|Dance and Festivals in Mizoram
Young Mizos are leaving traditional customs and adopting new ways of life which are greatly influenced by Western culture. Christmas is probably the biggest festival and local communities contribute towards large feasts, typically organised by nearby churches, where many hundreds in a local community would eat together. Traditional Mizo social gatherings revolve around the agricultural calendar.
Mim Kut: The Mim Kut festival is usually celebrated during the months of August and September, after the harvest of maize. Mim Kut is celebrated with great fanfare by (illegally) drinking rice-beer, singing, dancing, and feasting. Samples of the year’s harvests are consecrated to the departed souls of the community.
Chapchar Kut: Chapchar Kut is another festival celebrated during March after completion of their most arduous task of Jhum operation i.e., jungle-clearing (clearing of the remnants of burning). This is a spring festival celebrated with great fervour and gaiety.
Pawl Kut: Pawl means “Straw” hence pawl kut means a straw harvest festival. It is typically celebrated in December and is another important festival.
Christmas: Since the majority of the population is Christian, Christmas is one of the most important events of the Mizos. This festival is usually celebrated from 24th December to 26th December. Christmas Eve is celebrated on the 24th followed by celebrations in the church on the 25th of December.
Cheraw: The most colourful and distinctive dance of the Mizo is called Cheraw. Long bamboo staves are a feature of this dance and it is known to many as the Bamboo Dance. Originally, the dance was performed to wish a safe passage and victorious entry into the abode of the dead (Pialral) for the soul of a mother who had died in childbirth. To dance Cheraw takes great skill and alertness. On March 12, 2010 Mizoram also sets Guinness World Records with a 10-minute performance of its famous Cheraw “Bamboo Dance”, featuring 10,736 participants in 671 groups.
Khuallam: Khuallam was originally a dance performed by honoured guests while entering into the village arena where a community feast was held. To attain a position of distinction, a Mizo traditionally underwent a series of ceremonies and performed the dance before the guests. Khuallam is a group dance performed in colourful dress to the tune of gongs and drums.
Chheih Lam: Chheih Lam is the dance done over a round of rice-beer in the cool of the evening. The lyrics in triplets are usually spontaneous compositions, recounting their heroic deeds and escapades and also praising the honoured guests present in their midst.
Chai: Chai is a festival dance. It is a community dance with men and women standing one after another in a circle, holding each other on the shoulder and the nape. The dancers sway to and fro and swing their feet to the tune of the song, sung in chorus by all of them, while a drummer and gongman beat their instruments used in the dance. Chai presents a grand show, but it is not exactly suitable for performing on the stage. In olden days, the Chai dancers used to consume rice-beer continuously while dancing, they did not know when to stop.
Sarlamkai: One of the most impressive Mizo community dances, Sarlamkai is a variation of Solakia. The two dances are almost identical. The only difference lies in the dress and tempo. No song is sung, only gongs or cymbals or drums are used to beat time. Sarlamkai has been taken up by most of the schools in Mizoram for cultural activities these days.
Rallu Lam: Strictly speaking, Rallu lam is not a dance as such. It is rather a celebration or a rite in honour of a victorious warrior. When a warrior comes back after a successful campaign, he is given a warm and colourful reception by the village Chief. The celebration consists of a re-enactment of the warrior’s heroic exploits. The mode of celebration, however, varies from village to village.
Solakia: Originally, the dance used to be performed mainly by the people of the Maras and Pawi communities of Mizoram. They remain the best exponents of the dance to-date. Like Rallu lam, Solakia was also performed in earlier times to celebrate a victory in war. Marked with five principal movements, the dance seeks to recapture the actions of a hero at war. Men and women stand in profile, while the hero, brandishing a sword and a shield, dances in the middle to the accompaniment of gong beats.
Par Lam: The land of enchanting hills has yet another dance, the Par lam. Girls attired in colourful dresses, with flowers tucked in their hair, dance to the tune of songs sung by themselves. The principal movement in the dance involves the waving of hands. A couple of boys lend musical accompaniment by playing guitars. Comparatively, this is a new dance. Nevertheless, it has become a part of the Mizo culture.