Sunday, February 24, 2013

NYOKUM - YULLO Mythology

The Nyishis believe that the Universe was created millions and millions of years ago from a ‘nothingness’ called ‘Jimi Jema’ or ‘Mimi Mama’. This was followed by another period called ‘Korium Kol’ or ‘Koyum Kol’. There was no beginning, no end, no light, no sound and no life during that time. That is why it was called ‘Korium Jimi’, ‘Kolo Jerna’. Perhaps it was nothing but a gaseous mass. There was no separation of the Earth (Siichi) and the Sky (Nyedo) and other Planets and Stars.
Slowly and gradually the Earth and the Sky were separated but it was in a viscous (jelly like) shape called ‘Chit Rullum’ (‘Siichi-Chit’) and ‘Dot Rella’ (Nyedo-Dot). Life did not appear till this stage. Donyi (Nyedo-Donyi) or the Sun was created first. When the sunlight began to appear called ‘Ujii Dola Jiqp’ and air started blowing called ‘HojPada Miqp’, the solidity of the Earth was formed, by separation of land in the shape of valleys, hills and mountains and water in the form of river, lake and ocean. Living things started appearing on the earth. This is called ‘Chiit Chigar Garlin’ and. ‘Dot Dogar Garlin’. The first human being was created called Chitu (Siichi-Chitu) and her offspring was called Tani (Chitu-Tuni). Hence, Tani literally, means man.
‘Nyikum Tani’ was the first man. He married with natural objects like heap of leaves, leeches, insects, birds, animals and frogs. Perhaps, these marriages of Tani (man) speak of the evolution of mankind. The different stages of human evolution are called Pyoi Tani, Nyai Tani, Nyima Tani, Nyikum Tani, Nyiya Tani etc. Lastly when Nyikum Tani married with ‘Donyi Yai Chumji’ and then with ‘Jiit Aane’, he became a perfect  human being called ‘Nyidar Tani’ or ‘Nyiya Tani’. But he had to struggle hard for his existence in the midst of hostile surroundings.
When Abo Tani married ‘Donyi Yai Chunji’ daughter of ‘Ayu Donyi’ they had a child. ‘Donyi Yai Chunji’ asked Abo Tani to bring her younger sister ‘Donyi Ludi-Luryo’ for babysitting, from ‘Donyi Neg-Naamlo’ the abode of Sun. There were two routes for going to the ‘Donyi Neg Naamlo’. One was ‘Hachi Sekho’ the wrong path, which passed through the land of poverty, misery and sorrow where ‘Yoma Tada’ the supreme deity of poverty lived. Another was ‘Haat Sekho’, the right path, which passed through the abode of happiness, where all benevolent Gods & Goddesses dwelled. ‘Donyi Yai Chunji’ advised Abo Tani to undertake his journey to ‘Donyi Neg Naarnlo’ through ‘Haat Sekho’. But Abo Tani ignoring the right advice of his wife took the journey through Hachi Sekho. He came across Yoma Tada and made friendship with him. He was induced to exchange all his beautiful dresses and valuable ornaments with that of Yoma Tada’s ugly and cheap dresses, made of wood and bamboo.
Abo Tani having exchanged with the wretched dresses of Yoma Toda realized his mistake. He was ashamed of proceeding further to the Donyi Neg Naamlo. He returned home in a pathetic condition. Seeing this, Donyi Yai Chunji was very sad and angry. More so, because Abo Tani did not listen to his wife’s good advice. So she told Abo Tani that she would no longer remain as his wife and went back to her parent’s home, ‘Donyi Neg Naamlo’ with her baby, leaving Abo Tani alone on earth. Abo Tani having lost everything and out of frustration, threatened to destroy the universe. This threat had fore shaken the universe. Both malevolent and benevolent Gods and Goddesses (Uyus) were in panic, as their very survival was in question. At last ‘Hib-Gyob-bo the God of creation, cooled down Abo Tani’s anger and advised him to re-marry with ‘Jiit Aane’ or ‘Jikum Aane’ the younger daughter of ‘Ayu Donyi (Sun)’. ‘Jiit Aane’ was the most beautiful lady in the universe. Her charm and beauty attracted everyone but no one succeeded in marrying her.
Abo Tani with the help of Hib-Gyob-bo applied a trick and succeeded in conceiving a baby in the womb of ‘Jiit Aane’ without physical contact. When the news was spread that ‘Jiit Aane’ was pregnant, all the malevolent sprits (Uyus) claimed the baby to be theirs. ‘Abo Tani’ also claimed to be the father of the baby but nobody was prepared to accept this. Therefore, a series of competitions were resorted to amongst the claimants to prove themselves to be the actual father of the baby. In all competitions, Abo Tani defeated the Uyus. Even then, ‘Jiit Aane’ was not ready to accept Abo Tani as her legal husband.
In the meantime, the baby (a male child) was born. ‘Jiit Aane’ declared that the baby would find out his father himself. So, Abo Tani and all other claimants were gathered in one place. All of them lined up in sitting position. The baby crawled from one end to the other and climbed up on the lap of Abo Tani who was sitting at one end of the row. Thus, the baby recognized Abo Tani as his father and rejected all the Uyus. Finally Jiit Aane had to accept Abo Tani as her husband.
However, the enmity of malevolent Uyus with Abo Tani did not end here. They continued to plot against Abo Tani to finish him and his son once and for all. Being aware of the fact that the life of Abo Tani and his future generations were in danger, ‘Jiit Aane’ asked  Abo Tani to go down to the earth along with his son and make place for human race there. Thus ‘Jiit Aane’, sent down Abo Tani to earth along with all necessities required by human being. All the domestic animals like Mithun, Pig, Goat, etc, and other wealth sent with him were in the form of soul. These were put in different containers called ‘Pobum’. ‘Jiit Aane’ advised ‘Abo Tani’ not to open any of the ‘Pobums’ on the way till he had reached his destination on earth.
But Abo Tani, out of curiosity and temptation, opened and peeped into the ‘Pobum’ on the way. The souls of domestic animals cried out of the ‘Pobum’ and the attention of the Uyus was drawn. As a result, the Uyus also followed Abo Tani to the earth with malicious intention of harming him. Then ‘Jiit Aane’ became annoyed with Abo Tani for he had committed a blunder again. However, ‘Jiit Aane’ realised that whatever Abo Tani had done was for the sake of maintaining inevitable relationship between the Uyus and human beings on earth. Therefore, she ordained between Abo Tani and the b that (TENIN DEDBO HE POMIN YULLO NO RUI PURAM DELAKA, POTE YULLO NO SEB PURAM DELAKA, TIRII AAT NYOK UYU NO BINTU PURAM DELAKA, PUNU AAT NO TEB PURAM DELAKA, SOTU-TAM NO KIPU PURAM DELAKA), those Uyus (malevolent God) who were angry and hungry upon Abo Tani’s life should take Mithun, Pig, Goat, Chicken, Dog etc. from Abo Tani instead of his life. Thus, as per the ordain of ‘Jiit  Aane’ (Mother  Sun), the very survival of Abo Tani’s human generations (Human race) was saved by offering domestic  animals to the angry and hungry Uyus (malevolent spirits).
Therefore, the descendents of Abo Tani perform animal sacrifice as and when human life is in danger. The sacrifice is also resorted to when there is a natural calamity caused by malevolent Uyus. While performing puja, the priest (Nyubu) invites all malevolent Uyus through chanting mantras and appeasing them, by giving life of animal instead of human life and all benevolent Uyus are offered sacrifice for saving human life and taking care of mankind.
The Nyishis, hailling mainly from five major branches (phratries) called- Achi Dopum, Pai Dodum, Paryo Dolo, Pako Nyibi and Anya Hari, believed to be the children of ‘Aato Niya’ who was the son of ‘Abo Tani’ and the only issue from ‘Jiit  Aane’ the daughter of ‘Ayu Donyi’ the grandmother Sun.
As per the belief of the tribe, the Universe is divided into three worlds- ‘Shiichi’, ‘Nyedo’ and ‘Uyu’ or ‘Oram Nyoko’ ‘Siichi’ is the dwelling place of man, animals and plants; Nyedo is the abode of God and Goddesses and other celestial bodies and ‘Uyu’ or ‘Oram Nyoko’ is the place meant for the life after death. It is also believed that there are numerous deities and spirits on earth. These are the deities and spirits of mountains, rivers, forest, animals, crops, household and so on and so forth.
Some of the spirits are benevolent and others are malevolent. The Nyishis believe that human being can live a life of peace and prosperity on this earth only when a perfect harmony is maintained between Man, God and Nature. They also believe that prosperity and happiness can come to a man when God and nature are pleased. Misery, hardship and natural calamities like famine, flood, drought, earthquake, epidemic, warfare, accidental death and such unwanted incidents occur due to the displeasure and wrath of God and Goddesses of nature. It is, therefore, the Nyishis worship to propitiate the benevolent spirits or Gods and Goddesses to protect and bring prosperity to them and to ward off the malevolent spirits from disturbing the peace and tranquility in their life. Nyokum Yullo is one of such propitiations.
The word Nyokum -Yullo has been derived from three words - Nyok which means entire land mass of the earth, kum means putting things together or collectiveness and Yullo means festivity. Therefore, the Nyokum Yullo may be interpreted as inviting all Gods and Goddesses with Nyokum Goddess as the principal deity, to a particular spot at a particular time and is worshiped by the people collectively, irrespective of caste, creed or class for better productivity, prosperity and happiness for all human-being on the earth.
The festival has a close link with cultivation. The Nyokum Goddess is invoked for her blessing so that there may be more and more production of food grain in the next harvesting seasons, so that the visit of famine may be warded off, that drought or flood may not hamper cultivation nor should any insect or animal destroy crops.
Production, however is not only limited to the agriculture sphere. It extends to the production of animal husbandry and even of human beings. More and more cattle should be produced; no cattle disease should visit during the year. The Nyokum-Goddess is invoked so that the fertility of human being may also increase and thus, human race may regenerate. All should be free from unnatural death due to accident, warfare, epidemic etc. So, festival is connected with the worship of the God for peace, prosperity and happiness for all.
Traditionally, it is the village elders who start consultation (Yearkurn-nam) well ahead of time for the celebration of the festival. The various responsibilities are distributed in a gathering (Dokum). The persons in-charge of collection, (Khakum-bo) collect the first subscription in the form of Chickens, Eggs, Opo, Meat, Rice etc. All the priests of the area are invited and the nature of the Puja is decided by means of omen indicated by chicken liver. Two priests are also selected by the same means. The first priest is called the ‘Yullo Nyubu’ and the second, the ‘Khasi’/Galii Nyubu. The host house, (Ui-bergi-naam) is also selected in the same way. It is, in fact, a rare honour to be the host house. All the houses/families are directed to prepare Opo from finger millets well ahead of time so that the Opo may mature fully. Donors of Mithun, Pig, Goat etc. are also selected.
Just before the festival, the second collection of subscription which is the major one is made from all the families/houses of the participating villages. Exemption is, however, made to certain families, according to the merit of the cases e.g. who cannot contribute due to poverty, old age, handicap etc. Otherwise, it is compulsory for all.
On the appointed day i.e. on 24th February, the priests are formally invited by the host house. The priests ceremonially start from their respective houses along with the assistants (Buo) and others to the host house (Ui-Bergi-Naam). This is done before noon as afternoon is considered  inauspicious. They are given a warm reception by the host house. The first priest (Yullo Nyubu) enters from the front (Auspicious) door called ‘Byag’ and takes his seat at ‘Nyodi’ of the first hearth of the host house which is the most honoured seat in a Nyishi house. The second priest (‘Khasi’/Galii Nyubu) enters from the back door (inauspicious) called, ‘Byatu’ and takes his seat at ‘Koda’ of the same hearth. Invocation or chanting of the hymns starts as soon as they arrive. ‘
The first priest puts on bright ceremonial dress who deals with the principal deity. The second priest dresses in dark and even wears a tiger skin as head-dress and looks ferocious. This he does because he deals with evil spirits and cruel gods.
On 25th of February, at sun-rise, the priest, accompanied by many others, set out for house to house Puja of the host village. They make similar entry, exit and take seats as they do in the host house. In each house warm reception is given to the priests and their entourage. They spend about half an hour in each house. During this time the members of the entourage perform ‘Buya’ and.’Rikham pada’ dances. The most interesting feature is the driving out of the evil spirits, through the ‘Diir-son-bo’ an ugly looking but humorous man carrying a wretched basket filled with worn out and discarded utensils, vessels etc, and dancing funnily from one end of the house to the other end driven out by the village children with sticks in their hands called ‘Pipa-Nekho’. This amuses all, especially the children.
On 26th February, the sacrifice is performed. An altar (Yugi) is prepared outside the village, generally, on an elevated place from where the maximum view of the area is possible called ‘Nyokum Putu’ (or Happa). At appointed time the ceremonial procession with decorated poles (Khome / Tori), carried by all male members, is taken out followed by beautifully ornamented young women (Nyogi-epo-bo/Gir -Baan-Bo) and all the village folks young and old alike. From the host house (Ui-bergi-naam) also procession starts with Mithun, Pigs, Goats etc. ahead and the priest behind. When they reach to the ‘Nyokum-putu’ (Venue), they start dancing ‘Buya’ and ‘Rikham Pada’ around the altar (Yugi). When it is made sure that all have reached, the sacrifice is performed. During this time dancing and singing continue vigorously. Opo is distributed to all. This merry making continues till late at night.
On 27th February, a community feast is given, with Meat, Opo and Rice etc prepared at the spot and carried from the respective houses. The feast is partaken of by guests and hosts, alike. Here no bar of caste or creed, high or low is made: Enemies and friends alike, exchange their lunch packets called ‘Chimp ‘and Opo vessel (bamboo tube)called ‘Didu’.
The two priests, also ceremonially retreat to their respective homes on this day.
The ‘Dapo’ (Prohibition procession) is taken out on 28th February. From this day till the ‘Re-a-gama’ day which is generally done on the 4th day from the day of sacrifice, the entry of an outsider in the participating villages is strictly prohibited. All kind of works in the area for the period also cease. The violator of the prohibition is seriously dealt with heavy imposition of fine. During these holidays the people of the participating villages exchange visits. The visitors are treated with great hospitality with Opo, Meat etc. Old grudge or enmity is forgotten and new friendship is established on this occasion.
The Nyokum festival is celebrated in the first Nyishi month called ‘Liimi pol’. This coincides with the advent of spring season - the season of re-birth. In reality the festival is the New Year Celebration of the Nyishis. The weather is generally clear and pleasant during this time of the year. The bitter winter has just gone and the scorching summer is yet to come. The dormant seeds start germinating slowly but steadily, the tender buds begin to blossom forth making the surroundings colourful after a long period of grey winter. The atmosphere is surcharged with vigor and pomp and is congenial for regeneration of life.
This is the time when the jungles are cleared and fields are prepared for the fresh cultivation. Sowing of seeds starts from now onwards. Seen from this point of view the festival could also be called as the sowing festival of the tribe. It is a cultural heritage of the Nyishi people, coming down the ages, reminding them every year of the importance of nature and life.
It may, therefore, be concluded that the Nyokum-Yullo Festival is not only worship of thee almighty for peace, prosperity and happiness to all human beings (Performers and Non Performers) but also a symbol of unity and equality. It also provides an opportunity to each and every individual to improve upon one-self to be good and better.
May NYOKUM-ANNE bless a happy and prosperous life to all.
The Sacrificial Procession is to be taken out on 26th February in the following order:
(1) Diir-son-bo
(2) Diir-rugn-bo
(4) Roqpi-son-bo
(5) Tori Jonbo (Buya)*
(6) Gir-baan-bo *
 (7) Nyubu
(b) Khasi/ Galli Nyubu
          (d) Yullo Nyubu
* The participants should be of even number.
Meaning and Interpretation
The Nyokum flag shall be rectangular in shape made of immaculate white piece of cloth in the proportion of 3:2 with the emblem in the centre.
WHITE COLOUR:- The white colour is the symbol of purity, cheerfulness and liveliness. Animals and fowls of white colour are considered to be auspicious as the offerings for the Nyokum sacrificial rite. In lush green surroundings, as the Nyishi land is, the immaculate white colour of the flag offers a marked contrast against the green background of the landscape making the flag conspicuous. That offers cordial invitation to men and gods to the Nyokum sanctum. Again, grinded rice powder, white in colour, is extensively used during the festival, especially at the time of the sacrifice, symbolizing worship with purity of heart in order to propitiate the gods and goddesses and seek their blessings for the prosperity and happiness of mankind. Thus the white coloured flag stands for purity and cheerfulness.
The Nyokum emblem shall be circular in shape with one third portion at the base in green with two bunches of paddy at the bottom while the upper two-third shall be sky blue in colour with a pair of Eagle Wings called ‘Meyab’ in X position and behind them, the Sun (Aayu Donyi)
GREEN COLOUR:- The colour green in the circle symbolises the verdant earth where men, creatures and plants live and grow.
BUNCHES OF PADDY:- The bunches of the paddy are the symbol of fertility, productivity and prosperity.
BLUE COLOUR:- The upper blue in the circle stands for the sky - the heavenly abode of the gods and goddesses.
EAGLE WINGS:- The eagle wings, ‘Meyab’ are the symbol of spirituality.
SUN:- The sun (Aayu Donyi) is the symbol of life, light, power and strength.
CIRCLE:- The whole circle symbolizes, the boundless and limitless universe. The two worlds, Siichi (the earth) represented by green and Nyedo (the sky / celestial) represented by blue, exist in it.
The Nyokurn festival is mainly connected with agriculture as agriculture is the mainstay of the Nyishi people as of the people of other parts of the country and the world. Sacrificial offerings are made in order to invoke the goddess Nyokum and propitiate her and seek her blessings for a prosperous produce and golden harvest . Rice, being the staple food of the people, the bunches of paddy in the emblem represent productivity and prosperity.
The festival involves pujas. No Nyishi priest (Nyub) can perform puja without a wing of a kite, or a hawk or an eagle called ‘Meyab’. It is an essential instrument (for any type of puja) of a Nyishi priest. It can be said to be a true vehicle for him to attain the supernatural power during the puja. What an oar is to a boatman, the wing (Meyab) is to a Nyishi priest (Nyub). Hence the pair of wings (Meyab) represent the spiritual aspect of the Nyokum festival..
It is firmly believed by the Nyishis that the sun is the origin and source of all animals and plants on earth. Without it, life on earth is impossible. Hence, it is the Supreme Being and is Omnipotent. So the sun represents life, light, power and strength.
 Nyishis believe that in this universe there are three worlds, Siichi (the earth), Nyedo (the sky/celestial) and Uyu Nyoko/Oram Nyoko (under the earth). The first one is the abode of human beings; the second, abode of the gods and the third one is the world after and death. The first two are visible to human eyes and thus represented by the circle; and its two parts green and blue. To sum up, the Nyokum flag and the Emblem are designed to express the significance of the Nyokum festival and for both material progress and spiritual evolution of the Nyishi community.
The Central Nyokum Committee (CNC) in its Annual General Body meeting held at Nyikum Niya Hall, Nirjuli on 18-10-2008 has decided to adopt the Nyokum Song, ‘Nyokum Aana’, composed by Shri Bengia Tolum, as the Nyokum Flag Song at the time of hoisting the Nyokum Flag on 24th February.
Lyricist: Shri Bengia Tolum
Nyokum Anna ngulu khumden
Abotanige nam khumchw ho
Mwlwjhake Dewr hange khumden
Kollwg nyirmurram Darkha pibka
Lhech pibka
Nyokum………………………………… (1)
Migw sae lwppe pakune
Gwa khadde lwppe pakune
Pwkhyi pere temp pakune
Nag somin koe all dukune
Pwr pullumme jubrw gedela
Lhech Pibka
Anne Kuru lo anne Kumey lo
Anne Panyor lo anne Pare lo
Anne Kiming lo anne Swnyik lo
Dent timin koe all nyikune
Sebbe remin koe all nyikune
Lhech pibka
Nyokum………………………………… (3)

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