Silchar, the little Bengal in Assam, will celebrate the Bengali New Year 1419, like all Bengalis do — with Tagore, fish and sweets.
The frenetic haggling at the Chaitra sale in the oppressive heat, the springcleaning and the chalking out of menu herald the beginning of festivities.
Greetings of “shubha nababarsha” will rend the air, followed by some warm kulakuli (hugs).
Bengalis love their food, and despite the skyrocketing prices, fish must be a part of the main course.
“For the Bengalis of Silchar, Poila Boishak is all about kaalai daal, alu-posto, Haflong chilli, fresh fish from the Barak and the irresistible combination of kumra paatar speshal shidol bora,” said Dhiranjan Bhattacharjee, a banker.
Sanjay Paul, a lecturer in the TV communication department at Assam University, said New Year is a time for family reunion. “It is time to inhale the essence of being a Bengali,” Paul said.
“Silcharites make the most of the Bengali New Year day with adda, books, songs and sweets,” he said.
As spring colours the horizon, Lympung Weiking gears up to host the 101st edition of the Shad Suk Mynsiem (dance of the happy hearts) scheduled to be held from April 14 to April 16.
Shad Suk Mynsiem, also known as the Thanksgiving Dance, is a Khasi celebration to show admiration for god.
While the girls dance in the centre, the men dance around them to represent protection of family and community. “Being a matrilineal society, the female is the centre of the wellbeing and progress of the family,” says a Seng Khasi website.
The dance was first organised at the Weiking ground on April 14 and 15, 1911.
Before that, from 1902 to 1910, it was held at Mawkhar, a locality near the Weiking ground.
Meiteis will celebrate Cheiraoba (New Year) with prayers for the wellbeing and peace in the coming year.
For a state which is plagued with violence, everybody will perform religious rituals and say a little prayer to end all trouble and begin a happy and blissful new year.
All families celebrate the festival quietly in their homes. Food is offered to god, seeking blessings for posterity.
Families and friends bond over a sumptuous meal of fish curry, ooti (a dal curry with green or dry peas) and eromba (a hot curry made of potato, fermented dry fish and vegetables).
Every dish is shared with the neighbours to strengthen the bond of love.
Married women visit their parents’ homes.
The night belongs to young boys and girls. They will enjoy thabal chongba, a traditional dance, in various parts of the valley.
Singing popri tungno … (let’s dance together) and clad in gale and galok, men and women belonging to the Galo community of Arunachal Pradesh celebrate Mopin, the five-day harvest festival, from April 5 to April 9.
“The festival is celebrated for wealth, prosperity, good health and universal happiness. The priest chants for a bumper harvest, peace and wellbeing of all. People also pray for the good health of their domestic animals,” said T.C. Tok, the general secretary of the Arunachal Pradesh Congress Committee.
The festival begins with the ritual of smearing rice powder on each other’s face.
“Like Holi, where colours are smeared, people apply rice powder to display love and affection,” Tok said.
Traditional delicacies like apong (rice beer), eri eding (pork), porok eding (chicken) are rustled up.
On the fifth day of the festival, animals like mithun and goats are sacrificed to appease the Mopin goddesses.
The Longte festival is celebrated by the Nyshi community — one of the major communities of Arunachal Pradesh, in Kurung Kumey district — from April 13 to April 16.
Longte means demarcation or binding, and according to mythological belief, there must be a demarcation between human beings and deities.
“The festival is celebrated collectively and especially in villages. Animals are sacrificed to appease the divine being. The nyub (priest) chants for a good harvest. The Nyishis believe that human beings can live a life of peace and prosperity on this earth only when a perfect harmony is maintained between humans, god and Nature,” said Tok.
(Compiled by Arindam Gupta, Andrew W. Lyngdoh, Khelen Thokchom and Manashree Goswami)