Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Relevance of Myoko in Modern Days

-By G. Tallo

Myoko, regarded as the festival of friendship by many, embodies the cultural life of the Apatanis. Babo, Lapang, Nago, Biiniin-ajin, Miji-migun, Biisi-ayu etc, which are inseparable part of Myoko are the cultural heritage of the Apatanis. In many ways, Myoko is more than just the festival of friendship. It is the occasion when the Apatanis strengthen the bond of Biiniin-ajin, the heritable friends, by exclusively inviting them for feast (ajin-gyoniin ceremony) and offering them gifts in form of meat and millet beer; rejuvenate matrimonial and kinship relations by sharing meat of the pig, sacrificed during the festival; maintain their relationship with the forests and the cultivated lands by making some offerings to them, which are known as more-eha and aji-eha, respectively; and invite their ancestors and deities, from the world of spirits, and make offerings to them through various rituals. In fact, all facets of the cultural life of the Apatanis are reflected in Myoko.

I reckon we maintain and preserve our cultural identity so long as we celebrate Myoko.

However, all is not well with the way we celebrate Myoko. “It is too time consuming, cumbersome and expensive.” This is the talk of the day. In this modern day, when people are racing against time, should we devote more than a month time to celebrate a festival, is a big question. Apart from the wastage of time and the amount of labour put in the celebration, we spend minimum of Rs. 20,000 per household during the festival. This is making the celebration of Myoko unaffordable to more and more households.

Besides, the festival is male oriented and female members of family do not enjoy the festivity much. Their friends from other villages do not visit them as male counterparts do. There is hardly any event in the festival where unmarried girls take part. They just perform a dull chore of helping their mother in preparation of foods and drinks and serving them to guests - days and nights together. Thus, female members of family, particularly the school and the college-going girls, are not looking forward to Myoko.

C.V.F Haimendorf observed that the Myoko was the cohesive force, which bound the people of the different villages of the Ziro Valley, in olden days. It was true to some extent. Thanks to the institution of biiniin-ajin and the elaborate system of kinship relation, maintained through the celebration of Myoko. Those days the mode of celebration of Myoko suited the lifestyle of the people of the valley. We used to celebrate it with the kind fervour and enthusiasm, which we seldom see nowadays. May be it is because of this: until 1980s, even as some communities of the state were swept away by the charm of Christianity, we stood firmly rooted to our traditional culture and took pride in it. Now, it is not to be. Things have changed. Lot of transformations has taken place in the valley since, but we are too reluctant to change the mode of celebration of Myoko with the changing times. The younger generations of today no longer take interest in Myoko. They find it unattractive and outdated: so do they find our culture. Even some old folks find the celebration of Myoko as burdensome. Consequently, alien cultures and faiths are finally making inroad into our society.

Nevertheless, Myoko has all the ingredients to regain its old glory and bring back the lost brethren to its fold: only it needs to wear a modern look. What should be the modern Myoko like? It should be affordable to all. It should be the festival of young and old, men and women, and boys and girls alike. It should be the one whose celebration does not last more than a week. And it should be the one every single Apatanis look forward to.

The day when Myoko is eagerly awaited each year by every single Apatanis, our culture and identity would be in safe custody. It is to be seen here if we are ready for the change or we prefer to embrace alien culture and faith.


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