Chakaan Gaan-Ngai : The living and biggest ritual festival
- Part 2 -
Chaoba Kamson *
Gaan-Ngai celebration at Keishamthong Kabui Khul, Imphal :: 5th January 2015 :: Pix - Deepak Oinam
Gaan-Ngai makes Zeliangrong people cheer
When spring season comes all trees and plants sprout, when rainy season sets in, vegetables grow profoundly, flowers bloom abundantly likewise Zeliangrong people also feel happy when much awaited Chakaan Gaan-Ngai festival comes. Their minds fill joy and gaiety and their faces look cheerful as festival is a part of life in human society.
Preparation of Gaan-Ngai
Two or three months before the celebration of Gaan-Ngai, some boys of males dormitory will set out to the nearest jungle to search and cut the thin bamboos (Guu). The bamboos will be made to dry for making headgear (Guu-pikam) which will be used on the first day of Gaan-Ngai huai procession (Huaigammei). Besides, the boys will prepare and get ready Mhaigang and Mhailu (Dried wood and bamboo splint) for producing at sacred fire which will be used in cooking.
The village council (pei) will formally announce the coming of the Gaan-Ngai festival for making wine. Hearing it, the villagers will prepare arrangement for the festival. On the other side, the Males Dormitory performs an act of blowing of cow or buffalo or mithun's horn (Goichei Kapitmei) which signals harbinger of ChakaanGaan-Ngai at Male's Dormitory or Jumping Ground (Daanshaanpung) inviting all kinds of gods for participation and informing the villagers for necessary arrangement of the festival. This is called as heralding of Gaan-Ngai (Gaan-Shaanmei). Boys will first dig the jumping ground on this day. The villagers are informed by the village council to make soak germinated paddy (Nappok Thuntho) prepare to wine.
Girls are busy for weaving works for the festival while boys prepare headgears (pikam) and repair traditional drum. Boys and girls are in practice of dance and learn folk songs for singing competitions. Boys are busy beautifying the village with decoration. Girls are engaged on their house works in keeping it neat and clean. They pound wet rice for making rice beer. Those who are in service outside Manipur state and students who are studying beyond the state return home for celebration and enjoyment of the festival. So, everybody loves Gaan-Ngai and calls its name Chakaan Gaan-Ngai when Chakaan season approaches.
One day ahead of Gaan-Ngai
One day ahead of the festival a village old man will inform the villagers to get ready banana leaf and eatables for the festival. In the morning at Males and Girls' Dormitory, an act of checking of firewood called Thingtinmei is carried out. Each and every member of Males and Girls' Dormitories will bring a faggot of firewood (Mailamban akhat). Thereafter, a Huai procession starting from northern gate of the village will march to the Males Dormitory.
On reaching there, some firewood will be presented to the owner of Males' Dormitory. Then, the Males'Dormitory will bring out an earthen jar of rice beer (zoulai) followed by oblation of holy wine to Tingkao Ragwang and other gods. A little quantity of Tam and a glass of rice beer will be given first to the owner of Males' Dormitory as a courtesy.
The same procedure will also be done to the Girls' Dormitory. In the evening, boys will collect a ginger and an egg from every household of the village for ritual offering to northern and southern presiding deities.
Maintenance of Discipline
All the boys including head boys will assemble inside the house of Males' Dormitory. The Gaanpi will teach young boys to obey what the elders say, to maintain discipline among themselves to execute the works assigned to them. Any member who disobeys the orders of the elders or senior will be punished by beating a whip as per custom.
As practice and convention, all the boys will be beaten on this day compulsorily. If the young boys make a request by producing a bottle of wine not to beat them and assuring that they will definitely execute all necessary duties. If the assurance is satisfied then they may be exempted from this punishment.
The 1st day of the festival (Ngaigangmei)
The first day of the festival is called Ngaigangmei. First, a small hour in the day-break, a riutual will be performed at the abode of northern and southern village deiteis by an old man offering an egg and a piece of ginger invoking them not to cause any kind of untoward incidents during the festival. Then, the priest will offer holy wine to Tingkao Ragwang and lower realm gods. Therefore, boys will start beating drum which singnifies beginning of Gaan-Ngai festival.
Extraction of fresh fire
New fire is produced by the extraction of dried wood and bamboo splint on the first day of the festival at the Jumping Ground or at the individual house. If it is done at Jumping Ground, an elder will inform the villagers to come and collect the fresh fire which will be used in cooking. It is believed that if man eats the food cooked with the new fire, there will be a long life and prosperity of the coming year.
Sacrifice of pig
A big pig will be sacrificed as offering to Tingkao Ragwang and the spleen of the victim will be observed to find out the future omen. Then, holy wine locally called Gakpai Zou will be offered to Tingkao Ragwang and other lower realm gods. Then the grand feast is prepared at Males and Girls' Dormitories. After having cooked.
Ho-hoing known as Naplao-huai will be performed for dinner and followed by oblation of holy wine to Tingkao Ragwang and other gods. All the members of Males' Dormitory will first taste the curry of zeigan (curry of pig's internal organs cooked with blood) which is very important. Zeigam Tumei is equivalent to oath-taking.
Shouting of Huai
Shouting of huai is a kind of worship of Tingkao Ragwang. The philosophy of huai procession in the festival is to dispel evil spirits from the village.
Sports activities (i) 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.
(ii) The purpose of long jump is to make the swelling earth kick 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 Short-put
"We have dispelled evil spirits from the village by shouting huai and arrived now at jumping ground. We are about to carry out the act of shot-put competition. When we throw stone, Au. Haipou Tingkao Ragwang, let us throw stone like thread ball (Langdoi).
Hymns of Long Jump
"Today is the day of festival of our village, when the act of long-jump begins, Au. Haipou Tingkao Ragwang, let us jump like grasshopper (kah).
After sports activities are over, a group of village elders divided into two to three, will go every household greeting the members to enjoy joyously the festival and warn them not to quarrel nor speak ill-words against each other during the festival. If there is any 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, entertain drinking, eating, dancing, joking, singing etc. They may arrange a programme of waving of sash (Pazeilaam). Some boys look after the village singing the village guarding songs the whole night.
To be continued...
* Chaoba Kamson wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is General Secretary, Tingkao Ragwang Chapriak Phom, Assam, Manipur and Nagaland.
This article was posted on Janaury 25, 2016.
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