Gaan Ngai – the biggest annual post-harvest festival of the Zeliangrong community of Manipur, Assam and Nagaland – began in the Zeliangrong-dominated areas of Manipur and other parts of the north-eastern region on Wednesday.
Manipur forest and environment minister Thounaojam Shyamkumar Singh; Haobijam Chaoba Singh, director of Veterinary and Animal Husbandry department; advisor N Rajendro (Boi) of Information Centre for Hill Areas Manipur and key functionaries of Tingkao Ragawang Chapriak (TRC) attended in one of the inaugural functions at Ramji kabui village in Imphal West district located along Imphal-Silchar highway.
On the other hand revenue minister Karam Shyam accompanied by Lamlai MLA Ksh Biren and noted entrepreneur Thangjam Arun besides village elders were present in another opening ceremony of the week-long festival which will be celebrated in the Zeliangrong-inhabited areas, at Sawombung Kabui village in Imphal East district located along the Imphal-Ukhrul route.
A sacred fire is lit in a traditional way for purification of the entire community and colourful dance sequences by numerous Zeliangrong groups are main highlights of the opening day of the festival.
The inauguration of this year’s Gaan Ngai Festival, marking the close of the old year and arrival of the New Year, featured congregational prayers and dances at various localities including 80 plus Kabui village in Manipur valley.
Invocation of God by chanting ‘hoi’ by performers from Pongringlong village, offering of holy wine to deities by village chief Gangmei Ganguilung of Ramji village and cultural programmes by different dance troupes from various Kabui localities are the highlights of the festival at Ramji village.
According to secretary of TRC Assam, Nagaland and Manipur, Chaoba Kamson, Gaan-Ngai festival was declared a restricted holiday in 1976 and it was upgraded to public holiday since January 10, 1998 during the chief ministership of (Late) Wahengbam Nipamacha.
There are nine festivals of the Kabui community and Gaan-Ngai is the biggest and longest festival among them.
Interestingly Gaan-Ngai is also widely celebrated for five to seven days depending on the wishes of the concerned villages.
Manipur Governor Dr Najma A Heptulla, chief minister N Biren Singh, Speaker of Manipur Legislative Assembly, Y Khemchand, Ministers Th Biswajit (Works), K Shyam (Revenue), Th Shyamkumar (Forest) have wished the people of Manipur, particularly the Zeliangrongs, on the joyous and auspicious occasion of Gaan Ngai.