Yaoshang: A Fun-tastic Festival for All and Sundry!

“There are no lines in nature, only areas of colour, one against another.”
Edouard Manet

It is that time of the year when Mother Nature puts on her best attire and showers her blessings around us.

Birds start singing happy songs of Yeningtha; meanwhile heiyai and chorpon ripen to dance on a plate with thoom, morok, thoiding and beson. With Mr. Summer queuing up near the seasonal door seeking admission for the next term, Yeningtha also marks the arrival of the most awaited festival of the year—Yaoshang.

The festival which is usually celebrated for five days mean unlimited fun and frolicking with friends and family relishing yummylicious achapot and dishes; and not to forget, the numberless hues and shades of colours in the air.

Manipur Masala presents ‘Yaoshang: A Fun-tastic festival for all and sundry!’

The origin of this festival is quite controversial. Nevertheless, it would not be fallacious to state that the varied versions about the origin of Yaoshang are as colourful as the festival itself.

The Hindunised version of Yaoshang marks the celebration of the birthday of Chaitanya Gouranga. As per the chronicles of Vaishnavism, it was on the purnima of Phalgun month that Chaitanya was born on the bank of the Ganga in Bengal. Phalgun month, which is the last month in the lunar almanac, in the Meitei belief, is Lamta.

In the Meiteinised version, Yaoshang marks the celebration of the birth of Nongda Lairen Pakhangba who was born at Kangla on the full moon of Lamta to Leimaren and Salailen Sidaba. Laimaren, on the birth day of Lord Pakhangba, had to stay at the Ya-wol-sung. The name ‘Yaoshang’, as per the Meitei belief, is thus a shortened form of the original ‘Ya-Wol-Sung’.

A bunch of charu-tied bamboo was burnt to announce the world about the birth of Lord Pakhangba at Kangla. And on the fifth day after the birth of Pakhangba, all the Gods went to Khwai Keithel to buy gifts to Salailen to congratulate him for his new mapari. ‘Lai Keithel Kaaba’ thus had its origin from that day.

Incidentally, the resulting product of these several terms, right from Chaitanya to Kiethel is covert intolerance in contemporary Manipur. We cannot deny there is a great sense of going back to our roots, which can be read as harsh criticism of anything that is related to the Hindu faith. But it is for the people to decide whether it is helping us or not. Maybe we can talk about it further on another fine Sunday.

Back again, my knowledge on the origin of Yaoshang may be limited. But my understanding is definitely not. Alright, let Yaoshang be a celebration of anyone’s birthday. What does that change? Should the old or new found knowledge mar the spirit of the festival? Should it rob our memory bank about the fun we had when we were kids? Should it stop our kids from having their share of fun at present? I doubt so. For a religious atheist like me, celebrating a festival should not be associated with any religious connotations. I am a Meitei by birth but I prefer not to associate myself with any ‘ism’ which would compel me to think like a ‘frog in a well’.

Well, earlier during our bubok and edhou’s time, Yaoshang meant simple celebrations during which cheng-insaang khainaduna chaak chanaba and thabal chongba at a sumaang or leikai lampak were the major attractions. The celebration of the festival has been transforming over the decades.

For the last three–four decades Yaoshang has been synonymous to five frolicking days of unlimited fun with friends and families. Sports and various entertainment programs are organized at the leikaigi club to commemorate Yaoshang for all these years.

With or without the sports, the festival, which is meant for all and sundry, is celebrated with a jovial spirit sans any bullshit that we come across in our day to day life. Yaoshang fever infects the rich and the poor.

Well, it’s time to take leave from our professional chores and catch up with friends and relatives whom we usually cannot catch up during the rest of the year. Let this Yaoshang be a flamboyant celebration for everyone. Wishing all of you a very happy, colourful and fun-tastic Yaoshang.

PS: Registration open for the various events and items on the next five days of Yaoshang celebration.

This article was published on 16 March 2014.
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