Nyokum is a festival celebrated by the Nyishi tribe of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. The Word Nyokum has been derived from the combination of two words – Nyok means land (earth) and Kum means collectiveness or togetherness. Therefore, the Nyokum festival may very well be interpreted as inviting all the Gods and Goddesses of the universe, with the Nyokum Goddess as the principal deity, to a particular venue at a particular time. The festival is commonly celebrated by the people from all class and walk of life for better productivity, prosperity and happiness of all human beings on earth.
The festival has a close link with cultivation. The Nyokum goddess, the goddess of prosperity is invoked for her blessings so that there may be more and more production of food-grains in the next harvesting season, that the visit of famine may be warded off, and that drought or flood may not hamper cultivation, nor should any insect or animal destroy plants and crops. The Goddess is invoked so that the human race may be strengthened and regenerated. All should be free from unnatural death due to accident, war and epidemic.
The main prayer structure of the Nyishi is made of bamboo, called the yugang. Alongside the yugang sacrificial animals are tethered. Like cows, mithuns, and goats. Often one finds small chickens hung from bamboo poles of the yugang. The nyubh or the traditional priest specifies the number and kinds of animals for sacrifice, or any other offering to be made. There are no idols in this worship. Neither is there any permanent structure. Besides the animal sacrifice, beer made from millet seeds and rice paste is used.
People turn up wearing their traditional clothes during this time. The men dress in a cotton eri robe draped from the shoulder and reaching the thighs. From their neck hangs a variety of bead jewellery necklaces. Often semi precious stones like turquoise adorn these necklaces. The men’s attire is topped by a bamboo woven cap on the head. This cap is decorated with feathers or furs of wild animals. The beak of the hornbill is a favorite ornament for the traditional cap. The women also dress in their finery of par ej, earrings bead necklaces, topped with a headdress made of finely scaped bamboo.
There is singing and dancing before the head priest or nyubh comes with his attendants to perform the main ritual. Guests are welcomed with rice paste powder, and opo or millet seed beer which is scooped in dried gourd ladles. The song and dance are performed in a group. Usually men and women hold hands in a circular form and sing and dance these lines Nyokum bo tapa debe. And sometimes men dance mock fights with dao (short sword) and shield made of animal hide.