Significance of Gaan-Ngai festival
- Part 3 -
Budha Kamei *
Gaan-Ngai at Changangei Kabui Village , Imphal West on January 22 2016 :: Pix - Bishwarjit Taorem
Drum beating (Khong Baimei):
In addition, they perform beating of different types of traditional drum, Khong and playing of harp, Rah jaimei in the festival. The way of life of the people is reflected in their various dance forms, dresses, songs and different types of drum beating.
Rites of passage, in the form described by Arnold Van Gennep, mark the transition from one life stage to the next. They may be given special relevance by being part of a festival event. These may include forms of initiation into age groups, such as childhood, youth, adulthood, and initiation into occupational, military, or religious groups. (a). The transition from childhood to adolescence varies from society to society. In Zeliangrong society, when a child reaches the age of fourteen or fifteen years old, he or she is introduced to the particular dormitory.
The initiation rite is performed at the festival of Gaan-ngai in which a piece of meat known as Janphop will be given to him or her by the leader of the particular dormitory as formal recognition of its member. This is called Khangchu Kailu Thaimei. Initiation is "one who has entered the stream of wider and deeper consciousness". It is a rite which separates the boy or girl from the sexual world and incorporated into the world of sexuality. Traditionally, after initiation, a boy or girl is considered as physically and socially matured person because he or she has the capability of reproduction.
(b). Promotion of boys and girls from minor to major status.
(c). Promotion from khangbon to Gaanchang, Gaanchang to Banja and filling up of vacant posts of Pei, village council. These posts are not given by resolution or appointment order but by songs, dances and cultural activities
(d). Newly married women are formally admitted to Mathenmei Kaibang, women institution and become members of the same. They are responsible for the maintenance of peace within the parameter of the village.
(e). Families of the deceased offer gifts to the dormitories concerned in the name of the deceased.
Gaan-ngai also does serve as an annual assemblage of the community where status quo is conferred to members of the village at different levels having social and administrative implication.
Games and Sports: Festival usually includes rites of competition, which often constitute in the form of games. Even if games are commonly defined as competitions regulated by special rules and with uncertain outcome (as opposed to ritual, the outcome of which known in advance), the logic of festival is concerned with the competition and the awards for winner; the rule of the game are canonic, and its paradigm is ritual.
The parts or roles are assigned at the beginning to the persona as equals and undifferentiated "contestants," "hopefuls," "candidates." Then the development and the result of the game create among them a final hierarchical order- either binary (winners and losers) or by rank from first to last. Games show how equality may be turned into hierarchy. Athletic or competitive sporting events include individual or collective games of luck, strength, or ability.
These have been considered a corruption of older plays of ritual combats with fixed routine and obligatory ending. In their functional aspects, such games may be seen as display and encouragement of skills such as strength, endurance, and precision, required in daily work and military occupations; such was for instance the rationale of medieval mock battles.
In their symbolic aspect, festival competitions may be seen as a metaphor for the emergence and establishment of power, as when the winner takes all or when the winning faction symbolically takes over arena, or the city in triumph. On the first day of the festival towards evening, at the Daanshanpung, village jumping ground, the young boys perform Taophai Danchammei, competition in stone throwing and long jump in the presence of the villagers.
These sports will be introduced by the Nampou or Nampei with a sort of religious hymns for wellbeing and prosperity of the village. The winners of the sports are not given prizes but they are required to pay Shon[fees] for declaring and acknowledging his power and ability. Stone throwing is believed to make the heavenly granary's door break. Long jump on the other hand is believed to make the swelling earth spread by the force of the jump which is equivalent to distribution of paddy for mankind. Therefore, the purpose of stone throwing and long jump during the Gaan-ngai festival is to receive plentiful harvest.
Maintenance of good behavior:
Discipline is sternly enforced by the elders for young boys and girls. An act of issuance of whip locally called Thingngun Kadimei is performed at the Khangchiu. The objective of issuance of whip is to teach boys to obey what the elders say, to accomplish the works assigned to them.
As a customary practice, an arrangement is made to beat the boys nominally exhorting to pay much attention to work. The young boys request the elders producing a bottle of wine not to beat them.
If the request is accepted, they may be exempted from beating. The girls' dormitory also follows the same rule. In case the boys are to be beaten, a junior Gaanpi will handle the whip' whereas at the girls' dormitory, the twisted cloth called Pheilaak is handled by Tunapi. It clearly indicates the authority that the elders have in community and the respect that needs to be given to the elders.
Peace and harmony:
Worship of Tingkao Ragwang and communal meal (Jeigantumei) is performed in the festival to preserve and promote unity, love and brotherhood of the community. Unity of the community is recognized as a key element in festival participation. By tradition, participatory actions during Gaan-ngai festival are main platforms through which the Zeliangrong express and shape their ideas about identity, religion, social relations, and belonging.
Conclusion: Culture is the way of life of a social group; the group's total man-made environment, including all the material and non-material products of group life that are transmitted from one generation to the next. Gaan-ngai is an extension of the religious beliefs and practices – rites and rituals for the whole village community.
The system of worship of Tingkao Ragwang, Zeliangrong pantheon gods, village presiding deities, goddess of paddy and ancestors are reflected in the festival. In other words, it is a unique cultural phenomenon, a form of aesthetic expression of the Zeliangrong antique religion and philosophy. As a multifaceted cultural phenomenon, Gaan-ngai is the time of expression of artistic talents, physical strength through martial arts, dance and music. Socially, Gaan-ngai promotes peace and unity within the family system and the society as a whole.
By participating in the festival, people settle disputes and misunderstandings. Thus, Gaan-ngai festival serves as an institution through which the Zeliangrong religion and culture is sustained.
* Budha Kamei wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on January 18, 2017.
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