TODAY -

Ningol Chakkouba : A colourful festival of Manipur

Budha Kamei *

Ningol Chakkouba at Imphal on 8th Nov, 2010
Ningol Chakkouba at Imphal on 8th Nov, 2010



Throughout the history of human culture, certain days have been set aside to commemorate, ritually celebrate or seasons-agricultural, religious, or socio-cultural- that give meaning and cohesiveness to an individual and to his religious, political, or socio- economic community. Because such days or periods generally originated in religious celebrations or ritual commemorations that usually included sacred community meals, they are called festivals 1. The term festival derives from the Latin Festum meaning, public joy, merriment, revelry and abstinence from work in honour of the gods. The present article attempts to look into the Ningol Chakkouba festival of Manipur.

Manipur is a land of festivals, merriments and mirths all the year round. A year in Manipur represents a cycle of festivals and hardly a month passes without a festival or two. To the Manipuris, festivals are the symbols of their cultural, social, and religious aspirations. Besides, it removes dull monotonous life by providing physical diversion, mental recreation and emotional outlet, helps one to lead a peaceful and cheerful life. J Roy says, "The joy of life which is the mother of the will to live is sustained by the successive festivals in this hilly state."2

Among the festivals, Ningol Chakouba is one of the biggest and colourful festivals of Manipuris living in and outside the state of Manipur. Ningol Chakouba means invitation of married daughters and sisters to parental house for a grand feast. Here, Ningol means only married woman and Chakouba, calling for a meal. This day is, therefore, a special day for married daughters and sisters irrespective of ages.

This festival is observed on the second day of new moon in the Manipuri month Hiyangei which falls in October/November every year. In this festival, all the Manipuris irrespective of poor and rich are actively involved. As a tradition, formal invitation is done some days ahead by giving a Pana to the married daughters and sisters. It is a day for the women of old and young to go back again for at least some hours to their respective homes where they have got their roots but separated when they did become a member of another family or clan.

In this festival, married women clad in best traditional attire along with their children go to their parental houses to meet their parents and brothers and to dine together.

Those married women who are far away from the motherland Manipur also return home for the special occasion. It is considered that one who can take part in the festival is the luckiest person. At their parents' house, the women are pampered with sumptuous food, gifts and total comfort. Mothers and brothers prepare lavish and extensive meals for their daughters and sisters. Parental family members like Paba, Ima and Dada warmly welcome their Ningols (married daughters and sisters) and grandchildren. It is a form of family rejoinder to revive familial affection.

"A marriage separates the bride from her parental sacred hearth and incorporates her into the sacred hearth of her husband."3 It is natural that human being always hunts for love and wants to be loved. Finding one in life may be one of the most romantic things to come about in life. It is the love of the man in her life which enables a girl to break ties with her parental home, her parents, brothers and sisters and ties the nuptial knot to the man of her life.

At the same time, her relationship with her birth place is mystical, a psychic placenta that refuses to snap by the tug of her married life in her new home. It is said that Naopham, the placenta of the child is buried inside the house of the parents. It is done mainly in the belief that the child will sense itself endlessly drawn to its parent's house.5 As custom of the land, after marriage, a girl leaves her natal home physically but the home where she was born and brought up never leaves her. This festival definitely gives an opportunity to bring back the old family members together. It is basically a source of family reunion and get-togethers.

It is a long tradition and it is even said that this festival is observed from the time of the deities. Tradition says, this festival started from the time of Nongda Lairen Pakhangba, the first historical king who ruled Manipur in 33 A. D. Regarding the origin of this festival, ancient Manipuri literary sources give us information that "Laisna, the queen of Pakhangba, one day went to the harvesting place of her elder brother Poreiton just to see the progress of the work.

He was very happy to see his sister after long time and a marked of sister and brother love relationship Poreiton gave her two types rice, i.e. black rice and white rice along with a bunch of banana. She was please to see the affectionate attitude of her brother and so she invited him for a lunch to her place.

Thus from that afterwards, and as mark of remembrance the married sisters invited their brothers every year on a particular day."6 Thus, this tradition had been existence for many years.

However, the practice had changed from the time of Maharaja Chandrakriti Singh (1850-1886) A.D that instead of going by brother to the house of sister, married daughters and sisters were invited by the parents and brothers to their houses for grand feast.7 In this way, from that time onwards Ningol Chakkouba has been continuing every year and it has become a festival for the sisters and magnified as a big festival since all sorts of people male and female, young and old join together and enjoy the day gleefully.

Ningol Chakkouba festival of course bears a good meaning of love between the brothers and sisters and signifies the love core of the families. After the grand feast the parents and brothers present nominal gifts to the daughters and sisters who in turn bless them all for happiness and prosperity in the days to come. It is believed that offence/wrong doing against sister is not good. Happiness of a brother lies on the happiness of his sister.

To conclude, Ningol Chakkouba festival is so important that it gives love, peace and unity between the brothers and sisters and no force/no man can break the bond of love between them.


* Budha Kamei wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on November 05, 2013.


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