Chakaan Gaan-Ngai : The living ritual festival of Zeliangrong

Chaoba Kamson
(Contd from yesterday)
Tamchan Dance: In the evening, only girls will perform a dance in (i) the House of Pei (ii) the House of old women and (iii) the House of village elders. This dance is known as Tamchan Laam (Tam means chutney of vegetable, chan means giving away and Laam means dance.
Objective of Tamchanmei: The objective of Tamchanmei is to go and offer prayer at the above mentioned three traditional institutions not to cause any kind of illness, diseases of hardship to be inflicted to boys and girls for coming year. The Zeliangrong people treat the three social institutions as holy places.
The 3rd Day/Tuna Gaan-Ngai: The 3rd day is called Tuna Gaan-Ngai. In the morning, two heads of male dormitory will bring Tamcha to the boys dormitory. An elder of the village will recite the hymns of Tamsuan and zousuan. After lunch, the members of male dormitory will shout Rilai huai holding a stick of fire wood in their hands and proceeds to the Houses of two heads of Khangbon praising them for abundant gifts and wine.
In the evening, boys and girls perform a farewell dance in honour of both Khangbons who are to be promoted to the higher post of Gaanchang.
The 4th Day/Longkumei (Hill Trekking): Longkumei or Longruimei means hill trekking. Boys and Girls climb a nearby hill for sight seeing. They select kings and queens and adorn their heads by Phaak leaves as crowns. They show their talents in singing song, drum beating, playing of harp (Rajaimei). After performing these activities pork chutney, wine, boiled vegetables etc. are offered to all present there. They return to the village and perform a dance in honour of boys and girls who have been as kings and queens. This dance is known as Phaakgang Laam. The families of the kings and queens will offer Laam Baan in the form of money, drink, chutney and other eatables.
The 5th Day/Napchanmei: The whole day is busy for preparation of cooking. In the evening, a ritual ceremony of calling of paddy (Napkaomei) with a big cock invoking goddess of food grains in charge for good harvest and prosperity for the coming year is observed at both dormitories. The cooked liver of cock, rice, and crushed ginger will be offered to goddesses of Kambuipui, Charaipui and Kairao (ancestors) who live in the form of hearth stones in the house. This ceremony is called Napchanmei. The objective of calling of paddy is to restore the wasted rice at the time of preparation of cooking, eating etc. during the festival.
Napsing Gansin Raomei: Napsin Gansin Raomei means criticism made to the heads of male dormitory and senior most Ganpis for not being served delicious dishes during the Gaan-Ngai festival. The programme is carried out at the courtyard of male dormitory after the grand feast. Their unsatisfied voices are expressed through songs. These songs are known as Napchan Luh. They also sing songs criticising the matriarch of the male dormitory for her activities. The songs are meant to ensure welfare and prosperity in coming year. Then the members present will move inside the dormitory singing song, wishing prosperity and welfare to the owners of Boys Dormitory for the coming year.
Singing Competition: All the members of Boys Dormitory will again proceed to the Girls’ Dormitory for singing of song competition with the girls. On reaching at Girls Dormitory, a village elder offers holy wine to Tingkao Ragwang praying not to cause any unwanted incidents during the course of singing competition. First, a boy will sing and followed by a girl in rotation. The competition will continue till late night.
The 6th Day/Rangpatmei: It is believed that all the gods of Zeliangrong pantheon also participate in the celebration of Gaan-Ngai. So, Raren Loumei, the performance of the sacrifices to seven brother gods and the deities worshipped in a particular village is observed on the last day of the festival at the abode of northern village deity. It is carried out by a priest and its objective is to ward off any diseases, hardship, illness, death etc. Evil spirits are not worshipped but they are propitiated not to give trouble to men. This ritual is known as Raren Loumei. During the performance of the ritual, both the northern and southern village gates are closed and nobody is allowed to cross the gates. Violation of this restriction means evil consequences even death may happen. This is the reason behind, any person is not allowed to go beyond the village gates.
Another reason of closure of the village gates is to stop the evil spirits from entering the village. For this ritual every household will give a fowl, a piece of ginger and a bundle of banana leaves to the village authority. The village old men and old woman will eat the cooked chickens and some quantity of chicken will be distributed to minor children. It is also a ritual of send-off all the gods (Ra-ta Ginsonmei) upto village northern gate.
Bukaomei (Calling of soul): After the performance of Raren Loumei, the village elders will return to the village pei where another ritual ceremony known as Bukamei will be performed. A big cock will be sacrificed after chanting the hymns invoking Tingkao Ragwang to allow returning the soul to human body. The cooked chicken will be eaten by the elders and pieces of the chicken will be distributed to every household.
Conclusion: Attiring new and clean customary dresses, the Zeliangrong people enjoy happily together spending the whole night singing the village guarding songs, romantic songs of luphai and carry out the singing competition. The boys and girls partake the delicious food accompanied by merry making, singing, dancing, cutting jokes etc. heartily. Performance of cultural activity like pazeimei which is most attractive programme for boys and girls is also carried out (waving of sash) singing the traditional songs till late night. Those who did not talk on personal grudges before the celebration of Gaan-Ngai talk during the festival.
Therefore, the Gaan-Ngai brings love, peace, understanding and unity among the people. Even the marriage is postponed due to attraction of the festival. The deceased family mourns their relatives’ death saying that it would be better if death occurs after the festival. Boys and girls continue to remember the happiness and merry-making of the festival even after its celebration. That is why, the Gaan-Ngai is an unforgettable one in the mind of Zeliangrong people. Thus, the Gaan-Ngai festival comes to an end.
Lastly, I, on behalf of the Tingkao Ragwang Chapriak Phom, Assam, Manipur and Nagaland extend my hearty greetings to all Zeliangrong people living in NE India to enjoy happily the Gaan-Ngan Festival which begins from 31st December, 2017 to 6th January, 2018 with pomp and gaiety with the spirits of preservation of the rich cultural heritage and ancient religion (TRC) of Zeliangrong Community. (Concluded)
(Chaoba Kamson is General Secretary of Tingkao Ragwang Chapriak Phom Assam, Manipur and Nagaland)

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