Gaan Ngai Festival
- Part 2 -
M Leirenjao *
Gaan Ngai Celebrations around Imphal in 2012 :: Pix - Jimmy Leivon
After the partaking of the morning feast, the senior members of the dormitory and the village council are given a simple head dress made of Gu bamboo to be worn by them in the Hoigammei ceremony. This is known as Pikam (head dress).
In the afternoon members of the boys' dormitory and elders went out in the procession invoking Tingkao Ragwang by ho hoing. The procession would proceed from the boys' dormitory to the northern gate of the village and then they would proceed to the southern gate of the village and then proceed to Daanshanpung (jumping stone).
At the Daanshanpung, youths would compete in stone throwing and long jump. The winners will give monetary gifts to the elders who gave blessings to the winners.
After the completion of the stone throwing and long jump competition, the members of the boys' dormitory will return to their respective dormitory by shouting Hoi. Then the elders of the village council would go to every household warning them not to indulge in quarrels and maintain peace and harmony in the household. The boys and girls also bring their meals at the dormitory, partake their food followed by song competition.
In the afternoon of the second day of the festival, the boys and girls would perform a dance known as Taamchanlaam at the offices of the village council (Peikai), office of the old women (Kengjapui kaibang), house of the performance of agricultural rites (Naapmu kaibang), office of the Gaanchang. Eatables are offered to them. They also performed the dances at the boys and girls' dormitories.
Tuna Gaan Ngai
The third day is known as Tuna Gaan Ngai (Festival of youths). On this day, the dormitories may perform farewell dances to those girls who are getting married in the next year. The dormitories also perform farewell dance to the persons who died in the previous year.
The next day is a hill trekking day. It is known as Longkumei/ Longruimei. The boys and girls of the dormitories go out in a hill trekking in a nearby mountain. They choose boys and girls known as Phak Gwang. They returned to the village and performed dances in honour of the boys and girls chosen as Phak Gwang. The dancing girls and boys were entertained by the host's families with drinks and eatables.
Napchan Ngai is performed on the last day of the festival. On this day people gathered at the dormitories of boys and girls, prepared a feast which everybody partakes. In the evening at the dormitories whatever left over during the past days of the festivals along with many wastages are to be restored with the performance of this ceremony. They offer cooked liver of pork and chicken to goddess Kambuipui, Charaipui and Keirao. Individual households also performed Napchanmei by offering a ceremony known as Napkaomei, calling of the goddess of paddy by offering a cock. The women folk of each household offer to the goddess of Kambuipui, Charaipui and Keirao at the hearth of the family.
The Napchanmei ceremony at the dormitory is performed by a sacrifice of a pig followed by interpreting its spleen which would give omen for the future. Pieces of flesh of the pig are cooked and partaken. On this day the elders of the village made the preparation for the performance of another ceremony known as Raangpatmei to be performed next day. All the members of the dormitories joined the community feast in the dormitory. The girls also joined the feast at their dormitory.
The head of the founder's clan of the village made the preparation for the performance of a ceremony known as Raang Pammei (guarding the village gate). A beautiful post from the forest would be cut and brought to the village gate. The whole village consisting of people holding tools like spade and dao would dig a hole under the blessing of an old man to raise the wooden pole. An egg, pieces of iron ore will be offered and buried to Tingkao Ragwang with chanting of hymns by the elders. Raang Pammei is a ceremony of reaffirmation of the solidarity of the village. The ceremony will be followed by a procession of youths shouting hoi from the village gate to the village jumping ground, Daanshanpung. The village would observe a taboo known as Munthinmei, refrain from eating. This is performed for the welfare and unification of the village.
After the end of the festival the village elders led by the priest of the village, a ceremony known as Raangpatmei (coming out of the village gate). In this ceremony offerings are made to seven brothers of Amban Ragwang, the presiding deities of the village and gods worshipped by the village and gods of nature.
The meat of the fowls sacrificed during the Raangpatmei ceremony are cooked and partaken by village elders and children. Usually an elder used to call the village children and the elders and come to partake the curry. The Baanja grade of elders of the village will bring eatable gifts to be partaken by them and children. After the completion of the ritual of Raanpatmei, the village elders would go to the village council office by shouting hoi and the priest would perform a soul calling ceremony known as Bu Kaomei. The meat of the fowl will be distributed to every household of the village.
Raangnit is performed at the end of the festival. The village community will pray to God and abstain from any work and stay in the village.
Genesis of festival
Chaoba Kamson writes, "according to myth, Tingkao Ragwang created Tingpurengsonang. From time immemorial, he was made a patriarch of common dormitory of gods, men, animals, creatures etc. At that time they all spoke a common language, had a common, food, drink etc. They celebrated Gaan Ngai festival at that time. The duty of Tingpurengsonang was to teach men how to speak and sing songs and how to behave a way of life etc. While living with gods if men attended first at male dormitory, men controlled over gods and vice versa.
Gods started killing men with a jealousy as men's intellect increased day by day so they could not compete with men. Then men appealed to Tingpurengsonang saying that men could not live any longer with gods as they (gods) killed men every day thus reducing the population of men gradually. Tingpurengsonang pacified men stating that men could not learn well the knowledge of language, traditional songs, system of worship etc. so men should continue to live at common dormitory. At last men also obeyed what Tingpurengsonang said. Tingpurengsonang taught men the tactic of retaliation to gods. The tactic was that men should cut the main ceremonial post of dormitory with a sword. It could be known.
Accordingly, men applied the divine tactic and killed the (gods) daily. Gods in turn complained to Tingpurengsonang that they (gods) wanted to live separating from men. He consoled them not to take such extreme steps but they (gods) rightly rejected the plea of Tingpurengsonang. Tingpureng-sonang further said, "One day you (gods) will approach me to participate the Gaan Ngai festival by that time what will you do"? They replied that they would not say anything to participate the festival. Knowing well their intention, Tingpureng- sonang made his judgement that men and gods were made separate allowing them to speak different languages, different food, drink, manner, habits etc.
The patriarch of the male dormitory taught well the knowledge of cultivation, culture, mode of worship of gods etc. In course of time, with the development of wisdom and intellect, men started cultivating and harvesting bountiful crops. While collecting and storing plenty of paddy, men celebrated Gaan Ngai festival merrily with the objectives of praising of Tingkao Ragwang, the Supreme God for good harvest, oblation of holy wine to Him, performance of religious, cultural, customary activities thus bringing peace and unity among men.
According to direction of Tingpurengsonang, men offered food, curry, drink, eatable to Tingkao Ragwang and other gods and invoked Him for longevity of life for coming year. They also offered food, drink, eatable etc. to the departed souls who died before the observance of Gaan Ngai. Seeing the observance of Gaan Ngai festival with a pomp and gaiety, gods one day approached Tingpurengsonang to allow them to participate the festival. At the very outset, Tingpurengsonang rejected their request saying that what had happened as, "I said before separation from men". They again and again requested him and at last he accepted their request. Tingpurengsonang called up men and said before the observance of Gaan Ngai festival, "You (men) should blow mithun or cow horn either at male dormitory or jumping ground inviting all kinds of gods to participate the festival.
Tingpurengsonang advised gods that they (gods) should in exchange give blessing to mankind. Further he ordered men that men should perform the Raren Loumei which means worship of all gods of Zeliangrong pantheon on the last day of the festival. This rite and ritual ceremony should be performed at northern gate of the village by a priest.
Accordingly men performed worship of seven brother gods of worldly Ragwang, surrounding gods, presiding deities and propitiate evil spirits to distance from mankind. It is believed, gods are escorted upto the northern gate of the village on the last day of the festival. Since then, Zeliangrong people have been performing the Raren Loumei ceremony on the last day of the festival. Thus, the Gaan Ngai festival had evolved from the house of Tingpurengsonang (Chaoba Kamson, 2010)
Zeliangrong people celebrate Gaan-Ngai festival to execute the following activities
A - Religious Activities
1. Ho-hoing which means worship of Tingkao Ragwang, the Supreme God as thanks giving for the good harvest and prayer for a sucessful and long life in the coming year is carried out.
2. Oblation of holy wine to Tingkao Ragwang and other gods after performing dance and shouting of Naplao hoi for lunch and dinner is performed. This hoi is compulsory before the meals.
3. Gingers and eggs are offered to presiding deities on the beginning of the festival early in the morning invoking them not to cause any kind of disturbances during the festival.
4. A ritual of calling of goddess of paddy on the day of Napchanmei is performed at boys and girls dormitories by a priest to recover those rice already consumed or missing etc. Individual families also performed this ritual on the first day of the festival.
5. A rite and ritual of Raren Loumei which means worship of all gods of the Zeliangrong pantheons is carried out on the last day of the festival at northern village gate. In the evening, a ritual of calling of soul is performed at peikai, the house of oldmen to return the souls of the villagers which went out of the body due to alarming happened in the last one year.
6. Rich tributes and homage in the form of rice, chutney of dry eel, meat, curry, drinks, eatables are offered on the graves for the departed souls. This is called Ngaidongmei which means departed souls are honoured.
7. To appease his/her soul a community feast in the name of the deceased is arranged by the deceased family inviting his/her friends and relatives.
B - Customary Activities
1. Admission of new members (boys and girls) to boys and girls dormitories is registered promoting from minor to major by giving a piece of pork piercing with a string of bamboo which is known as ganleng timei.
2. Strict observance of discipline among the boys and girls to bring undrstanding and unity in the society is maintained.
3. Promotion from Khangbon to Gaanchang, Gaanchang to Banja, Banja to Khunbu or Khunlaak etc., from women to old women, filling up of any vacant posts are done during this festival.
4. Newly married women are formally admitted to Women Instituition (Mathenmei Kaibang) as its members.
5. A customary pig thigh in big size is given away by boys dormitory to Khangbon who is to be promoted to Gaanchang and girls who are going to be married after the festival as a part of honour.
6. Big pig thighs are also given away to those members of boys and girls dormitories who died before the festival as a token of farewell.
7. Those deceased families also offer gifts to boys or girls dormitories after the name of the deceased. Both the dormitories offer curry cooked by them to the deceased with the belief that the dead are also with the living persons till the Gaan-Ngai festival is over.
C - Cultural Activities
1. A programme of singing competition of folk song specially based on romance is carried out at Girls Dormitory.
2. Traditional drum beating, playing of harp etc. are performed.
3. Performance of cultural dance in associating with song, pazeimei which means sitting and singing togather the romantic songs are also performed.
4. Commemorative dances for those who are declared kings and queens adorning the leaves of Phaak and putting on the heads are performed towards evening after trekking in a nearby hill where boys and girls used to sing traditional folk songs.
5. Farewell dances in honour to khangbon who is to be promoted to Gaanchan and girls who are going to be married after this festival are performed along with those members of both dormitories who died before the festival as a mark of respect to the departed souls.
6. Youth perform a patrolling singing the village guarding songs and spending the whole night with a spear each in their hands to ward off any unwanted incident during the festival (Kailong Lonmei).
On the first day towards evening of the festival, games and sports activities such as shot put, long jump, wrestling, jevelin throw etc. are performed after hoi procession.
Lastly, I, on behalf of the Tingkao Ragwang Chapriak Phom, Assam, Manipur and Nagaland greet heartily all the followers of TRC in particular and Zeliangrong people in general to enjoy happily the Gaan-Ngai festival 2013 with pomp and gaiety by the spirit of love and peaceful co-existence which will bring harmony and prosperity in the coming year in Manipur.
* M Leirenjao wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on January 27, 2013
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