TODAY -

Gaan-Ngai
( Festival celebrated by the Zeliangrong )

By: N Mangi Devi *

Autumn season brings joy and festive mood in the Zeliangrong countrysides, heralding the arrival of Chankan" Gaan-Ngai", the festival of light & victory over evils. Recognized scheduled Tribes (ST) Zeme, Liangmai, Rongmai & Puimei (Kabui & Kacha Naga), the composite community, Zeliangrong finds a common entity.

A compact georaphical area comprising Peren, Kohima, Dimapur districts (Nagaland), N.C. Hills, Cachar, Helakandi districts (Assam) & Tamenglong, Senapati, Henglep Sub-division of Churachandpur district, Imphal East, Imphal West, Jiribam (IE), Thoubal, Bishnupur districts (Manipur), Zeliangrong community though fragmented (as minorities every where) now can be approximately a population of more than three lakhs.

Gaan-Ngai is state holiday of Manipur on 13 day of Wakching - Dec-Jan. and also National Tourist Festival and restricted holiday in Assam (2nd Dec.) as approved by the State Government.

SIGNIFICANCE OF GAAN-NGAI

The significance of Gaan-Ngai depicts the mythology how "Amangh ", the godly man who built the first "Tarangkai" (house of honour of painted house among human beings (now turned god) induced man & tiger to a contest to ignite fire man won the test that he was given authority to rule over all creatures on earth.

Amangh who followed the example set by Tingpulengsonang, head of God-Man dormitory & God of earth built the house of dignity and also empowered man to be master of the world as man ignited fire by rubbing it with a bamboo flint from a wooden log, "Ring-maigang" (a typical tree) as Tingpulengsonang blessed man to win war against gods during His time as head of dormitory. The gods disobeyed him as men obeyed.

To celebrate the victory over evil & darkness, a festival was first held for just one day by extracting sacred fire, till it became a 7 day affairs.



Events

1st Day Lui-lamei (preliminary festival)

Women find plantain leaves for use as dishes or container of wine and also variety of vegetables for the fesitval. Youths find fuel woods for their respective dormitories and also dry bamboo pieces for night time country / rural torches of the festival.

Cattles are butchered for the days long festival. Young men and women gathered at the Girl's dormitories to hold traditional song & music competitions as Lu Kemmei-Lamronlu only.

2nd Day Ngaigangmei (Inaugural day)

Men, women & children take festive baths from sunrise till evening while elders renovate village gates for ceremonial events. Gods and Goddesses are worshipped for their blessing during the festival and pay homage to departed souls.

3rd Day Ngaidaih (main festival)

In the morning, elders and young people enjoy joint dinner at their respective dormitories. Then or khel composed of boy's dormitory & girls' dormitory that there may be two to seven thens or khels each having two dormitories.

Tamchanmei or Khangbon - Tamcha (elders of then or dormitory)-pickles or special meats or curries with rice beer/ rice brew served. Young men & young men's rice beer/too Kare-Ke Kung or joint singing of solicitous did ding prompting to marriage held as traditional to cause generating mankind by men at a then/khel jointly. Kailong-lonmei/carol at night continues.

4th Day Ngailan (Central function of Khel/Then feast)

Feasts held at respective khels/thens/ox dormitories are Then Suimei (to enrol new members from among the children) children activities held and many festive items performed. Tamchanmei of elders, boys & girls (served with rice beer, and pickles) held dances.

5th Day Ngailan (Central function of fruit distribution)

Fruit- gooseberry (Tarouthai) are brought by boys jointly {thens or khels jointly) to the village and every each house hold to signify the message of posterity and prosperity for all. Dances {Lam) held at the residences of Khangbon and Tunapi, Ganpi (heads of boys/girls) special dishes served and drinks offered Kailong-lonmei/caiolmg held night time as usual.

6th Day Rangpamh- Ngai/RangpatNgai (Gates dedication festival)

Young people enjoy peak climbing ILongkumei with special dishes and drinks. They perform dances hangseng-lam or dances with bamboo poles held by each participant. At night Rangpammei/gate's oath is held to find omens for the coming year.

7th day Chi-dan sanmei (bamboo flint omen)

In the morning, elders assemble and interpreted dreams of gate's omen dreamt by two young men assigned/selected earlier/ previously. Then bamboo flints are held apart by two young men to read signs of divinity. Young people find fire woods for respective dormitories (Kailu thing remmei) and in the evening TunaSonmei or escorting girls home with singing is held.

The village gate is closed and prohibited people from going out whole day or Neimai held. Now-a-days the festival of Gaan-Ngai limits to four or five days .


* N Mangi Devi wrote this book entitled "Festival of Manipur" . This article was webcasted on June 07 2010.


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