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In the second phase, after fifteen years, she advised them while performing puja to cut with a dao if it was a big animal, and to use a piece of stick with smaller animals like fowl while holding the legs and let blood shed. At this stage, the sacrificial ceremony was a little bit reduced than the first phase.
The third phase teaching was introduced after a further ten years. She instructed her followers that one should perform puja with the animal tied its mouth stuffed with a rag and killed. But, a chicken must be killed with the hand, by twisting the neck, without oozing any blood. In this phase, the sacrifice of animals is further reduced.
After another five years the fourth and final phase was introduced. On the 11th of January 1990, at Kapelo village of North Cachar Hills, Assam, Rani Gaidinlu vigorously declared and confessed before the general public that we have fully done the requirement of sacrificial oblation in puja. Now, important sacrifices of animals in any puja are to be totally abolished. And we are free to perform puja with a clean mind and body at any specific time and day. Rani Gaidinlu proclaimed to the people: While performing puja with a clean mind and body, recite the Holy psalms and sing the prayer songs; you would be blessed for sound health and to live a very happy life free from evils spirits. And if there is anything wrong with you, you may throw it upon me – I can affirmably bear such things for your sake (P. Newme 2002). Thus, after elimination of sacrifices, they simply sing the psalms and pray with an empty hand.
Heraka has certain rules to be observed by the devotees. The important rules are: (1). Tingwang created the earth and will destroy it again but believe in Him and sing His praises and pray to Him. (2). Respect your parents and elders and preserve the good Zeliangrong culture. (3). Have a disciplined mind and a clean body. Selflessness will make your image wonderful and you will become the son/daughter of Tingwang. (4). In all speech and work your mind must be truthful. Search for knowledge and light but breed not jealousy and enmity. (5). Love all of Tingwang’s sons and daughters and search the way for happiness and peace. (6). Observe Full moon day well. (7). Set up a Kalumki and pray with an empty hand. (8). Have faith in rebirth (Ramkui Newme 1991).
Kalumki is a place of worship and religious discourse. It is separate from the rest of the village in the way it is conceived, as physically treated and respected. Every Zeliangrong village must have one Kalumki and it is the most sacred ground for the Heraka. It is usually built on the highest point of a village and in the same model of the first temple built by Haipou Jadonnang and Rani Gaidinlu. Every Kalumki must have a place of sunrise prayer outside facing east. East is vital for two factors because it signifies the direction of Bhubon cave, as well as that of the sunrise, which is great importance during full moon ritual. The sunrise prayer place must be elevated and is reached by the three steps symbolizing life –death -life. There is a veranda before entering the Kalumki. The main entrance is called Muidi; once inside there is another side entrance called Muicheiki, small door on the right, as it is strictly forbidden to place it on the left. If using the Muicheiki, one must re-enter using the same door.
Before entering the compound of the Kalumki, shoes must be removed. Inside there are two sections: the right for the male and the left for female. On the left there is a bench facing the congregation for the girls specially chosen to serve the Heraka community and on the right is reserved for the secretary and priest of the village. Podiums are also present on both sides for those wanting to say a few words. On the podium is written ‘Tingwang Hingde’ and below that ‘Speak the truthfulness.’ At the front of the Kalumki is the altar, centrally placed and elevated. One must climb the three steps to it, proceeding the right leg, then left, and right. The altar is on two levels. On the first level, only fruits, vegetables and flowers can be placed while the second level is for coins and paper money. This offering is accompanied by a prayer (personal and private). Once that is finished, one must turn anticlockwise and return to one’s place. While one waits to reach the altar, a space must be kept between the right and the left for Tingwang to come and go in –between. When one looks directly above from the altar, there is a small opening into a short wooden tower.
The mode of worship in the Heraka religion is very simple. It is a devotional worship. Prayer may be performed individually or collectively at any time and day, whenever require. An individual may offer prayer every day in the morning and evening usually before sleep. The devotees compulsorily offer sunrise prayer on every Full Moon day and the Heraka New Year Day at Kelumki. An individual or collectively offers prayer at the time of ailments, birth, marriage and death of a person etc. They pray at Kelumki on the Full Moon Day and the Heraka New Year Day. In the early morning, they gather at Kelumki and recite hymns and offer collective Sunrise Prayer. The Priest offers prayer to Tingwang. Then, they enter Kelumki in singing devotional song. Individual member also offers prayer at the holy Altar. They sing a rejoicing song in praise of Tingwang. On the Heraka New Year Day, they sing a devotional song followed by incantation of Heraka hymn and drink Telau dui (holy water) (Ramkui Zeliang 2010).
Tingkupau, priest, also the head of the village plays a leading role in all religious activities of the village. He is regarded as a commune with God. So, he is respected by all as Divinity. The oldest male from amongst the villagers who has courage and enough experience in worshipping and controlling his villagers is selected as Heraka priest. When the priest is once selected then he has to govern the role of priest till his long life time. The priest and the holy altar stone must be properly maintained and should be considered it as the Chief and the dependency of the village respectively. Tingkupau has to perform every prayer of the village such as to perform prayer for good health and rich harvest of the village both in individual or collective affairs. He will broadcast the day of prayer on the eve of every prayer and perform prayer on every important festival and also must attend all the festivals.
Culture and religion are two faces of the same coin. They are inseparable in Heraka religion. Heraka people celebrate festivals in almost every month in connection with the stages of agricultural operations according to the lunar calendar. Every festival begins with prayer to Tingwang for abundant crops, good health and prosperous life of the villagers and to dispel all evil fates. The village authority (Kelodeime) fixes the suitable date or days of each festival. The important festivals are (a) Hepumra, Heraka New Year, which is observed on the first crescent month of the year in January, (b) Helei ngi, seed sowing festival for 3 (three) days in the month of March, (c) Nchang ngi for one day in the month of June, (d) Puakpat ngi, new crops harvesting festival for three days in the month of September or October, and (e) Hega ngi, Annual Festival for three days, two days ahead before the Full Moon day of the last month of the year (i.e. December/January). Hega ngi, boon festival (Hega means good luck, Ngi means Festival) is the biggest festival of the year. In the festival, Tingwang M’pua Peibam Mai, offering of newly cultivated crops to Almighty God is observed on the first day of the festival and the second and third days are observed as Ngi Di Mai and Puapat Mai respectively. Farewell to the ancestors (who died in the preceding year) is also given in this festival. Socially, festival gives an opportunity to unite not only the family members, but also the village community as a whole.
Telau dui, the holy water is available only in Bhubon Cave. Rani Gaidinliu used this Telau dui for healing the sufferings of her followers during her freedom struggle against the British. The Heraka devotees use to collect Telau dui from Bhubon Cave every year. It is used on the inaugural day of a new house of worship.
Heraka people believe in rebirth. Although, the living human body dies, but its soul does not die since it comes from Tingwang. It is believed that the souls of good doers will go to the abode of God after death or born again to human life in a high ranking family according to the Judgment of the Supreme God and live in a notable life in this earth. And ultimately, those who had done good deeds in all generation of his/her life in this world will certainly go to the Kingdom (Heaven) of God living eternally liberated from all miserable life after death. However, the souls of evil doers, and sinners will be born again and again after death into the lower forms of life as retribution and ultimately its soul will become extinct like a dew drop falls and dries up. In conformity with the expression of rebirth at length by Rani Gaidinliu, all Heraka followers have fully believed in the re-birth with the vision of blissful life in heaven and fear of retribution or punishment to sinners by the Tingwang after death is the main objective of believing in re-birth in the Heraka religion (Ramkui Zeliang 2010). (Concluded)
Source: The Sangai Expres