Less we forget about the Nul-Ding Kût Festival of the Biates -- 'The Festival of Renewal of Life'

One of the prominent and remarkable festivals of Northeast India celebrated by the Biate community of Meghalaya and Assam, the Nul-Ding Kût (The Festival of Renewal of Life) is celebrated in the beginning of every year to mark the beginning of a new year before making a new start afresh since time immemorial by our forefathers.

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## Did you know that in the present time, this festival is celebrated every year by the people of the Biate Community on the 11th January (Tualbual) as fixed by the Community as a permanent date. This festival is now celebrated in East Jaintia Hills District, Meghalaya with a Government Holiday as declared by the Office of the Deputy Commissioner of the District and in Dima Hasao of Assam as declared by the Dima Hasao Autonomous Council.

## Did you know that Nul-Ding Kût is one of the most revered festivals of the Biate among the other festivals like the Pamchar Kût, Lebang Kût & Favang Kût. In ancient times, this festival is marked by religious rites such as offering of sacrifices to ‘Chung Pathian’ or ‘the God Above’ and then followed by socio-cultural merry-making fellowship marked by dances, singing of folk songs and the drinking of traditinally fermented beer called ‘zu’. Since the ancient times, the festival wear a festive look with all men and women folk adorning themselves in their best attire. Young men and women indulgently take part in different traditional sports like Poi-rikap, lamving rikap (men’s top game), farel rinôl (tug-of-war), thing-ilui (pole climbing), farel-ikho (pestle throw), etc.

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## Did you know this Festival occupies a very special place in the heart of every Biate people? It is enjoyed with great fervour and enthusiasm as the beginning of a new life before life’s activities take a great share of their time during the upcoming New Year. It is considered as a special occasion to renew one’s strength and determination before their life takes its new and fresh course.

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## Did you know that it is during this festival where people forgive and forget each other’s shortcoming, misgivings and misdeeds, sorrows and discontentment arising out of their past deeds. The priest, the community leaders and all the members of the community assembled together and prayed to ‘the God Above’ with all humility and sanctity for the forgiveness of their past sins. Hence the festival is regarded also as the ‘Festival of Forgiveness’.

## Did you know that it is also marked as a day of invocation for God’s blessing during the ensuing year and hence this festival is celebrated as a day of renewing one’s faith and commitment to God in everything and for everything.

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## Did you know that another important feature of this festival is that, the elderly people of the community gather together in the house of the Siar-Kalim (Biate Village Chief) after the main festival about about afternoon to discuss about the village administration, agricultural activities, fishing, hunting and various other social matters. During this very ‘devan’ (meeting) all the elderly people sat around a pitcher containing ‘zu’ (traditionally fermented beer) and sip the zu with a ‘thlongthli’ (pipe) one after the other before taking part in the important discussions.

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## Did you know that this day is also marked by the special privilege given to the young men and women for a day-out in the ‘Lamzol’ (Festival Ground). Young men compete themselves in various traditional sports showcasing their talents, strength and capability. The young damsels also participate in various dances and sports providing flavour to the eye and adorning the festival. It is a moment of time in life where a the young Biate got to see, choose and find for themselves their would-be lifetime partner.

## Going back to the past, did you know that in Biate society young men and women are not allowed to socialize together, hence; this festival has become a fine chance of meeting one another, talking to each other and getting to know one another.

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Talking about all the beauty and joy of the Festival; most of all, this festival reminds us of the simple, peaceful and violent-free life of our ancestors. May the Biate Community grow ever peaceful for generations to come and be a torch-bearer of peace by bridging the gap of communal harmony wherever this festival is celebrated.

 Nul-Ding Kût Dam Sôt Roh!

(Story contributed by David Ngaite; photo courtesy: Emerald Biate)

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