Chakaan Gaan-Ngai : The living and biggest ritual festival
- Part 3 -
Chaoba Kamson *
Gaan-Ngai celebration at Keishamthong Kabui Khul, Imphal on 5th January 2015 :: Pix - Deepak Oinam
The 2nd Day – The great festival (Tamchaan-Ngai)
All the members of both males' 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 to males' and girls' dormitories as a 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 males' dormitory will collect Tamsuan and Zousuan in the form of money shouting Rilai huai from the four persons mentioned above. This is known as Tamchan-Ngai.
In the evening, only girls will perform a dance to (i) the house of village authority (Peikai) (ii) the house of old women (Kengjapui Kaibang) (iii) the house of village elders (Gaanchang Kaibang) and (iv) the ritual house of paddy (Napmu Kaibang). This dance is known as Tamchan Laam. (Tam means chutney of vegetables, chan means offering/request and laam means 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 boys and girls for coming year.
"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 institution in honour of as holy places. So, we pray to you to give a lasting and prosperous institution in future."
The 3rd Day – The youth festival (Tuna-Gaan-Ngai)
The 3rd day is called Tuna Gaan-Ngai (Festival of the youth). In the morning Khangbon (Heads of Males' Dormitory) and two Tunapi (Heads of Girls' Dormitory) will bring Tamcha to their respective dormitories. An old man will recite Tamsuan and Zousuan hymns. After lunch, the youth of Males' Dormitory will shout Rilai Huai holding a stick of firewood in their hands and proceed to both houses of Khangbons and Tunapis and chant Tamsuan and Zousuan praising for abundant gifts and wine.
The Males' Dormitory beseeches 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)
Longkumei or Longluimei means hill trekking. Boys and girls climb a nearby hill for sight seeing. They select kings and queens and adorn their heads by phaak leaves as crowns. They show their talents in singing song, drum beating, Rahjaimei (playing of Penna) 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 (Feasting of Deities)
The whole day is busy for preparation of cookings. In the evening, a ritual ceremony of calling of paddy (Napkaomei) with a big cock for goddess of food in-charge (Majapui) for good harvest and prosperity for the coming year, is performed at both dormitories. The cooked liver of fowl, rice, and grinding ginger will be offered to goddesses namely Kambuipui, Charaipui and Kairao (ancestors) who live in the form of hearth stones in the house. This is called Napchanmei.
Napsin Gansin Raomei
Napsin Gansin Raomei means criticism made to the leaders of Males' Dormitory particularly to its senior most Ganpis for not being served delicious dishes during the festivals. This programme is carried out at the courtyard of Males' Dormitory after the grand feast. Their unsatisfied voices are expressed through songs.
These songs are known as Napchan Luh. They also sing songs criticising the matriarch of the male dormitory for her activities. These songs are meant to ensure welfare and prosperity in the coming year. Then they will move inside the dormitory singing song, wishing prosperity and welfare for the coming year.
All the members of males dormitory will again proceed to the girls' dormitory for singing 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 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 the males' dormitory shouting Rilai Huai.
The 6th day – Rangpatmei (worship of all gods)
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 by the Zeliangrong people, 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 may invite evil consequences. This is the reason behind any person is not allowed to go beyond the village gates. Another reason of closure of the village gate 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 same quantity of chicken will be distributed to minor children. It is also a ritual of send off all the gods (Rata Ginsonmei) upto the village northern gate.
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 30, 2016.
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