Rumoured to have been around since 1450 AD, Chapchar Kut, the harvest festival of the Mizo tribes tells an eloquent tale of a people, their laughter and endless life. Come early March (1st of March in 2016), jungles of bamboo and undergrowth must be cleared to make way for the summer crop, or the jhum harvest. Once cleared there’s a sudden and welcome break in the otherwise packed schedule of agrarian settlements as they pile up the bamboo and wait for it to dry. It is in this time, that they celebrate.
Colourful traditional attire is dusted off, feasts are prepared and bamboo poles are selected for the crowning dance-The Cheraw. Once the glorious procession of Kut rore is over, where the elders of each tribe parade in representing their individual communities, the dancing begins. The Cheraw is a wildly exciting dance of dichotomies, young men pound heavy bamboo poles together against the ground to build a beat while the womenfolk step through them with fascinating dexterity, since missing a beat could mean losing a foot. The festivities are tied up with Then Thumna as local musicians take to the stage and belt out crowd favourites.
While the festival now focuses on song, dance and food, legend has it that the festival was started when the King of a village returned from a hunt empty-handed and ordered his own pig slaughtered so that the village may feast anyway, and the rice-beer (zu) that had already been prepared would not go waste. Along with the missionaries came the eradication of zu and the animistic practices associated with the Kut.
Today the old traditions are revived, but tempered with the Christian history of the community. Locals are quick to share myths and folktales behind various practices, even if they may not hold them true anymore. It’s a beautiful example of a people respecting and appreciating their culture in all its shades without trying to cut out either extreme, but weaving them together into a tapestry of time.