Manipur, known as ‘The Jewel of North East India’, is known for its unique culture and traditions. With so many beautiful places to visit in India, Manipur’s culture, reflected in the form of festivals, shows the diverse art forms and spirit of the Manipuri people. Some of these festive celebrations are held to honor 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 togetherness, and in the same breath, they reflect the power, rich culture, and harmony of the Manipur people. Manipur’s most famous festivals are –
“True Shape Of Colourfulness”
1) Yaoshang Festival
In most parts of the country, the festival of colors is known as Holi, while in Manipur, it is known by a different name, ‘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’, which is done at night. Yaoshang is a five-day celebration that begins on the full moon day of the month of Phalguna (February – March). In Manipur, it 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 honors it with traditional music and dance displays. However, the traditional Thabal Chongba dance is the major attraction of the town of Yaoshang.
Manipur’s vibrant Yaoshang festival kicks off. Photo credit: The New Indian Express
2) Kut Festival
The Kut festival of Manipur, also known as Chavang Kut, is very popular in the state. It is celebrated by the tribes of Manipur’s Kuki-Chin-Mizo groupings. People from all Manipur communities gather to celebrate this wonderful carnival that marks the end of the harvesting season to thank the gods for a bountiful harvest. This lovely Manipuri festival is held on the first day of November.
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. Farmers gather their entire harvest and celebrate the achievement of a healthy crop.
Kut festival celebrations. Photo credit: Times of India
3) Heirku Hidongba
Another name on the list of Manipur festivals is Heikru Hidongba. This is a boat racing spectacle on the canal in Manipur’s Bijoy Govinda region. It is celebrated to pray for the peace and prosperity of the communities of Manipur. It is performed on the 11th day of the Langbal month (September). Shri Vishnu’s idol is placed along the canal to believe 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.
Six 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 throughout the state.
Heirku Hidongba celebrations. Photo credit: Wikipedia
4) Gang Ngai Festival
Various indigenous tribes have resided in Manipur for centuries. These tribes are famous for their exquisite culture, diverse lifestyles, and several 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. Gang Ngai refers to the winter festival and is known as Chakan Gaan-Ngai.
This festival is associated with dance, celebration, music, and spiritual ceremonies. The Gang Ngai festival is held during December and January.
This famous festival in Manipur is celebrated for five days straight and is observed in different parts of the state. It is observed for five days. People perform dances, celebrate and do music and spiritual ceremonies.
Gang Ngai festival in Manipur. Photo credit: Adotrip.com
5) Ningol Chakouba
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. The festival is celebrated to strengthen the bond of love between married ladies (ningol) and their parent families. Ningol Chakouba is held on the 2nd day of the New Moon in November each year.
Throughout this celebration, married women who live in rural areas after marriage are welcomed to their parents’ homes with their children. They are welcomed with tremendous joy and love, and lavish meals are served. They spend the full day with their parents, getting pampered and returning to their respective married homes with gifts and blessings.
6) Cheiraoba Festival
Manipur, surrounded by the beautiful Himalayas, is recognized for its timeless beauty, majestic hills, lush greenery, and tranquil ambiance. The description of this beautiful 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 people’s hearts. The festival of Cheiraoba is held throughout Manipur to mark the start of a new year. Cheiraoba is celebrated in March/April, the first lunar day of Sajibu month.
People dress up in traditional costumes for this occasion, and the local goddess is worshiped. There is also a tradition in which family and friends share gifts. 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 festival Photo credit: Adotrip.com
7) 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. However, this famous festival in Manipur is primarily celebrated by the Meitei tribe.
The festival honors Lord Jagannath’s journey and those of his sister Subhadra and brother Balabhadra. Kang Chingba is a Manipuri lunar festival that takes place between June and July.
The name ‘Kang’, a local term, comes from the same Rath (carriage) 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 Rath’s wonderfully decorated appearance. The Manipur Rath Yatra procession is very similar to Puri’s and is only held on the first and final days of the festival.
Kang Rath Yatra festival in Manipur. Photo credit: nenow.in
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 of India. Plan a vacation to the Northeast and explore the festivals in Manipur are truly something else!