Chaakan Gaan-Ngai : Festivals among the Zeliangrongs
- Part 1 -
Dr. Heera Marangmei *
Gaan Ngai Celebrations around Imphal :: January 09, 2012 :: Pix - Jimmy Leivon
Gaan Ngai is the greatest cultural and religious festival of Zeliangrong community. The full name of this festival is Chaakan Gaan-Ngai. This festival is celebrated by Zeliangrong Community, who inhabits in the state of Manipur, Nagaland and Assam. Zeliangrong is the combined name of Zemei, Liangmai and Rongmei (Kabui) including Puimei, which was coined on 15th Feb. 1947 at Keishamthong Kabui Village.
This festival is commonly known as Gin-Ngi by Lianmai, Hega-Ngi by Zeme and Chaakan Gaan-Ngai or Chaakak Ngai by Rongmei (Kabui) and Puimei.
Due to the joint efforts of different Zeliangrong Organisations, Gaan-Ngai festival was granted restricted Holiday in Manipur in 1976 during the R.K.Dorendra Ministry and continued till the declaration of General Holiday in the yearly Holiday list on 10th January 1998 by the W.Nipamacha Ministry, Govt.of Manipur. The SPF Govt. led by O.Ibobi Singh scraped off the Gaan-Ngai Festival from Holiday list of 2003 on 20th October 2003. The Ibobi led Government was compelled to restore status quo in the holiday list of 2003 by the public and media pressure of Manipur.
Gaan-Ngai is a post harvesting festival which is celebrated in the month of December or January. Literally the festival falls in winter season. (Gaan means winter or dry season and Ngai means joyful festival). Gaan Ngai is believed to be originated from time immemorial when Supreme God, Ragwang created all the planets, living and non living things. It is said that in those days human being and gods were living together in a common dormitory called Khangchu in the house of Tingpu Rengsonnang. Most often human being suffered at the hand of gods and human lost their tranquility life. They decided to chase out the gods from the dormitory. Out of their wisdom, men turned into khoidai (bees) and bit the gods and were able to chase gods out from their common dormitory. Human achieved peace and tranquility.
Some says that men live together with gods in the house called Khangchu of Tingpu Rengsonnang. Men begins to suffer and die due to the supremacy of gods. Men requested Ragonliu, the wife of Tingpu Rensonnang, how they could protect their lives. She advised them to lit the huge bonfire with the fire wood in the front of the Khangchu early in the morning and in the evening and chopped the main pillar (Teng Dai) of the Khangchu at the dusk three times with the manly loud cry of Au-Aaa. Observed these for seven days then the gods would not harm the human being. This lighting of bon fire is practiced till today. Men from Khangchu observed her advice for seven days. They had experienced the harassment with much relief and death of men occurred much lesser there after.
When time passes, human population increased in many folds and they could yield good harvesting year around at the advice of Tingpu Rengsonnang. But human life was dull and monotonous on agricultural life. They decided to show their Gratitude to the Supreme God, Haipou Ragwang by offering oblation of their harvest and to receive God's Grace.
They also decided to offer their crops to the departed souls of their ancestors. It may be more appropriate to say that Gaan Ngai is the Cultural and Religious Festival of Post agricultural harvesting when men became prosperous, their granaries are filled with agricultural produce and subsequently offerings are made to Haipou Ragwang with religious rituals. On this festival farewell rituals are also performed to the departed souls of the family members, who die after the previous Gaan-Ngai. Earlier GaanNgai Festival was celebrated for seven days on different dates by the Zelianrong Community but now it has been reduced to five days only.
Celebration of different dates was so happened due to ignorance of its significant importance. It has been fixed these days on the 13th day of Manipuri wakching month by the constant effort of Kabui Naga Association. The youth (Boys) and elders of Khangchu (Khangchu means male dormitory) of a Zelianrong Locality collect the particular plant's trunks (Taa bang or Tamu bang) in the forest to make ** Gu**.
This collection of plant's trunks for Gaan-Ngai begin mostly in the month of October (Mera month of Manipuri). It is prohibited to bring the trunks into the village unless certain ritual of heralding called **Rilai Hoi** is performed at the mouth or gate of the village called Raang and to end the Rilai Hoi at Khangchu. These plant's trunks- ' Mhai-ghang' is dried up in the sun to make a block. This block of trunk while rubs with the finely made and dried bamboo fibers can produce fire. These fibers are called Mairu.
There is an art of rubbing and pressing the trunks to produce friction of fire. This fire is believed to be a holy/sacred fire which brings prosperity to the individual family of Zeliangrong community if the fire is lit in the kitchen furnace and cooked food by it. This food is offered to the three legs of the furnace (three hearth stones=Lai buh).
Gaan Ngai Celebrations around Imphal 2011 :: Dr. Heera Marangmei
The name of the legs of the three hearth stones are (1) Kambuipui, (2) Charaipui and (3) Kairao before the consumption of family members. It is also believed that it chased away the evil spirit in the family. This holy fire is produced on the first day of Chakaan Gan-Ngai and Ring-Ngai and is distributed to every individual family of Zeliangrong Community of that locality or village. Many years in the past, the fire was extracted in each and every house of the village in the evening after short put and long jump functions were completed. Quick and easy extraction of fire is believed to be a sign of prosperity for the coming year. On entering the first day of festivity month as per Manipuri month ( Lunar month) of Wakching, eldest members of the village, who are the designated members of Pei ( Pei means forum for eldest village members), will finalize the schedules of Chaakan Gaan-Ngai.
This schedule is conveyed to Khangbon, the head of the Male dormitory called Khangchu.Khangbon along with his elderly members of Khangchu will discuss and further finalize the day to day function of five days festivity programmes of Chaakan Gaan-Ngai like Pha-gaang, Lamleng (dance), offering of farewell dance and songs to the departed souls by the male and female group of Khangchu and Luchu ( Luchu is Female's dormitory) to that bereaved family on acceptance or consent of the family.
Similarly, dance and song programmes are also set to the Khangbon who are to be graced to status of Gaanchang (another higher status of manhood of Zeliangrong Community who become the junior most members of Pei) or Karapei or Kengjapui (higher status of womanhood). Honorary dances gracing to Khangbon are to be observed during Tuna Gaan-Ngai and gracing to Karapei (or Kengjapui) is to be observed a day after Raang Pat by the women folks. In earlier days, on the first day of festivity month, the village elders blow horn of bason. This signifies the month of Gaan Ngai and humble before God for the festivity. But blowing of horn is not practiced these days. On 2nd day of the festivity month (Gaan bu), an elder member of Pei to the status of Banja will announce to the village/locality people for necessary arrangement of germinated paddy to be soaked (Nappok thunkhang).
Prior to five days of festivity, Banja will announce to brew customary drinks like rice bears like jang- ngaou etc. One day before the festival, Banja will announce the villagers to stock the vegetable and other necessary food items for the Gaan Ngai Festival. This is called Gaan-Shanmei.On this day members of Khangchu along with Khangbon will herald 'Hoi' by carrying a fire wood each on their shoulder from the northern point of the village's gate to Khangchu.This activity is known as * Thing tin mei* or collection of firewoods which is performed at the afternoon hour.
Designated householder of Khangchu and Luchu will bring fore the traditional chutney (tamkok), a bottle of wine/ earthen pot of rice beer (zoulai) to the Khangchu members. This traditional wine/rice beer is first offered to the Supreme God (Haipou Ragwang) by a Pei member (senior most member of the male hood of the village), this act offering to supreme God (Ragwang) is known as Zoupaan Keimei and later share the offering to the householder of Khangchu (Khangchupei) and members present. The young boys of Khangchu will ding the jumping ground for next day gropgramme. This jumping ground is known as Daanshan-pong/Thenpung.
The boys will collect gingers and eggs from every house of the zeliangrong community for next day ritual offering to Keipi Bambu (also known as Shongpu) (God protecting the northern gate of the Village) and Kaiba Bambu (also Known as Shongpui)(God protecting the southern gate of the village). In this evening young and elder male members of Khangchu gather at Khangchu (Dormitory) which headed by Khangbon and senior Ganpi whereas unmarried female members gather at their respective dormitory called Luchu, headed by senior girl. (Tuna pi) of the luchu and tuna mhunshimei (tuna mhunshimei is the senior male member of Khangchu deputed by the Khangchu to be the supervisory head of female dormitory).
At male (boys) dormitory, Khangbon will brief about the Chaakan Gaan-Ngai to his next designated members called Ganpi ganthao and Gaanpi gaanlao (seniority ranking). After the departure of Khangbon and Gaanpi ganthao, two members of the gaanpi ganlao will ask the young boys (thingkhangloina) and headed by thingkhangloi or Leibak makok (head of the young boys) to kneel down line by line according to their seniority .
One of the Gaanpi ganlao will narrate about The Chakan Gaan Ngai and their utmost duties. He will also advise to respect the elders and humble in their words but they are also reminded dos and don't in every walks of life. The other Gaanpi ganlao will entrust their duties like in charge of wine, water, rice, curry, washing the shawl (phei ngao=traditional shawl) of Khangbon and Tuna mhunshimei, cleaning the traditional spears etc.
They advise the boys to beat the Drum in pleasant rhythm on hearing of the first Cock Crow,which signifies the wakening of Haipou Ragwang and the boys will awake Bhanja for ritual of Gucheng Phaimei or Guulim dhan Jaomei .To mark the warning if they fail to discharge their assigned duties, one of the Gaanpi ganlao will lightly whip with the cane on the back of the boys one by one and the other gaanpi ganlao will follow by patting on the back of every boy.
Above all they caution the boys if they are adamant to their advices, they will be caned heavily and slapped harder. In case thingkhangloi makok resenting his group request Khangbon to exempt them from caning/whipping and Khangbon may exercise his authority. If he accepts their request, thingkhangloi makok will offer wine which is called Jamlui zou (wine for exempting caning).
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To be continued ....
* Dr. Heera Marangmei wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at heera4016(at)gmail(dot)com
This article was posted on January 07, 2013
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