FOLK SONGS OF THE MISINGS- Part I

FOLK SONGS OF THE MISINGS- Part I

The Misings have been living in the plains of Assam in the midst of non-Mising population ever since they migrated from the hills. i.e. the 11th century or so. The Misings has a rich folk literature which reflects their sentiments and feelings, social norms and values, historical events associated with their migration from the hills to plains as well as socio-political events experienced in their life. Their folk literature can be described under the broad headings.

  1. Folk Song.
  2. Folk Tale.

The folk songs can be again sub-grouped into-

  1. Devotional song.
  2. Love Song.
  3. Song of lamentation.
  4. Lullaby.
  5. Nursery rhyme.

Devotional song Or A:bangs:

The devotional songs called ‘A:bangs’ occupy a unique position in the life-stream of the Mising community. It is a verse of hymn of praise and worship to God or Goddess. It reflects the true philosophical concept of the community. It narrates not only the pray songs of the supernatural but also the different modes and ways of life of the Mising people. It is the true religious guide to the community.

The A:bangs are very rich in emotional appeal, philosophical import, figure of speech and elegance of words. This is decidedly a superior literature and no man of taste can fail to appreciate its sweetness. These songs are very agreeable to the ears as songs combining occasionally with dance while they can captivate the minds of the listeners with a mead of devotional ecstasy. The A:bangs are the earliest known verbal songs of the community. Hence, these songs can be called as Historical Songs or Poetric History of the community.

These songs reflect the poetical genius of the people in traditional ways. The A:bangs containing appealing and melodious tunes with simple themes may sometimes give descriptions of natural phenomenon or songs of creation of nature.

Without a “Mibu”, the priest of the community, it is beyond to the common people to remember these songs and explain their exact meanings. Some festivals like “Po:rag” festival the “Mibu” sings “A:bangs” throughout the night with a group of young boys and girls. these songs wonderfully appeal to Gods or Goddesses for their special incarnation on him. The spirit of God or Goddess is supposed to have entered the have entered the body of a “Mibu”. This system is known as “Pa:ro A:nam”. Here the “Mibu” has been empowered with some supernatural powers and can foretell the fortunes of the people. In this way the A:bangs occupy a religious sentiments in the minds of the community.

The origin of the A:bangs can’t be determined exactly. These songs are transmitted from centuries past amongst the ‘Mibu’. The A:bangs have got direct and positive relation with the ‘Mibu’ in their origin and popularity. The ‘Mibu’ are considered as the religious guide of the community and hence we can call these songs as religious songs.

The A:bangs contain descriptions of social bindings and integration. The origin of the living creatures such as animals birds and of the plants, trees etc. are found descriptions elaborately in A:bangs.

The Misings community has its own of narrating story of creation of its ancestors either in verse or in the form of Folktales. This verse, considered to be the holiest just like the Vedas, recited only on some particular occasions. They not only narrate the basic principles of creation but also trace the history of origin of the Mising from dim past.

Love Song(Oi-Ni:toms):

 The Love songs are the most popular songs of the Mising people. These songs are familiar and sung by all sections of the society irrespective of sex. These songs have supplied imagery to express ones feelings and thoughts. These songs spring out from the state of uncontrollable year.

The “Oi-Ni:toms” are rich and varied in meanings. These songs have come down to the people passed on from one generation to other.

These songs occupy a unique positions in popularity amongst the youths of the Mising people. Some writers explain the words “Oi-Ni:tom” in this way- Oi-love and affection, Ni:-to console or lull, TOM- who is consoled or lulled. Hence,the words signifies a song or a ballad to be sung with object of expressing one’s love and affection. These songs are comparable with Bongeets, Bihugeets, compossed in Assameses language.

Mising Dance

Mising Dance

It is difficult to trace the origin of “Oi-Ni:toms”. These folk songs were created as parts of oral literature. These songs directly or indirectly reflects some of their socio-cultural life thinking. Like other folk songs, ‘Oi-Ni:toms’ have been also changing from time to time in accordance with the changing sociocultural life of the people. Yet ‘Oi-Ni:toms’ are ever fresh and ever move like a river.

The Mising people express throght  Oi-Ni:toms their love and affection. The tribal people sing their songs not for its tune, but to record their own moods and emotions. They give expressions to their thoughts in their songs. Yeraning youthful heart, desire to talk with the lover etc. are some of the expressions by Oi-Ni:toms. These songs are their life connected with joys and happiness. Different natural plural phenomenon also find place in these songs. A large number of songs are sung yearly on various themes. The Mising youths display extraordinary fertility of mind in composition of Oi-Ni:toms.

These songs are sung in season and out of season. They indicate many of the feelings which pulsate the heart of the youth. Oi-Ni:toms are sung both singly such as when someone is doing work alone in the fields and sometimes, are sung collectively during feast and festivals such as Bihu, ‘Po:rag’, ‘Ali A:ye Lvgang’ etc. while they work in the field, they sing to relieve the monotony of their activities. They have also no inhibitions about singing Oi-Ni:toms loudly in the hearing of others. Sometimes some funny songs are sung by them when group of men or women working on paddy harvesting as in ‘Rvgbo Gvnam’ or fishing in rivers. They suddenly burst into song and there is a loud chorus singing many songs one after another till the work is finished.

The Oi-Ni:toms are interesting for several reasons. They are exquisite love songs and give a glimpse of the youth psychology. They prove that even the unlettered people can create superb imagery. They also throw light on social and domestic relations including their occupations. They also reveal how lovers talk in them rather than in ordinary speech.

In festive occasions, the youths, the ladies in particular, put on artistically woven clothes and dance following the tunes of Oi-Ni:toms. Dances follow the Oi-Ni:toms in accompaniment of tunes played in their indigenous musical instruments. Usually in festive occasion, many songs are composed and sing them. Sometimes singers are invited by the people of the village and these songs receive great appreciation and enthusiasm by the host.

*MURONG: It’s Significance in Mising

The Misings are one of the major communities of Assam dwelling mostly on the valley of Brahmaputra and her tributaries contributing the growth and development of composite Assamese culture. The majority of the people are still living in the flood affected and isolated areas with old age traditions and modern civilization has practically left them untouched in many aspects. They have got a MURONG SYSTEM- the backbone of their social institution which is unique by its own nature. The MURONG system has been followed as their tradition from immemorial past and every Mising village should have a MURANG to reflect their social unity and economic strength. Although, the MURONG house is a term used in some tribe to denote youth clubs of unmarried boys and girls (YOUTH DORMITORY), yet it has much more important socio-cultural significance for the Mising people. In the Mising society MURONG is a symbol of village unity, integrity and assimilation. The performance of collective social functions, feast, festivals, training of dancing and singing etc. are some usages of MURONG. It can also be used as a guest house for some honorable guest and as a court of social justice. The origin of the MURONG system can’t be traced but we can say that it is an age old tradition connected with one of their ways of defense from other tribes during life in the hills. The term MURONG has been a matter of debate still now and a slight variation of its pronunciation as ‘MVRONG’, MO: RONG’, MORONG etc. exists among the different sub groups of the Mising people. Now majority of the people prefer the term ‘MURONG;. The ‘MURONG’ house of the Mising society usually constructed in the central or the peripheral part of the village for convenience of communication to the visitors. It is slightly longer that an ordinary Mising ‘CHANG GHAR’ and has no walls. The MURONG presents a very spectacular sight and is the most beautiful and gorgeous building in the village. The front porch of MURONG of a village is visible from a distance. The MURONG has thatched roofs and very high quality posts are used for its superstructure. The decoration and construction is so superb that ones minds is bound to be filled with awe and admiration at such indigenous skills. The beams are made of some quality woods and their surfaced are decorated with pictures of DO: NYI (sun), PO: LO ( Moon), TAKAR (Star), SORMON(Crocodile), SITE (Elephant) etc. those pictures are painted with different appropriate colors and they reflect some of their traditional beliefs as forefathers ‘RU:NC PVNC’. In the quality of woods are specifically tried to use such as ‘TAPVD’, TAKINANG’, TALC, TANGNO etc. with the belief that evil spirits cant take shelters in that MURONG. It is the choice of the good spirits only. There is a big ‘MCRAM’ occasionally two or more in the central part of the house meant for burning firewoods during festive occasions. ‘PCRABS’ are kept hanging over each MCRAM for drying meat and keeping other materials used for cooking. There are two ‘KOBANG’, one at each end of the house. The raised platform of MURONG is made of split bamboo and they are arranged very nicely so that platform can be used for dancing, sleeping etc. during festive occasions. A small sized boat is kept on the southern floor of the MURONG for temporary storage of water for using during PO:RAG festival particularly. During this festivals the usage of PO:DOR is essential which is the biggest TA:SUK kept hanging by ropes at the ‘KOKTAG’ of the platform for filtering PO:RO APONG. There are many small sized TA:SUK and are all made of split bamboos and are conical in shapes. After the completion of constructing MURONG meant for a particular social occasion. The village people assemble and pray their forefather offering APONG, TAKE etc. The MURONG is directly related to the most important social festival of the Mising- PO:RAG. It is a harvest festival and it can’t be performed without a MURONG. ‘MIBU’ the Mising priest, has to conduct this auspicious social occasion in the MURONG. The organizational integrity of this institution is best felt and appreciably executed at the time of annual harvest festival and during some decision making occasions of the village people under ‘DO:LUNG KCBANG (Village Council) and ‘MVMBVR YA:ME (Youth Council). In earlier times, the MURONG had been the best school for the practical life of the Mising youth. The MURONG has a great influence on the life of the Mising people. The disciplinary influence of the society in MURONG is an aspect of its utility. The disputed opinions of the members of the village are settled at MURONG, petty cases of theft, assaults, quarrels, land partition disputes, social crimes arising of out disobedience to customary rules are settled at MURONG. Complaints regarding anything social or religions are brought before the village elders while the assemble in the MURONG. The DO:LUNG KCBANG deliver judgment and punish the offenders. Again co-operate, and the date and time for the proposed work is also decided at MURONG. To speak in short, it is an institution which fostered mutual understanding of individuals as well as social problems. It is also paves the way of social integration of the communities at the village level. The MURONG can also be used sometimes for the training ground for boys and girls in the arts of singing, dancing, spinning and weaving as well. On occasions it can be used to entertain the distinguished visitors and guest. For the youth after the days hard work, they take their evening meal in their respective houses and then gather together in the MURONG. Some will gossip, some will sing while other will play flute of beat the drum. The MURONG house is open to all sections of the Mising society on all occasion including the PO:RAG festivals. But many of these days traditions have gradually been abandoned by the Mising society. Some of the functional aspects of MURONG have been losing importance as the institution itself is partially at adying stage. Only in some interior and big villages the existence of MURONG is felt. Moreover, because of the poor financial position most of the village Mising people cant efforts construction of MURONG and celebration of PO:RAG. Although the Mising people are maintaining many of their traditional socio-cultural traits. Yet modernism has been gradually penetrating into their culture. The concept of MURONG is not an exception, hence many of its important aspects are gradually going to be abandoned. Moreover because of scarcity high quality woods as a result of gradual deforestation, the MURONG posts are in position to be replaced by stone pillars. Under such circumstance, this traditional institution cant but undergoes some changes in its construction design and functional aspects. The Mising people no longer feel the necessity to spend the night at MURONG which is not compatible with the modern system of education. Moreover, still today MURONG stand as Misings Principal traditional socio-cultural institution of great importance.

*THE ALI AYE LIGANG: The sowing festival in Mising Society

The literary meaning of ALI AYE LIGANG stand for first sowing of roots and fruits in which ‘ALI’ stands for seeds. ‘AYE’ for Fruits in which ‘LIGANG’ for sowing. Lives started in the Mising people from time immemorial as agriculturist. Roots and fruits were their staple food of livelihood in the hills. Because of influence of Aryan culture in the plains their ways of living have been changing gradually and rice cultivation has become a part of their agricultural production. Whether jhuming or ploughing was employed. ‘AHU’ paddy was their principal product and such the oncoming of the ‘AHU’ and ‘BAU’ season is marked with the celebration of “ALI AYE LIGANG”. It marks the beginning of agricultural cultivation. Prayer, dance and feast are integral parts of festival. In the past, the date of celebration of ‘LIGANG’ was not a fixed one. Variation being depended on the convenience of the locality, their social structure and geographical situation as well. Because of the spread of education and touch with the modern civilization, the feeling of unity has come to the mind of Mising people. In 1956, an unanimous decision to celebrate the LIGANG festival was taken by Mising “NANE KCBANG” (Biggest Socio-Cultural and Economic organization). In the KCBANG the date to celebrate the festival was decided to be on the first Wednesday of the month of phagun. Which is considered an auspicious day. The Mising people believe the day as LAKSHMI day. And on that day the head of the family marks the sowing of seeds in their respective fields. The head man of each family goes to the field with a handful of seeds, a YOKPA, APONG, PURANG, TAKE, PEERO, SI-PAG, SI-PAG ONNO preferably carrying in a VGVN (cone shaped structure made of bamboo etc.). using YOKPA he clean a small patch of the land in the eastern part of the field and is decorated with the PEERO and SI-PAG ONNO in a square of a circular patterns (size about 2feet x 3feet). The APONG, PURANG, TAKE and SI-PAG are placed at appropriate places within the decorated area then the seeds are sown over the area and chant the forefathers ‘SEDI MELO, KARSING-KARTAG, DO:NYI-PO:LO etc. to bear witness the sowing seeds into the womb of mother earth for abundant crops, good harvest etc. After the chanting and the sowing of the seeds, they promise to share the harvest amongst the benefactors and the beggars. In this way- LIGANG starts and headman returns home. This is completed usually in the forenoon. In the daytime, the women get busy preparing APONG and PURANG. Both are essential items of LIGANG. The two varieties of APONG existing in the community are prepared (NOGIN and PO:RO) in sufficient quantities for guest and visitors. PURANG is the special inevitable item of LIGANG. The elders and visitors irrespective of age, sex and social status are served with PURANG, APONG and delicious curry prepared usually with fish. In this way feasting continues throughout the village. In the evening hours the head of the family again pray their forefathers including ‘KOJE YANGO (Goddess of fertility). After the feasting-merry making starts in the form of GUMRAG SO:MAN. GUMRAG SO:MAN is a combination of dance and beating of drums and cymbals. The Mising people believe that Lakshmi will satisfy and bless for good harvest if GUMRAG SO:MAN is performed on the LIGANG day. Hence it is basically an appeasing dance of the Goddess of fertility. People of the village young and old irrespective of sex can take part in the PAKSONG MOMAN (Dance Song). Usually the youth take the lead and dance follows the rhythmical tunes of the drums and cymbals. But the most characteristic feature of the GUMRAG in LIGANG is the wearing of woven dresses of the participating youths reflecting their culture self image and identity. The menfolk wear GONRO UGON, MIBU GALUK and DUMER and the womenfolk wear EGE, RIBI GASENG, GERO SEGREG etc. then the womenfolk with their fine movements enact paddy transplanting and harvesting in dance of the expressive drum beats by the young men. GUMRAG dance is accompanied by appropriate songs also. GUMRAG SO:MAN usually last the whole night. In some village house to house dance is replaced by single GUMRAG SO:MAN collectively by the village people. The villagers observe a period of abstinence from field works ranging fron one to three days and breaks it known a ‘YODLEN KUNAM’ by instituting a brief function calling upon the Forefathers. This marks the ending of ALI AYE LIGANG and the people start devoting their time in the field works of cultivation. The celebration of ALI AYE LIGANG not only reflect the socio-cultural identity of the Mising people, but also has a definite role in the cultural convergence with the greater Assamese society. At present, the educated Mising people living in cities and towns, use to celebrate the festival in town halls, auditoriums etc. inviting GUMRAG parties from different localities. With a great deal of enthusiasm. It signifies their feeling to focus other people enabling to understand the significance and importance of ALI AYE LIGANG.