|Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn at Kisama on Tuesday. Telegraph picture
Kohima, Feb. 25: War cries reverberated at Naga heritage village Kisama, some 12km from here, as thousands of people in Naga traditional attire welcomed the princess of Thailand.
Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, who is on an official three-day visit to the state beginning today, attended the inaugural day of Sekrenyi festival, the premier festival of Angami community, which begins every year on February 25.
Thousands of men and women dressed in rich Naga attires lined the way from the entrance to the culture arena at Kisama to welcome the princess. She witnessed a Naga cultural programme apart from trying out the local cuisine. She also sipped zutho, a local rice beer, which is highly sought after by the non-Naga communities. Various Naga tribes performed a Naga unity dance.
The organisers of the festival, Southern Angami Public Organisation, hosted a lunch for the princess, where she tasted the delicious cuisine of the Angami community, especially pork, a favourite among the Nagas.
Welcoming the princess, chief minister Neiphiu Rio hoped that her visit would strengthen ties between Thailand and Nagaland that had improved over the years. He said the Nagas and Thais were similar in many ways — in terms of food, society and culture. He said the improved ties would give a boost to the Centre’s Look East policy and ties with other Southeast Asian countries.
Thailand’s ambassador Harsh Vardhan Shringla accompanied the princess. A host of ministers and top state officials attended the celebrations.
The Angamis are known for their Sekrenyi celebrations. The festival follows a circle of rituals and ceremonies, the first being kizie. A few drops of rice water taken from the top of a type of jug called zumho are put on leaves. The lady of the household then places these at the three main posts of the house.
On the first day, all the young and old go to the village well to bathe. At night, two young men clean the well, which is then guarded by some village youths as no one is allowed to fetch water after it has been cleaned. Hence, women must ensure that water for the household is fetched before hand.
The next morning, all the young men of the village attend the washing ritual. They wear two new shawls (the white mhoushu and the black lohe) and sprinkle water on their chests, knees and right arms. This ceremony is called dzuseva (touching the sleeping water). The well water symbolically washes away all their ills and misfortunes. On their return from the well, a rooster is sacrificed. It is taken as a good omen when the right leg falls over the left leg as it falls down. The innards of the rooster are then hung outside the house for the village elders to inspect.
A three-day session of singing and feasting begins on the fourth day of the festival. The most interesting part of the festival is the thekra hie, during which young people of the village sit together and sing traditional songs throughout the day. Jugs of rice beer and plates of meat are placed before the participants. On the seventh day, the young men go hunting. The most important ceremony falls on the eighth day when the bridge-pulling or gate-pulling is performed and inter-village visits are exchanged. All fieldwork ceases during this season of feasting and music.