Chin State revives Khuado festivities
A JOYOUS combination of harvest thanksgiving and New Year celebration, the Khuado festival is making a comeback in Chin State after a quarter of a century. Sacred to ethnic Zomi, the festival was celebrated on October 14-15 in Tiddim township after the crops were gathered in.
The Chin State government, which organised the festival in Lailo village on October 14 and at Kan Haught Stadium in Tiddim the next day, hopes it will prove a tourist draw.
It was last held at the state level in 1991, but suffered decades of neglect under the military regime.
In the Khuado festival, “Khua” represents the lord of the earth, who holds sway over all spirits, good and evil, and “do” means both to host and to fight. Merrymakers host the lord of the earth by performing sacrifices to secure his blessings for the coming year and preparing a grand feast with the first fruits of their year-long toil.
Once a five-day festival, Khuado now lasts three days depending on the village. On the first day, as relatives gather, the men repair the roads. Emissaries are sent to invite the dead to participate, and all partake of the traditional alcoholic rice drink khaung yay and dance to traditional songs at night.
The next day, villagers armed with sticks unite under the direction of a medium to drive evil spirits away from the village. In the morning, they slaughter pigs, goats, and cows for the women to cook, setting aside the internal organs for older people and as offerings for the deceased.
The medium also predicts the state of next year’s cultivation by examining the smoke from the campfires.
As a mark of respect for the Chin State ministers attending, some participants fired off traditional flintlock rifles.
On the last day of festivities, nobody is allowed to leave the village as rituals are conducted with farm animals, in the belief that wasps will protect their bodies from flies after they die. Fortified with sips of khaung yay, the priest chants and prays as he interprets the wasp-comb and its implications for the coming year. This is the signal for more singing and dancing until late in the night, or until the khaung yay runs out.
“This festival is mainly intended to preserve Zomi traditional culture as well as to promote tourism. We reduced it by two days because of budgetary and transportation difficulties,” Chin State development minister Isaac Khen told The Myanmar Times.
Local and international tour company representatives were invited to the curtailed festival at Lailo village, which has been designated as a centre for community-based tourism by the state government.
Reactions were mixed. “I’m delighted that we can celebrate our culture in this way. It’s years since we were able to celebrate Khuado in Tiddim again,” said one young resident, a 20-year-old who identified herself as Tluangi.
But Luan Lam Mang, who gave her age as over 60, said, “I used to enjoy this festival when I was young. But young people these days don’t know how to sing and dance the way we did.”
A visitor from Falam township said, “It’s good that they’ve brought back Khuado to make sure traditional Chin traditional culture doesn’t disappear. But I heard that when people visited the Naga festival, they found that the villagers celebrating it were all dressed in modern football kit. I can’t help feeling something has been lost.”
A rise in living standards, improved communications and a shortage of spirit mediums have combined to weaken adherence to Khuado in all but the most remote communities. The trick will be to restore the festival for the benefit of tourists without leaving the impression that only tourists are interested in it.
Khuado festivities were staged at Kan Haught Stadium in Tiddim, Chin State, on October 15.