By Limalenden Longkumer |
Oh, asüngsüngbensang; Yanütenti sang.
So the folks would sing, during the days of yore, as they eagerly awaited Moatsü. How joyous, how boisterous the village folks must have got then! Moatsü is just one of the many festivals our forefathers celebrated; every member of the entire village community participated during such festivals, young and old alike, men and women. Imagine the entire village folks, from the tiniest toddler to the most highly decorated warrior in the village letting themselves loose during the festivities. Yes, it used to be an egalitarian society.
They were peace lovers, cheerful and honest. Yes, there were wars and they were head-hunters. But they were not cowards! Because they were warriors, because there were wars, peace prevailed. And that prevalent peace, they would defend at any cost. Because there was peace, and because they were upright and jovial, they celebrated the festivals and observed the rituals most cheerfully and with the highest order of solemnity.
With the coming of the American Baptist missionaries, the bucolic carefree life began to change and the rest is history. However, we will continue to tell their tales, share their stories, sing their songs, dance their dances and respect their honour. We will write more and more about them. We may move forward in time, almost going out of our senses while trying to keep pace with the rest of the world, but we shall remain deeply rooted. We are descendants of men and women of great valour, and we will stand our ground to preserve the legacy of our forefathers, who gave us this land we can call our own.
They say our ancestors were pagans. We say they were religious and that they professed a traditional faith, the Ao Religion. The outsiders viewed any religion other than their own as pagan, such was their bigotry! The outsiders, in all their full blown prejudiced vanity, held the view that worshipping the god of their religion was divine, and dismissed the worship of god in any other religion as animistic. Well, they don’t do that anymore!
Yes, we are Christians today because God in all His infinite wisdom had had a plan for us worked out before the start of time and because Jesus Christ died on the Cross of Calvary to redeem us of our sins and not because some narcissists salvaged us.
All the nations of the world have their own culture designed according to the expanse of ingenuity God has bestowed upon them, so also us. To exist as a distinct people is what God intended us to be, and therefore it is our bounden duty to preserve our culture in conformation with His Word.
“Cultural festivals” being the central focus of this edition of The Nokinketer, one can safely conclude that there is no harm in observing cultural festivals as long as it conforms with the Gospel.
There are some amongst us who have become victims of acute cultural cringe syndrome, who believe that our cultural festivals are irrelevant and insignificant; some even ridicule the whole cultural spectrum as outmoded and passé. They are a disgrace to our forefathers.
The essence of our cultural festivals is Sobaliba, an untranslatable term for a set of Ao Naga code of ethics. In fact, Sobaliba is the hallmark and the whole essence of being Ao Naga. To a true son of the soil, Sobaliba stands for that compelling moral force which finds expression in self-sacrifice for the service of others. It stands for everything that is honourable and virtuous.
Cultural festivals are not about rice beer, chief guests, folk songs and dances and traditional gears. Far from it, it is about Sobaliba, of being Ao Naga. They say, “Be a good gentleman.” We say, “Sobalibametetaliang.”