Manipur, the jewel of North East India, is known for its unique culture and traditions. With so many beautiful places to visit in North East India, Manipur’s rich culture, reflected in the form of festivals, shows the diverse art forms and essence of the Manipuri people. Some of these festive celebrations are held to honour the beginning of a bountiful harvest whereas others are held in the hope of achieving wealth, prosperity and success in life.
These festivals in Manipur represent people’s oneness and are a delightful recreation of the body and the soul. In the same breath, they reflect the power, rich culture, and harmony of the Manipur people.
In most parts of the country, the festival of colours is known as Holi, while in Manipur, it is known as Yaoshang.
The Yaoshang festival of Manipur is a five-day celebration filled with enthusiasm and is widely regarded as one of Manipur’s most important festivals. Everyone, young and old, participates in the celebration and honours it with traditional music and dance displays. The traditional Thabal Chongba dance, however, is the major attraction of the town of Yaoshang.
In the region, the festival of Holi signifies burning, thus there is a practice of making a hut and setting it on fire to offer their devotion. The name ‘Thabal Chongba’ means ‘Moonlight Dance’, and it is therefore done at night. Yaoshang is a five-day celebration that begins on the full moon day of the month of Phalguna (February – March).
The Kut festival of Manipal, also known as Chavang Kut, is one of the most popular festivals in the state. It is celebrated by the tribes of Manipur’s Kuki-Chin-Mizo groupings. People from all communities in Manipur gather together to celebrate this wonderful carnival that marks the end of the harvesting season to thank the gods for a bountiful harvest.
That is precisely why the festival is known as Chavang Kut; Chavang signifies “autumn” and Kut signifies “harvest.” The Kut festival used to last several days and many rituals were also performed. This lovely Manipuri festival is held on the first day of November. Farmers gather their entire harvest and celebrate the achievement of a healthy crop.
Another name on the list of Manipur festivals is Heirku Hindongba which is performed on the 11th day of the Langbal month (September). This is a boat racing spectacle on the canal in Manipur’s Bijoy Govinda region. Local teenagers compete in this exciting boat race with energy, enthusiasm, and team spirit. On the night of the celebration, the boats are cleansed, purified with sacred shlokas, and flowers are placed on them. Temporary tents are also set up along the canal for visitors from all throughout the state.
Shri Vishnu’s idol is placed along the canal in the belief that God will oversee the race and preside over the celebration. Furthermore, before the start of the boat race, Brahmins give money and silver to the gods.
Gang Ngai Festival
There are various indigenous tribes who have resided in Manipur for centuries. These tribes are famous for their exquisite culture, diverse lifestyles, and a number of religious faiths and festivals. Kabui Nagas are one of the most prominent tribal communities in Manipur. One of the most famous festivals in Manipur is the Gang Ngai Festival which is celebrated with great zeal and enthusiasm. The Gang-Ngai festival is associated with dance, celebration, music, and spiritual ceremonies. The term Gang Ngai refers to the winter festival and is also known as Chakan Gaan-Ngai.
This famous festival in Manipur is celebrated for five days straight and is observed in different parts of the state. The Gang Ngai festival is held during the months of December and January. It is observed throughout the duration of five days.
Ningol Chakouba, a festival of Meiteis or Vaishnavites, is one of Manipur’s most prominent celebrations. This festival is now celebrated by Muslims in Manipur as well. Throughout this celebration, married women who live in rural areas after marriage are welcomed to their parent’s homes with their children. They are welcomed with tremendous joy and love and lavish meals are served to them.
They spend the full day with their parents, getting pampered and returning to their respective married homes with gifts and blessings. Ningol Chakouba is held on the 2nd day of the New Moon in November each year.
Manipur, surrounded by the beautiful Himalayas, is recognized for its timeless beauty, majestic hills, lush greenery, and tranquil ambience. The description of this attractive state would be incomplete without mentioning its exquisite customs, traditions, and, most importantly, the various exciting festivals held here throughout the year. Among the several festivals in Manipur, Cheiraoba is a famous one with a special place in the hearts of people. The festival of Cheiraoba is held throughout Manipur to mark the start of a new year.
People dress up in traditional costumes for this occasion and the local goddess is worshipped. Additionally, there is also a tradition in which gifts are shared between families and friends. Although Chriraoba is a Hindu festival, it is also celebrated by the state’s Muslims. According to the locals, this traditional Manipuri festival represents a strong bond of affection amongst family members. Cheiraoba is celebrated in March/April, generally, the first lunar day of Sajibu month.
Lui Ngai Ni Festivals
The lovely Naga tribe has several festivals that are celebrated in areas where this ethnic group resides. Lui-Ngai-Ni is a well-known name among several prominent Naga festivities. Lui-Ngai-Ni, or the seed-sowing festival, is celebrated by the Naga clan of Manipur. Every year, this festival in Manipur is held with great enthusiasm towards the start of the spring season. The festival celebrates the season of seed sowing and signifies the start of the new year for the Naga clan. The name Lui-Ngai-Ni is derived from three separate Naga languages; the first word “Lui” means seed sowing festival in Tangkhul.
The second term, “Ngai” is a Rongmei word that also means festival while the last word, “Ni” is a Mao word that also signifies seed sowing festival. Overall, the Lui-Ngai-Ni festival is a time of celebration and joy where the local Nagas pay homage to harvest gods and wish for good health and fortune. Annually, the Lui-Ngai-Ni festival is held towards the start of the spring season and is thus observed on 14-15 February. The celebration also marks the beginning of the Manipuri clan’s new year.
Kang Rath Yatra Festival
Rath Yatra, also known as Kang in Manipur, is one of the most popular celebrations in the state. Kang or Kang Chingba is held for eight days in a row; it is essentially the Manipur version of the Rata Jatra festival performed in Puri. This famous festival in Manipur, however, is primarily celebrated by the Meitei tribe. During these ten days, the festival honours Lord Jagannath’s journey as well as those of his sister Subhadra and brother Balabhadra. The deities leave their dwelling during the Kang festival and the sculptures of all three deities are carried to Lord Jagannath’s Rath.
The name ‘Kang’, which is a local term, comes from the same Rath (carriage) that is used to carry Lord Jagannath and his brothers and sisters. Thousands of worshippers pull this Rath throughout the journey. Aside from its enormous height, what draws people’s attention is the Rath’s appearance which is wonderfully decorated. The Manipur Rath Yatra procession is very similar to that of Puri and is only held on the first and final days of the festival. Kang Chingba is a Manipuri lunar month festival that takes place between June and July.
If you enjoy indulging in many Manipur festivals and appreciate the nation’s cultural uniqueness, you must travel to the northeast to witness the true diversity. Plan a vacation to the Northeast and explore North East India tour packages. Also, don’t forget to attend the ones you can – the festivals in Manipur are truly something else!