YAOSHANG- Tradition, Contemporary Trends, and its Orientation to Games and Sports
By Thoudam Gyaneshwor
"Contemporary Yaoshang is both festive and sportive. Fortunately, the latter has been trying incessantly to devour the former for the last many years. To the Manipuris, Yaoshang has become a Mini-Olympiad that preserves the indigenous games of the state. Yaoshang sports serve as a useful platform not only for channelizing the young talents but also for effecting harmonious socialization among the Manipuris. The state government needs to encourage this annual sporting movement in each and every locality of Manipur by incorporating provisions in State Sports Policy for strengthening and encouraging Yaoshang Sports" - S. Neken
About Yaoshang- Yaoshang is one of the major festivals in Manipur where people from different communities come together to take part in the celebration Yaoshang is a Manipuri version of Holi. But unlike Holi, the celebrations go far just beyond colors. The festival is celebrated with singing, dancing, and many other traditional performances. It is celebrated with high spirits by the young and the old, irrespective of their gender and age. Yaoshang festival represents the celebration of love amongst children, adults, and people of all ages. Yaoshang starts on the 15th lunar day of Manipuri month Lamta which is the first full moon day. The festival continues for 5 days, there are certain traditions and conduct of this festival. The first day commences with worshippers singing hymns and Kirtans(recitations) and making offerings to the idol of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, founder of Gouda Vaishnavism in a thatched hut. That evening the idol is removed from the hut and the hut is then set ablaze, this ritual is known as "Yaoshang Mei Thaba". The ceremonial hut is burnt in every locality as a yearly reminder of the greatness of Lord Vishnu's incarnations who defeated evils. It is followed by the collection of donations from households by young boys and girls dressed in their best attires. Children visit nearby homes showering blessings of success, long, healthy, and prosperous life and in return, they receive little monetary gifts as a donation from the households. This is called "Nakatheng" in the native language. It adds to their(children) special delight in the festive season.
Sankirtan Band locally known as Holi Dal sing devotional hymns accompanied by musical instruments such as the dholak, cymbals, drums, and conch in Shree Govindaji Temple, Shree Shree Vijay Govinda Temple, and other places such as from home to home. They also collect the money which is offered to them when they perform. "Mou and leishabi chak channabi" which is a get-together feast of a married and unmarried woman of locality is also done during the festival which pulls together the woman society and gives them a chance to interact with each other. The highlight of the festival is the Thabal Chongba, a traditional Manipuri folk dance where boys and girls hold hands in a circle and dance to rhythmic drums and saxophone. The literal meaning of Thabal Chongba is 'Moonlight dance' and is performed during nighttime. Strangers and friends alike get along with each other for the dance. Married women(Mou) also organize their Thabal Chongba event during Yaoshang. This is called 'Mou Thabal'. Children and growing girls block roads with ropes to collect money from a vehicle passing by. The youth of Manipur has given the festival its own modern flavor by hosting rock concerts, shows, open parties, and more. Shumang Leela, a traditional theatre play is also organized in various localities for people to get together and enjoy.
Shifting perspective- An intellectual transformation from the festival of colors to the festival of sports has been occurring in modern Manipur during the last five decades. Yaoshang Sports has become an institution of socialization with multifaceted benefits. It serves as a school for cultivating personality development and hunting young talents. Kids get the opportunity to expose to various competitive events. It inculcates discipline among youths. Besides recreating the aging people, it promotes organizational skills among the locals, increases social cohesion, and reduces crimes & unwanted behavior in society. Every locality must endeavor to tap the inherent potential of Yaoshang Sports in the making of a strong Manipur.
Local communities and clubs organize 'Yaoshang Sports' on their local grounds and even on roadsides during the five days of Yaoshang. The primary idea behind Yaoshang Sports is to steer the energetic youth away from veering towards drugs and alcohol and encourage them towards games and sports in the state which is famed for sports and is already known as the Powerhouse of Sports in the country. Children and youth are given the opportunity to demonstrate their talents in various fields of sports and public appearance. The activities motivate and allow the young ones to explore their talents in different fields. Various events like tug of war, statue dance, musical chair, in and out, spoon race, football, poon pubi, and chaphu- thugaibi(blind hit) are organized. Indigenous event Laphu-Kabi(Banana Tree climbing) is very popular. New events of sports are being invented year after year such as spin and run, Nganu-phabi(duck catching). Children, teenagers, and married women participate the most in sport. It serves as a medium to socialize in a normally busy life. The joy and excitement of playing with colors do not dip till the fifth or the last day(halankar) of the festival. The Yaoshang ended with Brajamai Procession, it is a procession of young women called the Brajamai that sets out from the Vijay Govinda Temple to Shree Govindaji Temple to perform the closing ceremony, Halankar on the last day of the festivities. The Brajamai represent the women of the Braja village, the birthplace of Lord Krishna. Halankar is a dance re-enactment of scenes from mythology. The key scenes depict the Brajamais running after the Brajagopis (cowherds) with sticks after being teased. After the performances, a spray of colors follows and the Yaoshang festival comes to an end.
The following trends of shifting the celebration of Yaoshang towards Sports festivals will surely play a constructive role in making a unified and strong Manipur.
NB: The author is the correspondent of HY News