TODAY -

Gaan Ngai Festival
- Part 1 -

M Leirenjao *

Gaan Ngai Celebrations at New Delhi :: January 30 2010
Gaan Ngai Celebrations at New Delhi in 2010 :: Pix - Anthony Gangmei



Gaan Ngai is the greatest festival performed by the followers of Tingkao Ragwang Chapriak among the Zeliangrong people of north east India inhabiting the states of Assam, Manipur and Nagaland. The Zeliangrong people called this festival by different names, Zeme name is Hegangi, Liangmai name is Chagangi and Rongmei name is Gaan Ngai. Gaan Ngai literally means festival of the winter season. It is popularly known as Chakaan Gaan Ngai performed during the winter season when the leaves of the trees are dried up during the month of Chakan Gaan Bu. The Gaan Ngai is performed in the dry season known as Chakan Gaan Bu.

Originally the Zeliangrong people during the post harvest season performed a festival in the month of Chakak (October). However, the Zeliangrong community leaders decided in 1947 to perform the Gaan Ngai on the 13th day of Meetei month of Wakching. This year, the Gaan-Ngai festival falls on 25th January 2013. The Zeliangrong people performed the Gaan Ngai as a worship of Tingkao Ragwang during the post harvest period when their granaries are filled with their crops and they were having a recess before they start their jhum cultivation.

During this post harvest period the festival is performed. The women folk may weave cloths for themselves, their husbands and their children. The girls and boys clean their households, rehearse their dances, songs and drums and get ready their ceremonial costumes to be worn in the coming festival. The approaching festival aroused the festive mood of the young people.

The Zeliangrong people count their days according to the lunar calendar. They count the days, months, years according to the course of the moon. Thirty days make a month; three months make a season (Tingdak), four seasons make a year; twelve months make a year. It is necessary to know how the day of the festival is fixed as per the following chart.

Sl. No. Name of Season (Tingdak) Name of Month (Bu) Meetei Month
1 Spring (Charek Bu) Rihnagibu, Nanubu ((February, March, April))
Laokeibu (Napkaodaibu)
Phairen, Lamta
Sajibu
2 Rainy (Charu Bu) Laophunbu, Malengbu
(May, June, July, August) (Guduibu), Tun Ngaibu, Pukphatbu
Kalen, Enga, Engen,
Thawan
3 Autumn (Chakak Bu) Pukphatbu, Napthai
(September, October) Phaobu
Langban, Mera
4 Winter (Tingshei Bu) Laotai banbakbu
(November, December, January) Banchatbu (Dongjaobu)
hagabu (Gaanbu)
Hiyangei, Poinu,
Wakching


So within the four seasons and twelve months, the working months are eight only and there are eight festivals within a year as given below.

Performance of Festivals: Annual Chart

Sl.No. Month Festival Meetei Month English Month
1 Nanubu Nanungai Lamta March
2 Laokeibu Napkaodai Sajibu April, May
3 Guduibu Maleng Ngai/ Guduingai Enga June, July
4 Tun Ngaibu Tun Ngai, Ten Ngai Engen Aug
5 Pukphatbu Pukphat Ngai Thawan -
6 Banchatbu Banchat Ngai/ Dongjao Ngai Poinu Dec
7 Chagabu/ Gaanbu Gaan Ngai/ Chaga Ngai Wakching January
8 Rih Ngaibu Rih Ngai Phairen Feb


Preparation for the Gaan Ngai

With the coming of the winter season, the youths of the boys' dormitory cut the Tabang and Tamu trees for making Maigang for production of fresh fire. They also made Mairu out of the pieces of Gu bamboo. It is the duty of the youths of the dormitory to perform ritual fire production during the Gaan Ngai festival. The Gaan Ngai festival is a long process held during the winter season (during December and January).

With the approach of the month of Gaanbu, the youths of the boys' dormitory blow the horn of the buffalo or bull. Blowing of the horn is known as Gaan shanmei or Gaan chenmei, announcing the approach of the Gaan Ngai festival. It is believed that Tingkao Ragwang and other gods and men would be informed of the approaching festival. The village women folk would prepare rice beer for offering to Tingkao Ragwang and other gods, the village deities (Shongpui Shongpu) and past ancestors (Kairao). The village elder would announce the preparation of the rice beer (preparation of sprouted paddy for yeast, pounding of the rice flour and making of the rice beer).

With the coming of the month, the village elder will consider the calendar of the festival and specific ceremonies to be performed during the festival like promotion of members of the dormitory to higher posts like Khangbon kadimei, Gaanpi kadimei, dance in honour of women folk, promotion of women folk to elders' house, dances in honour of the dead, farewell dance for bride. The members of both boys' and girls' dormitory will try to carry out the decisions of the elders. They will gather eatables like animals, rice, vegetables, wine and rice beer for the coming feast.

Thinglemmei (gathering of firewood)

In the past the boys and girls of the dormitories collected firewood and carried them to their respective dormitories in a procession by shouting hoi. Nowadays the dormitories purchased firewood for their use. In some villages, in the fifth day village elders announce the collection of rice for preparation of food and rice beer. On the eighth day they asked the villagers to prepare the rice beer for drinking during the festival. On the twelfth day which is on the eve of Gaan Ngai the elders made an announcement to collect meat and vegetables for partaking during the festival. The dormitories will examine the wood and bamboo (maigang and mairu) for preparation of fresh fire, drum, stone (for stone throwing competition), clearing of the abodes of the village deities for performance of Daan jaomei (omen taking).

On the eve of Gaan Ngai womenfolk, the members of Mathenmei (Women House) may arrange a feast for their members. They would give farewell feast and dance for womenfolk who are being promoted to the House of Old Women (Kengjapui). The members of the Mathenmei under the guidance of their leaders performed sacrifices and offer the animals to Tingkao Ragwang. On the eve of Gaan Ngai, the youths of the village will gather at the boys' dormitory to prepare for the ceremonies of the Gaan Ngai festival.

The first day of the Gaan Ngai festival is known as Ngai Gangmei. It is important for the followers of Tingkao Ragwang to participate in the ceremonies. At the dawn of the first day, the village priest with the help of the village dormitory will perform an omen taking ritual known as Daan jaomei. Then the elders would proceed to boys' dormitory and offer holy wine to Tingkao Ragwang accompanied by sacrifices of pig to the Tingkao Ragwang.

Maithan Lapmei

The youths of the dormitory under the guidance of the elders would produce fresh fire by the method of friction between maigang (wood) and mairu (pieces of Gu bamboo). A new fire so produced will be distributed to every household who will perform Napkaomei ceremony (calling of the goddess of paddy) in the evening. Mairapmei or production of fresh fire by friction method is believed to be an imitation of such an act performed during the Jourumei ceremony of a law giver known as Amang.

Wine

Wine in different forms like rice beer and liquor is widely used as an item of offering to Tingkao Ragwang followed by drinking among the elders and members of the dormitory. On the first day of Gaan Ngai, omen taking by interpreting the spleen of the sacrificed pig is an important ritual. This is known as Gakpai jaomei. After the pig is cleared of its hairs before cutting it into pieces, a piece of meat cut out of the body of the pig is offered to Tingkao Ragwang. This is known as Thangka Keimei.

Jan Phakmei (cutting open of the pig)

The pig will be cut into specific forms of meat to be distributed to the elders or concerned persons as follows.

1. Pig's legs are given to Khangbon. The front legs and hind legs are given according to the age grade of the elders.

2. Pig's legs are given to leaders of Khangchu for promotion to Gaanchang and girls who are going to get married in the coming year.

3. Pig's legs are also given to the members of the boys' and girls' dormitory who died in the previous year.

4. The private parts of the animal are given to the elders of the Baanja rank.

5. Meat of the abdomen (kajab) is given to the Gaanchang grade.

6. Piece of meat of a size of a hand is given to boys and girls who are going to be admitted to their respective dormitories in the coming years.

7. Those boys and girls who are to be admitted to their respective dormitories may be given meat in advance two or three years.

Meat is also given to the wife of the owner of the dormitories. The specific forms of meat distributed to the age grade elders are given below.

* Katingtei flesh of the backbone
* Kanakpai rib bones
* Karou (kating)
* Karing koklou bone of the buttock
* Laikhum breast bone
* Kalunthu heart
* Jandai janna flesh cut out of the abdomen
* Pangtingtei meat of the back
* Kalungtingtei meat of the inside backbone
* Katha paklaona fats

The spleen and insides of the pig will be cooked and partaken in the name of Tingkao Ragwang. This is known as Zeigan tumei (eating of cooked blood curry).

To be continued ....


* M Leirenjao wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on January 24, 2013



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