The good and the bad of Yaoshang Festival of colour

Festival of colour and making it more colourful is the fact that Manipur is a land of festival. So it is that the very set of people who pull back nothing to make Holi or Yaoshang all that more colourful, will put their best foot forward to rend the air with the melody of Silent Night, Holy Night, when Christmas comes in December. Something beautiful in giving a somewhat secular touch to all the festivals usually identified with the religious beliefs of a group of people and so while Holi will soon be on the people, it is not only the Vaishnavite Hindus who can be expected to play with colours and aber, others too will join in the merry making and extending the Holi greetings to all. This is about humanity and Manipur ranks right up there in embracing each and every festival with gusto. Something beautiful in all these for it reflects the train of thought of a people who are not caged within the boundaries of a religious line of beliefs. Making the festival of colour all that more colourful will obviously be the Yaoshang Sports which has come to define the festival down the decades and here is a case of a people who have adopted an effective means to harness the energy of the young people and make it spill out on the playing fields. Instilling a sense of competitiveness amid the colours and aber of Yaoshang and here is an effective way of demonstrating how a healthy culture can go along with merry making. A case of making the process of learning fun and here is a text book example of preparing the perfect cocktail of fun and learning.  On the social front too, nakatheng will rank right up there on the chart as a process of throwing one’s gate open to welcome the neighbours as the sun sets and thereby promote a sense of social solidarity, an unsaid but clear message that no one can remain cut off from what is happening in one’s surroundings. Something beautiful in the way in which very young girls and boys dressed in their finest Yaoshang fineries go from door to door in the neighbourhood to ask for donations ! A practise that cannot be interpreted along monetary line for it speaks something profound about the social ties and something deeper and more meaningful of the great Meitei society.
As with anything, Yaoshang too comes with its share of the bad and ugly side and even much before the festival had come anywhere near shaking hands distance, it was not uncommon to see some young girls blocking roads at some places to ask for donation for the leikai Thabal Chongba. Reducing the spirit of the festival to donations and at times ‘coerced collection’ is not exactly going with the spirit of the festival.  Young boys and the not so young zooming around in their fancy two wheelers is another eye sore and there is a reason why road accidents usually see a sharp spike during the Yaoshang festival. Here it would do good for the parents and elders of the family to keep a close tab on the movement of the young children and see how their energy can be harnessed for other more productive activities, such as the Yaoshang sports. It is also more than right that everyone give some serious thought to the absurdly long period of the festival, which runs into five days. This is a line which everyone seems to have voiced concern for quite some time but obvious that not much thought to it has been given. One example is the print media going off print for five full days and while everyone has been calling for the newspapers not to take such a long break, everyone seems to forget that the answer to this basically lies with them taking things into their own hands and stopping the road blocks to collect money during the festival. No one is spared, including reporters and the distributors or hawkers and no one would want to part with their money while they are out to earn money.