Manau festival more than cultural identity and dignity


Being Kachins celebrating Manau Festival is a moment of pride. Yet today's celebration and inheritance of the Manau culture for Kachins has led to the thinking whether Kachins are being socio-politically manipulated by Kachins from China. I don't reject that the Manau programme is mainly to do with celebration of the 60th Kachin Statehood from 5 to 11 January 2008 at Kachin National Manau Park, Shatapru, Myitkyina, Kachin state, yet no one would oppose the Manau programme had it not become the policy of the regime which is utilizing "cultural politics" in tackling Kachins for the benefit of their political game.

The rude and cunning ruler always exploits every weak point where the Kachins are neglected in the political history of Myanmar. Thereby here I will comparatively pinpoint the key socio-political scenario in Kachin state while the 60th Kachin statehood is being celebrated along with grand united Manau festival among the Kachins as well as other tribes of Kachin-citizens (citizens of Kachinland).

The Original Philosophy and Concept of Manau Festival
Originally in oral tradition and mythology of the Kachin civilization, migration and history the Manau is the special celebration in honouring Lamu Madai Nat, The Sky Beings who were the Mayu Du Ni i.e. the lady chiefs of the ancient Kachins. According to The Voice of the State Vol. 1 No. 6 released on 15th Oct 2007 there is mythology and oral tradition that Kachins of the ancient days got married with The Ladies from the Sky (Lamu Madai Shayi ni) for instance Sumpawng Yawng got married to Sky Lady, Lamu Madai Ja Hkawang, and Ja Wa Rum Ja got married to Sky Lady Lamu Madai Ma Ja Nga.

In this way The Manau had the festival of cult worshipped by the Kachins of the ancient days unto the Sky Owner Spirit/being, Lamu Madai Nat in giving homage and respect with animal sacrifice and material and spiritual and dance offering as every situation demanded. No doubt that Manau festival is directly related to Majoi where the level and standard cradle of Kachin civilization is shaped and developed. Later this heritage and its tradition of Manau ownership are handed down to Kachin feudal chieftain wise or chieftain family wise.

For instance Matsaw Nhkum Manau, Lahtaw wa Naw Lawn Manau, Mahtum Mairawn Manau etc.., at the same time such Manau tradition is connected with the land and its owner; supposed the Mahtum Mairawn Manau can't be conducted in the other like land (Nhkum land) except Mahtum Mairawn Ga (Mahtum Mairawn land). Here the Manau festival also shows the authority and the ownership of the land. By only the genuine and willing invitation of the land and Manau owner no relatives and guests are allowed to join in such kind of grand Manau festival in those days.

In this way Kachins inherit such Manau tradition and celebrate in its own time according to the context where they are in the path of migratory civilization throughout Kachins' socio-religion-political lives. Having captured the concept why Kachins are celebrating the Manau Festival (Manau Dum) in every historical landmark/circumstance in Kachin context, the historical proof of Manau tradition could not produce at the moment except historical tradition.

According to Kachin Researchers of China collected the Manau poles of B.C 475 and it means that the Manau tradition of Kachin is common one throughout the migration of Kachins from Mogul till China, Burma and India. Other version of Lahkum Lahpai researchers say the Manau tradition of Kachins originated and in the earliest Kachin civilization cradle called Hpung Nawn Yang Majoi where Matsaw Nhkum Tu did Sut Manau (Manau of Prosperity) and the offspring of Lahtaw Wa Nawlawn did Padang Manau (Manau of Victory) in the middle era of AD 600.

At present the Manau is known to us as well as the world under several headings and means such as Manau of Victory, Manau of Lament, Migratory Manau and so on and so forth. Now the Manau is being conducted these days has to have its means whatever the circumstances it is being celebrated reflecting the situation and scenario of socio-political lives of Kachins and Kachin-citizens.

Manau in Christian era
Though Manau tradition belonged one of the cults that related with Sky Being or Spirit we as Christians have a clear conscience and understanding of Manau tradition that we are following today.

There was the idea of worshipping the Creator God in the Manau tradition in those days that by giving homage to Sky Being our forefathers worshipped Creator without being aware of such thing in their lives. Today we can really have directly contact with our Creator in every circumstance not just necessary while celebrating Manau as such. Therefore today we celebrate Manau for the course of giving beautiful mass Manau dance to God, seeking unity, strength among Kachins, taking care of fellow Kachin citizens in the state in order to fight against the evil that threathens the future of the people and this land.

In those days evil spirits came and disturbed Manau by forcibly demanding animal sacrifice while Manau festival seemed to be undergoing fear and was merely dominated by those Kachin lives without peace of mind. Even today there is evil which seems to disturb the concept of Manau of the Kachins but unity, belief, and the power of God is more of a conqueror than those evils. Therefore we feel that Manau in Christian era is more principled and blessed.

Socio-political Scenario of the Land where Manau throbbed
Generally there will be odd remarks from others upon the Kachins in celebration of the 60th anniversary Kachin statehood day and honoring Manau festival in Myitkyina while there is socio-political crisis in Myanmar. In the history of formation of the Union of Burma we the Kachins were the first to come forward and sign the Panglong agreement. For this reason and many other more the Kachins are the ones who are to be regarded as the founding people of the Union of Myanmar.

Yet we are the ones who are mostly neglected, manipulated, exploited, segregated, divided and terminated by the regime in every field since the Ne Win government was enthroned. Though such a situation happened in the land, the Kachins as the owner of these lands organized such a statehood day and made Manau as a landmark for the Kachins.

1. Statehood Holiday has been denied
Usually the proposal of statehood holiday has been denied since General Ne Win wrested away the democratic government in the year 1962. The Kachins have a history that our forefathers had founded this country and protected it with their lives from the hands of Fascist Japan, colonial Britishers and Kukant Communists. In this bloody history of Burma's independence we the Kachins never betrayed the country till today yet we Kachins are being betrayed by the regime instead. Don't talk about State Federalism of Kachin State, the regime does not want to regard Kachin Statehood day seriously as history is unveiled.

Therefore this is not a matter of joke and should not be neglected rather being Kachins and Kachin-citizens the future politics of this land should be solved as to whether the Kachins will be included in the Union of Burma or excluded after the 60th anniversary of Kachin State Day.

2. Land Confiscation overspread in the land
Behind the beauty of Manau poles and Manau dance there are hopeless and helpless innocent Kachin citizens dying, crying for the loss of land and state of their forefathers. Lakhs of acres of Hugawng (Hukawng) valley is being confiscated by a handful of people linked with the regime generals and this situation leads to localities without a future without food, land and security.

The other areas being confiscated are Waingmaw one where Naga Ni Company, Ever Easy, Boss Thiha, Boss Chit Swe etc.., those handful of capitalists mercilessly confiscated thousands and thousands of acres of land of the innocent local peoples including cemeteries, local pasture, bamboo groves and other areas of plantation especially N'myen, Aura, Woi Ba, Nawng Hkying and beyond.

Today due to such capitalization across this land, the land owners in turn become labourers or workers in their own land. This evil behavior is to be entitled the neo-slavery system in which the people are staying without hope, sleeping on empty stomachs and labour without a future.

3. Genocidal Campaign with Heroin
Opium was one of the traditional customs to be utilized as indigenous medicine among Kachins before Burma's Independence. Today dealing and consummation of heroin is in fashion for the Kachins even under the areas controlled by the regime. Up to the extent of writing "You are requested to put syringe in the cabbage" in the Myitkyina University.

Moreover almost all the university students are becoming medical students with personal syringes. At the same time though there are public sign boards that propagate the prohibition of dealing and consumption of drugs in high schools, besides the road and public meeting places, dealing in drugs done is openly in Myitkyina, Waingmaw and Washawng areas. Actually these are totally under the control of the Kachin state government and the direct administration of the Northern Commander Maj-Gen Ohn Myint. Addiction to heroin and other drug have been mostly overflowing among the youths and students. Therefore it needs to be pondered whether this is the major arm of the regime on the Kachins for their political benefit and political exploitation.

At the same time in the midst of cutting off every possible survival technique of the Kachin armed group especially KIO/KIA, NDAK, KDA, KIO/KIA Lasang Awng Wa group namely digging jade, trading in teak and wood, trading with China through Myitkyina-Laiza road, the dealing and the spreading of drugs and heroin has been so speedy and available that all most every town and village of this land is affected. This situation reveals that smuggling and consumption of heroin is illegal yet it is a legal business allowed by the state government while other states don't even know what heroin is till today.

4. Damming Every Main River of the State for the benefit of the Regime only
This is too evil a habit that the regime committed on the ecology of this land and the people. According to the KDNG's report of Damming the Irrawaddy it threatens the security of Myitkyina. Apart from that there are several projects of damming of the Mali Hka River, N'mai Hka River, Tahkaw River in this land for the benefit of administrative enterprise of the regime and handful of rich people like the military generals, CPG, and Asia World Company who are plundering this land.

Yet the regime never thinks about such evil functioning which could doom the land if such projects are allowed to go ahead. This is also another genocidal exercise that the regime allows to take place in this land without the proposals of these projects being discussed with the Kachins

Concluding key words
Celebrating of Manau on the 60 th anniversary of Kachin statehood is more than just tradition where our forefathers were worshipping unseen Spirits who could not shape the prosperity and secure lives of the Kachin instead the spirit let the Kachin lives be overwhelmed into an uncertain future, and culture which is not the maker of the Kachin people and their future rather the cultural dance, systems and value are being exposed as the beauty and the dignity of the people yet the beauty of culture will not meet the needs of the peoples. Instead Manau is more than just culture as well as tradition.

Furthermore beyond the Manau tradition there is the concept of land issue that shows the Manau peoples are the owners of this land that has to be protected by the people of Manau till the land is fully liberated from any other evil ownership. Another concept being seen in the Manau is importantly seen as the spirit of unity and hand-in-hand of Manau could shape prosper, secure, ensure productive lives of the owner of the Manau tradition of the Kachins.

Last but not the least the most inspired and motivated spirit seen by others is the Manau spirit of parenthood with responsibility among the Kachins and also towards other fellow Kachin citizens and citizens of the country and the world. Therefore whatever the situation where we are under this regime today and the Manau festival is being conducted under the control of Maj-Gen Ohn Myint's army and guns the Kachins are organizing this Manau with their own spirit, own strength, and own dreams and beliefs in our own land.

We the Kachins are not dead people under human reservation and of a human museum of this regime so long as the Kachins celebrate such Manau more than tradition and custom of Kachin culture. Yet the Kachins are celebrating Manau because others are compelled to do so. Kachins' living history will stop with this level and status of cultural and traditional Manau. Therefore being Kachins, we go beyond cultural and traditional levels of Manau in this civilized postmodern era.