Gaan-Ngai : the festival of light and victory over evils
Lanbon Kabui *
Gaan Ngai Celebrations in Imphal :: January 07 2012 :: Pix by Bullu Raj
Autumn season bring joy and festive mood in the Zeliangrong countrysides, heralding the arrival of Chankan- "Gaan-Ngai", the festival of light and victory over evils. Recognised as a scheduled Tribe (ST) Zeme, Liangmei, Rongmai & Puimei (Kabui & Kacha Naga), the composite community, Zeliangrong finds a common entity.
A compact geographical area comprising Peren, Kohima, Dimapur districts (Nagaland), N.C. Hills, Cachar & Helakandi districts (Assam) & Tamenglong, Senapati, Henglep Sub-division of Churachandpur district, Imphal East, Imphal West, Jiribam (IE), Thoubal, Bishnupur districts (Manipur), Zeliangrong community though fragmented (as minorities every where) can be now approximately a population of 3 or more lakhs.
Gaan-Ngai is a State holiday of Manipur (13th day of Wakching - Dec - Jan.), National Tourist Festival & restricted holiday in Assam (2nd Dec.) as approved by the State Government earlier, it was held in Poinu (still many celebrate).
Significance of Gaan-Ngai
The significance of Gaan-Ngai depicts the mythology how "Amangh", the godly man who built the first "Tarangkai" (house of honour of painted house among human beings (Now turned God) induced man & tiger to a contest to ignite fire man won the test that he was given authority to rule over all creatures on earth.
Amangh who followed the example set by Tingpuleng-sonang, head of God-Man dormitory & God of earth built the house of dignity and also empowered man to be master of the world as man ignited fire by robbing it with a bamboo flint from a wooden log, "Ring-maigang" (atypical tree) as Tingpulengsonang blessed man to win war against gods during His time as head of dormitory. The gods disobeyed him as men obeyed.
To celebrate the victory over evil & darkness, a festival was first held for just one day by extracting sacred fire, till it because a 7 day affairs.
Day = 1 Lui-lamei (Preliminary festival)
Women find plantain leaves for use as dishes or container of wine and also variety of vegetables for the festival. Youths find fuel woods for their respective dormitories and also dry bamboo pieces for night time country/rural torches of the festival.
Cattles are butchered for the days long festival young men & women gathered at the Girl's dormitories to hold song & music competitions as traditional (Lu Kemmei- Lamronlu only).
Day - 2 Ngaigangmei (Inaugural festival day)
Men, women & children take festive baths from sunrise till evening while elders renovate village gates for ceremonial events. Gods & Goddesses & homage to departed souls are worshipped and offerings dedicated to Gods & goddesses for their blessing during the festival.
In the evening traditional sports like high jump, long jump, shot put are held and till late night KaiIong-lonmei (Carol or marching with songs) performed by men. Special dishes & drinks enjoyed.
Day - 3 Ngaidaih (main festival)
In the morning, elders and young people enjoy joint dinner at their respective dormitories. Then or khel composed of a boys dormitory & a girls donnitory that there may be two to seven thens or khels each having two dormitories.
Tamchanmei or Khangbon - Tamcha (elders of then or dormitory) - pickles or special meats or curries with rice beer/rice brew served. Young men & young women's rice beer/too Kare-Ke Kung" or joint singing of solicitous bidding prompting to marriage held as traditional to cause generating mankind by men at a thenkhel jointly. Kailong-Lonmei/carol at night continues.
Day - 4 Ngailan (Central function of Khel/then feast)
Feasts held at respective khels/thens or dormitories are "Then Suimei (to enrol new members from among the children) children activities held and many festive items performed. Tamchanmei of elders, boys & girls (served with rice beer, and pickles) dances held.
Day - 5 Ngailan (Central function of fruit distribution)
Fruit - gooseberry (Tarouthai) are brought by boys jointly (thens or khels jointly) to the village and distributed each house hold to signify the message of posterity and prosperity for all. Dances (Lam) held at the residences of Khangbon and Tooapi, Ganpi (heads of boys/girls) special dishes served and drinks offered Kailong-lonmeil caroling held night time as usual.
Day - 6 Rangpamh-Ngai/Rangpat Ngai (Gates dedication festival)
Young people enjoy peak climbing/Longkumei with special dishes and drinks. They perform dances bangseng-lam or dances with bamboo poles held by each participant.
At night Rangpammei/gate's oath is held to find omens for the coming year.
Day - 7 Chi-dan samnei (bamboo flint omen)
In the morning, elders assemble and interpret dreams of gate's omen dreamt by two young men assigned/selected earlier/previously. Then bamboo flints are held apart by two young men to read signs of divinity. Young people find fire woods for respective dormitories (Kailu thing remmei) and in the evening "Tuna Sonmei" or escorting girls home with singing is held.
The village gate is closed and prohibited people from going out whole day or Neimai held. Now, these days are limited to four or five days in the modern time Gaan-Ngai festival.
* Lanbon Kabui wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on January 09, 2012.
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