The Ao tribe of Nagaland celebrates the Moatsu festival with the idea of recreation and hope of a good harvest. It is celebrated after the sowing of seeds in the fields of the Ao people is complete, unnecessary greeneries are removed, and the houses are perfected with reconstruction. It means that the Moatsu festival is a festival of merrymaking observed after the traditional tiring works of the Ao tribe is complete for the year. The beginning of May is the time for the celebration of the Moatsu festival, and it is observed from the 1st of May, stretching the whole first week of the month. A traditional fire is set, and men and women of the Ao tribe gather around the fire to celebrate the festival.
When is the Moatsu Festival Celebrated - 2020 Dates
The Moatsu festival is celebrated in May of the Gregorian calendar. It is celebrated from the 1st of May and continues for the whole first week. However, the major celebrations take place within three days of the festival. The next Moatsu festival is to be held from the 1st of May, 2020.
Where is the Moatsu Festival Celebrated? Venue Details
The Moatsu festival is celebrated among the dwellings of Ao tribe, living in the town of Mokokchung in the northeast Indian state of Nagaland. Mokokchung district and town is situated at an approximate distance of 150 kilometres from Kohima, the capital city of the Nagaland state. The town of Mokokchung is primarily inhabited by the Ao tribe and happens to be the third-largest urban centre of the state after Dimapur and Kohima.
How is the Moatsu Festival Celebrated – Customs and Traditions
Commencement The first thing that is made sure of before the beginning of the Moatsu festival is the closure of village gates. Anyone who is not belonging to the village of the Ao tribe is not allowed to come into the village after the declaration of Moatsu festival is made. The celebration is utterly internal.
The celebration takes place after the works of sowing season have been done and dusted. Before the celebration of Moatsu festival, the fields are cleared, unwanted greeneries cut, houses constructed, and the seeds sown in the fields. All these works are completed before the beginning of the festive day. The festival begins at the start of May.
Elders of the tribe indulge in various kinds of competitions, and so are the younger generations of the clan. Senior men compete with each other in making the best rice beer they can, whereas the women of the tribe compete with each other in making the best traditional attire for the tribe.
All the members of the tribe, young and old, men and women, indulge in merrymaking during the festival by composing and singing war songs, songs of joy, and performing traditional dance forms.
Sangpangtu The fascinating part of the Moatsu festival is the Sangpangtu. During the celebration of Sangpangtu, a fire is lit, much like the Holika Dahan during the festival of Holi, and men and women of the Ao tribe gather around this fire for celebrating.
Traditional songs and dance forms are performed, which the men and women join clad in their best of attires. Women of the tribe serve wine and meat to the observers, and the whole company enjoy the celebration to the fullest. They sing and dance together, making the best of the moment. Wine is served among the observes, which they indulge in with much jolly. War songs, as well as songs of happy times, which are composed before the Sangpangtu, are sung and danced upon.
People bring forth the best of reared pigs and cows, which are then slaughtered before the fire to please the supreme power. Ritualistic prayers for a good harvest and good days for the tribe ahead are made during the sacrifices. A group of young men of the tribe show their physical abilities as well as their capabilities in performing arts. They take up the stage and enchant the people with the recitation of their songs and stories told in praise of the elders and the ancestors.
The witch doctor of the village joins the festival. He is responsible for forecasting whether the harvest is going to be good or bad from the seeds that have been sown this year. He is also expected to tell whether the coming days would bring joy or sorrow for the people of Ao tribe.
Earlier, a young virgin girl and a young boy at the onset of puberty were made to fornicate before the crowd, and it was believed that the practice brought fertility and a good harvest to the tribe. However, this particular ritual of the Moatsu festival is no longer practised since the advent and spread of Christianity in the state of Nagaland.
How to Reach Mokokchung
The nearest railway station from Mokokchung is the Mariani Junction Railway Station located in the neighbouring state, Assam. Mariani Junction is at an approximate distance of 87 kilometres from Mokokchung. Once in Mariani, one can take bus service to reach the Mokokchung town.
The nearest airport from Mokokchung is the Jorhat Airport in the state of Assam. It is situated at an approximate distance of 105 kilometres from Mokokchung. The Jorhat Airport is nearer than the only airport in the Nagaland state, the Dimapur Airport. Dimapur Airport, although situated in Nagaland, is at a distance of 214 kilometres from Mokokchung.
The Moatsu festival of Mokokchung is one of those festivals which reflect the ways of living, the cultural traditions, and the art forms which are there in existence since a long time in history but have not much been bothered about. Although there has been influencing Christianity over the traditions of the festival, the Ao tribe has quite successfully maintained the essence of the celebration. If one is interested in discovering the indigenous customs and traditions, the art forms, and the ways of living as followed by the indigenous tribes of northeast India, the Moatsu festival of Mokokchung provides perhaps the best opportunity to do so.