Time : First week of October ( 5th of October).
Venue : Kohima
Celebrated By : Pochury Tribe of Nagaland.
Duration : From the last week of September to first week of October.
October is the month of festivity for the Pochury tribe of Nagaland, who anxiously awaits every year to celebrate their greatest festival Yemshe. The arrival of the new harvest is celebrated with full fun & fair is during Yemshe Harvest festival. All the Pouchuries, young and old, rich and poor ceremonialize this festival with great pomp and show expecting a good harvest which they deserve after a years hard work under stewing sun and relentless rain. No one is allowed to harvest, until the whole festival is over.
Generally, this harvest festival tour begins at the end of September with different categories of ceremonial ritual till the final day which falls in the first week of October every year. Yemshe is observed only on the 5th October keeping in tune with the final days of the traditional celebration of the festival.
The Festive Rituals
As the time approaches, the Village Spokesman announces the arrival of Yemshe. The very next day of the festivities begin with the observance of the first part of rituals.
The Big Yemshe
This is the time for preparations all around. The village youth cleanse the whole village, footpaths, wells and fields and construct baskets making-cum-resting places. After all this the head of the family performs all the rituals. Necessary materials used in rituals are fastened to the main post of the entrance house. Engaged couples (fiance & fiancee) renew their relationship with exchange of food or wine and eat together. Many young couples come to know each other and get themselves engage during this period. Hence, this festival has great important and it is an enjoyable moment, especially for the young people and farmers in general. This is known as the Big Yemshe.
The Small Yemshe
The small Yemshe, like big Yemshe, is also celebrated with rituals. The purification of the house, a ritual feast has to be hosted by a rich family. All the villagers observe the period with great sacrament till the end of the period.
The Ritual to be Observed
The family who host the Purification Feast has to fulfill the following conditions before the feast day.
1. The family hosting the Purification Feast, has to provide wine to all families of the village.
2. The family has to host dance party of his (head of the family) age-group, men and women in the village and in Khel wise as well. Feast is given to the dancers, and meat is distributed to all his age-group friends.
3. Cutting of Bamboo Mugs takes place twice. All the hosts clansmen/nephews make new bamboo mugs. They take wine from these mugs, which is kept with the host. All the old Mugs are collected from every house and kept in the hosts family for drinking wine.
4. Only paddy rice is arranged (not millet, maize etc.) and distributed to all the houses by the host and later the cooked rice is again collected and redistributed to all the families in the village.
5. All the clansmen take one Mithun and a Chicken to a river on the way to the Jhum field and feast. They construct a resting shed there for the host of the Purification Feast. It is believed that in the second life, those who have not hosted the Purification Feast can not sigh with a deep breath as ewhi, but can only say Korowhi and those who have not performed the Resting Shed Feast they can only say owhi.
6. For reserving of frogs, one axe each for three rivers is given to the villagers as frogs in these three rivers are reserved. This is followed by giving out a big feast to all the village elders. After that, it is announced in the village that frogs are reserved by the host of Purification or Yemshe Festival and no other should go to these rivers to catch it.
8. All the clansmen carry well-prepared food and wine and go to the reserved rivers and make bridges/ladders for frogs catchers to enable them to go to any part of the river. At the same time, they eat and drink and enjoy on their own. This is a part of many games they play.
9. A chicken is kept in a cage on a selected tree on the way to the field. After that a selected group go to that spot with dried frogs where chickens were kept and have a feast there. Every household has to perform this ritual. Even the poorest family has to perform this ritual by roasting brinjal instead of frogs and chicken.
10. It is traditionally believed that the most fertile lands were under the control of devils. Sacrificial rituals also therefore have to be performed according to the fertility of the land. For the most fertile land a Mithun has to be sacrificed, then a pig and for the less fertile land a chicken has to be sacrificed in the field. Two big gourds of wine is carried, one for halfway and the other for sacrificial consumption. While coming back from their fields a particular group does not mix up with another group. So, a Mithun group, Pig group and Chicken group shall come back home separately. Likewise, wine is also taken separately.
The Final Feast
After all the arrangements like collection of green vegetables, meat etc. and performances of rituals are completed, the master selects 6 supervisors; two for washing ginger, four to supervise the butchers for preparation of the feast for the whole village. All young and old will come and help the host in preparation of the feast. In this feast, Mithun, Pigs and Chicken are slaughtered. If there is no Mithun three pigs substitute a Mithun. Womenfolk pound rice and cook while the menfolk is busy for meat, and other difficult jobs. By sundown, all villagers, from youngest to the oldest come together to attend the great feast.
Few quantities of all sorts of food stuff and rice grains etc. is shared and offered to the dead souls as farewell gifts and greetings of the Yemshe Harvest Feast.
The last day of the feast will be impressively observed as the feast cleansing day. All remain at home and no one do anything and go on journey or anywhere. From the very next day all types of harvest and collection of house constructional materials etc. begins, as the happiest moment for the farmers has come with the blessing of God.