Sajibu Cheiraoba: One occasion, two narratives
- Part 3 -

Hareshwar Goshwami *

Cheiraoba Chak Katpa at entrance Gate of every house in Imphal :: March 22nd 2023
Cheiraoba Chak Katpa at entrance Gate of every house in Imphal on March 22nd 2023 :: Pix - Lamdamba Oinam

Impasse on Fixing the Date of Cheiraoba

First, the practices followed by Meitei Hindus and Sanamahi Laining adherents are nearly identical, with the exception of the day of Cheiraoba. The custom, according to Sajibu Nongma Panba Cheiraoba cohorts, has existed since before Nongda Lairen Pakhangba, who governed Manipur in the first century AD.

Second, they view the Cheiraoba practiced by Meitei Hindus as a copy of Bengali Hindus' Charak Pujah, as promoted by some traditional culture and belief enthusiasts, and as an imported culture.

Nonetheless, if Sajibu Nongba Panba is to be considered a new year, they seem to ignore the errors in the calculation of the number of days. If the calendar year is counted from Sajibu Nongma Panba (the first day of the first Meitei month) to Lamtagi Kunthrani Panba (the last day of the last Meitei month), there are approximately eleven days missing to make a complete year.

The calculation of the lunar and solar calendars also appears to be perplexing at some point. Several people have noted that Meiteis employ the lunar calendar while also incorporating intercalation (Malamas), which they refer to as Tharonnaba in Manipuri. How does the Tharonnaba (intercalation) question arise if it is the lunar year system ?

In a solar calendar system, where a flexible lunar year is pinned on to the fixed solar year by a mechanism called intercalation, the question of Tharonnaba (Malamash) arises. They continue doing this until they exhaust their respective opponents' potential. When they approach the limit, they add an additional lunar month called intercalary (Tharonnaba) to return the lunar months to their original positions.

They observe Nongma Panba Cheiraoba between these changes without finishing the whole 365 days. As a result, it can be assumed that those who follow Nongma Panba Sajbu Cheiraoba as new year, adhere to the Luni-Solar Calendar's lunar year system.

The adherents of Nongma Panba Cheiraoba are seemingly more attached to the aged old tradition and the logic that a new year is to count from the first day of the first month.

On the other hand, the Hindu Meiteis base their calculations on the solar year system of the Luni-Solar calendar and celebrate Cheiraoba on April 13 or 14 every year. They think it is more rational and plausible to calculate the sidereal year (365.256 days) based on how the stars move in relation to the Sun. When the Sun enters the house of Aries (Mesha) in a fixed zodiac, a sidereal year may start.

According to Mangang-cha Keisham Ibomcha, in the year 1760 (1682 Sakabda), Bhaigyachandra Maharaja introduced on April 13 or 14, Shajibu Cheiraoba as discussed previously. Some academics think that Meidingu Pamheiba aka Maharaja Garibniwaz (1709 1748) marked the beginning of the solar dating of the Luni-Solar calendar.

Some believe that the Sajibu Cheiraoba or Cheiraoba practiced by the Meiteis/Meeteis has evolved on the land itself since before the adoption of Hinduism by the Manipuri Meiteis. They base their argument on ancient scriptures such as Lai Khundin Lalup, Sandhong Lon, and a few more.

According to the chart included with the book Kumhouba by Mangangcha Keisham Ibomcha, cultural organizations like Meetei Marup, Apokpa Marup, and Manipuri Hindus support the position.

Cheiraoba Chak Katpa at entrance Gate of every house in Imphal :: March 22nd 2023
Cheiraoba Chak Katpa at entrance Gate of every house in Imphal on March 22nd 2023 :: Pix - Lamdamba Oinam


The majority of us are aware that, many ancient civilizations used the lunar calendar to calculate time based on the motion of the moon. Yet, the ancient people discovered that seasonal events and their socio-religious celebrations were out of sync. In fact, the spring that typically occurs in March or April may fall in the months of November or December after a few years, if there is no Tharonnaba (Malamash).

Ancient humans noticed these discrepancies without duplicating from one another. For instance, the ancient Mesopotamian-Babylonian calendar was based on 12 synodic months, or 12 full cycles of the moon's phases, each lasting around 354 days.

By occasionally using the law of intercalation, the loss is made consistent with the solar year. Around 2000 BC, the ancient Egyptians believed that a year was made up of 360 days. Nevertheless, after watching the Nile flood in relation to the emergence of the dog star Sirius or Sothis in the eastern sky, which typically coincides with the Nile flood, this concept has evolved.

The observation dates back to the time of Djer, which was around circa 3000 BC. The next five epagomenal days were spent in a manner similar to a Manipuri Shilhenba. A Luni-Solar calendar was later created when further study revealed that a year has almost 365 days. The Mesopotamians most likely developed the Luni-Solar calendar formula for the first time in the third millennium BC.

King Hammurabi of Babylon (1810 BC to 1750 BC) was one of several ancient monarchs who used the lunar calendar at the period, and he also noticed the disparity. He added a thirteenth month around 1800 BC, which led to the creation of the intercalary system (Tharonnaba/Mala-mash). The Luni-Solar calendar system was created accordingly.

In reality, the ancient Babylonians, Greeks, Chaldeans, Romans, Jews, Macedonians, Chinese, and Vedic Aryans among others employed the luni-solar calendar. As a result, the emergence of astrology in the kingdom may have coincided with Manipur's transition from the Lunar to the Solar to the Luni-Sun calendar.

Except for the sake of drawing a historical connection, it is not important whether Manipuris or Bengali Hindus adopt astrological concepts from outside sources or not. Without a doubt, the relationship is also important.

Nevertheless, the most significant issue is that we are yet to discover our own coordinates and computations for a whole 365 days, which will allow us to follow a standard New Year's Day. My firm belief is that Sajibu Nongma Panba with a full 365 days may perhaps be our new year day. But, I assume we lost something important with the passage of time.


[i]. The Meitei calendar's Meitei months are described in detail in the ancient Manipuri classic Tharon, along with how the months got their names.

[ii]. Six Luwang maidens and Haoku Pakhangs serve as representations for certain star clusters in the allegorical tale Khongjom nupi Nongarol, which is based on the motion of the stars (bachelors). Greek mythology even admits the disappearance of Merope, one of the seven sisters who is actually invisible to the unaided eye, despite the Pleiades being a seven-star cluster. There are some parallels between the story in Khongjomnupi Nongarol and the scene in which Orion (Sachung Telheiba) pursues the Pleiades (Khongjomnupi).

[iii] Cheitharol Kumbaba is a chronicle of Meitei rulers that was written or compiled between Meidingu Ningthoukhomba's (14321467 AD) and Bhagyachandra's reigns. According to some other sources, Meidingu Kyamba (14671508 AD), the son of Meidingu Ningthoukhomba, began writing the chronicle and has continued ever since. There are other views to Meidingu Nongda Lairen Pakhangba, who governed Manipur in the first century AD, is mentioned in the chronicle.

(iv) Lai Khundin Lalup literally translates to assembly of deities. This is in accordance with the long-held belief that all the deities gather together on the evening of the first Saturday of the month of Lamta and make a list of all the people who will pass away throughout the coming year.

[v] Shingthekpa-Shing-thaba : According to tradition, during the Lai Khundin Lalup (gathering of deities), the number of twigs counted represents the number of people who would pass away in the following year. The Shing- thekpa-Shing-thaba is the name for this twig counting procedure.

[vi]. The deities are worshipped with food offerings in order to spare the lives of individuals symbolised by the withdrew twigs because it is thought that those who are included in the Shingthekpa-Shingthaba would pass away throughout the next year. This practise is known as Shingshatpa, which means withdrawing of twigs.

[vii] Literally, Cheithaba means forsaking of twigs. The task of cheithaba, as he was also known, was assigned to a man. That year received the Cheithaba's personal name. When King Kiyamba named Hiyangloi as the first Cheithaba in 1484 D, that year has been referred to as Hiyangloina Cheithabakum (year) in honour of the Cheithaba. Since then, every year has carried the Cheithaba's personal name, making it possible to differentiate one year from the others.

To prevent calamity from befalling the monarch and his subjects, it is the duty of the Cheithaba to suffer all of their sins and transgressions collectively. In the past, the Cheithaba was entitled to specific privileges such as exemption from the state service of Lallup, a gift of land, and several other rewards for carrying out such social and moral tasks.

Concluded ...

* Hareshwar Goshwami (Writer and Politician) wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on 23 May 2024

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