain social media - Whatsapp groups. This has made some people including old friends of mine pursuing diverse careers in different parts of the country think that another Kut (read Chavang Kut) program is being organized. The very mention of Kut has made people to think that beauty pageant (Miss Kut contest), cultural dance display, renowned singers performing with a chief guest and other guests gracing the program is all what people almost take it as indispensable for any type of Kut program. Some people had even voiced their opinion in social media networking sites against organizing more Kut programs as it has the tendency to be controversial ridden on selection of Miss Kut winners and a useless platform of wasting precious money. I had also planned to drop in at my native village’s ‘Lholhun Kut’ program this year at least towards evening. This too made some of my old friends believe that I must have been the chief guest designate for the Village Level Kut evening entertainment session. But not every Kut program has a chief guest, guest of honor, Miss Kut contest, etc and the mode of celebration is never identical.
The Lholhun Kut celebrated by Haipi village (church) is unique in its own way and it has no ingredient of the day’s well known and state-wide celebrated Kut (Chavang Kut) on November 1, a state government’s holiday. It is a thanksgiving post harvest program in true Christian perspective of acknowledging God’s blessing for making the village paddy fields yield crops. The Haipi Village Lholhun Kut this year was observed on 24th November last. And this was the 46th one. As no other village or church within the ‘Kut celebrating community’ observes this Kut christened as ‘Lholhun Kut’ people other than the ‘Haipi-ans’ knew or heard of this particular and unique Kut. In plain words the word ‘Lho-lhun’ may be translated as “completion of a season’s agricultural operation”. Kut denotes more or less ‘celebration, observation or even festival’. Hence what this Lholhun Kut signifies can easily be comprehended.
Situated three Kms north-west of National highway -2 at the Koubru mountain range in Sadar Hills Kangpokpi district of Manipur, Haipi village is uniquely blessed with vast tract of cultivable hill range, thick jungles filled with timber materials and diverse flora and fauna. The village also has an equally vast tract of terraced cultivation-friendly naturally leveled land and gentle slope land. This is the reason why even the earliest inhabitants of this village never took to forest and ecology destructive Jhum cultivation and tilled the plain areas for sustenance. In Jhum (dry) cultivation the cultivated is shifted every year to enable the soil to recover its fertility. As the village took to terrace cultivation right from the beginning of the village establishment days the land’s soil fertility and the crop yield per hectre diminished to the extent of zero yields in subsequent years. As the paddy fields completely failed to produce crops the village cultivators whose livelihood entirely depended on the paddy cultivation began to face near starvation. They survived on forest products, cheapest available ration rice supplies and even Aata (flour) which is never their staple diet part. The able bodied man and woman folk even used to collect certain type of wild nuts from the hill ranges east of Kanggui (Kangpokpi). It was on one such fruit/nut collection trip that a well built elderly man known for his sense of humor lost his cool and not only ridiculed the beautiful Haipi village landscape with its greenery but also went cursing it with a contemptuous gesture for not producing crops for the inhabitants. Such was the frustration and helplessness of the Haipi villagers then.
In such difficult circumstance the village founder and a god fearing soul, Late Pu Jangthang Kipgen looked up to the Almighty and prayed with tears in the barren village paddy fields. Haipi village being one of the pioneers in Christian revival and spirituality had many god trusting and prayer mongering souls who began to undergo fasting prayer sessions for village soil to regain its fertility. Almighty God answered the prayers of His people and made a way for the village land to produce crops once again. In those days chemical fertilizers were not only unheard of for the villagers but even were not available for purchase and use. It was almost coincidence that a shipment of chemical fertilizers meant for somewhere else in Manipur could not be delivered to its destination. Late Pu Thangpu Kipgen (younger brother of village founder Late Pu Jangthang Kipgen), a then serving clerk in the princely state government could somehow manage to ship in the fertilizer bags to Haipi. The use of chemical fertilizers in Haipi paddy fields paid dividends and the land once again began to produce crops. The then entire villagers’ livelihood and economy as in other parts of the country entirely depended on successful agricultural operations.
The Haipi villagers believed that God has answered their prayers by enabling the modern industrial productions such as chemical fertilizers reach their land through a different way. The land not only once again produced crops but the per hectre agricultural yield increased in subsequent years. The villagers heaved a sigh of relief then. They are safe from starvation now. The forest and domestic gardens too started producing varieties of fruits, vegetables and other cash crops in abundance as if the land had been completely rejuvenated. It was in this circumstance that the Haipi village under the aegis of the village church began to organize a special thanksgiving day to God after all the village paddy fields are all harvested and they called it “Lholhun Kut”. The first such event was observed in 1972 and so this year’s was the 46th one.
The Haipi village land had been continued to be blessed in terms of agricultural output and other natural resources from the forest. A mountain fed stream (rivulet) passing by the side of the village provides a well sustained pure water resource throughout the year both for domestic and agricultural use. This is attributed to the village leadership’s consciousness about forest conservation. Stones and pebbles for domestic consumption such as building purposes are available plenty in the village rivulet. A year hardly has been witnessed since 1972 when farmers harvested crops not commensurate with the labour and other investments they put in for a season. Even when the rest of the state this year was reeling under drought or near drought leading to low agricultural yield, Haipi terraced fields produced reasonably good harvest. The total paddy output of the village no doubt fluctuates year to year. The current year’s overall paddy output vis-à-vis last year’s has come down by over 7,000 (seven thousand) Tins. Still then the village farmers reaped enough for their next season’s sustenance. The per hectre paddy output of the village this year was still higher as compared to the neighboring villages.
Almost all agricultural communities of the world have their own ways of celebrating a post harvest festival. The November 1 Kut (Chavang Kut) too is a post harvest festival in Manipur.The mode of observing/celebrating a post harvest festival in our land may be similar in some ways but are never identical. Cultural identity is ingrained in festivals, more so in post harvest festivals. The festival names too are given based on one’s languages. It is to the uniqueness of Haipi village that this Lholhun Kut is not even heard of by co-community members of other villages, forget celebrating it. The arrival of new season’s fruits and vegetables during July/August is welcomed and celebrated under the name “Anthah lop” at church levels even by those settling in non-agricultural places in town and cities. This too can be named as a harvest festival/celebration of a kind.
Whatever ‘Kut’ it may be, the mode of its celebration is dynamic and keep changing as time goes by. During the initial days of Haipi Lholhun Kut observation, villagers first priority as of today, was thanksgiving and offering to the creator of all including the crops. Worship services in the morning and evening are still the prime business. In earlier Lholhun Kut days sports and games like high jump, race and other recreational events for the young and the old alike which suit their ages used to be the main feature of the day program. Football match between married and unmarried adult male used to be a favourite part of Lholhun Kut. Today, physical recreational activities are no more done as part of Lholhun Kut. Community feast is still almost inevitable always though.
The enormous hardship faced by the villagers of Haipi due to crop failure for some years at a stretch at one point of time could be too painful even to recall. The restoration of the village paddy fields’ soil could be due to application of modern technology and use of chemical fertilizers. Yet the unseen hand of God must also be doing wonders with the village land. The average yield per hectre per annum of the village paddy fields has gone up double and in some cases triple compared to the initial years of chemical fertilizer utilization. This is all the more another reason for the Haipi village to thank the almighty and celebrate their unique Lholhun Kut.
There are some regions even in adjoining hill ranges of Haipi whose lands are bestowed with fertile natural soils and no expensive chemical fertilizer is required at all. Rather than making optimum use of such god-given soils in the plains for food productions many are lured towards the high returned cultivation of certain illegal cash crops in the hill slopes, destroying the land and soil in the process. The diminishing return for such illegal cash crop cultivation has slowly started and by the time the return nears the zero point it will be too late for the land and the soil to replenish itself. Such a situation could render the people face what the Haipi village experienced half a century or so back. It’s time to ponder over such an impending day.
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