Posts Tagged ‘bishnupriya manipuri festivals’
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!
The most religious and ritualistic festival of the Bishnupriya Manipuris is the Kartika festival which continues during the month of Kartik from the Laxmi Purnima to the Rasa-Purnima. Throughout this period Arati’s (offerings of lights) to Radha-Krishna are performed in the morning, in the for-noon and in the evening in the temples by following traditional rites and rules. Bhajan songs are sung to the accompaniment of Kartal, Pung (Dhak), Bell, Selbong and Moibung. That time they offer Kaboks (puffed rice mixed with sugar) and fruits to the lord.
Religious text , specially the Mahabharata and Ramayana, are recited and explained at every mandav’s or at any certain places where the people gather. The citation & explanation of religious scriptures is called ‘Leirik-Thikorani’.
Generally two knowledgeable and learned persons do this – one plays the role of ‘Thipa’ (the narrator) and the other one as the ‘Warilipa’ (interpreter). The ‘Leirik-Thikorani’ culture played a very important and significant role in propagating the Vaushnavite literature among the people and at the same time it helped in developing the folk and ancient literature of Bishnupriya Manipuri language.
After the ‘Arati’ or ‘Leirik-Thikorani’, prasadam (the food offering given to the Lord) is distributed among the people. They are fed on banana or lotus leave.
Moreover, in the period of Kartika, competition of dance with traditional ‘Dhol’s or wardrums. ‘Jhal’s or big cymbals etc are held almost everyday from villages to villages. These cultural competitions are called ‘Kartikar Phanna’ or the rivalry of Karitika. The big drums ‘Dhol’s and the big cymbals ‘Jhal’s are frequently used by the Bishnupriya Manipuris almost in every socio-religious occasions. It has been heard from some old-aged persons of the community that formerly the competition of ‘Kartikar Phanna’ used to held under the patronage of the kings.
The Kartika festival ends at the day of Rasa Purnima, the great Rasa celebrated on the full moon day Kartika (December).
The knowledge of culture of a society can be known from the festival they perform. We can learn about their philosophy, their talent in fine arts and creativity and their social structure by study of their festivals, their development and significance. Bishnupriya Manipuris performs all the important festivals connected to the cult of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, but there are some colorful and notable festivals which are particular to Bishnupriya Manipuris only.
The most important of all the festivals is Bishu. Bishu is identical with the Cheiraoba festival of Manipuri Meiteis, which is celebrated in the first day of Manipuri month Sajibu (March/April) in order to herald a ‘New Year’. Every house including the royal family in Manipur take part in this festival with great enthusiasm. The Bishu festival is traditionally observed from the last day of the year and continues for seven days.
On the first day of the festival, special worship of family ancestors with offering of specially cooked food items (mainly different kinds of dhal and vegetables) are carried out in every Bishnupriya Manipuri family irrespective of their Sageis or Lokeis. The offerings are decorated in a banana leaf and placed at front of the main gate (Aarang) of the house. After the offering the different kinds of cooked dishes are exchanged amongst the families of neighborhood and relatives.
At the evening the women folks get busy with making different kind of Pitha’s with paste of rice or wheat and distribute them among the guests. From the evening of the day up to the seventh day, competition different kind of traditional games are held between different parties. The principal game played during Bishu is ‘Nokon’ – a special kind of game. Another traditional game played during Bishu is ‘Gilla’, which is played with a flat and round piece of horn or wood. The players are mainly groups of young boys and girls.
The festival of Bishu is a traditional festival based on traditional customs, rituals and philosophy. It is a living testimony of a well-organized civilization that our forefathers established centuries ago.
Photo: Girls playing the traditional games ‘Nokon’ during Bishu (courtesy: RKCS)
Links: An Article on Bishu celebration in my Bangla blog