Kohima: Nagaland celebrates the festival of cultivation ‘Mileinyi’ on March 11. This is the prime festival for the beginning of a new cultivation season celebrated by the Zeliang Naga community of the State. Even though the date, custom and rite may vary from village to village, the Mileinyi festival brings happiness, cheerfulness, brotherhood and excitement among tribesmen of Nagaland. To increase the festivity, the Government of Nagaland has declared a holiday on March 11.
According to age-old rituals, the village high priest/harbinger conveying all good wishes to his community proclaims the arrival of the festive season. He sets the date of the festival to enable for preparation of self, food, drinks, dresses etc. The Mileinyi festival marks the beginning of the new Jhum (cultivation in the hillside by cleaning a new area every year, practised by the hilly tribes of the Northeast) cultivation season. Preparatory agricultural activities such as jungle clearing for current Jhum and Millet cultivation are supposed to have been completed well before the event’s commencement.
The festival also marks a day for self-cleansing and purification and involves cleaning clothes and belongings. Moreover, seed treatment is a vital part of the Mileinyi festival so that seeds sown after the festival are vigorous and healthy. The Zeliang community also prepares local rice brews mainly meant to be served to the traditional fire makers of the village. The firemakers are the headman and chief priest of a particular village. Mileinyi rituals are usually performed by the clan headman (kizeu-pei in the local language) of each village, who will make fire using strands of bamboo (mlei-ria), and fine bamboo fibres keep the flame burning until the culmination of the festival.
During the entire festive period, the clan headman will maintain a separate hearth for the purity of their souls. The fun part of the festival is that in the evenings of the 6-day celebration of the Mileinyi festival, brides and grooms are invited to their respective would-be-in-laws for dinner and blessing. After the conclusion of the Mileinyi festival, the male members of the villages begin agricultural practices of burning their Jhum fields. In the process, any wild animals and birds killed or captured are gifted to female dormitories. Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, BJP president and minister Temjen Imna Along and Deputy Chief Minister T R Zeliang wished the people of Nagaland on the occasion of the auspicious Mileinyi festival.