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Sajibu Nongma Panba: It is new year for the Meetei/Meitei community

Sajibu Nongma Panba Cheiraoba
It is an advent of the New Year which strengthens the bond of love and brotherhood among the members of each family. The festival is mainly observed on the first lunar day of the lunar month Sajibu (March/April) by the Meitei community, a majority ethnic group of Manipur.
By Sanjoo Thangjam
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh conveyed their greetings to the people of Manipur on the occasion of Sajibu Nongma Panba. Manipur Governor La Ganesan also extended  his greetings on the auspicious occasion of the new year for the state’s Meitei community.

Many have also extended greetings and warm wishes on the auspicious occasion of ‘Sajibu Nongma Panba Cheiraoba.  Manipur State Council, Communist Party of India (MSC, CPI) too extended warm wishes to th people of the State and called for concerted efforts to preserve the indigenous traditions and to promote the culture of the State.
Greeting all the communities of the State All Manipur Students Union (AMSU) prayed for a peaceful and prosperous Manipur. Coalition Against Drugs and Alcohol (CADA) and Committee of Civil Societies Kangleipak (CCSK) too conveyed Cheiraoba’s best wishes to the people.

The name Sajibu Nongma Pānba is derived from the Manipuri words: Sajibu – the first month of the year which usually falls during the month of April according to Meitei lunar calendar, Nongma – first date of a Month, Pānba – to be. Literally, it means the first day of the month of Sajibu.
Saiibu Nongma Panna which is also known as The Cheiraoba festival of Manipur signifies the advent of the New Year or a new beginning.   The festival is mainly observed on the first lunar day of the lunar month Sajibu by the Meitei community, a majority ethnic group of Manipur.
This year, Sajibu Nongma Panba – Cheiraoba was celebrated in Manipur on Saturday, April 2, 2022  to mark the beginning of a new year with religious fervour and gaiety.
On this day, people arrange a joint family feast in which traditional cuisines are offered to local deities at the entrance gates of the houses.
This festival is celebrated to strengthen the relations or bonds of love and brotherhood among families, relatives and neighbors.
The festival heralds the advent of the New Year and strengthens the bond of love and brotherhood among the members of each family.
The day begins with ritual offerings of fruits, vegetables, rice and other uncooked food items to the Meitei deity Lainingthou Sanamahi during the early morning of the festival.
After getting blessings from Lainingthou Sanamahi, an even number of dishes are prepared using the offerings.
After the dishes for the feast are made, they are ritually offered at two different traditional locations around the house – one at the front gate of the house and the other at the rear gate of the house. These locations are specially cleansed and sanctified before the offering by cleaning an area and decorating it with mud, flowers and leaves.
Traditionally, the eldest son of the house will make the offering to these three deities Kumsana Kumliklai (Lord of the golden year), Lamsenba Tusenba (Guardian of the Land) and Lammaba Tumaba (Lord of the land) at this sanctified area.
The offering traditionally includes an odd number (chang taaba) of dishes surrounding a small mound of steamed rice, a token currency, fruits, flowers, candle and incense sticks where all of them placed upon a plantain leaf. This ritual is performed in the late morning.
After this ritual, the dishes prepared for the feast are exchanged with relatives and neighbours. Traditionally, it is called “Mathel Laanba” after which the feast starts.
It is believed that on the day of new year anything that happens on that day will happen for the rest of the year i.e. if you are happy and healthy on that day, you will be happy and healthy for the rest of the year.
After the feast, it is a tradition that family members climb a small hillock specially prepared by the community near the locality to pay homage to the hill deity, signifying the elevation of the spirit to reach the divine. The “Chin-nga” at Singjamei and “Cheirao Ching” at Chingmeirong are such hillocks that are specially prepared for the hillock climbing ritual. Toy shops, eateries, and other varied small shops will line the road to the hillock on that day to attract the ritual climbers to buy their items. The Ching Kaba is usually done during the afternoon to early evening, before the sunsets.
(The writer is a journalist based in Imphal)
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