Philosophical Understanding of Cultures and Festivals of North East India


Philosophical Understanding of Cultures and Festivals of North East India, Edited by Dr. Dominic Meyieho and Dr. Joseph Puthenpurackal, Shillong: Don Bosco Publications, DBCIC, 2015, ISBN 81-85408-00-57, pp. 136, Rs. 300.

Today’s fast changing and globalizing world with its many and multiple challenges demands from us that we go deeper into understanding the various facets of culture. With this motivation, Don Bosco Centre for Indigenous Cultures, Shillong, conducted a seminar entitled, “A Philosophical Understanding of Culture and Festivals”. This book is a collection of the papers presented at the seminar. The cultures and festivals of North East India to survive need to rediscover its spiritual and philosophical roots. The papers reflect the situation and culture of the people of the North East and seek to highlight the indigenous culture.

Thomas Menamparampil discusses the passage of culture to a focal position in human life. In the past, culture was not considered very influential but today we see how culture influences the mindsets of communities, their social cohesion, motivation for achieving particular goals and for adding purposefulness in all that is done, besides playing a key role in economic development. The author takes on a pastoral approach and discusses how cultures can be revived to meet the changes wrought by modernization.

Tharsis Maria Arul Anthuvan affirms that a human person is fundamentally cultural. A philosophy of culture ought to deal with the different thoughts or philosophies of authors who have acknowledged that the human person is basically cultural and also have systematized or thematised a study of cultures and civilizations. Thus, he goes on to present the thought of a few philosophers over the ages who have philosophized on culture.

Joy Kachappilly attempts ‘a Critical Understanding of Cultural Festival’ with emphasis on the Wangala of the Garos. Festival assume great significance in people’s life in society and form an integral part of culture. The Wangala is a festival of thanksgiving. The author narrates the manner of celebrating the festival traditionally and contrasts it with the current scenario.

Kezhangunuo Kelio approaches the festivals of the Angami Naga tribe from a feminine standpoint. Angami festivals are usually agriculturally related. Womenfolk play a vital role but are not in the forefront. They are seen as initiator, mediator and sustainer but are not given equal status to men. The author calls for a deconstruction of the Angami festivals and a re-construction from the feminist perspective.

Joe Francis attempts to understand and interpret how the Mizos make sense of their world through their cultural practices, particularly of Christmas celebration. He takes us through the various aspects of the celebration and delineates their connection to Mizo culture and philosophy.

The Mlei-Ngyi festival of the Zeliang Naga tribe is discussed in Shaji Mathew’s paper. He walks us through the celebration of the festival and presents the results of a questionnaire put to Zeliang youth. The findings are surprising. The festival is no more celebrated in its traditional pomp, hue or length. There is a need for re-visiting the festival, understanding its cultural richness and drawing inspiration for socio-cultural, economic and religious benefit.

Barnes Mawrie in his paper ‘A Philosophical View of Khasi Culture’, points out the genesis of the Khasi culture and its connection to the metaphysics of the same. Khasi culture is polarized by western materialism and consumerism. He discusses five aspects of Khasi culture which reveal its metaphysical nature. They are the Religious and Altruistic sense, Sense of Kinship, Sense of Good, Sense of Religion and Sense of Tradition.

Somingam Mawon’s paper focuses on ‘Understanding traditional Tangkhul Naga Festivals and its Relation with Agricultural activities’. There are sixteen traditional Tangkhul festivals and each is considered briefly. He concludes with a few personal observations and remarks.

The Baikho festival of the Rabhas is presented by Jose Jacob. The continuity and change that the festival has experienced is honestly noted. The author acknowledges the mighty influence of modernity and advises vigilance against losing the original genius of the community.

Dominic Meyeiho’s paper, A Philosophical Understanding of Culture and Festivals of the Southern Angami Nagas attempts to cultivate their culture through a re-reading of its festivals. An attempt is also made for establishing a cross-cultural dialogue between the festivals of the Southern Angamis and the Christian feasts, so that the Church can take root in the culture. Six festivals and similar Christian feasts are highlighted. The aim is not to compare but to explore avenues for dialogue.

Theorizing a Sustainable Cultural Identity for a Global World: A Transactional Philosophy of Culture by Baudelaire Ulysse, discusses the impact of globalization on culture and indicates the need for a transactional philosophy of culture for mutual enrichment and progress. The perils of cultural isolation are presented and the idea of openness to other cultures is propagated. Self preservation of cultures ought not to be achieved via isolation but rather through transaction. A transactional philosophy of culture has helped preserve and perpetrate local cultural identities in North East India, and it might be the most effective method of sustaining local identity in the globalized world.

The book is marred by a few grammatical errors. The layout is pleasant but the matter leaves something to be desired. The topics considered are insightful and lend to an appreciation of North East Indian culture. The book has in a way, opened doors to indigenous reflection on North East Indian culture and has paved the way for continued studies in culture.