Lui-Ngai-Ni 2013 : Theme with 'Weaving Peace Through Culture'

TS. Warngam *

Lui Ngai Ni Celebrations at Senapati, Manipur :: February 15, 2007
Lui Ngai Ni Celebrations at Senapati, Manipur on February 15, 2007 :: Pix - David M Mayum

The Nagas have been struggling in pursue of their political aspiration for the last many decades. They have suffered immense difficulties and hardships. Many precious lives have been snubbed and maimed. Untold miseries of inhumane tortures, rape, force labour, damage of properties, burning of villages, so on were their daily experiences at the hands of the adversaries.

Despite all these ordeals, the Nagas continue with their movement consistently and unhindered. They have always continued to preserve their unique Identity through cultural and traditional practices. Merry-making and festivities formed integral part of their life. In fact every important event of their life is celebrated as festival. The Nagas are divided by arbitrary state boundaries between and within India and Myanmar. This has constrained them in many ways but the emotional attachment among them could not be barred by such artificial lines.

Every Naga tribe has their own festivals which are celebrated at the village and tribe level. Of late, Nagas have organised themselves and jointly celebrate festivals at the regional level. Nagas in Nagaland state celebrate Hornbill festival every year. In the same manner, Nagas in Manipur celebrate LUI-NGAI-NI every year.

The Naga leaders in Manipur feel the need and urgency to celebrate a common festival. A seminar was held on the 10th may 1986 at GM hall Imphal which was attended by the then Hon'ble minister of state Mr. Gaikhangam and Hon'ble MLA Mr. Benjamin Banee as the chief guest and functional president respectively. It was recommended that a common festival of the Nagas in Manipur be celebrated every year on the 15th of February under the name and style of "Naga seed sowing festival".

This festival, after much discussion and studies, was named "Lui-Ngai-Ni" in indigenous dialect putting together the best appropriate and relevant words of the tribes. The collective efforts of the Nagas enabled them to shape and celebrate "Lui-Ngai-Ni" for the first time on 15th Feb.1987. In recognition of this zealous efforts, the Govt.of Manipur has declared a state holiday for the festival and in 1997, the ministry of tourism, Govt.of India has also listed the festival as one of the tourist festival in India.

LUI-NGAI-NI is therefore the seed sowing festival of the Nagas living in the present state of Manipur. On this day of the festival, seeds of different crops are brought together and invoke the almighty God to shower blessings on the seeds so that it grows to bear fruits for bumper harvest in order to ensure the well-being of the people.

The blessing of the supreme deity is besought with expressions through dances, songs, games & sports, rituals, etc performed by the various tribes. This cultural continuity is a way of showing our unique identity. And it is this continuity which we see in some of the most delightful dances, songs and other customary rituals presented by LUI-NGAI-NI every year.

Out of many festivals that different Naga tribes celebrate, there are those which are uncommon in design, purpose and time. But the LUI-NGAI-NI (Seed sowing festival)is one of them which are celebrated by all Naga Tribes almost simultaneously during the spring season.

In fact, the phenomenal diversity with the Naga community itself adds colors to the collective diversity of the world. In all, there are about 40 odd tribes that constitute the Naga society, and out of these about 16 tribes are found in Manipur alone. They are Anal, Maring, Lamkang , Moyon, Monsang, Chothe, Tarao, Tangkhul, Mao, Poumei, Maram, Thangal, Chiru, Kharam, Inpui and Zeliangrong (Zemei, Liangmei & Rongmei).

Like many indigenous tribes of the south East Asia, the Nagas have rich and colourful cultures. Every Naga tribe celebrates various festivals signifying important events in their life. And LUI-NGAI-NI is the festival of festivals celebrated in modern form the aged old festival of spring signifying the sowing of seeds.

Though the Nagas have no well documented customs, traditions, legends, beliefs and values, many of it are relayed/passed through oral and visual traditions in the forms of song,dance,story-telling,rites and rituals, wood carvings, festivals, megaliths, etc.The written history of today does not adequately reflect the pristine wisdom of our ancestors.

LUI-NGAI-NI is celebrated under the aegis of UNC by default being the apex body every year in the district head quarters of Chandel, Ukhrul, Senapati and Tamenglong by turn in rotation. UNC usually initiated formation of organising committee with all the sub-committees who in turn shouldered the responsibilities to make the event grand success. It is celebrated with the support and contributions from the tribes, well wishers, officers, politicians, leaders, contractors, businessmen, etc.

LUI-NGAI-NI 2013, is being celebrated in Chamdil (Chandel) under the leadership of Mr.Somipam Lungleng as the Chairman of COC and parental care & guidance from the UNC headed by Mr. L. Adani as its President with the theme "Weaving Peace Through Culture".

In celebrating the Lui-Ngai-Ni festival, the Nagas rekindle their past glorious traditions and values for their posterity, perhaps, re-enact and promote our dances, songs, customary values and rituals. Thus, the rich Naga cultures forms our resources in today's context.

May the celebration of Lui-Ngai-Ni usher in peace and better understanding among us all.

Wishing you all happy Lui-Ngai-Ni.

* TS. Warngam wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao
The writer is Vice president, United Naga Council
This article was posted on February 14, 2013.

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