The Cheykor Festival, also known as the Festival of Joy, or the Parikrama of Wisdom is a popular harvest festival celebrated by the people of Arunachal Pradesh. It is observed by the people of the Nyishi tribe, who are one of the major indigenous communities in the state. The festival is a time when people come together to offer their thanks and gratitude to the Gods for the bountiful harvest and good fortune that they have received.
The Festival is celebrated annually to welcome the spring for five days, with each day having a special significance and ritual associated with it. The festival is marked by feasting, dancing, singing, and the exchange of gifts and greetings among friends, relatives, and neighbours.
It is said that Gelong Doyan Tenzing, a monk introduced this festival in the Sherdukpen region. The main theme of the festival portrays the introduction of Chhey or holy ures of Buddhism. Unlike other festivals, the Cheykor festival which probably falls during June is unique to the Shergaon people. Besides carrying the holy Buddhist ures around the village, special prayers are offered to the Phu or deities at various places. The Cheykor celebration at Shergaon village combines the traditional Bon religion with the preaching of Buddhism. The reading of the Kaso or the ancient document and performing rituals at various Chhodam or resting places is an instance. The singing of the Lurjang is done for seeking courage & protection of the villagers from mountain deities. Three community clans, the Aju Lampu Blang, the Chhampu Blang and the Thuksna Blang play a vital role in traditional affairs and also have a traditional educational system where the young generation learns how to be responsible citizens. Active participation of the Abosus or the elders, the Blangpu jomjis or girls and the Makpenpus or boys add flavour to the festival.
The first day of the festival is known as ‘Chindang,’ and it is observed as a day of purification. On this day, people clean their houses, wear new clothes, and prepare special dishes to offer to the Gods. They also light bonfires to purify their surroundings and ward off evil spirits. The second day of the festival is known as ‘Gumkum Gumpa,’ and it is celebrated as a day of merrymaking. People gather in large numbers and participate in traditional dances and songs. They also prepare and share traditional dishes like ‘Apong,’ a local rice beer, and ‘Gyathu,’ a spicy meat dish. The third day of the festival is known as ‘Nyecheon Yullo,’ and it is celebrated as a day of offerings. On this day, people offer prayers and offerings to the Gods for a good harvest, good health, and prosperity. They also visit their relatives and friends to exchange gifts and greetings. The fourth day of the festival is known as ‘Rineng Yullo,’ and it is observed as a day of reconciliation. People come together to forgive each other and bury their differences. They also participate in traditional games and sports like archery, wrestling, and tug-of-war. The fifth and final day of the festival is known as ‘Takhe Takhe,’ and it is celebrated as a day of farewell. On this day, people bid goodbye to the festival and exchange gifts and greetings one last time. They also pray to the Gods to bless them with a bountiful harvest in the coming year.
The Cheykor Festival is not only a celebration of the harvest but also a celebration of the rich cultural heritage of the Nyishi tribe. The festival showcases the traditional costumes, dances, songs, and games of the tribe, and it is a time for the younger generation to learn and appreciate their cultural roots. It is a time for people to come together, forget their differences, and celebrate the joys of life. The festival is a testimony to the resilience and diversity of the people of Arunachal Pradesh and their rich cultural traditions.