Chin Culture and Festivals
Chin Traditional Ceremonies
There are many kinds of dance to show Chins ethnic nature. These dances served different purposes, the most important being for sacrifice. The other purpose was to share their wealth to the poor. The highest class of dance is “Khuangcawi”. It is held step by step. The first is ‘zingvokthath’. After zingvokthah come ‘sareu’. Bawite and bawipi come after zingvokthah. Cekeifim comes after bawite and bawipi. After completion of the above mentioned ceremony, khuangcawi is held. The meaning of khuangcawi is to show one’s wealth and honour one’s wife. There is something like a cradle, made of bamboo where the wife stands. People lifted her by bamboo poles. It needs, at least nine mython to be used for the ceremony. The ceremony lasts one week. This kind of ceremony is held only by Chin. It shows the identity of Chins meaning that Chins people are one of the nations in the world.
The ceremony is to honor the lady who was selected by the local prince as a wife. To honor the lady, the relatives and friends of the lady made this grand ceremony in the past. Nowadays, there is no prince in Chin Land. However, to maintain the ancient tradition, local people celebrate this ritual during the Chin National Day ceremony, 20th Feb every year. Locally we called it ‘Khuang Cawi Puai’ and we can often see in Northern Chin Land.
Chin Traditional Bamboo Dance
Dances played also an important part in the Chins lives. Chins were performed on seasonal festivals and ceremonies such as happy occasions and funeral rituals, etc. Chins not only were of social but also of religious significance, as some were part of rituals. The bamboo dance is found all over Southeast-Asia, others are more of local character, such as the Cherawkan, Chawnglai Zuan, Khual Lam dance and others. Although solo dances are rare, communal dances are very popular. The dancers dance among the bamboo poles which are constantly hitting each other. This dance is very difficult, requiring a very coordinated timing between the dancers and the bamboo holders. One wrong move and your ankle will be hit hard with a bamboo pole. Normally, there are 8 female dancer and 8 male bamboo holders in traditional bamboo dance. You can observe and participate in Chin traditional bamboo dance on February 20th, Chin National day and Chin New Year Festival October second week.
Chin Head Basket
Have you ever heard about head basket? Well, we have in Chin land. Let’s call it Chin head basket. It is a kind of basket that you carry by hanging around your head with a string. You don’t carry it by hand. The basket is quite a large one, big enough to carry a 5 gallon water container. And people, even young women and children, carry them by a string hung over their head. It is a tiring thing to do so. For the Chin people, they have been carrying a big load since they were young so seem no problem carrying a heavy head basket over their head. You can see chin women everywhere with Chin head basket, made by bamboo.
Chin Memorial Stones
If you travel in Chin State, you will see many stone slabs erected on the side of the road. They are all written in Chin language so you won’t know what the meaning is. They are actually the memorial stones erected in the memory of the deceased. Usually, they give a brief description of the person who passed away, with achievements while they were alive. They include the awards, possessions, wives and children, animals killed, enemies killed in battles, positions held in the government service, etc. Especially, the attributes of the departed are also recorded. Some memorial stones are being placed as the seat under the shady trees, so the travelers can read the recollection while taking rest. By observing and studying these memorial stones, everyone can realize their history, interesting anecdotes and traditions and customs.
Chin Traditional Beer: Zupu
“Zupu” is a kind of alcoholic beverage made locally in some parts of Myanmar, mostly among ethnic people. In Chin people, the most famous zupu is made in the whole Chin land. Chin beer is made from millet seeds, not rice or sticky rice. Every family in Chin land grows millet seeds in their farms solely for the purpose of making zupu or beer. To get a really good quality zupu or beer, it needs at least six months of fermentation.
The taste of Chin beer is sweet, and a bit sour. It tastes somewhat like a mix of alcohol, grape fruit juice and lemonade. Chin traditional beer or Zupu plays a very important part in Chin culture. If you are offered a cup of zupu in Chin land, don’t refuse under any circumstance. You are considered a guest of honor and refusal of the offer will be considered rude.
Historically, the Chins were adored for their beauty and kings would come to the villages to steal men’s wives. As a measure against their women being stolen, village elders started tattooing teenage girls to make them ‘ugly’. The tradition stuck and over generations eventually lost its original meaning of ugliness and came to represent courage, beauty and strength. Facial Tattoo is traditionally practiced by Kcho ladies around Mindat, Kanpetlet , Asho Chin and the chin people from Arakan state. In the southern Chin regions in Mindat, stone tables and Y-shaped wooden poles catch eyes of the travelers. They are often found by the road in the forest and mountain area villages and used for the ceremonies as an place to put a cow and so on. Naga (not Chin) also use the very similar type of Y-shaped poles. In Mindat, the best season to visit and explore the mountain ranges is in November – April, after the rainy season ends in Myanmar. It can be reached by car and which takes 8 hours drive from ancient Capital City of Burma Kings (Myanmar), Bagan and Matupi from 9 ½ hour’s drive from Matupi.