Northeast India | 2018
Here are five facts that you must know about Sajibu Cheiraoba festival of Manipur:
#1. Manipur’s festival Sajibu Nongma Panba also called Meetei Cheiraoba or Sajibu Cheiraoba is the lunar new year festival of the people who follow the sanamahism religion. The word ‘Sajibu Nongma Panba’ is derived from Manipuri word, ‘Sajibu’ meaning the first month of the year which usually falls during the month of April which is according to Meitei lunar calendar, while ‘Nongma’ is the first date of a Month, and ‘Panba’ means to be. The lunar new year is celebrated on the same day as in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and many other Indian states.
#2. The Meitei people celebrates the festival with great fanfare. The day, begins with ritual offerings of fruits, vegetables, rice and other uncooked food items to the Meitei deity Lainingthou Sanamahi during the early morning of the festival. After getting blessings from Lainingthou Sanamahi, an even number of dishes are prepared using the offerings. Traditionally, the males of the house makes the dishes, with the females helping in chopping and washing the ingredients.
#3. After the dishes for the feast are made, they are ritually offered at two different traditional locations around the house: one at the front gate of the house and the other at the rear gate of the house. These locations are specially cleansed and sanctified before the offering by cleaning an area and decorating it with mud, flowers and leaves. The offering traditionally includes: an odd number (chang taaba) of dishes surrounding a small mound of steamed rice, a token currency, fruits, flowers, a candle, and an incense stick, all of them placed upon a plantain leaf. This ritual is performed in the late morning.
#4. After all the ritual, the dishes prepared for the feast are exchange with relatives/neighbors and this custom is called “Mathel Laanba” after which the feast will start. It is believed that on the day of new year anything that happens on that day will happen for the rest of the year i.e. if you are happy and healthy on that day, you will be happy and healthy for the rest of the year.
#5. Once the feast is done, it is tradition that family members climb a small hillock specially prepared by the community near the locality to pay homage to the hill deity, signifying the elevation of the spirit to reach the divine. The “Chin-nga” at Singjamei and “Cheirao Ching” at Chingmeirong are such hillocks that are specially prepared for these hillock climbing ritual. Toy shops, eateries, and other varied small shops will line the road to the hillock on that day to attract the ritual climbers to buy their items. The Ching Kāba is usually done during the afternoon to early evening, before the sun sets.
Featured image (courtesy): E-Pao