Gaan-Ngai, the Ritual Festival of Zeliangrong
- Part 2 -
Chaoba Kamson *
Gaan Ngai celebration at Ragailong, Near Minuthong, Imphal on January 2013 :: Pix - Deepak Oinam
5th Day — Napchanmei
There is no customary activity in the morning. After cooking, lunch will be served after shouting huai. The whole day is busy for preparation of cooking. Towards evening, Napchanmei, a ritual of calling of paddy of goddess with a cock or a pig is performed at the boys' and girls' dormitories to restore the wasted, missing, left out rice during the festival. After the chicken is cooked, rice, salt, crushed ginger, wine, chicken liver is offered to please Kambuipui, Charaipui and Ancestors who in turn will suppose to bless the boys' and girls' dormitories. Both boys' and girls' dormitories perform the offering on the hearth stones. It is believed that Kambuipui, Charaipui and Kairao (ancestors) live in the form of hearth stones. The same offering is also placed on the grain jar (Napshaam Pantilai). The ritual is performed by the household mother.
Napsin Gansin Raomei
After dinner, all the members of boys' dormitory will gather setting fire at the courtyard of dormitory and will start singing the song of Napsin Ganshin Raomei. Napsin Gansin Raomei means criticism made to the leaders of boys' dormitory particularly to its two khangbons and two senior most gaanpis for not being served delicious dishes during the festival. Their dissatisfactions are expressed through songs. These songs are known as Napchan luh. They also sing songs criticizing the matriarch of the male's dormitory for her activities. These songs are meant to ensure welfare and prosperity in coming year. Then they will move inside the boys' dormitory singing, joking songs and wishing welfare in the coming year.
Then the boys will proceed to the girls dormitory singing Luchu Kailong Ronluh for singing competition with the girls. The girls will remain stayed inside the house by closing the doors. On reaching at girls' dormitory, the boys will sing three different songs but same tune to open the doors. At the same time, the girls will respond that they are ready to open the doors. At last, the girls will open the door.
Then, the boys will take their respective seats. A village elder will offer holy wine to Tingkao Ragwang and other gods invoking them not to happen any trouble in the course of singing competition. First, a boy will sing and followed by a girl in rotation. The competition will continue till late night. After the singing competition is over, boys will return to male's dormitory shouting a short huai (Rilai huai).
In some villages, on the day of Napchanmei, a tree known as Naptengbang is planted at the courtyard of the houses where dance will be performed. A short huai will be shouted at the time of planting of Naptengbang. They make the dry paddy plants (Napgou) as bunch of paddy crops (Napgui) and hang in the branches of the tree. They select four or six houses to perform a dance known as Napteng Laam in the evening. Plantation of tree will be carried out according to seniority. The houseowners will bring one big cock each to boys' dormitory if the dance is already started by the first house.
Among the cocks, one most beautiful and good looking will be used for ritual purpose of calling of paddy at boys & girls' dormitories. When the dance is completed in all houses, a last dance to Khangchu and Luchu will be performed. After shouting huai (Naplao huai), dinner will be served at boys dormitory. Thereafter, the boys' dormitory will carry out a programme of Napsin Gansin Raomei. Nowadays, Napchanmei is performed next day of Napteng Lingmei. The planted trees (Naptengbang) will be unearthed on the first day of Rig-Ngai Festival in the month of February by performing a ritual of calling of paddy at boys dormitory.
6th Day - Rangpatmei
Early in the morining, Raangpatmei for the whole village is observed at the northern village gate by the members of village council for well-being and prosperity of the village. One cock each to all gods is sacrificed. Rangpatmei is the worship of all gods of Zeliangrong pantheon i.e. eight brothers of Ragwang, presiding deities of the village, the gods of wind, fire etc.
Evil spirits are not worshipped and they are propitiated not to disturb men and to go away from the society of mankind. The reason behind of closure of village gates is to prevent evil spirits from entering the village and also the villagers are not allowed to go beyond the village gate. If they happen to meet the evil spirits, they will face bad consequences. Every household will give a cock, a piece of fresh ginger and a bundle of plantain leaf to the village council. The chicken will be eaten by the oldest men of the pei (Banja), old women and minors. Gaanchang and adults are prohibited from eating as it is a prohibited food for them.
The following gods are worshipped at the ritual of Raren Loumei
|Name of God||Abodes of the Divine brothers.|
|Ragwang (Na-Ragwang)||Ragwang Phaipa, Koubru|
|Bisnu (Manchanu, Buichanu, Bonchanu)||Bhubon Hill, Cachar|
|Napsinmei (Laorang)||Ganglon Namthan (Phoulungba)|
|Charakilongmei||Bena (Thongrang Akutpa)|
|Karangong||Puching (Kheba Ching), Tamenglong|
|Dimei||The deity who could not hatch and remains under the earth.|
(i) Ragwang : Two layers of plantain leaf making a banana cup leaf one layer tearing seven pieces and another layer tearing eight pieces (Kachaakton) will be made to stand on the surface of the earth. Holy wine will be poured inside the banana cup leaf. A good looking cock will be sacrificed and its intestine will be removed and laid on the place of altar. Its legs will be observed.
(ii) Bisnu : A luiduk will be erected and wine will be poured. A good looking cock will be sacrificed. That cock will be given to priest. The cock offered to Bisnu is called as laigong which means holy. Its legs will be examined.
(iii) Napsinmei : Holy wine will be poured in banana cup leaf and a cock will be sacrificed. Its legs will be observed the omen.
(iv) Chonchai : Water instead of holy wine will be poured in banana cup leaf and a cock will be scrificed. The cock's legs will be examined the omen.
(v) Charakilongmei : Holy wine will be put inside the banana cup leaf. A cock is sacrificed and its legs will be observed to find out the omen.
(vi) Koklou : Holy wine will be put inside the banana cup leaf and a cock is sucrificed. Its legs will be observed by the priest.
(vii) Karangong : Sacred wine will be poured in banana cup leaf and a cock is killed and the priest will read the omen of the intestine.
(viii) Dimei : Banana cup leaf turning in opposite side will be used and wine will be poured therein and a cock is sacrificed.
Kunmei (evil spirit) : Banana cup leaf turning in opposite side will be kept and wine is poured. An egg will be kept in breaking.
Pa-ra (other evil spirits) : Banana cup turning in opposite side will be kept and holy wine wil be poured. Either an egg or a cock will be used or killed.
There may be slight difference of local deities depending on local variations. Old men (Banja) and old women (Karapei) are entertained and offered their shares. Minor children are informed to collect cooked chicken at the abode of northern village gate. That chicken is known as chaangramjan. The priest will recite hymns (Ragai Kaomei) for well-being and prosperity of the village. The members present will respond with one voice. Thus, the work of Raren Loumei comes to an end.
Rangpat Tamcha : Banja (old men) will bring Rangpat Tamcha in the form of eatables, salt-cake, materials etc. which are equally distributed to all banjas and old women. Gaanchangs are not entitled to entertain it.
Khupot Laitatmei : The hanging pipe made of bamboo which was earlier hung on the day of Longkumei at every household will be collected by the members of pei. The house owner will pour wine into the pipe and cover its mouth with cotton. This pipe will be thrown away beyond the village gate by the village elders.
Maru Zou : As customary practice, a banja will declare to all the villagers to come and collect the Maruzou (blessed wine). It is believed, if drunken, it is good for health and will have longevity of life.
Filling up the vacant posts and advanced invitation given for promotion :
If any post lying vacant in the village council before the celebration of Gaan-Ngai, the said vacant post is filled up on this day of Rangpatmei by a suitable seniormost person. It is formally declared by a banja with an iron-hoe in his hand in the name of Tingkao Ragwang. In addition, any promotion from Khangbon to Gaanchang, Gaanchang to Banja, Banja to Nampou or Namgakpou etc. and from married women to old women is decided on this day. In such cases, prior or advanced invitation (Kaphaan Timei) in the form of a local salf cake (Teikok Timei) is given to the proposed promotees for the next year.
Bukaomei (calling of souls) :
After the performance of Raren Loumei, the village elders will return to the house of village authority (peikai) where another ritual ceremony known as Bukaomei will be performed. A big cock for the villagers will be sacrified after chanting the hymns invoking Tingkao Ragwang to allow to return the souls (which temporarily escapes from the body because of startling news or action caused by accident) to its original places (human bodies). The cooked chicken will be eaten by the elders and pieces of the meat will also be distributed to every household to eat it. Thus, the Gaan-Ngai Festival comes to an end.
Conclusion : Festival is an inseparable part of Zeliangrong inhabitants of North East India. The people rejoice and offer prayer to the Almighty (Tingkao Ragwang) as thanksgiving and for future prosperity. Festival is a unique cultural phenomenon, a form of aesthetic expression of the Zeliangrong religion and philosophy. By observing the festivals, they sustain their rich cultural heritage and way of life. It is an essence of the Zeliangrong culture.
Lastly, I, on behalf of the Tingkao Ragwang Chapriak Phom, Assam, Manipur and Nagaland extend my hearty greeting to all the Zeliangrong people to celebrate the Gaan-Ngai festival 2014 (which begins from 13th January) joyously with a spirit of love and understandings.
* Chaoba Kamson wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao and The Sangai Express
The writer is General Secretary, Tingkao Ragwang Chapriak Phom, Assam, Manipur and Nagaland
This article was posted on January 13, 2014.
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