Manipur Festival Mania: Need to make course correction

Amid festivities and celebrations, one ought to think and act on the burning issues facing the state like high price for rice and other commodities, non availability of water, lack of job opportunities, etc.

ByRK Nimai

Updated 21 Mar 2023, 7:36 pm

(Photo: IFP)
(Photo: IFP)


We Meiteis love festivals and no season is bereft of festivals. We tend to forget everything and enjoy the festivals. Every culture has its own festivals mainly before main crop plantation and after harvest, not like the Meiteis which had festivals throughout the year. In fact they will join in other’s festivals enjoying themselves, be it Christmas, Gaan Ngai, Luira Phanit, Chavang Kut, Eid, etc. We tend to forget the hardship we are facing.

We stoically bear all difficulties without protest and try to enjoy through festivals, forgetting the problems. People are not bothered whether rice under the various schemes were not distributed since December 2022 or whether they are running from pillar to post for potable water.

Few commented on the statement of the PHED minister that the water supplied by the Department is meant for drinking purpose only when under the Jal Jeevan Mission which is a scheme to provide water in the rural areas attempts to provide at least 55 litres of water per capita per day.

In the urban areas, in most states, it is 135 lpcpd, though in Manipur it is believed to be 105 lpcpd, though studies have shown that the requirement is 170 lpcpd. The statement indicates that the Minister is not aware of the objectives of the scheme or that of his department.  

Due to the efforts of the various student bodies and the government, Manipuri traditional folk dance - Thabal Chongba this year was restricted to only the five days of Yaoshang festival. The demand of the student bodies is due to the ongoing school public exams. But now in the social media, advertisement has been made for Thabal Chongba in various locations on March 22 on account of Sajibu Nongma panba.

In fact, there is one ad for a Thabal Chongba on April 4, where there is no festival but perhaps due to the end of the school public exams, In the past, thabal chongba was held during the five days of Yaoshang and on Baruni and on no other occasions.

Now, even the term Ougri chongba has been used to make it more palatable to the general public though ougri is a specific ritual of the Meitei community in the state.


This year, despite repeated appeals from various sections of the society not to hold thabal chongba or sports on the roads, there are a few areas where these were held. One fails to understand what the district administration and the police are doing on such illegal activities. Whether the DM had given permission to perform sports or thabal chongba on the road, which is unlikely?

Many have commented on the deterioration of the quality of Yaoshang sports, where earlier the focus was on games and sports but now mostly on entertainment.

Yaoshang sports were reportedly first started at Brahmapur Nahabam followed next year by Yaiskul Janmasthan but now even only in Yaiskul Assembly Constituency, it was learnt that it is held by 33 different organisations. With the shrinkage of the community activities elsewhere, Yaoshang sports provide an avenue for community bonding.

In the past for any event in the leikai or locality, all activities in the preparation of mandap etc were performed by the youth under the supervision of the elders, thereby providing community bonding while in the process pass on the knowledge from the elder to the youth. But with time this had disappeared and now mandap and everything is outsourced, thus limiting the activities for community bonding.

Yaoshang sports now are an avenue for developing community bonding. But the events selected have literally nothing to do with games or sports and some are downright objectionable. Such as kwa channaba tannaba as betel paan chewing is not a healthy activity. Many of the small leikai (residential colony) playfields have been converted into community halls, as a result there is no space for outdoor games. In such places, the organisers have to be innovative to organise those events which can be organised in community halls or in small spaces rather than coming out on the streets and roads for races etc.

Many games and sports events can be organised in small spaces like carom, chess, badminton, arm wrestling, skipping, push ups, tennikoit, yoga asanas, etc but no, all want to come out on the roads. It is the responsibility of the district administration to ensure that the roads are used for the purpose it was built.

While carrying the flame from Kangla and other places to the venues, the Master of Ceremonies will always shout hoarse that Manipur is the power house of sports and that the festival was organised to indentify and nurture sports talent. But pray how many talents have been identified from Yaoshang sports and had risen up in the ranks? Very few; now most of the talents are recognised and trained with the support of parents in Khuman Lampak Sports complex and the various academies and sports clubs. In fact many with limited talents were pushed by their parents to train in sports which are not bad per se as the kid will be physically fit and learn how to interact with their peers in outdoor conditions though he may not become an outstanding sportsperson.

There is, however, no denying the fact that Yaoshang sports provide an avenue for community bonding, which is now lacking in the Meitei society. For other communities like our tribal brethrens, and the pangals, due to the Sunday service and attendance of mosques on Friday, they have the opportunity to mix together every week. For the Meiteis this aspect is lacking and Yaoshang sports provide an opportunity but before it deteriorates it would be in the larger interest to make mid course corrections so that it does not become a nuisance but contribute positively to the society.

There is a need to devise events for all ages so that healthy competition is organised for all ages, where participation should be the primary goals and not the winning like the motto in the Olympics.


It was a bit of a surprise to learn that celebrities are monetising their participation in thabal chongba. The consumerism prevailing in the Western world where everything is monetised is reaching Manipur. Good for the celebrities especially when there are people who are ready to foot the bill.

The Kardashian family does nothing but manage to be in the limelight and monetise everything so much so that they are a wealthy family. No one knows what their profession is except being a celebrity which were popularised by the TV serial Keeping up with the Kardashians and this may also happen in Manipur.

The cost of arranging a thabal chongba had also increased manifold. Earlier till the 1970s, the expenditure was only on the light, sound system and musicians but now professional bands were engaged and the lighting, sound system as well as decorations have drastically modified that it has become a costly affairs to organise a thabal chongba. But the question remains why must a thabal chongba be organised on the road?  If the locality does not have a ground for the same why can’t it be organised, if necessary on payment, at a nearby ground and even the Hapta Kangjeibung can be rented out for thabal chongba!

We tend to love festivities too much which not only impacts the economy as it waste time and energy though it provides employment to a fairly large group like the musicians, sound technicians, light arrangers, decorators etc.

One also ought to think and act on some of the burning issues facing the state like high price for rice and other commodities, non availability of water, lack of job opportunities, etc. Farmers after a tiring effort to grow vegetables are finding it difficult to sell their produce as there are no marketing linkages, and it is the middlemen who garner the highest profit; not the farmers.

This year, the number of kids for nakka thengba is limited mainly coming on the first day evening while on the rest of the days they are involved in Yaoshang sports. However, married ladies from afar go in groups, visiting residences of unknown people who they feel, live in comfortable houses. Their object seem to be to earn for their own the maximum by begging, leaving aside the traditional system of collecting the money for a feast of the local married ladies.

We, however, need to provide a thought of the benefits and danger of too many festivities during Yaoshang and make course correction while there is time.  Traditions which are no longer relevant may be discarded; and we also need to recollect that the great Roman Empire fell due to the overindulgence of the emperors.

(The views expressed are personal)


First published:


culturethabal chongbamanipuri traditionsfestivals in manipur

RK Nimai

RK Nimai

The author is a former bureaucrat, Imphal, Manipur


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