TODAY -

Chakaan Gaan-Ngai, the living ritual festival of Zeliangrongs
- Part 2 -

Chaoba Kamson *

Gaan-Ngai - A ritual festival of Zeliangrongs at Ragailong in Imphal East ::  January 10 2017
Gaan-Ngai at Ragailong in Imphal East on January 10 2017 :: Pix - Bishwarjit Taorem



On the eve 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 Dormitories, an act of checking of wirewood called Thingtinmei is carried out. Each and every member of Males and Girls' Dormitories will bring a faggot of firewood (Mhailamban 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 offered 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 deiteis.

Teaching to Youth

All the boys including head boys will assemble inside the house of Males' Dormitory. The gaanpis will teach young boys to obey to obey what the elders say, to maintain decipline 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)

Prayer to presiding deiteis. : The Gaan-Ngai festival lasts for 5 to 7 days depending on local variation. The first day of the festival is called Ngaigangmei. First, a small hour in the day-break, a ritual will be performed at the abode of northern and southern village deiteis by an old man offering an egg and a piece of fresh 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.

Heralding of Gaan-Ngai by beating drum

Thereafter, boys will go around the village beating drum which signifies 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 man eats the food cooked with the new fire, there will be a long life and prosperity of the coming year. Sacrifice of pig and examination of its spleen & eating of blood curry: 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.

After cooking, the grand feast is prepared at Males' and Girls' Dormitories and followed by Ho-hoing known as Naplao Huai with 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 equal to oath-taking.

Ho-Hoing : 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.

Calling of paddy by individual family

Towards evening of the first day of the festival in the individual family, a ritual of calling of paddy (Napkaomei) offering a big cock to Tingkao Ragwang as thanksgiving for the plentiful harvest is performed chanting the relevant hymns. Then, the cock's legs are observed to know the omen and followed by offering of holy wine to Tingkao Ragwang and other goods. After finishing the cooking, the cooked liver of the cock will be offered to Kambuipui, Charaipui and Ancestors who live at the hearth stones to bless for good fortune, health, richness.

Sports activities

(i) The object 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 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 huai and arrived now at jumping ground. We are about to carry out the act of shot-put competition. When, we throw, "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).

Greetings 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 fighting, the village authority wil take a stern action against the offenders.

Dining together with merry making. 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 (pazeimei). Some boys look after the village singing the village guarding songs for the whole night. That is called Kailong Lonmei.

The 2nd Day The great festival (Tamchan-Ngai) : All the members of both Males' and Girls' Dormitories will bring their respective Tamchas (Tamcha means gift/subscription in the form of meat, vegetables 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 Males' and Girls' Dormitories as a custom. A Banja who acts as priest will perform chanting of Tamsuan (Chutney) for two senior most Ganpis 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.

Ritual Dance (Tamchan Laam) : In the evening, only girls will perform a dance to (i) the House of Village Authority (Peikai) (ii) the House of Old Women (Kengjapui Kaibung) and (iii) the House of Village Elders (Ganchang Kaibung). 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 institutions not to cause any kind of illness, diseases of hardship to boys and girls for coming year. Blessing Hymns : "Au. Haipou Tingkao Ragwang, today we are celebrating the Gaan-Ngai festival with a happy mood and other dried fish, holy wine, salt-cake, puan (coins) to you. We present to the above institutions in honour to the holy places, So, we pray to you to give a lasting and prosperous institution in future.

The 3rd Day The Youth Festival : The 3rd day is called Tuna Gaan-Ngai (Festival of the Youth). In the morning Khangbon (Head of Males' Dormitory) and two Tunapis (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 Ganchang.

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 January 26, 2017.


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