Chaga Ngee : Age-Old festival of the Liangmai Naga tribe

Diphiu Prinmai / Dr Tasongwi Newmei *

 Liangmai tribe in Delhi celebrate Chaga Festival on October 28 2023
Liangmai tribe in Delhi celebrate Chaga Festival on October 28 2023 :: Pix - TSE/Newmai News Network

Manipur is a tiny State in North East India with a population of 28.55 lakh that has diverse people of various Naga and Kuki-Chin tribes who speak different languages, besides the Meitei who inhabit the Central valley region of Manipur. The Indigenous Liangmai Tribe is a recognized Scheduled Tribe enlisted in ST list vide Constitution order (Amendment) Act, 2011 republished in Manipur Gazette No. 838 dated 27/03/2012.

The Liangmai community lives in various districts of Manipur, viz Tamenglong, Senapati, Kangpokpi, Noney, Imphal West and Imphal East with a sizeable population of about 70,000 approx and nearly 100 villages with the literacy rate of 73% in Manipur. The Government of Manipur on 2nd December 2021 had declared Chaga Ngee 30th October as a restricted holiday in the State.

There is enhanced awareness amongst the Liangmai of the changes that have been taking place in the society largely as a result of the spread of globalization, Christianity, westernization and the development of new economic and political forces leading to giving up of traditional cultural practices. Change is a law of nature, and it is a natural phenomenon that a stronger form of culture often imposes its influence upon the other.

The spread of Christianity within the community has changed the religious beliefs, rituals and practices, raising questions about how they can coexist with their traditional ways. Furthermore, the influence of westernization and foreign cultures has brought about many changes in the Liangmai culture with dangerous consequence as the modern society has conformed so much to the new developments that the traditional cultural practices are slowly losing their relevance.

In fact, as the saying goes a stitch in time saves nine, every possible measure should be invested to keep alive our traditional culture at any cost.

Chaga Ngee, one of the most significant indigenous post-harvest festivals, is celebrated by the Liangmai in the month of Chaga Hiu (Kabai Hiu) based on the lunar calendar which is equated to the month of October in present time.

The Chaga Ngee is considered as a festival of sanctification, purification of society especially the warriors, blessing, thanks giving and determination of individual luck through omens as indicated by Npeng kepbo/Phenbou.

Liangmai people across Manipur and elsewhere celebrated Chaga Ngee on October 30 2023
Liangmai people across Manipur celebrated Chaga Ngee on October 30 2023 :: Pix - TSE k

It is rather a festival of seeking blessing from Tingwang, the supreme God by the tribe. Based on the lunar calendar by observing the cycle of the moon, the Singkupiu (chief priest) assisted by the Apaimai, the council of elders decides when the Chaga Ngee will begin.

The calendar is maintained by the method of 'Singchet Riobo' (Singchet, means a thin stick and Riobo, means partially breaking/making a mark by folding) where a particular thin stick chosen for that month is partially broken every new day to calculate the days and month of the year.

Once the new moon is sighted and the priest declared the date, every necessary preparation for the festival will begin and every villager takes utmost measure to keep themselves safe from getting injured or falling sick.

It is considered a bad omen to be injured or get sick and be bed ridden during the festival. Certain things considered as taboos or sins are strictly prohibited and the people refrained themselves not to indulge in all those actions; refraining from eating certain foods like vegetables obtained from creepers and from going to pregnant women or menstruating women's house, or family performing 'Tadiak rituals' (family whose member died that year and are considered to be still living together with the death soul).

The preparation for the Chaga Ngee begins with a day called the 'Zao Ra Thaobo nai'. On this day all necessary arrangements for 'Zao Madungbo', fermenting of powdered rice for preparation of indigenously brewed wines for consumption during the festival is made.

Two days after the preparation of wine was initiated, that is on the third day, the festival begins with the day named as 'Kabak Minwangbou nai' also popularly called as 'Chami Malapwangbo nai', wherein a new fire is kindled for the festival forsaking the old one. The new fire symbolizes a thoroughly cleansed new phase of life. The second day of the festival is called the 'Npeng Kepbo nai'.

This day is also called as 'Chareng Kepbo nai' because a symbolic effigy/figurine of a bird called 'Chareng', a hornbill is painted with 'Kiangui' (a dye made out of black soot/ash collected from Meng-kang, a platform above the hearth to dry or hang things) on a flat wooden plank hewed out of Nbah-sing (a kind of tree with broad leaves soft/spongy trunk) and a specific kind of reed from a shrub called 'Ading' will be thrown by the individual in the form of darts targeting the specific parts of the effigy on that day.

The third day of the festival is named as 'Malong Ponbo nai', a day on which the menfolk would give what is known as 'patan paliu kong khaibo', the giving of cooked rice, meat curry/meat and eatables to the sisters and daughters/womenfolk of one's clan and lineage.

On this day, it is no more a taboo to mix with the women and girls unlike the first two days where it is a taboo to eat food prepared by the womenfolk or drink the water fetched by women. Boys and girls would go to collect firewood on this day.

This day is also called as 'Gadi', meaning the big chaga feasting day as both men and women would join the festival. The fourth day of the festival is called 'Chaga Pahbo nai'. It should fall on the day of the full moon night.

On this day, before the evening sets in, the feasting and drinking of wine must stop because it is considered a taboo to consume Chaga food and wine after Chaga Pahbo and it was believed that the consumers will be vulnerable to injuries or accidents.

So the excess/leftover food and wine will be collected for the old menfolk to feast on it as 'Chaga Laibo'. This part of the festival which would continue into the fifth day is known as 'Chaga Laibo', the eating and feasting of old folks in a separate enclosure made out of 'Tadong' (bamboo mat) outside the house as it is a taboo to bring Chaga food and wine inside the house after Chaga Pahbo.

One of the most important activities of the Chaga festival is the Npeng Phenbo/Charengkepbo. It has both religious and secular connotations. For this, the picture of the Chareng (hornbill) is painted on wooden plank hewed out from trees such as Nbahsing or Ntabang (Indian Corel tree/Erythrina) and is tied on a tall, straight and slender tree cut from the forest which in turn is tied to a living tree on a sacred spot earmarked to carry out the activity.

Npeng with the effigy/picture of the hornbill is divided into five parts with symbolic nuances such as the head, neck, chest, stomach, and below the pelvic region. The head is called Charibai which symbolises victory in warfare.

The neck symbolises the great hunter and is also called the Tathiubai. The chest is called the Aliubai, representing good luck for finding partner and is considered the favourite target for the unmarried. The stomach epitomizes wealth and bountiful harvest and it is called Chamiubai. The pelvic region is called the Majiubai, and it signifies bad omen of getting dysentery or diarrhea and is not liked by anyone.

As all the male members of the Khangchiuky (A dormitory of the folk school for life popularly known as Morung) gathered to perform the symbolic Npeng Phenbo, the priest will perform ceremonial opening.

Once the ritual is conducted, all the members of the Khangchiuky take turns to throw their darts of Ading at the effigy with prayers to hit the specific target they want. It is believed that where they hit determines the fate of that year. Meanwhile other related rituals were also performed. The activity of Npeng Phenbo is concluded by prayer of blessing from the priest.

As soon as the moon is sighted to signal as the beginning of the month of Chaga Ngee, the priest would make a cry of public declaration that nobody should be sick, no debts should be asked for and there should be no conflicts and violence of any kind in the society.

The Liangmai will be celebrating Chaga Ngee in Manipur, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Maharashtra, Delhi NCR etc. Chaga is a celebration of a beautiful and culturally rich festival with true intent and spirit of beautiful traditional attires and melodious folk songs and dances showcasing and promoting the best talents.

The festival affirms this spirit and philosophy to promote understanding and appreciation of a rich cultural heritage, tolerance, and social cohesion, all of which are crucial for building peace and harmony in society.

A festival like Chaga can indeed play a significant role in building peace and harmony, understanding and appreciation of diverse cultures, reducing prejudice and promoting harmony among different communities, tolerance and acceptance of different religious cultural practices.

Chaga Ngee can be and should be given the status of State Festival and be declared as a general holiday and it can have a huge impact for Manipur and entire Northeast India. After all, experiencing festivals linked to cultures and traditions is the ultimate way to immerse oneself into other's communities.

Chaga Ngee has the potential to be one of the best indigenous festivals that connects people and communities not only at the local level but even at the regional, national and global level by attracting tourists as a state event.

 Chagah Festival of Liangmai community celebrated at Taphou Liangmai village, Senapati on Oct 30, 2012
Chagah Festival of Liangmai at Taphou Liangmai village, Senapati on Oct 30, 2012 :: Pix - Popcha Yambem

* Diphiu Prinmai / Dr Tasongwi Newmei wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The Writer can be reached at diphiuprinmai(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on 31 October 2023.

* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.

  • Naorem Roshibina- Wushu Medallist : Gallery
  • Violence in Manipur 2023-2024 : Timeline
  • 7 facts about Meitei Goddess Khunu Leima
  • Discrimination of Meiteis in Manipur #1
  • Entry : Manipur State Film Awards, 2024
  • Understanding profundity of secularism
  • Fencing of Indo-Myanmar Border: Zeliang
  • Politics of inking the SoO pact
  • A chink in Kuki-Chin legislators armour
  • Protest against SoO agreement #1 : Gallery
  • March Calendar for Year 2024 : Tools
  • Press conference at Press Club of India
  • Workshop : Listening to our environment
  • Meetei bears more tribal characters
  • Calling out AR men from their bunkers
  • Re-activating state economy
  • History & Culture of Manipur through Puyas
  • Blood Donation at Mongshangei
  • 8 from Manipur- Sangeet Natak award 2023
  • National Science Day on Indigenous Tech
  • Grand finale of Mega Miss North East
  • Coming close to understanding of anarchy
  • Reasonable suggestion
  • Nupi Landa Thaunaphabishing #8 :: Book
  • Finding all & treating all TB
  • Facts about Article 371-C #1
  • The Power of Poppy - 21 :: Poem
  • Radio E-pao :: Contemporary (350+ songs)
  • The silence continues, the clash continues
  • A sage advice on NRC
  • Consequences of Hereditary Chieftainship
  • e-Archiving of Manipur Gazettes launched
  • Grand finale of Mega Mister North East
  • Children are clay pots, parents are potters
  • Spring skin & hair care & make-up
  • GHOST of PEACE :: Download Booklet
  • 'Terminate SoO with Kuki Armed Groups'
  • ST demand & Govinda ji
  • Memorandum to Union Home Minister
  • Role of parents during board exams
  • In perfect imperfection: Love's untold story
  • Descent of Radha-Krishna #24: Download
  • Shaheed Memorial Football Final : Gallery
  • O, Martyrs, Martyrs
  • Remembering the fire at Sainik School Imphal
  • Meephamlen & Life Time Achievement
  • Program: Youth Leadership & Development
  • 7 facts about ancient Goddess Panthoibi
  • Myanmar border fencing; arson in CCpur
  • Research Officer- Financial @ Amethyst
  • Exploring nutritional virtues of maternal milk
  • Fine dining with flavours of Northeast
  • ST categorisation : Not the job of judiciary
  • Growing demand for abrogating SoO pact
  • Save Manipur : Protest [Feb 15] #2 : Gallery
  • Agro forestry for sustainable agriculture
  • Relief materials & interaction at Kangpokpi
  • Exodus from Myanmar justify 'border fencing'
  • Earth Civilization :: Poem
  • Enhancing domestic fish consumption in India
  • Growing call to abrogate SoO pact
  • Acquitting the criminal, penalising the victim
  • Nupi Landa Thaunaphabishing #7 :: Book
  • Recipe for a full fledged civil war
  • Health Camp at Santhong Relief Camp
  • Farming- loss-making but MSP is not practical
  • Magic ingredients for radiant & flawless skin
  • First Assam LitArt Festival concludes
  • Silence of the guns, for the moment
  • A brighter side of the conflict
  • Interview with Naorem Roshibina (Wushu)
  • Memo to Chief Minister : The Way Forward
  • Best wishes to all students of classes 10th
  • The Power of Poppy - 20 :: Poem
  • Boost student retention power for board exam
  • Claiming ancestral rights over Thangjing
  • Indeed, no comparison with Manipur violence
  • Arambai Tengol & SFs #4 : Gallery
  • Rising above adversity for excellence
  • 7 facts about Meitei Goddess Nganu Leima
  • 149 experts call to find all TB to stop TB
  • Resilient tourism for vibrant career
  • Non-stop assault on Sugnu : The pattern
  • Nearly 5mn candidates for 60k posts
  • Folktales of Manipur 2.0
  • Nothing to kill or die for
  • The Kutsapo Proclamation
  • Nagas oppose border fencing with Myanmar
  • Great game for peace and security
  • IIT Delhi at Abu Dhabi
  • Restraining armed forces vis- Kuki militants
  • Drawing the battle line for Moreh at last
  • Descent of Radha-Krishna #23: Download
  • Aira Thoudam - coveted scholarship in Egypt
  • Condemns violence committed in CCpur
  • Last Smile of our Fallen Comrade : Poem
  • Sachinker ties knot with Raina Rajkumari
  • Complex challenges & calls for resolution
  • Save Manipur : Protest [Feb 15] #1 : Gallery
  • Sonia Nepram at 74th Berlinale, Germany
  • Manipur: Best AIFF Grassroots Award 2024
  • Children struggling tough competition
  • Reliance Foundation partners with NSDC
  • Bigger agenda behind CCpur protest
  • When Frankenstein acts as a law unto itself
  • A Cloud in Trousers : A translation #4
  • Manipur imbroglio and our lessons
  • The Living Song :: Poem
  • Entries : Mumbai International Film Festival
  • MG Motor India's new facility in Silchar
  • Self-funded Rail budget earns profits
  • Points Imphal should lay before Delhi
  • Dissenters not to go down without a fight
  • Art Exhibition @ RKCS Museum #5 : Gallery
  • Article 371 C aggravates ethnic divide
  • Into the lap of nature : Udupi #2
  • Delhi's dance with Meitei-Kuki conundrum
  • 'Vividhata ka Amrit Mahotsav' in Delhi
  • 2024 may pose challenges in 11 States
  • FMR scrapped, border fencing assured
  • Time to take a final call
  • Legacies of the Khamba-Thoibi classics
  • Transforming education in Manipur
  • The Power of Poppy - 19 :: Poem
  • Beauty tip to look awesome- Valentine's Day
  • Towards understanding of human journeys
  • If them then why not the Meiteis ?
  • Ensuring basic rights of conflict children
  • 75th Republic Day @ Kangla #2 : Gallery
  • Bambam Thounaojam - MMA World Champion
  • Distress Relief @ Sugnu [Jan] : Gallery
  • Manipur's struggle for peace amidst tension
  • Hold govts to account for ending tobacco
  • Meghalaya Cancer Conclave 2024
  • Not the time to take political mileage
  • Way off the mark
  • Abnormal population growth of Kuki from 1881
  • May 3 violence :: Poem
  • Bharat-Burma border barbed
  • Importance of STEM careers for girls
  • Development of mental health in school
  • Displaced children in relief camps
  • Is it the end of Kuki-AR honeymoon period ?
  • Descent of Radha-Krishna #22: Download
  • Manipur Technology Innovation Hub Startup
  • As Time Ticks Away :: Poem
  • Architecture & design confluence - BAIC
  • UG Scholarships 2023-24 results announced
  • Occupational therapy role in erb's palsy
  • National Voters' Day @ Lamphel : Gallery
  • Into the lap of nature : Udupi #1
  • Stop disrespect for places of worship
  • IBSD & NBRC joined hand for research
  • MedTech Mitra : A facilitation highway uptake
  • First edition of Assam LitArt Festival
  • Weed out the illegal immigrants
  • Behind and beyond the rhetoric
  • Nupi Landa Thaunaphabishing #6 :: Book
  • Training on cultivation of mushroom at Tera
  • Workshop: Exploring genomic resources of NE
  • India-Australia Partnership in Education
  • Why a new dawn of development in NE
  • Healthy Hair : keep it healthy
  • Beyond scrapping FMR
  • The letter of WKZIC to ADB
  • A Northeasterner's Reflection on India
  • Feathers of different birds flock together
  • Manipur : 9 months into endless killings
  • Call to make Big Tobacco pay for health
  • Mahotsav : Richness of Northeast India
  • Noting the call from AMCO
  • Not enough to rest assured anyone
  • Resilience in adversity | Kumbi : Gallery
  • Why effective treatments for TB not out
  • Cease the strife :: Poem
  • Balancing mental well-being of students
  • FM Hi debt funds Rs 45 tr budget
  • Submission of admission, apology
  • Unveiling the mask of Kuki MLAs once again
  • Arambai Tengol & SFs [24 Jan] #3 : Gallery
  • Lessons from Manipur on vigilantism
  • Exposure to air pollution can lead to cancer
  • Interim budget: Need comprehensive reforms
  • From exam stress to success
  • Adding more teeth to the silence
  • Still, a far-off land for Mr Prime Minister
  • A Cloud in Trousers : A translation #3
  • Dissecting the strength of Kukis #2
  • Self Defence Training : for school girls
  • Bharat Ratna for the Mandir man
  • Desi remedy for farm sector
  • Noting the words of caution from UNC
  • The best way to settle Thangjing issue
  • Descent of Radha-Krishna #21: Download
  • Maharaj Gambhir Singh #2: Gallery
  • To Our Fallen Village Volunteers :: Poem
  • "It's Not My Choice" triumphs in every aspect
  • Jamir congratulates Advani for Bharat Ratna
  • Climate change needs to be taught
  • 75th Republic Day @ Kangla #1 : Gallery
  • Management fest at Assam University
  • Transformation from adulthood to parenthood
  • NEP's vision is to make India competitive
  • 35th Road Safety Campaign in North East
  • Budget - Welfare with Fiscal Discipline
  • Understanding call against lifting FMR
  • Nine months and counting
  • Statue in front of Western Gate, Kangla ?
  • My memories of Imphal from 1941 : Review
  • Auditions: 20th Mega Miss North East
  • Face scrubs for glowing skin
  • Auditions: 13th Mega Mister North East
  • Seaweed: Sea of opportunities
  • Continuing clash: Dialogue the way forward
  • The truth behind the objection
  • Gaan-Ngai at Keishamthong #2 : Gallery
  • Protests attack @ Moreh [18 Jan] #2: Gallery
  • Seeking solutions, not scapegoats: Response
  • Indo-Naga Talks (From 2012) :: Timeline
  • Gaan-Ngai at Keishamthong #1 : Gallery
  • Transforming education, building our future
  • Arambai Tengol & SFs [24 Jan] #2 : Gallery
  • Arambai Tengol & SFs [24 Jan] #1 : Gallery
  • Protests attack @ Moreh [17 Jan] #2 : Gallery
  • Protests attack @ Moreh [18 Jan] #1: Gallery
  • Guard of honor - W Somorjit : Gallery
  • 13 martyrs brought to JNIMS : Gallery
  • Mangani Leihul of 13 martyrs #2 : Gallery
  • Oinam Chaoba Devi: Sepak Takraw : Gallery
  • Ayekpam Maipak (Sepak Takraw) : Gallery
  • Shanglakpam Nilakanta (Hockey) : Gallery
  • List of Kings of Manipur: 33 - 1984 AD