THE ORIGIN OF THE CHAPCHAR KUTIn the halcyon days of Mizo History, around 1450-1700 A.D. (no-one could tell the exact time), a Kawlni Chief ruled over the most famous and most populous village called Suaipui. Geographi­cally this Suaipui village of the ancestors of the Mizo was located within the territory of Myanmar. The highest aspiration of every young man in those days, was to excel in a feat of strength, skill or bravery in the field of battle or in hunting or even in sports. Such exploits or achievements of young man enhanced the fame of the village and sway of the chief. Often, it was the chief or his son, who used to lead young men of the village to war or to hunting expeditions. It was such practice which prompted, in later years, Col. John Shakespeare to write ‘The Lushais are not to be driven but led’.

One fine morning in spring, the Chief of Suaipui gathered his village braves to a hunting expedition into the deep animal-infested forests, taking their flint-lock muskets, spears and daos. Sufficient gun-powder manufactured with the help of the village maidens were carried. Incidentally, it may be of interest to know that forefathers of Mizos knew how to manufacture gun-powder locally, since time immemorial. The hunting expedition took several days, it may last till they finished the stock of rice they carried or till they bagged enough big games with their guns. The villagers anxiously waited with expectancy for their successful return which will be followed by feasting with meat and drinking of rice-bear and general rejoicing. 

The village maidens were even more anxious, because, they would then make ear-rings, hair-combs and such other ornaments out of the ivory, bones and teeth of the big games they would be bringing home. Housewives took their turns and brew rice-beer with the biggest beer-pots available and made sure that there would be no dearth of Zu to go round when the intrepid hunters return with their booty.

Unfortunately however, as our legend says, the chief and his desperadoes were not blessed by ‘Chawngleri’ (the Guardian Queen of the beasts) or they were cursed by Black Hollock by sprinkling its droppings on them. The hunters came back to the village with no booty, empty-handed. Imagine their discomfiture when they saw their village folks who waited for them with great expectancy. The worthy young chiefs’ initiative and inventive mind, however saved the situation which gave us the Chapchar Kut which we celebrate even today.

To cover up the shame and disappointment, the chief proposed an impromptu feast instantly- he showed up his fat pig and asked his hunting-mates to contribute a fowl each. A feast was thus made with meat aplenty and rice-beer zu was flowing. The spirit went high and the mood was changed from disappointment to joyful merrymaking young men and young women threw their hands around each other and danced in a circle; there were singing and clapping of hands all the while. The entire community enjoyed themselves even more than they would ever do even if the hunters had come back with rich booty. They have turned ‘defeat into victory’ as it were, and Chapchar Kut was born. Every year ever since, around that fateful time, the festival of a sort was repeated by Suaipui, and many other villages followed suit with their own innovations and time.

Along with the birth of Chapchar Kut was also born a particular dance which we now call Chai. It is also interesting to note that, the incident which was responsible for the origin of Chapchar Kut also carried along with it the tradition of contributing zu or rice-beer and food (including of course-meat) for the festival. The time also happened to be the most opportune time, when the chilly winter thaws into Spring, when the intense cold is over and the summer heat is not yet known. The trees begin to bear new leaves and wild beast and birds begin to welcome the bright warm morning of Spring. 

THE ORIGIN OF THE CHAPCHAR KUTAdded to this, the Mizo people have by this time completed their arduous task of clearing of the forests for their Jhum and left I them in the sun to dry till they would be burnt a couple of months later. Thus, for the hard-working Mizo villagers, this is the rare respite they can enjoy leisure in a year. It may not be out of place to say here, that in most of the North Eastern States a gay festival under different name is celebrated around this time. It is therefore meet and proper that the sister States of the North East India come together to share our respective Spring Festivals with the spirit of fraternal reciprocity.

Author: R.L.Thanzawna

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