Manipur is one of Northeast India's most beautiful states. For more than 2,500 years, it has served as a meeting point for Asian economic and cultural exchange, blessed by nature's bounty and boasting a rich culture and history. The abundance is mirrored in the variety of celebrations held there. Some of these events are held to welcome a fruitful harvest, while others are organized to bring about more wealth and success. Here are the nine biggest festivals in Manipur that you must know about:
Cheiroba is one of the most famous and highly regarded festivals in Manipur and occurs in April. Since it heralds the start of the lunar new year for the Meiteis of Manipur, they celebrate it with great fanfare and gusto. Vaishnav Hindus celebrate it on the 13th or 14th of April annually, while followers of Meitei's indigenous religion, Sanamahism, celebrate it on the first day of the lunar new year. During the festival, people clean their homes from top to bottom and put on their best traditional clothing. A variety of traditional dishes, including eromba, pakora, ooti, and many others, are prepared and presented to the local deity at the gates, accompanied by bouquets of flowers and smudge sticks. Married women of the family (daughters, sisters, and aunts) pay a visit to their fathers' houses bearing gifts for the male relatives. This custom is an act of repaying the gifts received by them on the day of Ningol Chakouba. During the night, people enjoy performing their traditional dances.
Chumpha is a 7-day-long harvest festival in Manipur that occurs in December. The Tangkhul Naga tribe community celebrates it with great enthusiasm and zeal. They mostly reside in the Ukhrul District of Manipur. Despite modern influence, most of the people of the tribe still speak Tangkhul dialects. During the festival, people meet and greet friends and family, spreading happiness while giving gifts to near and dear ones. The first day is spent with love and affection while meeting friends and loved ones. Dancing is an integral part of the festival, and for that, women wear the traditional dress called "Kashans,” and men wear "Machung." Traditional food items such as Ngari, rice, pork, and fermented vegetables are served to the guests. On the last day of the festival, the people carry out a huge procession, in which they participate very enthusiastically.
Manipur's true charm lies in the variety of its peoples, customs, and celebrations; the Gang Nagai Festival, which lasts for five days, is a prime example of this. Among the many cultural celebrations held annually in the state, this one is especially notable for uniting the various indigenous communities within it. With nearly 29 distinct ethnic groups calling this area home, it's no surprise that the many festivals and customs associated with them all have their own unique twists. Because of this variety, it's possible for people from different backgrounds to meet and form relationships. The Gang Nagai festival primarily belongs to the Kabui Nagas. On the first day of the festival, an omen-taking ceremony is held, and the remaining days are dedicated to a communal feast, dances by the elderly and children, the distribution of farewell gifts, and other related events.
The 15th of February is celebrated annually as the public holiday of Lui-Ngai-Ni in the Indian state of Manipur. The Naga people hold this festival annually to mark the beginning of the planting season. This event is a chance for the various Naga communities in Manipur to celebrate and share their shared history and culture, as well as to renew and strengthen their sense of community with one another. The name of the festival itself is a composite of three words from three different Naga languages, but all of them have the same meaning: "Seed Sowing Festival." Invoking the god of crops at this celebration is meant to ensure a bountiful harvest from the newly planted seeds. Traditional dress, drumming, and performances of traditional dances and songs are just some of the cultural displays that take place during the festival.
Yaoshang, Manipur's most important festival, lasts five days, beginning on the full moon day of Phalguna (February/March). The Thabal Chongba, a type of Manipuri folk dance in which males and females join hands and dance and sing around a central figure, is often performed at this celebration. Young people and the elderly alike go door to door soliciting financial support for celebrations and then use the funds to throw parties and eat lavish meals. Yaoshang is to Manipur what Durga Puja is to Bengal, Diwali is to the north,, and Bihu is to Assam.
The "Kang" or "Rath-Yatra" festival is one of the most important festivals in Manipur, celebrated by the Meitei community who practice Vaishnavism. The origin and theme of the celebration in Manipur are adapted from the Rath-Yatra festival in Puri, Odisha. Every year, the festival commemorates the day when the idols of Lord Jagannath, His brother Balabhadra, and sister Subhadra were enshrined at the Jagannath Temple in Puri, Orissa (Rath means chariot/cart, Yatra means enshrined). However, due to regional cultural evolution, there is a slight difference in how the festival is celebrated in Manipur and Odisha.
The Heikru Hidongba in Manipur is an annual function held on the eleventh Langban in the Bijoy Govinda area. This is one of the most fascinating festivals in Manipur because it is marked by a boat race on the canal. Narrow longboats are used for the race, which accommodates many rowers. The canal used for the race is 16 meters wide and located in Manipur. It is believed that Shri Vishnu, whose idol is set up before the start of the boat race, will watch over the proceedings of Heikru Hitongba. The Brahmins place gold and silver offerings before the gods and statues. The rowers in each boat are in a particularly competitive mood, and they all put forth their greatest effort to toss the other vessel from its course.
One of the most well-known festivals in the state, Ningol Chakouba, takes place on the second day of the Manipuri calendar's Hiyangei month. Chakouba means "invitation for the feast," and Ningol refers to "married woman," so this is the festival where the married women are invited back to their parent's house for a meal. The ningols' sons traditionally send out invitations one week in advance; the gathering is meant to strengthen the ties of love between family members such as brothers, sisters, daughters, and parents.
Kut festival, also known as Chavang Kut, is a major holiday in Manipur. The Kuki, Chin, and Mizo peoples of Manipur celebrate the Chavang Kut festival with great enthusiasm and merriment. But during the festival, people from all walks of life in Manipur come together to celebrate this spectacular event. This celebration takes place after the harvest season has ended and is meant to be an expression of gratitude to the gods for a successful harvest. Therefore, the word "autumn," "Chavang," and "Kut," which mean "harvest," combine to form the name of the festival. The Kut festival has evolved over the years, but its origins can be traced back to much longer celebrations that included many more rituals. The village priest would hand out ju (rice beer) to the locals after the main rites were over. In addition to the games and feasts, the celebration also features dancing and singing.