Tokhu Emong: The Post Harvest Festival Of Lotha Community In Nagaland - Eastern Mirror
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Op-Ed

Tokhu Emong: The Post Harvest Festival of Lotha Community in Nagaland

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By EMN Updated: Nov 06, 2023 9:47 pm

Often known as “The Switzerland of the North East”, Nagaland is a small mountainous terrain state gracefully ensconced in the far north-eastern part of India.

Nagaland is home to many tribes and sub-tribes celebrating their festivals at different time throughout the year. Each tribe has slightly distinct traits and character from one another, whether it is food habits, costume, customs, language and dressing sense.

Nagaland is also popularly known as a land of festival because of a plethora of festivals being celebrated in the state. And of all the important festivals in Nagaland, Tokhu Emong is the premier festival celebrated by the Lotha Naga tribe.

Tokhu Emong is a post-harvest festival celebrated with much pomp and gaiety. With the harvest over and the granaries are full, the people are now huddled together, taking rest from the toils and sweat and settle down to relish the fruits of their hard labour. In the olden days, it was celebrated for over nine consecutive days. However, with the change of time and the necessity to have uniformity among the community, the Lotha elders decided to fix a date for the event. And hence, Tokhu Emong festival is celebrated every year on November 7.

On this auspicious occasion, the whole community takes part in the celebration. Every household prepares food and drinks for a grant feast. Near and dear ones, neighbours and families are invited to feast together. The celebration is marked by traditional songs, dances, feast, fun and frolic, while men, women and children are clad in their beautiful traditional attires.

Nicely prepared sticky rice with pieces of meat is exchanged with neighbours and close relatives during the festival. In the olden days, the number of cooked pieces of meat given to neighbours, relative or friends denoted the depth of friendship. For instance, if one person gives 12 pieces of meat to a friend, it shows that the person treasures the friendship; if it is reciprocated by the recipient with 12 pieces of meat, it means that the friendship is valued from both the sides.

The Priest (Pvuti) usually initiates the commencement of the festival after performing several rituals. However, before the start of the festival, if any unknown person comes to the village, that person have to either leave the village before the sunset or stay in the village until the festival is over. However, such persons are accorded warm hospitality in the village.

This festival is also an occasion to offer requiem for the departed souls. This is also the opportune time for the prospect boys and girls to be betrothed during the year and get married after the festival. During this festival, the villagers decorate their village gate, cleaning the village water wells and beautify their homes.

Tokhu Emong festival is also a time of thanksgiving and reconciliation; forgive and forget past hatred and animosity, and rekindle friendship by reconciling in good faith. It signifies ending of all bitterness and strengthening the familial and social bonding. It is also a celebration of unity and gratitude. It is marked by the village elders performing wild (war) cries and yodelling to express their euphoria after the harvest is done.

For the Lotha Naga community, of all the festivals, the agricultural festivals are considered the most important ones. These festivals are primarily celebrated to propitiate God for a bountiful harvest. There are two main festivals celebrated by the Lotha Naga tribe namely the Pikhuchak Emong (meaning the marking of the beginning of the year) and the Tokhu Emong (the marking of the end of the year). As per the traditions of the forefathers, a new year begins with Pihkuchak festival and closes with Tokhu Emong.

In Lotha parlance, “Tokhu” means feast (eating food, drinking and merrymaking) moving from house to house, collecting tokens and gifts in the form of natural resources and food. And the meaning of “Emong” is to put a halt for the appointed time. It literally means a day of celebration after a strenuous yearlong hard work.

It is an annual festival which usually lasts for nine days. During the celebration, pieces of meat are also distributed to the families and relatives of the deceased who passed away during the year. This ritual is being done to set the soul of the dead free. During the event, everyone, irrespective of gender, rich or poor, participate in the celebration, bedecked in full traditional attire. Men join in singing and dancing, accompanied by women.

Tokhu Emong marks a joyous occasion. When all the harvest is brought home safely, the Priest (Pvuti) will perform a ritual in front of their house to signify the end of the year and the ushering in of the New Year. Thereafter, the young men gather in the premises of the bachelor’s dormitory and announce the commencement of New Year to the entire village. From this day onwards, till the end of Tokhu Emong, no outsider is allowed to enter the village and no one is allowed to leave the village.

Today, people exchange gifts — food and drinks — as a token of love and friendship during the occasion. It is also an occasion to explore Lotha culture and heritage through festivities.

Y. Mhonchumo Humtsoe

Post Graduate Programme

(International Relations)

North East Christian University, Dimapur.

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By EMN Updated: Nov 06, 2023 9:47:21 pm
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