Today is Yaosang, the Manipuri version of Holi.
The Manipuri observance of Holi differs a lot from the normal Holi observed throughout India. It is a five day festival of of Importance,often referred as ‘Phaguwa’ by the Bishnupriya Manipuris. While the basic Vaishnavite features of the festival are present, the manipuris have given it the added significance of its being a commemoration of birth of Sri Chaitanya or Gauranga Mahaprabhu.
On the first day, bamboos and thatches are collected from houses to construct a small mandir(hut) or shed called Yaosang near the road side. The image of Sri Chaitanya is brought into the shed and groups of people male, female, old and young arrange offerings in conformity with traditional and Gaudiya manner. In the evening of the full-moon day they set the hut on fire. After burning down the shed people collect ashes and paste them into their forehead.
It is said that the festival is observed to symbolize the pang of separation between Radha and Krishna and the manner in which Krsihna sees Radha after burning the shed.It is also evident that into this Vaishnavite festival certain traditional Manipuri aspects have been incorporated. It is likely that the Yaosang festival, was originally connected with the coming of spring, and that the burning of the Hut (Yaosang) may have symbolizes the destruction of the Cold and the farewell of winter.
The most characteristic feature of the festival is that, from the second to the fourth day, groups of people – irrespective of age, sex and rank – walk from house to house to collect “Vikkha” in the form of rice and money. During the begging they recite the lines in chorus “Hori Hori Bola – E Hori”. Smalls boys and girls beg money from the passersby. Youths are seen parading the streets with red powder, painting or sprinkling colored water locally called as “Pechkari”. In Manipur, boys and girls participate in the traditional Thabal Chongba dance.
Happy Yaosang and Happy Holi to all!