74-year-old Guru T Bendangwati Pongener of Mokokchung Village is known for his prominent contribution in preserving cultural songs and dances. He is survived by six children and his 63-year-old wife, Repasangla Longkumtsür.
He was given the title Guru in 2018 after taking part in an interview for the Guru Shishya Parampara program at the North East Zone Cultural Center, where he performed some of the traditional songs and dances he had modified.
He claims that growing up as a Pastor’s child, he was never interested in such traditional and cultural dances and songs until he was 32, when he was chosen Vice President of the Aosungkum Cultural Club in 1980 and served until 1982.
“Before then, I didn’t know a single song,” he acknowledged.
He did, however, continued to serve as president of the Aosungkum Cultural Club in 1982 and 1989, as well as vice-president from 1987 to 1988 again. Bendang remains a member of the club to this day.
He also mentioned how he drew influence for his dance style from other tribes such as the Sumis and other villages in Mokokchung such as the Chungtia village.
“We all learned a lot from each other through those cultural encounters,” he remarked.
During Bendang’s tenure, the Aosungkum Club attained new heights, such as representing the Aos in the Republic Day parade in 1983.
The club also participated in different cultural events in Sikkim, Delhi, and Mumbai in 1986, 1987, and 1989, respectively.
According to Guru Bendang, when creating cultural songs, he pulls inspiration from the individual’s history, economic class, father’s career, and what the person is truly like.
“I need to know your back-story in order to write a song about you. For example, whether your father was a warrior or if you are a nice person,” he explained.
When asked about his dance composition, he claimed he doesn’t give it much thought since he feels that any action done uniformly produces a dance style.
His greatest concern, though, is that today’s youth are uninterested in preserving cultures and customs.
“I am concerned that our younger generations are uninterested in embracing our historical cultures and customs. I hope that younger generations recognise its significance and work more to preserve it. “If we lose our cultures and traditions, we will lose our identity,” he bemoaned.
Bendang, who has educated over 300 village youngsters in various occasions, is concerned that many children and young people are not fully committed to learning and preserving the tradition, leading him to believe that whatever he has taught will not last long.
“Fortunately, contemporary technology now allows you to record, save, and retain it for years. I hope that today’s youth would take advantage of such,” he added, adding that he invites anybody who desires to be taught by him to his home.
Obtaining the title ‘Guru’ was one of the most significant successes he had in his life, according to him. He also stated that it was his goal to accomplish something with his knowledge, and now that he has, he is glad for having learned and embraced the rich culture.
Oh Mokokchung tajung nung
Oh Lijabar menjen,
Oh Chungli-Mongsen rongko
Yimsü yimyanglur, soteta koni.
Oh Temjensowa nangpongi
Oh soja sokoni
Oh Guru Bendangwati,
India lima alir, Naga lima alir
Ne nüngsang malemteterni.
Oh, Chubasunep tebai
Oh ibai dir jangsü pur ani,
Oh longso mongka deni
Merang langpa latepshir ani.
It is song about Mokokchung village where he talks about how the beautiful Mokokchung village is a place where god sits and has given birth to many a great family and that, the younger generations are only strengthening the bonds of greatness.