Nyokum Yullo is a tribal festival of Arunachal Pradesh celebrated by the Nyishi tribe. This festival is based on their cultural heritage. This festival marks the welcome of all the deities on mother earth and they seek their blessings. Goddess Nyokum is worshipped by this community during the festival.
What is Nyokum Festival?
The rituals of the festival take place for many days but the prime sacrifices and gathering starts from February 23rd to 27th. This festival is one of the most celebrated festivals in the state. The term 'Nyokum' literally means 'Nyok' i.e. land and 'Kum' means togetherness. Nyishi tribe almost depends on farms and they get a day-to-day income from harvested food grain. Nyokum is a festival to worship the Goddess so they can harvest plenty of crops and the Goddess survive from floods or droughts. They pray to Goddess Nyokum to save the crops from insects and animals and protect humans from accidents or mishaps.
The festival is also an opportunity for the Nyishis to meet others and cherish the proud heritage of their declining culture. It is a way for the Nyishis to preserve their ancient religion of Donyi Polo during the time of modern influences and the prevalence of other dominating religions.
The Nyishi tribe believes that there exist several deities and spirits on this earth and Oram Nyoko is the place for life after death. They believe that spirits and deities are present in every object and element of nature like the mountains, crops, plants, rivers and all household stuffs whether good or bad ones. Only the Almighty can bless them with prosperity, happiness, and serenity and there should be always concord between humans, God, and nature. Every natural calamity like flood, drought, and unnatural death takes place when the God of nature is not pleased. So they always worship to propitiation the divine God and Goddess to protect from evil spirits so they can intact amity and gladness in life. Nyokum Yullow is one of the propitiations.
The Rituals of the Festival:
One distinct aspect about this community is that they don't use any idols of God or Goddess for worship rather they worship bamboo poles called 'Dapo' and create a structure for prayer which is known as 'Yugang'. They tie the animals like goats, cows, mithuns to sacrifice near the Yugang and offer to the deities. Chickens are also hanged on Yugang. Nyubh is the head priest who decides the number and types of animals or other stuff required as offerings. People don't use any permanent structure for worshipping instead they use millet seed's beer and rice paste.
How the festival is celebrated?
They celebrate the festival in the traditional way with cheer and merriment. Before the rituals and worship starts, they celebrate the festival with various dance and cultural programs like 'Nyem Khabnaam'(traditional dance-drama), War dance or ropiy, bamboo dance, bamboo pole wrestling, Pole climbing, tug of war etc. they are dressed in beautiful traditional costumes. The men wear traditional cotton robs which is called eri robe and wear colourful necklaces and stones and bamboo cap decorates with feathers and furs. Women also dress in the traditional costume named par ej.
People get entertainment by singing and dancing before the traditional head priest arrives to perform rituals. The Nayubh or the head priests chants the age-old mantras which a lot of devotion and power. People welcome guests with rice paste powder. They serve millet seed beer called opo. They sing and dance in groups. They dance and sing "Nyokum bo tapa debe". Some time men perform mock fights in form of dance. They use dao means short swords and shields made from the animal hide in the war dance.
Nyokum Yullo festival is the colorful festival of Nyishi community of Arunachal Pradesh. Nyokum festival shows unity and harmony of Nyishi tribe and portrays their distinct cultural heritage.