My Experience of Myoko
Before this Myoko, I was of the opinion, like any other neo-Apatani, that the Myoko celebration is a sheer waste of money and time where ’O’-the local rice beer flowed like water and meat consumed without a limit. However, after having observed the celebration and rituals very closely and being part of the celebration this Myoko, my perception and outlook towards Myoko has totally been transformed. Although, still I feel that there is this huge involvement of money (I had to shell out around 30k for the celebration) and time; I do know now that Myoko is a celebration where you renew your relationships, share camaraderie and pay homage to the ancestors and nature who has given you life and means of sustenance. In fact, to put in other words, Myoko is a celebration which encompasses every fabric of the Apatani society. Well, here I must add that the above outlook on Myoko is mine alone and in no way am I trying to counter those who feels that Myoko is a ‘foolishness’-may be from their point of view they are right.
The other thing that attracted my attention this Myoko was the equal numbers of flags with symbol of 'Sun' fluttering along with the 'Babo's'. It made me wonder, if it is the reflection of people turning towards 'Donyi-Poloism' or Hinduism?
How Myoko Celebration came into being? – A bit of Mythology
As one of the mythology suggests-Abotani, the father of the mankind, by virtue of blessings from the ’supreme power’ had become so powerful that he became menace to everyone right from his brothers Kirii and Kilo to his father-in-law Siiki to other living beings and this growth in power even threatened the existence of ’supreme power’. Lest Abotani eliminated him, the supreme power conspired to eliminate Abotani. So, the supreme power tricked him into climbing a log and suspended him in the air over the log to die.
‘Dolyang Chanyang’-the first female Nyibu (priest) of Apatani and sister of Abotani couldn’t see her brother suspended to die, requested the supreme power to spare him. After lots of persuasion, the supreme power finally agreed to spare Abotani’s life on the condition that some power given to him, by virtue of which Abotani had become so powerful, be taken back. The mythology suggests that Abotani had three eyes and spikes at his ankle. By virtue of the third eye Abotani could foresee the future and the spikes at his ankle made him very powerful. As the condition for sparing Abotani’s life, the supreme power took back the third eye and the spikes rendering Abotani less powerful. It is said that since then, on the advice of Dolyang Chanyang, Abotani started observing Myoko in order to appease the supreme power.
The other mythology suggests that Abotani, as intelligent and cunning as he was, always out witted his father-in-law Siiki and tried to reign supremacy over his father-in-law, his brothers Kiiri and Kilo, other creatures etc. Tired of Abotani’s supremacy, they conspired to eliminate Abotani of which Dolyang Chanyang came to know about. She suggested Abotani to observe Myoko as a reconciliatory measure and to invite Siiki for the celebration, which being father-in-law, Siiki would not be able to turn down. Since then, it is said that Myoko is being observed by the Apatani’s.
Myoko-A Photo Feature
Prior to the advent of calendars’, people knew it’s time for Myoko celebration when the takung (peach) starts flowering.
Myoko begins 20th of March every year with group of villages taking their turn to observe it and it is declared open with a ritual called Sama Piniing where wooden logs equaling the number of households in a clan are piled up at the residence of yugyang ato i.e., the owner of yugyang-a sacred place.
These logs are used at the ceremonial end of Myoko to roast rice [with or without husk] in a closing ritual called Empii Koniin.
After Sama Piniin ritual, for 3 days guests from non-performing villages are invited for a bout of rice beer and food. At the end of 3rd day, Siiki is invoked in a ritual called Siiro Cheniin or Tapiir Liniin, where tapiir[cane] leaves are put at Nago.
Siiro Cheniin is followed by a ritual called pigyang huniin, where pigs are sacrificed. Prior to sacrifice, the pigs are brought to yugyang for purification by nyibu (priest) after which it is brought to respective homes for sacrificing. This particular ritual enticed me for this is the ritual where you get chance to get a glimpse of the new
brides Nyahii (daughter-in-laws) in a clan, for the brides Nyahii's attired in beautiful traditional dress and ornaments come to yugyang to offer their offerings.
Just after this ritual, the next two days are reserved for Buniing Ajing (A friendship relationship passed down from generation to generation), where you invite them and exchange gifts. Thereafter, Danyi tunii ritual-erection of Danyi (Sun) altar at yugyang and lapang (community platform) is performed followed by ude tiniing –purification of house by offering to the deities of the house. When all the houses has been purified, Khelo (nii) ritual is performed which basically signifies bidding adieu to the spirits-the Siiki, Kirii, Kilo, the ancestors etc., This ritual is marked by putting takho around the dwelling place, lapang, babo, yugyang, etc.
Early the next morning, people go for offering to bamboo groves, clan owned forest, paddy fields etc., and for catching ngilyang ngiyi, after taking of which you can break the restriction on eating of fish during the celebration.
And finally, the month long celebration came to an end with Empii Koniin, where roasted rice is taken to break all the restrictions on food habits that had been imposed during the Myoko.