TODAY -

Yaoshang In Nabadwip - A nice blending of Hindu's Holi & Meiteis' Yaoshang

Seram Neken *

Yaoshang Festivities around Imphal City on March 10 2012.
Yaoshang Festivities around Imphal City on March 10 2012 :: Pix - Bullu Raj



After a brief sojourn, my squad headed for home. It was parting time. We bade adieu to the beloved old Manipuri devotees who all the way came straight to Nabadwip to perform Holi in front of Lord Annuprabhu. At the dusk of their life, the aged men and women braved heat, hunger and all the odds of journeying by road.

Quite surprisingly, most of them had to proceed towards Kurukhetra and Brindaban after two-three days stay at Nabadwip during the Holi festival. May be the aged people were much stronger than us or their quantum of devotion was many times greater than ours - that they enjoyed the festival of colours merrily and quite unsuitably to their age.

It is said that Lord Annuprabhu is a powerful God incarnated centuries ago during the time of King Bheigyachandra. There is an unalienable link between Manipuri culture, history and the Lord Annuprabhu at Nabadwip.

Thousands of pilgrims mostly elders from Manipur thronged the 'Annuprabhu' temple premises during the first two days of 'Yaoshang' this year. Devotees particularly elder women of the land arrived at 'Nabadwip' for a valued 'Darshan' at the temple situated in Nadia district of West Bengal. Tourist buses over crowded the temple premise which was quite insufficient to house the increasing number of visitors year by year.

Real scenario of Holi, the festival of colours was the showcase of the five-day event. 'Yaoshang Mei Thaba',' Aber Teinaba', 'Pechagari Kapnaba', 'Holi Pala', 'Radha Krishna Jagoi', 'Thabal Chongba' etc. were witnessed at Nabadwip during the 'Yaoshang'. It was the kaleidoscopic beauty of the blend between 'Holi' of the Bengali Hindus and 'Yaoshang' of the Meiteis that attracted the visitors from Manipur.

Meitei 'Yaoshang' is believed to have its ancestral origin from the 'Ougri Hangen Chongba' of pre-historic times. When the two sons of Godly King 'Atiya Guru Shidaba' were asked to complete the 'Nongkhong Koiba' for succession to the throne, the elder son 'Sanamahi' started the journey. However, the younger son 'Nongda Lairen Pakhangba' being a small boy was apprehensive that he could not complete the journey.

Meanwhile, with the invaluable advice of his mother, 'Pakhangba' went round the royal throne of the King in no time and claimed to have completed the 'Nongkhong Koiba' before his brother 'Sanamahi' came back after going round the whole land physically. When the elder brother came back, he was so furious that he swore to avenge the person who revealed the modus operandi to 'Pakhangba' in order to be the king of the land.

If it were a man, he would be killed and if it happened to be a woman, he would marry her - this was Sanamahi's promise. Surprisingly, 'Sanamahi' realized that it was none other than his mother who had stealthily helped the younger brother raised to the throne. 'Sanamahi' had to keep his promise by marrying the mother. In every Meitei household we now see 'Sanamahi' and 'Leimaren' residing together, but with a wall separating them.

The furious 'Sanamahi' after coming back from 'Nongkhong Koiba' chased 'Pakhangba' to beat him while the women of palace defended 'Pakhangba' by joining hands and singing the song
"Ke Ke Ke Mo Mo,
Yangen Samba Syao Syao,
Tokpaga Kambaga Keiga Yenga,
Yenkhong Phate Chasillu,
Laigi Yenni Chaphade,
Ke Ke Ke Mo Mo.... ..
".

It is believed that 'thabal chongba', 'Phee Munbi', 'Sen Munbi' etc. which are parts of contemporary 'Yaoshang' had their origin from the tradition of 'Nongkhong Koiba'.

What I am convinced is that Meitei Yaoshang, in earlier times, had its own origin apart from the 'Holi' of the Hindus. However, the influence of festival of colours of the Hindus on the Meitei 'Yaoshang' has gradually produced the contemporary 'Yaoshang' as we see in the present generation.

As time goes by, 'Yaoshang' changes its facets year after year, decades after decades and centuries after centuries. To the present generation, 'Yaoshang' is synonymous with games and sports. It is indeed a mini Olympiad particularly in the valley districts of Manipur. All the ugly scenes and traditions of earlier 'Yaoshang' have been subdued to bring in constructive sports festivals in almost all the Manipuri localities.

Various games including indigenous events such as Mukna and Laphu Kabee are seen to be popular during Yaoshang sports. Apart from sporting programmes; debating competitions, Ex-tempore speech, symposium competitions, song competitions, mathematics competitions, recitations etc. are organized in the interests of students.

'Yaoshang' has today become a festival of sports in Manipur. Apart from being a festival, 'Yaoshang' has served as a useful platform for hunting sporting spirit and talents of young people in varied fields of personality development. Thanks to the thoughtful elders of the yore who mooted the idea of organizing games and sports by sidelining the ugly traditions of the festival.

For the elders who are at the dusk of their lives, 'Yaoshang' serves as a great recreator. It was evident from the huge crowds of elder men and women thronging the 'Nabadwip Dham' during the 'Holi'. In early morning, Meitei pilgrimage horded the Ganges river bank at 'Nabadwip Dham' for a sacred deep and came back to the 'Annuprabhu' temple wet and bare-footed.

Numerous 'Holi Pala' groups from Manipur lined up the temple in long queues for their performance in front of the 'Annuprabhu'. During the whole night, devotees performed the Radha Krishna Dances. On Pichagari day, the second day of 'Yaoshang', we see lots of sprinkling and spraying of colours everywhere. 'Aber Teinaba' and 'Pichagari Kapnaba' among the crowds entertained the elders so much so that they even seemed forgotten their age.

In the 'Annuprabhu' premises, a beautiful thatched house "Yaoshang" was built and burned with chorus songs to celebrate the festival. A beautiful 'Thabal Chongba' was also arranged in front of the Annuprabhu temple.

I was highly impressed by the festivities during the five day event in Nabadwip. The only sorry picture there was the lack of hospitality for the huge number of pilgrimages in spite of the hardships facing the organizers. The boarding space was quite insufficient. 'Utshav' arrangements were poorly catered to the visitors.

Many were of the opinion that the Manipur state government needed to pay attention to such a pilgrimage area meant for the Meiteis. Besides arranging adequate paid boarding and food facilities during such overcrowded times, many wished to have a free medical camp for the visiting elders during the festival time.

It is hoped for the positive that next year the state government comes out straight to involve in providing hospitality to the visiting elder devotees of the land at Nabadwip Dham and Annaprabhu temple solely meant for Manipuris.




* Seram Neken wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao (English Edition)
This article was posted on April 11, 2012.



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