Holi is around the corner and the whole of India and us, Indians are getting in the colourful mood of festivity. A festival so colourful and vibrant that it has made tourists from all over the world fall in love with it! Every year hundreds of people from all over the world come to India just to experience the colour, the energy and the culture in person.
And in India itself Holi is not just another festival. It is the ‘festival of love’ , ‘the festival of colours’, a festival that signifies the victory of good over evil, love over hate. Though the heart and soul of festivity during Holi, throughout India remains the same but the type of celebration differs in every state in a significant way.
Like in Bengal its Basant Utsav and Dol Jatral. Where men and women, dressed up in bright shades of yellow, sing and dance to the tunes of Tagore and folk music. While in Uttar Pradesh, the birth place of Radha and Krishna has the unique Lathmar Holi. And in Goa it is known as Shigmo, where its a carnival exhibiting their folk culture.
But I never knew about Holi celebrations in the Northeastern part of India. It was only after we got posted to Manipur, that I came to know how beautifully it is celebrated here! There are no rowdies or drunk people fooling on the road. And there is no strangers misbehaving or stalking woman or throwing colours at them just because it’s cheap thrill. Instead there’s fun arguments between men and women around, sound of Holi songs and bhajans doing the rounds.
Manipur celebrates Holi for five days and their celebration start on the full moon day of Phagun(month). Before the 18th Century, the Manipur celebrated the traditional Yaosang Festival. With the introduction of Vaishnavism in 18th Century, the festival of Holi amalgamated with Yaosang. Celebrated only in the valley region of Manipur, Yaosang is the most awaited festival of Manipur and also the most important religious and cultural festival for the Meities.I always found the people of Manipur very deeply rooted to their culture. A quality that I really admire and need to learn from these people. And Yaosang is a festival which displays their rich culture and heritage.
When I was a kid, my idea of Holi was fed by Bollywood movies. I had not seen it as a cultural or religious festival until I went to Shantiniketan and now Manipur. Celebrated for five days, Yaosang portrays the warmth of the society, the involvement of the community as a whole in oganizing various cultural events, performances and ativities. One of the highlight of the festival is the Thabal Chongba or the dance by moonlight.
As the festival date nears a fund raising or Naka Theng takes place mostly by the girls. There are group of girls blocking the road and asking money from every passing vehicle. There are bargains and arguments but its all in the spirit of the coming festival. Once the festival starts, those 5 days there are no traffic on the road. Shops and Offices remain closed!
The festival begins on the fullmoon day just after sunset in every village with the Yaosang Mei Thaba or burning of the straw hut. This is done after prayers and worship and distribution of offerings to the present crowd.The second day the festival starts at the beautiful Govindajee Temple with Sankirtan(a folk song performace by local bands). And from the second day onwards the people start applying colours to each other. Sports and fun activities are organized within the society. Other than sports there are folk dances and concerts in the locality and everyone come out and take part in the events. The people dress themselves up in traditional yellow and white turbans and sing devotional songs dedicated to Krishna in temples
On the main day of the festival, which also happens to be the last day… devotees take out procession towards the main Krishna temple, the beautiful Shree Govindaji Temple to perform cultural activities and play Holi for one last time.
Holi in Manipur is an emotion which is difficult to put in words. But it was an experience that would be unforgetable for me. While I see the pictures of Holi from Vrindavan and Shantiniketan and other places around India and the hype around them for photographers… this is just a gentle reminder, Holi in Manipur is as stunning as it gets and it deserves a place in the list of ‘most stunning Holi celebrations across India’!
Photo credits : All the pictures are taken by the very talented Raj Thwdam ! Checkout and follow this talented young photographer in Instagram, as he shows you how gorgeous Manipur is, through his lense.