Rites & Rituals
Holding an egg or a small fowl, the priest, called the "Nyibu", examines it for the right omens. Hours may pass; days may pass, but the omens appear only when they choose to. With the right omens appearing, there is great rejoicement in the village. The Mioko festival of the Apatanis of Arunachal Pradesh is dedicated to prayer. Appeasing all the spirits, good and bad, the mortals strive to ensure a happy and prosperous life.
The Apatanis go over the hills and into the jungles to find the right omens. They go on a hunt for a red Monkey and the Nyibu goes with them chanting rhythmically. The chant is actually a warding away of the bad spirits and praying to the good spirits.
A Feast For The Whole Village
It is a moment of great rejoicement and exhilaration when the red monkey gets killed. The respected old people of the village get to taste the monkey meat, while the hunters are treated like heroes. "Apong", the local brew, flows like water; meat and rice are served in plenty as all the villagers sit together and as night falls, talk of their heroic deeds in the jungle. For during the festival, nobody is expected to work. It is time for merry-making and relaxation.
It takes almost one month to complete all the rituals and preparations for Mioko. One of the major activities is to share. Groups hunt together and gift the head of the animal they have hunted to the neighbouring tribe, which helps them if they are in trouble. Meat is sent to neighbouring villages and to friends. Generally, the spirit is one of caring and sharing. Finally, one day the priest in his regalia emerges from his house declaring that its time for the beginning of the celebrations.
Generally timed at the beginning of the cultivation season, the deities invited are the entire pantheons with special emphasis on "Kiriliyari", the deity associated with the earth. The women of the house bring Apong to the Nyibu as well as rice powder. He distributes them to those who come for the festivities. Rice powder symbolises fertility. In it are contained prayers for a good crop, for many children and for a prosperous life hereafter.
Days Of Merriment
A particular family flags off the festival. On the evening of the first day, the priest sits in a corner of the house of that family and begins his chants. The prayers continue till late into the night. A fire is lit with split bamboos and this fire burns as long as the Mioko is celebrated. The rice cooked here is distributed to the entire village. And it is this that decides which family flags off the festival: Financial capability. All other members of the village sit around and hear the chanting.
On the season day, villagers go to the neighbouring villages and invite friends and relatives to their village to celebrate. There is dance and merry-making while the priest chants and satisfies the spirits. Sacrifices are made for the past month now. A crescendo is reached. As joy turns everybody heady, the priest offers yet another fervent prayer: "Rilang, Talila Zila Kezu Kazu Lo"
Meaning: We are going to enjoy the occasion. May god bless and make our grand merry making a success.
And every year - year after year - God hears their prayers.