India, being a diverse country, is a host to many major festivals coming from different cultures and religion. Yaoshang is one such festival celebrated widely in the state of Manipur and is often referred to as ‘Holi of Manipur’ because of the similarities it shares with the Indian festival of colors, Holi. Yaoshang is generally celebrated during spring, when the month of Phalguna begins on the full moon day and is five day long festival. It is a major festival of Manipur and every native, young and old celebrates this festival with great enthusiasm.
Like Holi, Yaoshang is also a festival filled with colors and water balloons. Locals here celebrate this festival with all the enthusiasm they have. On the first day, just after the sunset, young children dress up and go from one house to another to collect the monetary donation for the festival preparations. On the second day, local bands perform, what is called ‘Sankirtan’, in the Govindagee Temple in Imphal. Also, on the second and third day, girls in the family go to their relatives to collect ‘nakatheng’ and block roads using ropes to collect money from the passing people, which is then used to organize the popular dance Thabal Chongba.. While on the fourth and fifth days of Yaoshang, people play with water and colors, splashing and pouring at each other.
Thabal Chongba is one of the most traditional dances done on this festival. It literally translates to ‘Moon Light Dance’ and is a very popular traditional dance which is performed during the night of the festival. The dance is accompanied by several folk songs singing on the beats of a Dholak or Drum. Men come from different places to visit this festival and dance along with females in circles holding their hands.
The most important and most awaited part of this festival is the five day long sports festival organized in every corner of the state. This sports meet is the major difference between the Indian festival Holi and the festival of Yaoshang. The sports meet is first inaugurated by the local clubs by visiting and lighting the torch at the sacred Kangla Fort of Manipur. Sports organized during Yoashang are fairly simple and fun to watch. Some of the common games include spoon racing, mathematical racing, tug of war and soccer. However, on the last day of the Yaoshang festival, every club organizes a half marathon, which is considered as the most important part of the sports meet.
Yaoshang is a major festival in Northeast India. The entire state of Manipur, comprising of people from every age category takes part in this festival enthusiastically. This five day festival of Manipur marks the traditional importance of festivals in India. Moreover, Yaoshang brings together the community of Hindus and indigenous traditions of the Meitie people and is the most important festival of the state Manipur.
Image source: KanglaOnline.