Festivals in Manipur
Manipur is the land of myths, stories, and legends. Since time immemorial, Manipur has its unique religious culture, and just like the rest of India, it has its festivals that celebrate in a year. During the reign of King, Kyamba, Hindu culture started coming to Manipur. Later on, the Meiteis were forcibly converted to Hinduism.
One can say that Manipur is a land of festivals inhabited by different ethnicities and groups. People living in the valley area are mainly meiteis, and tribes of Manipur inhabit the surrounding hills. India’s primary religion, Hindu, is followed by the people living in the valley, and Christianity is followed mainly by people living in the mountains.
Manipur, a happy land where people live in peace, harmony, and cooperation, celebrates dozens of festivals all year-round. It’ll be hard to find such a month without a joyous celebration in this hilly state. Yaoshang, Ningol Chakouba, Kut, Gan-Ngai, Lai Haraoba are some of the major festivals celebrated throughout the state.
An auspicious occasion of Kabui Nagas of Manipur which is celebrated in the 13th day of Manipuri month of “Wakching”. Gang-Ngai is celebrated for five days. The first day of this festival start with the omen taking ceremony which marks the honoring of ancestors. The next four days are associated with tempting feast, traditional dance irrespective of old and young ages, singing and various related programme. Kabui Nagas tribe living in different parts of Manipur visits each other village and exchange gifts each other as a token of love.
Lui-Ngai-Ni is basically the seed showing festival of nagas tribe after which the cultivation is started. This festival is celebrated in the 15th day of February every year. During this festival the tribe pay homage to the god of crops for a good harvest. Social gathering, singing and dancing are the best parts of Lui-Ngai-Ni.
Yaoshang or Holi is celebrated for five days starting from the full moon day of Lamta (February-March). Yaoshang festival is celebrated by meiteis living in the valley who followed the Hindu religion. This festival is considered as the most important festival of Hindu meitei of Manipur. Like the rest of the country, people spray wet and dry colors with each other, sing songs, and dance together. Children will go from house to house saying “Nakatheng Lake Peisa Piyo” and people will contribute pocket money for them. Children will organize a feast from that money on the last day of Yaoshang. Thabal chongba or dancing by moonlight – is also one of the most important parts of this festival where people dance in a circle joining hands in the tune of traditional Manipuri folk songs. Indeed, yaoshang is like Bihu of Assam, Pongal of Kerala, Durga Puja of West Bengal, and people welcomes with heart and soul.
Sajibu Cheiraoba or Manipuri New Year
Chieraoba or Manipuri New year is considered as grand festival of Manipur. This festival marks the beginning of the year or simply the new year of Manipur. Cheiraoba is celebrated in the month of April or first lunar day of the lunar month “Sajibu”. On this auspicious day, people cleans their surrounding, wash all the kitchen’s utensils before start praying. Then people will cook different types of traditional cuisines and offer food to their forefather and pray for a good start of the year at the entrance of the house. After that people will go from house to house exchanging cuisines which tightened the brotherhood bond among the villagers.
The most important activity during this festival is that people will go and climb “Cheiraoching”, a small hillock located at Chingmeirong or any nearby hills as there is a believe that doing this will help them achieve great heights in life.
Kang (Ratha Yatra)
This festival is the Manipur version of Rath Yatra of Puri, Odisha. Ratha Yatra or Kang Chingba festival is celebrated for ten days in the month of July every year. During this festival Lord Jagannath leaves his temple along with his sister Subhadra and the brother Balabhadra, in a cart called “Kang” in Manipuri. This cart is pulled by devotees throghout the journey with the music of pung, bells, conch and gongs.
Heikru Hedongba (Boat Racing Festival)
Leikru Hidongba is a traditional festival of Manipur. This festival is celebrated every year in the month of September. The most spectacular moment of this festival is the boat race. Long and narrow boat is used to accomodate large more number of rowers. The boat racers dress in Meitei traditional attire which also adds another charm of this festival.
Ningol Chak- kouba
Ningol Chak-kouba is the biggest festival of Manipur. It is celebrated in the second lunar day of the lunar month Hiyanggei or simply “Hiyanghei gi ni-ni panba numit”. On this day all the married women will visit their parents’ home and have feast together. The father or brother will visit home of married daughter for an invitation of grand feast two or three days prior to the festival
Chavang Kut Festival
The meaning of Chavang is “Autumn” and Kut means “Harvest”. As the name suggests, the Kut festival is celebrated after the crop is harvested and to appreciate the god of crops for a good harvest. Kut festival is celebrated by the Kuki-Chin-Mizo tribe of Manipur on the first day of November every year. Traditional dance, songs, rituals, etc. formed the main part of this festival. The most important part of this festival in Manipur is the beauty pageant where girls and women from different tribes and ethnicities, religions take part in the contest for Miss Kut crown.
Ramdan festival is the most important festival of Meitei Pangal or Muslim people living in Manipur. Like it is celebrated in different Muslim inhabited places in the world, Meitei Pangal of the state welcome this festival with zeal and spirit.
Chumpa festival is also one of the most celebrated festivals in Manipur. Chumpa festival is celebrated by the Thangkul tribe of Manipur after the harvesting is over. This festival is celebrated in December for seven days. During this festival, women take a very important role in every ritual performed in comparison to other festivals where the role of women is least. In the last three days of this festival there is a social gathering irrespective of young and old and celebrate the festival fully with zeal. On the last day, all the villagers will take part in social possession in and around the village.
Christmas is the most important festival for all the people living in Manipur who follows Christianity as their religion. Most of the people living in the hilly areas follow Christianity as compared to the valley areas. Like it is celebrated in the rest of the world, Christmas is celebrated on the 25th day of December every year.
Sangai festival is one of the initiatives started by the government of Manipur in the year 2010. Since its inception, the Sangai Festival has undergone many changes and, now it has become a big platform to showcase and flaunt the rich culture and tradition of Manipur. This festival is celebrated in November every year where tourist from all over the world visits the state to discover its rich culture and heritage, indigenous sports, traditional cuisines, adventures activities, art, handloom, and handicraft, etc. Indeed, Sangai Festival is helping to shape the state’s future of tourism and to make a world-class tourist destination.
Siroi Lily Festival
Shiroi Lily festival is also one of the festivals promoted by the Government of Manipur. In the year 2014, the Shiroi Lily festival was declared as a state festival. Previously, only the locals of the Ukhrul district perform this festival to pay tribute to rare of the rarest lily, the Siroi Lily. This flower blooms during the last week of May to the second week of June and is only found in the Ukhrul district of Manipur. This festival is celebrated for four days and many people from different parts of the country visited to enjoy and witness the beauty of the Shiroi Lily flower. Cultural events, music, and sports form the main part of the entertainment of the Shiroi Lily festival.