Khuado is the biggest and one of the most popular cultural festivals of the Zo people who are scattered across India, Bangladesh and Myanmar. The celebration of this important Zo festival is considered to have begun as early as 1400 A.D. Derived from the Tedim dialect—khua meaning local and do meaning battle—Khuado is also being celebrated as Kut and Chavang Kut respectively in Manipur and Mizoram. It is also celebrated as an occasion to commemorate the arrival of the harvest and, in the meantime, marks the beginning of a new year.
Khuado signifies vanquish over the evil spirit. Usually held for two to three days at the house of the local priest or chief in the month of September/October depending on the arrival of harvest, it is consummated by the killing of two or three cattles (preferably pigs) with a generous distribution of zu (traditional wine). Old and youth, lad and lass would then join arm-in-arm and form a circular band to perform a traditional dance locally called lamvui kaihna. This is usually interspersed by a spectacular solo performance at its centre by a veteran with a brandish of the sword.
The event has symbolic significance for the Zo people in more ways than one. It is a time to showcase their solidarity and unity. Usually it was an occasion to witness the whole community fully armed in battle-gear with, inter alia, spears, hoes and brooms and brandishing of torches (made of pine). They would, in unison, march throughout the length and breadth of the locality with loud noises and war cries asking the local evil spirit to go away from their immediate lifeworld. At one end of the locality, the whole community would implant their torches to demarcate, as it were, the boundary last deserted by the evil spirits. The whole community army would then march back into their chief’s backyard and begin their celebration. It was also a time of sharing and giving thanks, an occasion to pay their homage and respect to the deceased by a visitation to the grave. In other words, a time to reconnect with their past and collectively face the future.
Now, this tradition is kept alive year after year as the Zo people gather to commemorate Khuado as an occasion to give thanks and glory to the Almighty God who has given them a good harvest and a new year. It is an event of immense cultural significance which bespeaks of the unique heritage, culture and identity of the Zo people.
H Kham Khan Suan