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Sunday, March 2, 2008

Thlanrawkpa Khuangchawi- a Mizo oral tale

In a time many ages ago, Thlanrawkpa was to hold the Khuangchawi ceremony for which he invited all the living beings on earth. As preparation for the feast, food, meat and rice beer were made on a very large scale. The house was renovated and the fields were levelled to hold the many guests who had been invited.
When the guests arrived, Thlanrawkpa gave names to each of the creatures who attended based on their peculiar qualities. A hen came up from the mud and she was named ‘Chirhi’ (mud) but as time passed, “chiri chiri” became the common address for the hen. Then there came a Zuhrei who was named ‘Zurei’ for he took so long in brewing beer (Zu- beer, rei- long). This name also became modified to the now common ‘Zuhrei’. There was a cat that came walking along a small bamboo rod at which they wondered, “Look at how tight the walk is!” and they named it ‘Zawhte’ (Small walk). The squirrel came sauntering in an even narrower walk over a rope and when they saw this, they cried, this walk is even tighter!” and they named the animal ‘Theihlei’ (even more able) which in course of time was amended to the modern ‘Thehlei’ for squirrel. These and many other creatures came, they were all named and together they roamed at Thlanrawkpa’s large field while he encouraged them to make friends with everyone. Following his advice, the Sakhi (deer) and the sakuh (porcupine) made friends and danced to a song they made up out of a combination of their names. When the two started dancing a Tangkawng wanted to join them and his name was also added to the song. The trio’s merry dance made the Varihaw want to join them and his name was also added to the song. They happily danced to the beat of their song in great joy.
The following day was the start of the Khuangchawi and the thingdim people feasted at the father-in-law’s house practising their dance moves the whole night. They approached the dancing ground the following day in great merry-making and there was great merry-making in the air. One could see pig dung with feathers swaying, and there was cock dung moving to the beat of the bamboo rat’s drum. The Zuhrei came with feathers on its hair and when they saw her dance, they appreciated it in song,
“Watch the Zuhrei with flowers on her hair,
Beauty she has and grace is hers.” The Buipui became jealous and joined the show with flowers on its head but the song it inspired was completely different:
“Watch the Buipui with flowers on its head,
There is no beauty, there is no grace.” At this the Buipui was so greatly angered it suddenly made off with the drum and hid itself in a deep cave. The dancers were disturbed for they could not dance without the drum so they sent a hen to ask for the drum but the Buipui was adamant. So they decided to flood the cave and at this, the Buipui got scared and threw the drum out hitting the hen right at the knees. It is said that this was how the hen got its knees overturned.
With the drum back, they proceeded to dance again and at the lead was the Sahuai (Loris). But the sun, which they had requested not to shine, could no longer stop himself, consumed as he was with the desire to watch the dancers. As the sun came up from the horizon, the Sahuai did its best to stop its rise for if the sun did shine, the dung that were dancing would dry up and the changpat would tire quickly. But the sun could not be stopped for long and as it made its way up, the dung quickly dried up and the changpat tired and the dancing stopped. So greatly angered was the Sahuai at this that he vowed to be at war with the sun for always. To this day, the Sahuai refuses to look at the sun, even if you hold its head up, you will find that it always has its eyes closed.
Evening came and it was time for Saveichawi and everyone stood in queue to get their food. With their left hands they took the meat and rice beer with their right. The lizard was a sly creature. On one line he turned a red gullet and on the other a black. On both lines he would say, “I’m a guest, I haven’t yet got the left hand meat’ and thus was served twice. From this came the popular proverb, ‘Lehlama awr dum, lehlama awr sen.’ At that time when everyone was feasting with great glee, an owl somehow did not get the meat and was sitting by the door greatly displeased. The Zuhrei, full in the stomach mistook the owl’s displeasure for something else and passing by said, “Look at the owl full to his brim!” This angered the owl so much he ran after the Zuhrei, right up to the mouth of its burrow. It sat at the mouth but the Zuhrei, clever creature that it is, made a Hrultun on the other side and escaped the owl’s watchful vigil. From this incident came the word ‘Chhimbudawi’. Then there was the hen who was a widow at the time of the Khuangchawi. The Sanghar wooed the hen and finally succeeded in sleeping with her. Then the Sanghar boasted about his feat and a court was held before Thlanrawkpa. The hen was lost for words and was so upset she could only cry while the Sanghar was smug and continued to show off. The saying ‘Arpuia lungchhia, Sanghara lunglawm’ originated from this episode.
The time came for the guests to leave and Thlanrawkpa put on a disguise and awaited his guests on their way to find out if his guests would show any appreciation. The first creature to come by in a great hurry was a bullock and Thlanrawkpa stooped him to ask whether he had enjoyed the Khuangchawi. The cow in a foul mood replied, “That Thlanrawkpa! Says he’s holding a Khuangchawi but where did we find gratification, or enough to fill our stomachs!” On hearing this Thlanrawkpa said, “You ungrateful creature, because you have not appreciated what Thlanrawkpa did, you will forever work under harsh conditions to fill your stomach.” Then there came a crab and Thlanrawkpa asked the same question to which it replied, “May Thlanrawkpa live forever! Grand was the Khuangchawi and filled our we to satisfaction!” Thlanrawkpa was greatly pleased with this answer and pronounced, “For your show of gratefulness, you will eat from this day from what defecate and live in comfort.” Now the crab was not pleased with this but Thlanrawkpa explained that the fish would jump to eat his defecation and the crab could in turn catch the fish for its food. Pleased with this boon the crab went on its way.
Then came a Paite and a Tuikuk on their way home. They too were gratified at the Khuangchawi and Thlanrawkpa gifted them both a special blade for splitting bamboos. This is why, it is said, that to this day, the Paite and the Tuikuk at better skilled at crafts than is the Mizo. Finally there came a Mizo and a Vai singing of their great joy at the Khuangchawi. Thlanrawkpa was pleased to hear them and gifted the Mizo with a leather parchment while to the Vai he gave a Laisuih (ordinary paper). He said, “Keep these with great care for within it is food and riches and all the knowledge you can find.” The Mizo, still drunk with rice beer, simply kept his gift in a Sum from where a dog picked it up ran off with it. The Vai on the other hand kept it safely, and willed it to his children as well. This is why the Vai have greater knowledge and riches. But since Thlanrawkpa had given a gift of higher quality to the Mizo, this gift lives on and is evident in that the Mizo always excels when put to similar tasks with a Vai.
To all his guests, Thlanrawkpa gave the message, “All my dear subjects, I know you all wish for me to have a long life, and I shall have one. Should anything happen to me and I should die, there is above you in the heavens your caretaker ‘Pu Vana’. If you should require help for any of your problems, just throw your dices up and ask him to take care of you and he shall always help.”

1 comment:


nice narrative... would love to read more