The Zeliangrong people are found scattered in the present Imphal West, Imphal East, Thoubal, Bishnupur, Tamenglong, Noney, Jiribam, Churachandpur, Kangpokpi and Senapati districts of Manipur. They are also found settling in Nagaland in its Paren, Dimapur and Kohima districts and in Assam in its Dima-Hasao, Cachar and Heilakandi districts. The present article attempts to highlight the Gaan-Ngai festival of Zeliangrong people of North East India.
Starting of Gaan-Ngai Festival : It is a strong belief that Tingkao Ragwang, the Supreme God created a god named Tingpurengsonnang who was made the patriarch and his wife (Ragonlu) as the matriarch of the common dormitory of gods, men, animals and creatures for a long time. Tingkrangpou (Luchupou) and Makhempei (Luchupei) were the houseowners of Girls’ Dormitory (Luchu) in those days. Tingpurengsonnang was assigned to teach songs, knowledge of cultivation, culture, mode of worship etc.In course of time, men cultivated and collected food grains and stored the same in the granaries. Then men started celebrating Gaan-Ngai festival happily in praising of Tingkao Ragwang for good harvest and performed religious and cultural activities thus signifying the identity of Zeliangrong people. As instructed by Tingpurengsonnang,men offered foods and drinks toTingkao Ragwang invoking Him for longevity of life and prosperity for coming years. They also offered foods, drinks, eatables etc. on the grave as a tribute to the departed soul. Ever since, the Zeliangrong people specially the TRC people have been celebrating the Gaan-Ngai Festival with pomp and gaiety.
Meaning : The Chakaan Gaan-Ngai literal meaning is the festival of winter season. Chakaan means season, Gaan means winter, Ngai means festivals. This festival is also described as a New Year based on Gregorian Calender as it marks the end of the year and beginning of the New Year. In Zeliangrong tradition, this festival celebrates at the end of year as April is the first month of the new year. Timing of Celebration : When farmers store enough food grains in the granaries, they are free from agricultural works, their attention is drawn to festive mood, the sky looks clear and high, winter season sets in and cold winter wind blows, the spirits of the dead ancestor wait for the coming of Gaan-Ngai, the hornbills fly out once in a year, the Gaan-Ngai festival is also celebrated once in a year by the followers of TRC on the 13th day of the Manipuri Lunar month of Wakching which falls commonly in the month of January every year but sometimes it also falls in the month of December. The TRC people mainly observe festivals with religious sacrifices celebrating before and after seed sowing. The main philosophy behind celebration of festivals is to thank Tinkao Ragwang for a good harvest. Like other communities, Zeliangrong Community have a set of festivals in a year with a ritual. They celebrate ten festivals in a year in pre-harvest and post harvest. The pre-harvest festivals are (i) Longnapkaodai (ii) Ginki-Ngai (iii) Gudui-Ngai (iv) Tun-Ngai and the post harvest festivals are (i) Dongjao (ii) Ten-Ngai (iii) Gaan-Ngai (iv) Rih-Ngai (v) Nanu-Ngai (vi) Pukpha-Ngai.
To be contd