TODAY -

Chaga Ngee: The biggest Festival of Liangmai

Dr. Widinibou / Namsidinbou Poutamai *

 Chagah Festival : Annual festival of Liangmai community celebrated at Taphou Liangmai village, Senapati :: Oct 30, 2012
Chagah Festival at Taphou Liangmai village, Senapati in Oct 2012 :: Pix - Popcha Yambem



Liangmai Naga ethnically belonged to the Mongoloid group of race inhabits in Nagaland and Manipur states of Northeast India. In Manipur, Liangmais are found in Tamenglong headquarter, Tamei and Tousem sub division, Senapati district and Kanglatongbi of Imphal West. They are also found in Tening Sub-division, Jalukie, Peren, Dimapur and Kohima of Nagaland.

It is a community of about 65,000 people. Liangmai population in Manipur state is higher than that of Nagaland. No Liangmai in Manipur follow any religion except Christianity since 2003. There is still Non-Christian in Nagaland but very less in number. Chaka Ngee had officially declared as general holiday in Nagaland on 30-31 October of every year. However, in Manipur this festival has not been officially declare as a state general holiday. Liangmai, as a separate tribe, was recognised by the Government of India on 22 December 2011.

The Liangmai are descendants of the second son of Kadingbou. Originally Liangmais are known as kyliangmai khatmai. Kyliang means 'sector in a village' khat mean 'one' and mai mean 'people' and from this they are later called as Liangmai. However, the most accepted meaning of the word "Liangmai" today is people who have grouped themselves in support of each others to live together as one community. They help one another. They learned to work together, go together in the paddy field, work and come back together, laughing together even as they work.

Pamei (2001: 31) argues that Liangmai were religious, honest, courteous and cheerful people. Our festivals are the indicators of our religious and cheerful ways of life. According Tunchapbou (2012: 71-72), Liangmai people observe 29 rituals festivals in a year. Of these, Chaga Ngee is the most important and biggest festival of Liangmai community. Today this festival is celebrated in every year on 30th and 31st October in every villages, towns and cities where Liangmai reside with cultural showcase, sport items and grand feast of which society keep alert, active and got a high moral and disciplined pattern of life.

The word 'Chaga Ngee' means 'festival'. The month of October is called 'Chagahiu'. The word 'Hiu' literally comes from the word 'Chahiu' meaning 'month'. Chagahiu means the month of festival or cheerfulness. It is a festival of purification or sanctification and rededication. This is the biggest and most important festival of the Liangmai community. According to the ancient account, Chaga Ngee is celebrated after a war where victorious warriors are honoured on the day. The occasion is also a day to sanctify the men folks for the next assignment.

However, in the modern context the prime reason of observing this occasion is to keep alive the rich culture and tradition of the tribe. Colourful cultural programs are the main features of the festival. Old and young of the Liangmai community in traditional attire come out in large number to participate in the Chaga Ngee in every year. Besides, organizing numerous traditional sport items on the occasion, traditional menu is an important theme of the Liangmai Chaga Ngee. On this day killing of animals for the festival are done in every household. The grandsons and daughters have to wear traditional shawls for the occasion.

However, in olden days, the festival usually lasts for five days and observed very cautiously. On first day: It begins with "Chamimalapbo" (making fire), the Priest goes to the main gate of the village for making new fire to be used for the festival and the males are then blessed. After which they shout signifying that they have been sanctified which head of the family comes and collect the fire to start their hearth with fresh firewood for cooking and as per the tradition the womenfolk are prohibited to touch cups and plates during festival. On this very night they are to make and eat their own choice of foods. It is believed that to start everything anew and fresh of the New Year.

During this festival men have to use their own hearth in making dishes in order to purify themselves, because it is a taboo to touch women or even eat food prepared by women till the festival ends.

Second day is the day of "Npengkepbo" (totem shooting), early in the morning the selfless boys voluntarily go to the jungle to cut the tree for Npeng (totem). Npeng is cut by those whose parents are still alive and those who live a pure and holy life. They are to go for cutting only after being blessed by their parents. Npeng has to be made in resemblance to human being. It sketches like as human being at Npeng, draws the head, eye, nose, mouth, ear, neck, heart and chest have to be marked with black colour by charcoal. After everything is done, Npeng is tied on the top of the post.

Keeping themselves pure and holy from sexual impurity and with a loud 'ho-hoing' proclaiming their forefather's name, Npeng is shot with an arrow: if it happens to hit on the head - the enemy die of head pain; if on the stomach - the one who shot will have plenty of rice; if on the heart - the enemy will die with much trouble; if on the right chest - the enemy will die in war; and if on the left chest - the one who shot will win many girls. If anyone can't hit Npeng then the singkupao (priest) will take the Npeng stick (arrow) by hand and put it in the feet of Npeng as a sign of surrender. Those whose relatives died in the year were not to shot Npeng.

Third day is called 'Gaadi' sharing of meals- foods and drinks. The following day was a day of sharing of knowledge blended with eating, drinking and merry-making traditional songs, dances, games and sports as well. After that, the entire men folk gather at the main ground of the village and various competitions are held viz. Long-jump, high-jump, wrestling, cock-fights of the men folk etc. Later the high Priest would declare the completion of all.

The fourth day is called 'Chagapabo'. On this day, all the leftover food and drinks are distributed to the elderly people. The festival is so fascinating that young boys and girls reluctant to end-up the festival would sing: "Chaga bam ni ye" (Don't want to end up Chaga festival; we want to continue Chaga.)

Five day: It is the last day of the festival. This day was particularly for the elderly people who continue to drink and eat the leftover food and drinks which were called ganjung or kalumtiubo (eating leftover). An elders and women folk enjoy the leftover food. Till leftover food was finished up, men are not allowed to do any domestic works. During this festival men have to use their own hearth in making dishes in order to purify themselves, because it is a taboo to have sleep or even touch and eat food prepared by women till the festival ends. During this festival couples are not allow to sleep together and men are taboo to touch women to maintain discipline and customary law of Liangmai. If men fail, bad luck follows them in the war. So men folk have to maintain discipline and not to defile themselves from such impurity things.

With regard to its significances and importance, the festival is prominently a festival of purification, sanctification and rededication for peace, harmony and love; and a festival of honouring God for his blessings. The occasion is also a day to sanctify the men folks for the next assignment. It is a festival to honour God for the bumper harvest and pray for less war and fewer deaths. It is also a festival of prayer—seeking God's blessing to grant us a great warrior; victorious against the enemies; and seeking for a good life for the coming New Year.

The festival reveals that our ancestors lived a life of purity, sanctify and dedication to their God. These are our roots; and we need to reflect these principles in our Christian daily life. Today, the disappearing values of the traditional beliefs and practices calls for the Liangmai Christians to emend and imply its essence in their day to day life. This led the present generation greatly influenced by outside culture that majority of our people do not know the importance and value of one's own culture.

Thus, rediscovering the traditional values is highly imperative that this will reinforce relevant Christian ethical principles congenial for today. Consequently, Christianizing Chaga Ngee would keep alive the age-old culture and tradition of the Liangmai people which will make Christianity meaningful and effective without losing our rich cultural and traditional heritages.


* Dr. Widinibou & Namsidinbou Poutamai wrote this article for Huieyen Lanpao (English)
The writer is Research Scholar, JNU, Delhi
This article was posted on November 07, 2013.


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