This was written as a piece meant to generate discussion on the forum, and not as an article, which explains the almost bullet-point style. I will try and keep up with the responses and add any further information I can find. The context is the intense discussion surrounding the Guinness record made by Mizoram (and here) in a bamboo dance called the Cheraw, elements of which we share with other south east Asian cultures.
Cheraw and the Mizo
I’m not going to speak of whether we have or have not made a Guinness World Record in a bamboo dance. I think we have said all we wanted to. As for me, I want to know how Cheraw became our tribe’s dance, and since when this has become part of our culture and lifestyle. I’ll say what I know of it, you can then add what you know. I think the people at misual.com might profit more from this discussion than from discussions about bamboo-dances and World Records.
I have not heard of the Cheraw being danced at the Chapchar Kut. Somewhat like the Sawlakia, this was one of the dances of the Pawi before we came west (from Burma). Though I don’t have documented proof of this, I’m going to tell you what I’ve heard. I have not heard a clear explanation of how the word ‘Cheraw’ came to be used. It has many names. As far as I know, in the Pawi language, ‘Cheraw’ means ‘to move oneself around’. I have also heard this (dance) called “Hreichhun Zai”, “Ramkhat lak” and “Ngam lam”. It is also said that it was popularly called “Cheural Lam” before we crossed the Tiau river (between Burma and Mizoram), and that those that came west called it Cheraw.
Our Pawi siblings don’t use the term ‘Kan’ (cross) when referring to dancing Cheraw, they use ‘Tlawh’ (kick). I have also never heard of Cheraw being danced at the Chapchar Kut. The reason they dance this today seems to be as part of a show of our culture. Cheraw (known as Ngam Lam) was danced at the time of Buhza Aih* and Mim Kut.**
It seems the Pawi call Buhza Aih ‘Hrangza Tlawh’. You cannot throw a Buhza feast/Aih just because you’re already wealthy– you should have been blessed with a Buhza harvest consecutively for 10 years for you to be able to throw a feast. My father told me “In your grandfather’s Buhza Aih year of 1956, they definitely danced the Cheraw. They sang Cheraw songs, though men did not sing.”
Mim Kut was observed in Thitin month (August). Cheraw was also danced so that the spirit of a mother who dies in childbirth could pass peacefully.
Nowadays many different ways (steps) of dancing the Cheraw have emerged. Each place has its own way of dancing the Cheraw. Bualpui lam and Buhza Aih Lam seem to be among the more popular ones (steps). Apparently the dance steps that the Arts & Culture department has introduced is a conglomerate of steps taken from various areas, arranged in the most pleasing way. Pu Tlangrema from Hnahlan seems to have had a lot to do with these standardised steps.
* Buhza Aih/Ai: A feast given by a family for the whole village when they have been blessed with a surplus harvest. Buhza would have come from the fact that to have/throw such a feast, you should have reaped more than a 100 sacks of paddy, which is usually far more than the family can eat/keep/manage. This is a time of feasting for the whole village, with meat and zu (rice-beer).
Literally, Buh phur Za = 100 sack loads of rice grain
1 Buh phur = approx. 3 tins of buh hum (paddy)
1 Tin of of buh fai = 6-7 kg
** A festival that follows the (mim/vaimim) maize harvest, usually around September. Part of the celebration involved force feeding one another with eggs and other food in the graveyard.