FESTIVALS OF MANIPUR
Manipur, the hidden jem of northeastern India, is surrounded in mystic hills and isolated by struggle, making it India's least visited land. The world renowned Manipuri Dance has originated from this particular state, a perfect example of the richness galore.
Ningol Chakkouba Festival
On the second day of October to November of every year the festival is celebrated in Manipur. Also known as Ningol -Chakkouba (grand feast arranged for sisters), this festival celebrates the great festivity of the sisters of each and every family of Manipur.
Even though this festival is observed for one day only it bears a significant impact on the Manipur society. This system was introduced as in 33 B.C. following the Manipuri myths.
This is magnified as a big festival for all sorts of people male and female, young and old join together and enjoys the day. This festival bears a good meaning of love between brothers and sisters and also does signify the love between the families. After the meals the parents and brothers present gifts to the daughters, and sisters. The daughters and sisters in turn bless them all for happiness and prosperity for the whole year. On this festival, the tribes get dressed up in their beautiful dress and decorate their heads with Headwear. This festival is mainly the festival of hill tribes held once in a year in the month of Mera. Now-a-days this festival is being performed and celebrated with much enthusiasm by different social organizations in different places (as selected by the organizing committees). There is the grand feast combined with the exchange of presents among the hill tribes and the people of the valley. Merry making and thanksgiving is observed during the celebrations. This festival has also been observed at the state level and has been declared as the state holiday.
Kut is an autumn festival of the different tribes of Kuki-Chin-Mizo groups of Manipur. The festival has also been variously described as Chavang-Kut or Khodou at different places amongst different tribes. It is a happy occasion for the villagers to celebrate their food stock after a year of hard labor. The festival is celebrated with a thanksgiving feast paired with songs and dances in honor of the giver of an abundant harvest. The people of the Kuki-Chin-Mizo community offer their thanks to the Lord for bestowing upon them a good harvest during the Kut festival.
This festival is observed on the 1st of November every year. During this time of the year, the whole harvested crop is gathered and the farmer jubilantly celebrates this in the accomplishment of his hard work throughout the year. Tourists and local visitors can get to know of the culture and can also savor the exotic tribal dishes during the Kut fiesta. The Kut festival is marked by merriment; food and fun during the Kut fest.
The festival in Kut is accompanied by traditional folk song and dance and the native tribes of Manipur indulge in merry making. The folk dance and music are performed to celebrate the special festive occasion of Kut. The festival in Kut relieves the people from the stress and strains of daily agriculture life. The festival also marks the use of traditional folk instruments. The folk dance and music reflects the unique cultural pattern and lifestyle of the tribes. The local tribes of Manipur clean and whitewash their houses to welcome the festival in their community.
Kang (Rath Yatra of Manipur)
Rath-Yatra or Kangchingba is a festival of Meitei Hindus. Idols of Shri Jaganatha, Shri Balarama and Shri Subhadra are worshipped during this Yatra festival. The idols are drawn in the Rath (car) of Shri Jagannatha. The Rath is big and tall (nearly 20 ft height with six iron wheels) and is pulled by the devotees on the days of Rath Yatra and Puma Yatra as well. The Rath is decorated beautifully and the procession is almost the same with that of Rath Yatra of Puri, in Odisha. After the procession, localities in Imphal area and in other villages start their own processions with sankirtana.
Male, female, young, old and children participate in the Rath procession. Wherever the procession goes, People offer flowers, fruits and sweets to Shri Lord Jagannatha and his siblings. The festival is observed with a great zeal and glamour.
The sankirtana is performed in a circle by both groups of men and women separately. The men are followed by women and they sing songs with the rhythm of the Pung, a mirdanga used by Manipuri. This is followed by a dance by a group of young men and women. After the dance and song, distribution of prasadam known as Kshechiri is offered to the devotees. Brahmans distribute the prasadam to all devotees with no bar for any sort of community.
Heigru Hidongba or the boat race festival is observed by the Meities society on the eleventh day of fortnight of Langbal month (September) of Meitei calendar. It is a very important joyous festival and has been observed at the Thangapat (moat) of Shri Bijoy Govindajee, Sagolband, Imphal. This festival had been observed since 984 and 1074 A.D. This festival marks the racing of two boats with pomp and spirit.
This festival is celebrated as a prayer to God for the welfare of the people and the country. In the past, King and nobles performed this festival for the welfare and well-being of the people and the community. One day prior to the festival day, the Maiba (priest) cleans and purifies the boat with Mantras and throws Konyai on the boats. Prayer is offered to Pakhangba (god of Meiteis) for the welfare of the king. Gold and silver coins are offered with a towel and garland on the deck of the boats.
On the day of the festival two boats join together known as Hi-Khabak-Lakpa and Shri Shri Bijoy Govinda. Rashewori are to be installed and offer Puja. Also a garland of Heigru, made of 108 Heigrus with an alternate bud of Hup and also a garland of Cheng Machang (fine whole rice) made of 108 pieces is offered. The offered garlands are worn by the Tengmai Leppa of the two boats. The Maiba or the Pandit decides whether good or bad year from the result of the boat race. The winner wears the garland of Heigru or that of Chengmachang. The king also offers gold and silver coins to Pakhangba for the prosperity of the land. Temporary camps are put up on the north and south of the Thangapat that runs from the east to the west. The public is crowded on both sides of the Thangapat and separate seating arrangements are made for the king and queen.
Pompous and graceful rowing of the two boats is the main attraction of this festival which is the biggest gathering of all around people of Imphal Valley. It is a wonderful and beautiful thing to witness the most grandeur festivals being held once in a year.
Another important festival of Manipur is Lai-Haraoba and is celebrated in the month of May. This festival is celebrated after the Cheiraoba festival which falls in April. The Lai-Haraoba festival is observed to honor Umang Lai, deity of the sylvan locale of the state.During the festival, men and women dance in front of the idols of gods and goddesses, as part of the custom. The devotees bow to the souls and spirits of their ancestors during the Lai Haraoba festival. The people of Manipur seek eternal blessings of the Almighty and their ancestors.
The word Lai Haraoba means ‘Festivity of the Gods and is a native festival of the Meiteis. Meiteis are the majority ethnic groups of the state of Manipur. The Lai haraoba is the festivity of the Gods. Sanamahi, Pakhangba, Nongpok Ningthou, Leimarel and Panthoibi are some of the major deities and apart from them around 364 Umang Lais or Jungle deities are also worshiped by the Meiteis According to mythical belief, the festival was first held at Koubru Ching. Koubru Ching is a hill situated in the northern end of Manipur. The festival is marked to celebrate the creation of the universe and the recollection of the evolution of plants, animals and human beings. The same tradition and culture has been followed down the ages by the human beings. The main aim is that the people should never forget universe and its origin. Colorful and beautiful traditional dances are performed by young and old and also perform dance drama, enactment of Khamba and Thoibi, the hero and the heroine of a popular folklore. An evening outing by the deity is carried around in a palanquin around the locality.