Gaan - Ngai, traditional festival of Kabui
- Part 1 -

Dr. Heera Malangmei Kabui *

 Gaan Ngai Celebrations around Imphal :: 2011
Gaan Ngai Celebrations around Imphal in 2011 :: Pix - Dr. Heera Marangmei

Kabui is one of the ethnic tribes of Manipur. Traditional and Cultural Festivals of Kabui have been rolled down from many generations and Kabui is known popularly for its enchanting traditional dances, folksongs, seasonal festivals, costumes and its nature of humanity with other communities contributes Manipur a beautiful state and rich in traditional and cultural heritage. It may not be exgeralated to say that Kabui has unique and distinct arts and cultures, costume, folklores, legendary personalities like Tunaning, Gairemnang, Haipou Jadongang Malangmei, Rani Gaidinliu Pamei etc and are differed from other communities of Manipur.

Kabui is a distinct tribe of Manipur for observing its ancestral cultures and customs from time and space. They believe in Supreme God (Haipou Raagang), the creator of Heaven and earth, all living beings, air and water etc. Some of our brethrens have discarded the ancestral belief in Haipou Raagang and embraced into Western cultures. Those embracing with Western faiths become a mixed cultures and distinctness of its culture is lost in the air.

It may be pertinent to say that God has many Names as many as different communities. Mahatma Gandhi's quotes on Christ—a Great Teacher, "I regard Jesus as a great teacher of humanity, but I do not regard him as the only begotten son of God. That epithet in its material interpretation is quite unacceptable. Metaphorically we are all sons of God, but for each of us there may be different sons of God in a special sense.

Thus for me Chaitanya may be the only begotten son of God....God cannot be the exclusive Father and I cannot ascribe exclusive divinity to Jesus." (Harijan: June 3,1937). "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ"; Gandhi quotes.

GAAN NGAI : This year 2019, Gaan Ngai Festival of Kabui Community will be celebrating on 19th January 2019 ,which is on 13th Day of Wakching month in lunar Calendar year. It is the greatest traditional and cultural festival of Kabui Tribe living in the Globe. This festival once called Chakaan Gaan Ngai.

Gaan Ngai is believed to be originated from time immemorial when Supreme God, Haipou Raagang created all the planets, living and non living things. It is retold by our forefathers that in those days human being and gods were living together in common dormitory called Khangchu in the house of Tinpurengsongnang (Kabui believed that it is another name of Haipour Raagang incarnated in human form).

Most human being suffered at the hands of evil gods and lost their tranquillity life. Men begin to suffer and die due to the supremacy of harmful spirits. They decided to chase away the harmful spirits from the dormitory. Men requested Raagonliu, the wife of Tingpurensonnang, how they could protect their lives. She advised them to light a bonfire with fire woods in front of

Khangchu early in the morning and evening. She further advised them to chop the main pillar (tendai) of Khangchu at the dusk three times for seven days with a manly loud cry of Au..Aaa. Observe it for seven days then the evil deities would not harm the human beings. After observing the advice of Raagangliu, men had experienced the harassment with much relief and death occurred much lesser thereafter.

This lighting of bonfire is practised till today by the Kabui Community and this fire is distributed to every Kabui family on the first day of Gaan Ngai to overcome evil gods and for prosperity. When time passes, human population increases in many folds and they yield good agricultural harvesting year around.Human life was dull and monotonous on agricultural life. They decided to show gratitude to The Supreme God,Haipou Raagang by offering oblation of their harvest to receive HIS GRACE.They also offer their crops to the departed souls of their family members.

In earlier days,on the first day of festivity month,the Kabui village elder blows horn of bison,which signifies the Gaan Ngai has come and humble before Supreme God for the peaceful and prosperous Festivity.

 Gaan Ngai Celebrations around Imphal :: 2011
Gaan Ngai Celebrations around Imphal in 2011 :: Pix - Dr. Heera Marangmei

FIRST DAY OF GAAN NGAI (Ngai Gaangmei):-

The First Day of Gaan Ngai is called Ngai Gaangmei. The boys sleeping in Khangchu wake up on hearing the first cock crows of the day break (practised before time-piece was not invented) or crack of dawn. The first beating of Kahangchu's drum in pleasant rhythm signifies awakening or invoking Haipou Raagang and beseech for opening of His Golden Gate and Greeting of Gaan Ngain to Him.

After invoking drum beat to Haipou Raagang,the young boys of Khangchu will wake up one of the members of Pei ( Village Authority) to perform traditional ritual of " Guu lim dhan jaomei or Bambujaang lamei". Pei elder will perform this ritual first to the Kaipi Shongpu (Kaipi Bambu, northern deity of the village gate) with the offering of fine ginger and an egg and to the southern deity,Kaiba Shongpui (Kaiba Bambu) with similar offerings. This invokes the deities of Kaipi Shongpu and Kaiba Shongpui to protect from any unforeseen happenings during the festivity days.

The elder will offer Kabui customary wine to Haipou Raagang at Khangchu (Boys' dormitory).The young boys will beat the drum rhythmically around the village,heralding the commencement of Gaan Ngai.Young boys from Khangchu will extract fire from the Mhaigang and Mhairu ( traditional extraction of fire from the specific wood truck and fine bamboo splits) at the Dhansaangpung (Longjump plot).

The Pei member will announce to all the family of Kabui to collect the sacred fire. It signifies victory over evils and prosperity to family.But in the earlier days, the extraction of fire from Mhaigang and Mhairu was performed in each and every house of the Kabui village.The foods which are cooked with the sacred fire and offered a small portion of rice and liver of hen to the three legs of furnace (three hearth stones= Laibuh) before consumption of family members at supper. The name of the three hearth stones are (1) Kambuipui, (2) Charaipui and (3) Kairao.

In the morning at Khangchu the spleen of a boar is examined by the village elders for the sign of good and evil that is to come in the following year.Gaakpai zou (oblation of wine) is offered to Haipou Raagang after examination of boar's spleen.The boar meat with its blood are cooked together and consumed by all the members of Khangchu,Luchu (Girls's dormitory) along with Pei members. This boar meat cooked with blood is called "Jei-gan Tu mei".It is a pledge that the village people of will stand united at the times of happiness and sorrows.

In the afternoon when the sun declines towards westward,it is time for traditional shortput and long lump competitions. The competition ground is called Daanshangpung or Thenpung.Every male member young and old wear traditional shawls like phei-ngao, kharamphei, si-neiphei, masin-phei, thiam-phei. malei-phei, lang hu phei and headgear (guu). Elder members hold the traditional spears and gathering together at Khangchu.

They herald Traditional Hoi at Khangchu and offer sacred customary wine (rice beer) to Haipou Raagang.Tea,chutney and wine (rice beer) are being offered by the owner of Khangchu. From Khangchu , Hoi is heralded and marched towards northern gate of the village to the southern gate and proceeded to the northern gate again and ended at Daanshangpung.

The village headmen, Nampou (khunpu) or Namgakpou (khulapu) will first throw the stone declaring the opening of short put competition. Similarly, long jump is also opened either by Nampou or Namgakpou. Elders are allowed to throw the short put or jump to such a long distance so that no competitors will ever cross that distances.

The elders throw the shot put and long jump with a loud cry of traditional sound of Ka-giat mei ( Manly able sound). It is a c ommon belief of Kabui that if any competitors over jump or over shot the marks indicate bad sign for the village for the year. At the end of the competition, winners of shot put and long jump are declared to the elder khangbon and younger khangbon respectively.

Declaration of shot put is known a Tao lan shuan and long jump is Dhaan lan shuan. In the past, the competitions include shot put ,long jump,wresling, race,spear throw(javelin throw).At night hour boys and girls dine in group(Nap tu karon mei). Visiting the participants's house,headed by tunamun shinmei (male head of girls' dormitory). They visit the house singing traditional carolling songs. They wish the family members a joyous Gaan Ngai and prosperity of life.

A group of Pei elders (Gaanchang) with Khangbon visit every house of the village by knocking at the door with the stick warning or cautioning that there shall not be quarrel and not to speak evil or ill words during the festival. This cautioning activity is known as Shaopat Danmei or Kaidap-mei.

On this evening previous departed soul (dead person) is remembered and due honoured is bestowed to him or her by the family members. They beatify the grave yard and offer a bowl of rice , curry, a glass of traditional wine and water etc. This observation performed by the aggrieved family is called “Thei Meitei Ngai dongmei”.

(To be continued)

* Dr Heera Malangmei Kabui wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is president of Manipur Kabui Union
This article was webcasted on January 20 2019.

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