Chakaan Gaan-Ngai: The living religious and cultural festival
- Part 2 -
Chaoba Kamson *
Gaan Ngai Celebrations in Imphal on January 21 2008 :: Pix by David ManoherMayum
Sacrifice to Tingkao Ragwang:
A big pig will be sacrificed as offering to Tingkao Ragwang. After the sacrifice of the pig, the spleen of the victim will be observed to find out the future omen. The pig spleen will be given either to the first examiner or the oldest man of the village followed by offering of holy wine locally called Gakpai Zou to Tingkao Ragwang and other lower realm gods. Then, the grand Gaan-Ngai feast is prepared at male and girls' dormitories.
After having cooked, yelling Ho-Hoing locally known as Naplao-hoi will be performed for dinner and followed by oblation of holy wine to Tingkao Ragwang. All the members of male dormitory will first taste the curry of Zeigan [curry of pig's internal organs cooked with blood] which is very important. Zeigan Tumei is equivalent to oath taking.
Shouting of Hoi:
Shouting Hoi is a form of worship to Tingkao Ragwang. The purpose of Hoi procession in the festival is to dispel evil spirits from the village. Cry Ho-Hoing is performed during the festival and in the special worship of Tingkao Ragwang such as Tarang Kai Sumei, construction of ornamented ritual house, Maku Bambu, performance of Feast of Merit, Bamjou Jangmei, promotional ritual, Ragaidai, ritual for welfare of mankind etc.
Source of Shot-put and Long Jump:
Tingkao Ragwang created Didimpu, a male god to look after the affairs of the world. One day, Didimpu called his seven nephews [sons of Charashinglangpui and Charashinglangpui is the younger sister of Didimpu] and told them that a trial would be held by way of physical competition [shot-put, long jump, wrestling, throwing of pounding pestle] to find out who was the strongest among the seven brothers. Further, he said that the strongest man would succeed his position. So, he advised them to come again at his place on the eighth day counting from that day and a competition of shot-put would be held on that day.
Seven days gone, on the eighth day, they came again as told by Didimpu. Charashinglangpui who loved very much her youngest son, Ragwang gave a Langdoi, thread- ball to him instead of heavy stone ball by her deceit. But she handed over heavy stones to her six sons. So, Ragwang won the competition.
After the shot put competition was over, Didimpu told them to come again on the eighth day to compete in wrestling and they went away. Accordingly they came again on the eighth day. The wrestling started. Charashinglangpui put a walking stick between her elder sons' legs so they fell down. Ragwang won in the competition.
Javelin Throw competition:
On the eighth day, the seven brothers came for Javelin throw competition. For the competition, Charashinglangpui gave iron javelins to her elder sons but she gave a snake to Ragwang. So, Ragwang won the competition.
Throwing of pounding pestle competition (Mishum Phenkhemnamei):
In this competition also, the same mother handed over a heavy pounding pestle made of iron to all her sons except Ragwang. Ragwang was given a light pounding pestle made of wood so he won the game. Out of this divine story, men used to imitate the games activities of divine. So, the games activities performed on the occasion of Gaan-Ngai are adopted from the divine seven brothers of Ragwang.
Objective of shot-put and long-jump:
"Ragwang Kaitho Keirui (Shamrui) Bambaokamei Napthu Gaimeitai Gang-Ngo.” Meaning of the hymns: please come on, come on, good paddy, the paddy emerges out of the heavenly broken granary.
(a) The objective of shot-put competition on the first day of Gaan-Ngai is supposed to break the heavenly granary's door. The said granary is full of paddy. If the granary's door is broken, the paddy will leak out and spread everywhere
If the said paddy is used as paddy seed for sowing then a plenty of paddy will be harvested.
(b) The aim of long-jump is to make the swelling earth kicked up by the landing force of long-jump which is believed to be a sign of distribution of paddy to mankind. So the objective of shot-put and long-jump is for successful cultivation and good harvest.
Hymns of Shot-put:
"We have dispelled evil spirits from the village by shouting of Hoi and arrived now at jumping ground. We are about to carry out the act of shot-put. When we throw stone, Au Haipou Tingkao Ragwang, let us throw stone like Longdoi, thread ball".
Hymns of long-jump:
"Today is the day of festival of our village, when the act of long-jump begins, Au Apou Tingkao Ragwang, let us jump like Kah, grasshopper”.
A group of village elders divided into two to three groups, they separately will pay a visit at every household greeting the members of each family to enjoy joyously and warn them not to quarrel nor speak ill words against each other during the festival. If there is any kind of quarrel or fighting, the village authority will take a stern action against the offenders. This message is called Shaopaak Thetmei in local dialect. Then boys and girls will spend dining together, indulge in merry-making, drinking, eating, dancing, cutting joke and arrange a programme of Pazeimei in the village.
The 2nd Day –The great festival [Tamchan-Ngai]:
All the members of both male and girls' dormitories will bring their respective Tamchas; [Tamcha means gift/subscription in the form of meat, vegetable, etc. to their respective dormitories]. The deceased family also brings last presentation called Thei-Tamcha to the respective dormitories in the name of the person(s) who died in the previous year. Some quantity of Tamcha will be given to the owners of male and girls' dormitories as a respect and custom.
A Banja who acts as priest will perform chanting of Tamsuan [chutney] for two senior most Gaanpis and Zousuan [wine] for two Tunapis [two heads of girls' dormitory]. After the lunch, the members of male dormitory will collect Tamsuan and Zousuan in the form of money shouting Rilai Hoi from the four persons mentioned above. This is known as Tamchan-Ngai.
In the evening, only girls will perform a dance in (i) the house of Pei [the village Authority], (ii) Kengjapui Kaibang [the house of old women], (iii) Gaanchang Kaibang [the house of village elders], and (iv) Napmu Kaibang [the ritual house of paddy]. This dance is known as Tamchan Laam; [Tam means chutney of vegetables, Chan means request and Laam dance].
Objective of Tamchanmei:
The objective of Tamchanmei is to go and offer prayer at the above mentioned four traditional institutions not to cause any kind of illness, diseases of hardship to be inflicted to boys and girls for coming year. The Zeliangrong people treat the four social institutions as holy places.
Hymns of Tamchan:
"Au Apou Tingkao Ragwang today we are celebrating the Gaan-Ngai festival with a happy mood and offer dried fish, holy wine, salt-cake, Puan (coins) to you. We present to the above four institutions in honour of as holy places. So we pray to you to give a lasting and prosperous institution in future”.
The 3rd Day-Tuna Gaan-Ngai:
The 3rd day is called Tuna Gaan-Ngai [Festival of the youth]. In the morning, two Khangbons [Heads of male dormitory] and two Tunapi [Heads of girls' dormitory] will bring Tamcha to their respective dormitories. A priest will recite Tamsuan and Zousuan hymns.
After lunch, the male dormitory will shout Rilai Hoi holding a stick of fire wood in their hands and proceed to both houses of Khangbons and Tunapis and chant Tamsuam, Zousuan praising them for abundant gifts and wine. The male dormitory invokes to Tingkao Ragwang to give longevity of life and strength to both Khangbons and Tunapis. In the evening, boys and girls perform Khangbon Kadimei Laam, a farewell dance in honour of both Khangbons who have been promoted to a higher post called Gaanchang.
The 4th Day- Longkumei [Hill Trekking]:
Longruimei or Longkumei means hill trekking. Boys and girls climb a nearby hill for sight seeing. In olden days, they select kings and queens and adorn their heads by Phaak leaves as crowns. They show their talents in singing song, drum beating, Rajaimei [playing of penna/string] etc. After performing these activities Gakting Tam [pork chutney], wine, boiled vegetables etc. are offered to all present there. They return to the village and perform a dance in honour of the boys and girls who have been chosen as kings and queens. This dance is known as Phaakgang Laam. The families of the Kings and Queens will offer Laam Baan in the form of money, drink, chutney and other eatables.
The 5th Day- Napchanmei:
The whole day is busy for preparation of cooking. In the evening, a ritual ceremony of calling of paddy [Napkaomei] with a big cock invoking to goddess of food grains in charge [Majapui] for good harvest and prosperity for the coming year is observed at both dormitories namely Khangchu and Luchu. The cooked liver of fowl, rice, and crushed ginger will be offered to the goddess, Kambuipui, Charaipui and Kairao [ancestors] who live in the form of hearth stones in the house. This ceremony is called Napchanmei. The objective of calling of paddy is to restore the wasted rice at the time of preparation of cooking, eating etc. during the festival.
Napsin Gansin Raomei:
Napsin Gansin Raomei means criticism made to the leaders of male dormitory particularly to its senior most Ganpis for not being served delicious dishes during the festival. This programme is carried out at the courtyard of male dormitory after the grand feast. Their unsatisfied voices are expressed through songs. These songs are known as Napchan Luh. They also sing songs criticizing the matriarch of the male dormitory for her activities. These songs are meant to ensure welfare and prosperity in coming year. Then the present members will move inside the dormitory singing song, wishing prosperity and welfare for the coming year.
All the members of male dormitory will again proceed to the girls' dormitory for singing of song competition with the girls. On reaching at girls' dormitory, a village elder offers holy wine to Tingkao Ragwang praying not to cause any unwanted incidents during the course of singing of song competition. First, a boy will sing and followed by a girl in rotation. The competition will continue till late night. If the act of singing competition is over, boys return to male dormitory shouting Rilai Hoi.
The 6th Day-Rangpatmei (Worship of all gods of Zeliangrong):
It is believed that all the gods of Zeliangrong pantheon also participate in the celebration of Gaan-Ngai. So Raren Loumei, the performance of the sacrifices to seven brother gods and the deities worshipped in a particular village is observed on the last day of the festival at the abode of northern village deity. It is carried out by a priest and its objective is to ward off any diseases, hardship, illness, death etc. Evil spirits are not worshipped but they are propitiated not to give trouble to men. This ritual is known as Raren Loumei.
During the performance of the ritual, both the northern and southern village gates are closed and nobody is allowed to cross the gates. Violation of this restriction means evil consequences even death may happen. This is the reason behind any person is not allowed to go beyond the village gates. Another reason of closure of the village gates is to stop the evil spirits from entering the village.
For this ritual, every household will give a fowl, a piece of ginger and a bundle of banana leaves to the village authority. The village old men and old women will eat the cooked chickens and some quantity of chickens will be distributed to minor children. It is also a ritual of send-off all the gods [Rata Ginsonmei] up to village northern gate.
To be continued....
* Chaoba Kamson wrote this article for The Sangai Express and Hueiyen Lanpao (English Edition)
The writer is General Secretary, Tingkao Ragwang Chapriak Phom, Assam, Manipur and Nagaland
This article was posted on January 11, 2012.
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