Yemshe is the premier festival of the Pochury- Naga Tribe, which is celebrated to welcome the new harvest. The arrival of the new harvest is welcome and celebrated with great fun & fair during Yemshe festival. All the Pochurires, young and old, rich and poor ceremonialised this festival with great pomp and gaiety expecting a good harvest which they deserve after a year’s hard work under stewing sun and relentless rain. No one is allowed to harvest, until the whole festival is over.
The Literal meaning of Yemshe is “Yem” which means “house” and “She/alüshe” meaning “odours”, which comes out from the cooking of the food and meats during the festival as almost all the households cook the best preserved meat and food during this season to celebrate in enthusiasm.
The Period of Festival
Generally, the festival begins in the latter part of September with different categories of ceremonial rituals till the final day which falls in the first week of October every year. The main function of Yemshe is observed only on 5th October keeping in tune with the closing ceremony of the long period of festivities.
The advent of the festival is announced by the village Crier (Bvifüpa). Subsequent upon the announcement, the festival starts the next day with the youth of the village cleansing all the important footpaths leading to the fields and neighbouring villages, wells, etc. and construct Basketry-cum-Resting Sheds.
For sanctification of a house, ritual feast is hosted by a rich family and the Head of the family perform all the rituals. Necessary materials used in rituals are fastened to the main post of the house entrance. Engaged couples (fiance & fiancee) renewed their relationship with exchange of food and wine and eat and drink together. It is also an occasion where many young people come to know each other and get engaged for marriage. Hence, this festival has great importance and is therefore, an enjoyable season, especially for the young people in particularly and farmers in general.
The family hosting the sanctification feast, besides providing wine, meat, also has to host a dance party (Mükhow lungtreüm) of his (head of family) age group. The host who is able to provide everything will be called the “Yemshe Father”. He may also invite dance party from neighbouring villages and establish diplomatic ties (a necessity during those head-hunting days). Only paddy rice is provided (not millet, maize, etc.) for food, and mugs from which they drink wine are made of bamboo and kept in the house of the host. Small quantities of foodstuff are also offered to the dead souls.
In remembrance of the departed and loved ones, prior to the sanctification, feast is offered lavishly by the host. The host will ask the villagers to fetch him pine-wood for lighting during the festival. Sacrificial acts, rituals, construction of bridges, ladders, collection of materials for construction of houses, etc. are done until the culmination of the festival.
The host family who host the Purification Feast has to fulfill the following conditions before the great feast (the great closing ceremony) day.
1. The Host family of Purification Feast has to provide wine to all families of the village.
2. They have to host dance party of his (head of the family) age-group, men and women in the village and in Khel-wise as well. Feast is given to the dancers, and meat is distributed to all his age-group friends.
3. Cutting of Bamboo Mugs takes place twice. All the host’s clansmen/nephews make new bamboo mugs. They take wine from the mugs, kept with the host. All the old Mugs are collected from every house and kept in the host’s family for drinking wine.
4. Only paddy rice is arranged (not millet, maize, etc.) and distributed to all the houses by the host for cooking and later the cooked rice is again collected and redistributed to all the families in the village.
5. For reserving of frogs, one axe each for three rivers is given to the villagers as a sign of frogs in these three rivers reserved. This is followed by giving out a big feast to all the village elders. After that, it is announced in the village that frogs in these three rivers are reserved by the host of Purification feast or Yemshe Festival. Hence no other villagers should go to these rivers to catch it.
6. After wine and food is arranged, the host of the festival asks his villagers to fetch him pine-wood and he gives a big feast to the villagers. Men take 6 pieces of meat while women take only 5 pieces on the occasion.
7. All the clansmen carry well-prepared food and wine and go to the reserved rivers and make bridges/ladders for frog catchers to enable them to go to any part of the river. At the same time, they eat and drink and enjoy on their own. This is a part of many games they play during the festival.
8. A chicken is kept in a cage on a selected tree on the way to the field. Selected group will go to that spot with dried frogs where chickens were kept and have a feast there. Every household in the village has to perform this ritual. Even the poorest family has to perform this ritual by roasting brinjal if he has no chicken.
9. It is traditionally believed that the most fertile lands were under the control of spirits. Sacrificial rituals are therefore, performed according to the fertility of the land. For the most fertile land a Mithun has to be sacrificed, then a pig and for the less fertile land, a chicken has to be sacrificed in the field. Two big gourds (in the olden days gourds are used for water and any other liquid storage) of wine is carried, one for halfway and the other for sacrificial consumption at the spot. While coming back from their fields the group do not mix up with other groups. Thus, a Mithun group, Pig group and Chicken group shall come back home separately. Likewise, wine is also taken separately.
The Final Feast
After all the arrangements, like collection of green vegetables, rice, meat and performance of rituals are completed, the host selects 6 supervisors; two for washing ginger, four to supervise the butchers for preparation of the feast for the whole village. All young and old will come and help the host in preparation of the feast. In this feast, Mithun, Pigs and Chicken are slaughtered. If there is no Mithun, three pigs substitute a Mithun. Womenfolk pound rice and cook while the menfolk busy for meat, and other seemingly difficult jobs. By sundown, all the villagers, from youngest to the oldest come together to attend the great feast.
Few quantities of all sorts of foodstuff and rice grains are shared and offered to the dead souls as farewell gifts and greetings on the final Yemshe Feast.
The last day of the feast will be impressively observed as the ceremonial feast. A part from sanctification, every parent will prepare a special meal for their children called “Luchisha” to eat together with his/her best friend among friends called “Luchipa” for boys and “Luchifü” for girls who are bonded to be friends till death. On this day everyone will remain at home and no one will do anything or go on a journey. The celebration ended with a grand festivities hoping for good harvest and prosperity.
From the very next day harvest starts and house construction materials are collected.