Chakaan Gaan-Ngai, the living ritual festival of Zeliangrongs

Chaoba Kamson
Contd from previous issue
Gaan-Ngai brings unity
People work, eat and drink together, dance and sing together, shout huai and beat drum together, discuss together relating to the festival,  attire new and clean customary dresses, enjoy happily together spending the whole night singing the village guarding songs 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 the most attractive for boys and girls is also carried out singing the traditional songs together till late night.
Gaan-Ngai makes people happy
When the spring season comes, all trees and plants sprout  their stems, when the rainy season sets in vegetables grow profoundly, flowers bloom abundantly likewise Zeliangrong also feel happy when much awaited Chakaan Gaan-Ngai festival comes. Their minds fill with joy and gaiety and their faces look cheerful.
Preparation for Gaan-Ngai
Two or three months before the celebration of Gaan-Ngai, some boys of males’ dormitory will set out to the nearest jungle to search and cut the thin bamboos (Guu). The bamboos will be made to dry for making headgear (Gu-pikam) which will be used on the first day of Gaan-Ngai Huai Procession (Huaigammei). Besides, the boys will prepare and get ready mhaigang (Dried Wood) and mhailu (bamboo splint) for producing of sacred fire which will be used in cooking purposes. The Village Council (Pei) will formally announce the coming of the Gaan-Ngai festival for making wine. Hearing it, the villagers will prepare arrangement for the gala. On the other side, the Males’ Dormitory performs an act of blowing of cow or buffalo or mithun’s horn (Goichei Kapitmei) which signals harbinger of Chakaan Gaan-Ngai at Males’ Dormitory or Jumping Ground (Daanshaanpung) inviting all kinds of goods for participation and informing the villagers for necessary arrangment of the festivals. This is called as heralding of Gaan-Ngai (Gaanshaanmei). Boys will first dig the jumping ground on this day. The villagers are informed by the village council to make soak germinated paddy (Nappok Thuntho) prepare for wine.
Girls are busy for weaving works for the festival while boys prepare headgear (pikam) and repair traditional drum. Boys and girls are in practice of dance and learn folk songs for singing competition. Boys are busy beautifying the village with decoration. Girls are engaged in their house works in keeping it neat and clean. They pound wet-rice for making rice beer. Those who are in service outside Manipur state and students who are studying beyond the state return home for celebration and enjoyment of the festival. So, everybody loves Gaan-Ngai and calls its name, Chakaan Gaan-Ngai when  Chakaan season approaches.
On the eve of Gaan-Ngai
One day ahead of the festival, a village old man will inform the villagers to get ready banana leaf and eatables for the festival. In the morning at Males and Girls Dormitories, an act of checking of wirewood called Thingtinmei is carried out. Each and every member of Males and Girls’ Dormitories will bring a faggot of firewood (Mhailamban akhat). Thereafter, a Huai Procession starting from northern gate of the village will march to the Males’ Dormitory. On reaching there, some firewood will be Presented to the owner of Males’ Dormitory. Then, the Males’ Dormitory will bring out an earthen jar of rice beer (zoulai) followed by oblation of holy wine to Tingkao Ragwang and other gods. A little quantity of Tam and a glass of rice beer will be offered first to the owner of Males Dormitory as a courtesy. The same procedure will also be done to the Girls’ Dormitory. In the evening, boys will collect a ginger and an egg from every household of the village for ritual offering to northern and southern presiding deiteis.
Teaching to Youth
All the boys including head boys will assemble inside the house of Males’ Dormitory. The gaanpis will teach young boys to obey to obey what the elders say, to maintain decipline among themselves, to execute the works assigned to them. Any member who disobeys the orders of the elders or senior will be punished by beating a whip as per custom. As practice and convention, all the boys will be beaten on this day compulsorily. If the young boys make a request by producing a bottle of wine not to beat them and assuring that they will definitely execute all necessary duties. If the assurance is satisfied then they may be exempted from this punishment.
The 1st day of the festival (Ngaigangmei)
Prayer to presiding deiteis. : The Gaan-Ngai festival lasts for 5 to 7 days depending on local variation. The first day of the festival is called Ngaigangmei. First, a small hour in the day-break, a ritual will be performed at the abode of northern and southern village deiteis by an old man offering an egg and a piece of fresh ginger invoking them not to cause any kind of untoward incidents during the festival. Then, the priest will offer holy wine to Tingkao Ragwang and lower realm gods.
Heralding of Gaan-Ngai by beating drum
Thereafter, boys will go around the village beating drum which signifies  beginning of Gaan-Ngai festival.
Extraction of fresh fire
New  fire is produced by the extraction of dried wood and bamboo splint on the first day of the festival at the jumping ground or at the individual house.
To be contd


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