Significance of Gaan-Ngai festival

Dr Budha Kamei
Contd from previous issue
The spleen of the pig is removed and examined carefully for the sign of good and evil that is to come in the year. The portent is read as: if there is blemish on the spleen it is assumed as bad and there is nothing on it, is regarded as good sign.
Communal meal (Jeigantumei): The above sacrificed animal is cooked and consumed by the members present at Khangchiu. This is called Jeigantumei. Jeigantumei is tantamount of oath taking. Before meal they cry Naplaohoi.
Hoi procession (Hoigammei): This Hoi procession takes place on the first day. In the afternoon, every male of Khangchiu wearing the best colourful varied shawls meant for their age, headgear and holding spears in their hands will march from one end of the village to another; it starts from Khangchiu and return to the same place with Rilai Hoi after the sport competitions like long jump, throwing stone etc. at the Daanshanpung (village jumping ground). It expresses the strength and unity of the village. In the Kabui tradition, every important event starts and comes to an end with Hoi. Hoi is an important part of Gaan-ngai (Brown 2001:28) and the objective of Hoi procession is to renew the magical defense of the village community against natural and supernatural enemies.
Production of new fire (Mhailapmei): New fire is produced by wood and bamboos friction. The fire is either distributed to every household or several team of young men visit individual families to produce the new fire. It is believed that partaking of the foods cooked with the new fire will make them healthy, wealthy and wise; other significance is that the blessed influence of the fresh fire will last throughout the whole year (Frazer 1922:556-557).
Offering at the village gate (Khunnummei): This ceremony is performed in the afternoon of the third day (Tuna-Gaan ngai). In the ceremony, the Nampou, (owner of the village) the chief functionary will go to the village gates and dig holes in which he offers an egg (Loidui) and iron pieces (Tanchu) with the chanting of relevant hymns. It is an affirmation that he is the descendent of the founder of the village and prays for the affirmation of his position and strength of the village. This has social and administrative significance.
Ritual of reaffirmation (Raang pammei): In the midnight of the third day, Raang pammei ceremony is observed as a symbol of reaffirmation of the strength and unity of the village against the elements and forces unfavourable to the village (Kamei 2004:80-81).
Calling of paddy (Napkao): On the first day, Napkao ceremony, calling of paddy is performed in every household for bountiful harvest in the coming year. Offering of the best part of the killed animals or fowls i.e. the liver with rice and drink are made to goddess of wealth (Kambuipui), goddess of rice (Charaipui) and ancestors (Kairao) who live in the form of hearth stones. This is called Napchanmei. The ritual offering is carried out by the household mother as the deity of rice is female.
Village gate opening (Raangpatmei): The last day is called Raangpatmei, gate opening; (Raang means village gate and Patmei, to open). In olden days, the village gates were closed during the festival to secure from enemy attack or raid. On this day, a ceremony called Raren Loumei, worship of Seven Bothers Gods, presiding deities of the village, gods of different aspects of nature like the God of fire, wind etc., propitiation of evil spirits not to disturb men is performed by offering fowls, wine, water, ginger, egg etc. for wellbeing of the whole village community. It is carried out by a priest outside the Northern gate of the village, the seat of Kaipi Bambu, upper village deity (Kamei 2005:21). A complete genna known as Neihmei (prayer) is observed during the period of the sacrifice.
(To be contd)