In the northeastern state of Nagaland, several indigenous tribes live. These tribes are particular about adhering to their age old customs, traditions and religious beliefs despite exposure to Christianity and outside world. The Pochury Naga tribe is no exception to this trend as well. They celebrate the harvest festival Yemshe with gusto and mirth each year.
Nuances of Yemshe festival
As it is, Yemshe is deemed as the largest and most important harvest related festival for the Pochury Naga community. The festival is replete with pomp, gaiety as well as traditional rituals. It denotes- ‘Aroma of the house’. The festival is held with the hope of having a good harvest.
Related: Moatsu Festival of Nagaland
Apart from being a harvest based event, Yemshe is deemed as the tribe as an occasion that ushers in renewal of old ties and bonding with community people. In fact, young men and women of this tribe develop bonding during this time, leading to relationships in long run. So, in a way, the harvest festival is also replete with a spirit of human bonding.
The Yemshe festival usually takes place in first week of October each year. However, preparations for the celebration begin in last week of September. The village spokesman decides the exact date for this festival each year and after which villagers make arrangements.
Related: Famous Festivals of North East
Rituals of Yemshe festival
The festival involves rituals like cleansing of entire village, including wells and footpaths. Head of each family in the villages has to perform specific rituals too. The engaged couples renew their ties with exchange of wine and food. Big Yemshe is celebrated by the villagers in general and small yemshe is held by a rich family arranges for a Purification feast.
The rituals include the following:
- The family holding the Purification Feast offers wine to every family in village.
- The family also has to host a dance party.
- Bamboo mugs are prepared for sharing wine.
- Paddy rice is used and not millet for giving to all families by the feast host.
- Mithuns and chickens are slaughtered afer purification rituals for the feast. Sometimes, pigs are also slaughtered.
- The feast holder asks the villagers to get him pine wood and after that the big feast is given.
- Frogs are caught from river and chickens kept in cage are sacrificed for feast.
The last day of the festival is regarded as the sanctification day after which the villagers engage in harvest activities. On the last day of feast, villagers remain indoors. For the festival duration, farmers do not cultivate in their fields. The villagers believe fertile lands are controlled by evil spirits and animal sacrifice is required to make those lands usable and fertile.