Manipur is one of the most beautiful states in Northeast India. Blessed by nature’s bounty and boasting a rich culture & history, it has served as the meeting point of Asian economic and cultural exchange for more than 2,500 years. That richness is also reflected in its fairs & festivals. Some of them are held to celebrate the onset of a bountiful harvest, while others are held in the hope of attaining greater prosperity and success in life.
One of the major festivals of Manipur is Gang-Ngai, which is celebrated in the month of December/January by the Kabui Nagas. It is marked by an oath taking ceremony followed by a common feast. Dances are held, farewell gifts are distributed & there is vigorous merrymaking on all sides. Come 15th February, and the Nagas get together to celebrate the Lui Ngai Ni, a collective seed sowing festival. It is marked by wonderful songs and dances. Immediately after this festival, people belonging to several tribes of the Naga group begin their cultivation. It is also a way of strengthening the bond between the Nagas.
With the arrival of February/March, the whole of Manipur gets ready to celebrate Yaosang, undoubtedly the most widely celebrated festival in the state. One of the main events of this festival is the Thabal Chongba, a kind of Manipuri fold dance where boys and girls hold hands and dance in a circle. On this occasion, boys, girls and old women collect donations by visiting numerous houses, all of which is then spent on feasts and parties.
You must be familiar with the Rath Yatra of Odisha. In Manipur too, a rath yatra procession is taken out, but here, it is known as Kang. It is dedicated to Lord Jagannath who leaves his temple in a car, which is then pulled by devotees. It is considered to be an immense honour to pull the car, and the devotees compete with each other for an opportunity to do so. An onlooker is immediately captivated by the colours, crowd, enthusiasm and other festivities accompanying the procession. In September, Manipur celebrates Heikru Hitongba, a boat race which is held on long narrow boats.
Another popular festival of Manipur, and one which involves the participation of all the people, is Cheiraoba, the Manipuri New Year, which is celebrated in April. To celebrate the festival, people clean their houses and cook special dishes which are then offered to various deities. During the course of the festival, people climb the nearest hill tops in the hope that doing so will lead them to attain greater prosperity and success.
Ningol Chak-kouba is a festival celebrated by the Meitei people. Celebrated on the second day of the new moon in Hiyangei (November according to the Georgian calendar), it is marked by the arrival of the married daughters of the family to their parent’s house. Then there is Kut, an autumn festival celebrated by the different tribes of Kuki Chin Mizo groups to celebrate the onset of a bountiful harvest after a year of intense labour. It is an annual festival which is celebrated on the 1st of November every year.