Festivals of India: Sekrenyi Festival

Also known as Sokre-n and Phousanyi, Sekrenyi is a major annual festival of the Angami Nagas, in the northeast Indian state of Nagaland. It is observed for ten days from the 25th day of the Angami calendar month of Kezei, usually corresponding to 25 February in the Gregorian calendar. The festival is a time for purification, renewal, and thanksgiving, and is celebrated with a variety of rituals, feasts, and dances. It is a purification festival held to wash off all past sins. The objective of the festival is to renew and make holy by cleansing the body and the soul of the village as a whole, and to bring forth unity among all communities of Nagaland. It also marks the initiation of young people to adulthood and is considered an identity marker of the Angami. Christian converts among the tribals have gradually rejected these rituals.

Sekrenyi is a compound word formed by Sekre meaning sanctification and Nyi meaning festival. The festival calendar is linked to the agricultural cycle, which varies from village to village. Thus, the celebration is held between the months of December–March, and the duration also varies from ten to fifteen days. It is celebrated by both the Kruna Angami or Pfutsana and Christian Angami. The duration is reduced to five days for the Christian villagers who had earlier converted to Christianity but belonged to the same ethnic group; they participate in the festivities but they do not follow any of the rituals connected with it.

Many rituals and ceremonies are involved with the festival. On the first day, which is known as Kezie, people sprinkle themselves with a few drops of rice water drawn from a pot named Zumho. The water drops are first gathered into leaves, and the chief lady of the house reverently fixes the leaves at the three main corner pillars of the house. This is followed by the men assembling at the well to bathe. On the second day, young men of the village assemble in the village to perform ablutions. They adorn themselves with two new shawls, and then ritualistically sprinkle the holy water on their chests, knees and right arms as a mark of washing away all their sins and ill luck. When they come back from the well, a sacrificial offer of a cock is performed.

The fourth day of the festival marks the New Year of the Angamis. It begins with revelry by singing and feasting which lasts for three days. The young people, both men and unmarried girls with shaven heads gather and sing traditional songs the entire day; the songs relate to past days of valour and bravery. For the revelry of music and dance, the men and women of the community wear the traditional dress; while men carry head hunting spades, women carry baskets. The seventh day is devoted to hunting by the young men of the ethnic group. On the eighth day, the ritual involves pulling down a gate and replacing the old gate that demarcates the property. This is followed in the next two days by the people of villages formally exchanging visits and offering greetings. During the period of the ten-day festivities, field operations are suspended, In local terminology, this is called Penyu. Following the completion of the festival period, when men of the villages have cleansed themselves and sought blessings, cultivation, house building and marriages may restart for the year.

One of the most important rituals of the Sekrenyi festival is the offering of food and other items to the ancestors and the gods. This is done in the form of a feast, known as the Thuwali feast. The Thuwali feast is a grand affair, with a variety of dishes being prepared and served to the community. The food is prepared by the women of the community, who spend days preparing for the feast. This feast is a time for the community to come together and give thanks for the blessings of the past year, and ask for continued blessings in the coming year.

Another important ritual of the Sekrenyi festival is the performance of dances. The Angami people are known for their traditional dances, which are performed during the festival. These dances are performed by both men and women and are a form of storytelling. They tell the stories of the Angami people, their history, and their culture. The dances are accompanied by music, which is played on traditional instruments such as the nga or a bamboo flute and the dama or a drum. The dances are a vibrant and colourful spectacle and are enjoyed by the entire community.

The Sekrenyi festival is also an important social and cultural event, bringing together members of the community from across the region. During the festival, people from different villages come together to participate in the rituals and ceremonies. This is an opportunity for people to reconnect with friends and family, and to strengthen the bonds of the community. The festival is also an opportunity for young people to meet and mingle, and for potential partners to be introduced.

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