Cheiraoba: A Lunar New Year of Unity and Tradition in Manipur

The Northeast Dialogue

Cheiraoba, a significant festival in Manipur, holds deep cultural and traditional roots. Celebrated on the first day of the lunar year Sajibu Nongma Panba in Manipuri, it marks the commencement of a new year. This article delves into the rich history and vibrant celebrations of Cheiraoba, shedding light on its customs, rituals, and significance to the Meitei community in Manipur. The origins of Cheiraoba trace back to the reign of King Maliya Fambalcha, around 1359 BC-1329 BC. It was during this time that the festival was first introduced, alongside the Meitei calendar known as Mari-Fam. Since then, Cheiraoba has become an integral part of Manipuri culture, symbolizing new beginnings, prosperity, and familial bonds.

Preparations for Cheiraoba begin well in advance, with households meticulously cleaning their homes and making necessary arrangements for the festivities. On the day of the festival, offerings of the year's best-cultivated fruits, vegetables, rice, and other uncooked items are made to household deities, including Lainingthou Sanamahi, Leimarel Sidabi, and The Sun in the Morning. This ritual signifies gratitude for past blessings and seeks continued prosperity and harmony. Following the offering, elaborate dishes prepared from the same offerings are served on plantain leaves at designated locations outside the house. These dishes are first presented to three deities – Kumsana Kumliklai, Lamsenba Tusenba, and Lammaba Tumaba – before being shared with friends and family members. The act of sharing food fosters a sense of community and strengthens familial bonds.

Married women visit their natal homes to seek blessings and present gifts to male family members. Additionally, the burning of dried leaves of White Champa, known for its medicinal properties, is a customary practice to ward off evil spirits and negative energies. The day of Cheiraoba culminates with the vibrant Thabal Chongba, a traditional folk dance performed with full fervor and gaiety. Locals gather to participate in this lively dance, celebrating the spirit of togetherness and joy. Cheiraoba stands as a testament to Manipur's rich cultural heritage, embodying the values of gratitude, prosperity, and familial bonds. As the festival continues to be celebrated with enthusiasm and reverence, it serves as a reminder of the importance of tradition and community in shaping the collective identity of Manipuri society


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