Union minister graces Liangma Chagaa Festival

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Union minister for Tribal Affairs Jual Oram, in response to the memorandum submitted by the Liangmai Naga Council (LNC), assured to construct a “community complex” for the Liangmai people. The LNC also submitted a separate memorandum “strongly opposing” the creation of Sadar Hills district.

The Union minister was at Tamei, Tamenglong district on October 30 to grace the state level ‘Chagaa Ngee’, the Liangmai traditional ‘blessed festival’.  The festival was celebrated under the theme, “To the Roots”.

Member of Central Board of Film Certification, Linda Newmai, who is also an Advisory member of National Rural Livelihood Mission attended the event as the guest of honour while former MLA and President of Naga People’s Front (NPF), Manipur unit N Awangbou was the function president. Sitting MLA Z Kikhonbou Niumai, who is also the vice chairman of Hill Area Committee (HAC) was the chief host while Rev Z Mairilungbou, Executive Secretary of LNBA was the Singkuh (Chief Priest) of the programme. The Chagaa Queen contest was graced by Namsinrei Panmei, chairman of Autonomous District Council (ADC), Tamenglong.

Witingthuiliu Abonmai, Makhan (BA), was crowned as Chagaa Queen. Gloria Daimai (MA) of Tamenglong is the First Runners Up while Matungliu of Makhan is the Second Runners Up. Various Liangmai artistes enthralled the gathering with their items.

The host villages are Tamei Namraining, Chiang and Piulekluang.

Display of cultural dances, cultural songs, Chagaa queen contest and Liangmai traditional sports were the prime features of the one day festivity.

The Chagaa festival falls on October 30 and October 31. The day is one of the most anticipated calendar days for the Liangmai people. On this very day, thousands of Liangmai people conglomerated at Tamei for the day-long jamboree of Liangmai cultural extravaganza. The Liangmai people gathered in bonhomie to rejoice in promoting their roots. Thousands of young and old Liangmai people were united in the spirit of the ancestral brotherhood.

Cut to this digital era, Chagaa festival has been laced with festoons and fanfare with the showcasing of tradition and culture within the modern context. Taking the Chagaa festival from this angle, it is a connection between the gaping hole of ancestral roots and modernity.

On this very day every year, the Liangmai people make every effort to reunite with their roots despite the mad drive along the tide of the fast moving world.

Adibo Newmei, convenor of the programme while speaking to Newmai News Network narrated about the Chagaa festival observed by Liangmai people in olden days. According to him, it is one of the most important festivals of the Liangmai people. “Many Liangmai elders have opined differently about the meaning of “Chagaa”. Some say it is a festival of the sanctification, preparation for war, war festival and seeking God’s blessing for the next year. But most of them agree that it is a process of sanctification of the body and mind to get blessing in whatever form for ambitions one aspire to have. In short one can call it a blessed festival,” Adibo Newmei added.

He then narrated that the Chagaa festival is annually celebrated during the autumn season, Chariuting, Chaga Hiu (month of Chaga) which usually falls in the late part of October or the early part of November. It depends on the sighting of the moon as the Liangmais follow the lunar calendar. For the Liangmai villagers every month is a month of festivals. Except for a month called the Chahiu Sinbo (Molomas-doubling of a month/presuming two months as one). Adibo Newmei added that this Chahiu Sinbo will be observed during the rainy season after every 7-8 years when the plants, flowers or the seasons do not tally with the counting of the months. During this month there is no festival, rituals, feast of merits etc., he stated.

According to Adibo, during Chariu Ting (autumn season) particularly in the month of Chaga Hiu, the Liangmais believe that God has blessed the land; the climate is neither hot nor cold, but is moderate, the field, the plants and the trees are productive. The jhum fields are harvested, granaries are filled up with vegetables like pumpkin, yam, gourd, chilly, ginger etc. are in abundance and are cultured and preserved for future use. Even domesticated and wild animals are healthy. In other words God is happy and have blessed everything, Adibo added.

According to the convenor of Chagaa festival, the main objective of Liangmai people observing the occasion in olden days was to appease the Charawang (god) and to seek his blessing. Each individual tries to purify/sanctify themselves. Everyone hopes to be blessed and bestowed to become a great warrior/hunter/wealthy/great lover as desired by an individual and to be free from sickness and misfortune. Each individual looks for good omens or signs during Peng Kepbo for the coming year. The preparation made by each individual for ‘Chagaa’ is very meticulous compared to preparation made for other festivals and each must be committed to please god. The men folk themselves initiate to purify the mind, body and soul and must remain cleansed but a mere pretension will have to face the wrath of god, Adibo narrated.

“The Singku (chief priest), Pakhangpi (leader of the morung) and subordinates take initiative in observing and maintaining the lunar calendar. They also observe seasonal chirping of birds, blooming of flowers particularly Chagaa Rapen (Chaga flower) known today as the Christmas flower. The Chaga calendar is strictly maintained with the first appearance of the moon during Chagaa time. The day of the festival is counted by marking it by color (using charcoal) or given a cut mark by a Chaheng (matchet) each day (daily  by a  member of the morung) on a wooden plank or pole purposely shaped for use and placed in front of the Khangchiuky. This cut mark is called Chagaa Hengsa. Thus the priest is able to fix a particular day for the commencement of the festival. The attempt is to get a full moon in the festival and is known as Chagah Hiu Pahbo,” Adibo Newmei added.

It is believed that one who sees the first sight of the moon is fortunate and he will be blessed to fulfill his life ambition. “Therefore everyone eagerly observe the heavenly bodies and clamour to be the first person to see the moon. As soon as the new moon is sighted every villager takes great precautions from falling sick or getting injured,” he added. Venturing out for hunting or going to distant places is avoided and even mothers caution their children not to venture out and remain alert while playing on the eve of the festivals less they fall prey to unforeseen ill luck or injuries. It is taboo to get sick or injured and remain bed ridden during the festival, Adibo Newmei further narrated on Chagaa fesival.

Source: Imphal Free Press

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