The essence of Holi celebration in Manipur!

Holi, the festival of colours, is celebrated whole heartedly in the country. 

Irengbam Jenny

Holi, the festival of colours, is celebrated whole heartedly in the country. Everyone, young and old alike take delight in this joyous festival. Though it’s celebrated in every state of India and in different styles but in Manipur it is indeed a unique way of celebration.

The festival is celebrated all over the country for a day or at most two, but the people of Manipur enjoy the festival for five continuous days. Holi or 'Yaoshang' as it is locally called in Manipur is celebrated for five days and nights. Many activities are organised in every locality as a part of celebrating the festival during these five days.

The festival starts with burning of a small hut made of straw after doing puja. After burning of the hut known as 'Yaoshang Meithaba', young boys and girls dressed in the traditional garb go from door to door to seek customary money which is known as 'Nakatheng'. 

From second day onwards friends and family from a locality apply colours spray water on each other. Children take special delight in the festival. Young boys apply colours, spray water with pichkaris or syringes or throw water balloons on passers by.

Sports activities are organised in every locality and everyone whether young or old takes part in it. The sports festival is a mix of various competitions. The organisers arrange many interesting games such as freeze dance, tug of war, foot races, musical chairs as well as football. 

The main highlight of the festival is a Manipuri folk dance known as 'Thabal Chongba' where young boys and girls dance holding hands. Literal meaning of thabal is ‘moonlight’ and Chongba means ‘dance’, thus meaning ‘dancing in the moonlight’. The only musical instrument used in the folk dance is a 'dholakar' drum.

During Holi, collection of money by young girls is customary and everyone has to contribute no matter how much you give. They use a rope tied on a pole to stop passers by and seek money from them. With the money collected, a feast and the folk dance is organised.

In earlier times boys used to wear 'pheijom' (dhoti) and girls 'phanek' (loincloth worn by female Meetei) in the Thabal Chongba. Nowadays with the changing of times boys don't wear dhoti anymore for the folk dance but the girls still continue to wear the phanek.

Besides the folk dance and sports activities, many other activities like 'Sumang Leela', a traditional theatre or music concerts are also organised in the locality during the festival and people fully enjoy it.

On the occasion of Holi devotees dress themselves in traditional yellow and white turbans and sing devotional songs in front of the idol of Lord Krishna. They also apply gulal (pink colour) among themselves in front of the temple and enjoy to the fullest.
On the last day of the festival, devotees take processions and proceed towards the main temple of lord Krishna called the Govinda Ji temple to perform traditional and cultural activities and celebrate the festival.

The festival is about celebrating the victory of good over evil and also the triumph of devotion. Lord Krishna started the tradition of playing with colours by applying it on his beloved Radha and other Gopis. The play gained popularity with the people and became a tradition.

Manipur's tradition is unique and the tradition is preserved to this date. The festival of colours is a 5 day time of joyous celebration. Happy Holi!

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