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Reena Nongmaithem
Date of Publish: 2017-07-29

Kang Chingba festival of Manipur

 

Festival of Kang Chingba or Ratha Yatra in Manipur is celebrated every year on second day Ingen of Manipuri lunar month which falls between June and July and the festival continues for ten days. However, Ratha Yatra or Knag Chingba procession performed only on the first and the last days of the festival.

On these days, the Kang or cart with the wooden sculptures of Lord Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra, and sister Subhadra placed in it, is pulled by devotees from Shree Shree Govindajee temple gate till the Sanathong (palace gate), and is taken back along the same route taking back idols of three siblings to the temple with much fanfare, after proper ceremonies.

Besides the celebration at Govindajee temple, Brahmin households of each locality organize the Kang Chingba in the valley areas throughout the state. However, the process of the locality Kang can start only after the Kang Chingba of Shree Shree Govindajee.

The festival of Kang was introduced by King Gambir Singh in 1832 who ruled the then Kingdom from 1825 to 1834 after the advent of Hinduism during King Pamheiba (1690-1751).

According to Pana Pandit (Meitei scholar) Laitonjam Lokendro Meitei, though the festival is imitation of Ratha Yatra at Puri, it has got remarkable local influence, the Meitei architectural style of house in making Rath (the Cart) is one such example, Pandit said.

And the seven colors Flag of Kangleipak (flag representing seven clans of Manipur) was used to hoisted at the roof of the Kang during earlier times of celebration but it has been replaced by Kangshi (bell) these days.

In Meitei society and in its every belief, whether it may be of ritual ceremonies, festival, culture, traditions, it has strong significance with the creation of earth, the creation of living beings, the human civilizations and its connection with nature at the baseline in one way or the other, he remarked.

According to Meitei belief, as told by Pandit Lokendro, long before Chirst was born, during the reign of Ningthou (King) Kangba of 1405 BC to 1359 BC, there was a celebration called Ahong Khong Chingba which had similarity with the present day imitated festival of Kang.

On those ancient times, Ningthou Kangba, along with his deity Sanamahi on a Rath pulled by his devotees used to travel for “Konba Lam Yengba, Saban Lam Thokpa” which means to see his people, his territories and to make sure of people and territorial safety every year and it was known as Ahong Khong Chingba.

The Kang Chingba was celebrated for the first time in Manipur on the second day of Inga (Manipuri month during May-June), Saturday in 1832 as written in Cheitharol Kumbaba (the Royal Chronicle of Manipur).

After the death of king Gambhir Singh, his son Chandratriti in 1840 after seven years of break, the festival was celebrated again on tenth Day of Inga depicting that there were no such fixed day at the beginning of the festivity although it is performed within Inga month of Manipuri calendar.

It was on 1846, after four years break, the festival celebration started on second day of Ingel coinciding with the celebration at Puri which is considered to be the home of this festival.

Thus Jagannath cult came into prominence and Kang Chingba came to be celebrated as one of the largest festivals amongst Meitei Hindus.

On the occasion of Ratha Yatra in Manipur, the cart drawn by devotees is attended by Brahmins, and a team of musicians with conch, mridanga, and cymbals. Two young girls holding fly whisks act as Dwarapaala (door guards).

Devotees make offerings of fruits, flowers, incense sticks, and barti, wherever the cart stops. After the arti, fruits are distributed, and the smoke emitted from the half burnt bartis is waved towards the devotees.

People believe that getting an opportunity to hold the ropes, and pulling the cart with the idols will wash away all the sorrows. With this belief, people from all walks of life, far and near, throng the route along which the cart with the idols will be drawn.

Every evening for nine days, there is a performance of Jayadev (singing praises of Lord) and Khubakisei (devotional dance and music) at the mandap of the locality Brahmin, which is followed by distribution of Khechri (rice cooked with pulses), and various side dishes as prasad.

Here, the prasad is served in the lotus leaf, which enhances its taste. There is a local belief behind the serving of khechri as prasad. It is believed that Subhadra was asked by her brothers to cook food while they went out. Frightened by the sound of the sea waves she hurriedly mixed and cooked both rice and pulses in the same pot which turn out to be Khechri. Upon such belief, Khechri has become an integral part of the Kang festivities in Manipur.

The twelfth day of Ingen is called HariShayan (the day Hari sleeps according to a legend), and the festivities are completed on this day.

Various seasonal fruits and flowers like pineapple, pear, plum, lotus seeds, lotus flowers, lotus leaves, and garlands of soaked dried peas and paddy grains, are known to be associated with the festival of Kang.

Reena Nongmaithem

( Reena Nongmaithem is an independent journalist based in Imphal. She can be reached at reenanong@gmail.com )

All photographs used in this article were taken by Reena Nongmaithem

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