Imphal Review of Arts and Politics

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Yaoshang (sheep shed) ritualistically torched at a locality in Imphal to mark the start of Yaoshng festival

Nurturing the Sporting Spirit as Youths Celebrate Yaoshang Sports Festival in Different Localities of Manipur

Manipur’s Yaoshang or Dol Jatra in Bengal and Holi in Northern India is one of the biggest festivals of Manipur which starts celebrating from the full-moon day of Meitei lunar month of Lamta (February-March) for five days. Yaoshang begins just after the sunset in every village after the Yaoshang Mei Thaba (Yaoshang is a small hut made of bamboos and rice straws and Mei Thaba means burning). Then children ask monetary donations from house to house, called Nakatheng.

Yaoshang festival is also time for celebration of sports in Manipur

The festival of colours, Holi is celebrated beyond colours in Manipur. Yaoshang is spring festival in Manipur merry making right from the small kids to the aged olds celebrate and enjoy in one way or the other. The festival is celebrated with singing, dancing and many other traditional performances. The Thabal Chongba, a kind of Manipuri folk dance in which boys and girls hold hands choreographed in circular is an inextricable part of the festival. In last few decades every locality has been organizing Yaoshang festivals as a sports festival hunting the hidden talents from the grass-root level. Yaoshang seems to be a festival which combines the great enthusiasm of festival with games and sports.

Manipur has a distinct recognition all over the world for its rich culture and sports. Many sports personalities have brought laurels in different International and national arenas. Manipur, the birthplace of Sagol Kangjei (Polo) is known as the Power House of Sports for India. The Yaoshang Sports meet which is organized at every locality of the state act as a launching pad for entry into national and international sports arena. Different clubs and organizations expressed their own ways of organizing the Yaoshang Sports Meet 2022.

One of the pioneering sporting events organised in an innovative and unique way during Yaoshang in Manipur is the Annual Sports Festival of the Citizen’s Club of Soibam Leikai Wangkhei Khunou in Imphal East.

Nongthombam Rimotkumar, President of Citizen’s Club who is also Vice-President of Manipur Amateur Boxing Association (MABA) expressed that the Annual Sports Festival of the club is being organized with the motto of hunting the best skills through keen competition in a very innovative way. He said that the simplest way of preventing drug abuse, crimes and other social evils in the society is possible only through games and sports. The sports movement during the Yaoshang creates an entry point to be a part of many National and International sports events thus provides many jobs in different departments.

There are four Panas (constituent) namely Wangbren Pana, Koubru Pana, Margin Pana and Thangjing Pana for the Citizens’ Club Annual Sports Festival. Pana system for Citizens’ Club Annual Sports Festival was in 1986. Each Pana has a leader called Pana Lakpa. The festival of the Club seems to be an Inter-Pana Mini Festival which follows the Olympic pattern and tries to explore the hidden talents of the youths from the grassroots level. Some of the major events of the festival are Athletics, Table Tennis, Carom, tug of war, etc both for individual and group category. In addition to these sports events, there are many more cultural and academic competitions during the festivals such as song, dance, quiz, fancy dress (one act type) etc., Pena, Moibung, Pung Cholom and cultural items are also performed during the festivals.

Inaugural prayer being offered before the start of Yaoshang

Mr. Rimotkumar narrated that the club has a special prize named as MLA Trophy since 2019 being sponsored by the MLA of the Wangkhei Assembly Constituency where the Club is located. The award is introduced for making the locality clean, good drainage, beautification, unity and promoting work culture. Mentioning about the precautionary measures of COVID-19 pandemic during the festival, he added that the club is trying its best to follow the SOP of COVID-19 during the 52nd Annual Sports festival 2022.

Naakhel Chengjel, an Imphal based organisation is also organizing the 4th Annual Yaoshang Sports Festival for children home and differently able children on the second day of Yaoshang.  With the theme “Every Child is Unique and Special” the festival is being organised in association with The Oriental Leveller Association (OLA) at Wangkhei Shoudongbam Lampak, Imphal.

Satyajit BK, advisor of Naakhel Chengjel conveys that maximum numbers of differently able children and children at different home remains inside the four walls during the festival without enjoying the taste and mood of the festival.  He appealed the parents to bring out their children and make them feel the flavour of the festival and enjoy the real meaning of life. Some of the events of the festivals are on the spot painting competition, musical chair, blind hit, in-out etc. Mr BK expressed the desire of concerned authorities to keep an eye on taking more initiatives and activities for exploration of the hidden talents of these special children.

Irengbam Thoungamba, Office Secretary of Brahmapur Social Club, Brahmapur Lalji Lakpa Leikai and also the Co-convenor of the Yaoshang Management Committee asserted that Yaoshang Sports Meet is being organized with the aim of creating a healthy life. He said that as Yaoshang sports festival nurture the sport and academic spirit of the youth as to prove that Manipur is the power house of sports. It also bestows the inspiration of the people to bring a better society.  Some of the unique events of the club are   President Vs Secretary Veteran Football Match, Cricket match for Mou (married women) and Leisabi (unmarried women). The 56th sports meet is going to be organized in a very peaceful manner, he added.

Citizens’ Club at Soibam Leikai decked up for its 52nd Annual Sports Festival 2022

Laishram Raghumani, the Vice-President of Eastern United Sporting Club, Tellou, Imphal East expressed that the club will be organizing the 36th Annual Yaoshang Sports Meet 2022 strictly maintaining the COVID appropriate behaviour with volunteers of the village monitoring it. He also said that as almost 90 percent of the villager got vaccinated for COVID-19, it is a little relieved for organizing the festival unlike the previous two years. Yubi Lakpi, Polo, Volley Ball, Athletics, football and other entertainment programmes are some of the major events of the festival. Among the event, Yubi Lapki remains as one of the most popular event of the festival. Maximum of the villagers participate the festival with great joy and enthusiasm.

Khumbongmayum Ishomani, Publicity Secretary of Laipham Khunou Youth Development Association, Laipham Khunou Meetong Lampak in Imphal East said that the club is trying to preserve the indigenous form of games and dance through Yaoshang festival. Yubi Lakpi, Laphu Kabi, Chandan Thinbi competition, Khaba-Thoibi dance, Maibi Jagoi, Dhon Cholom, tug of war etc are some of the highlights of the festival. Among the educational based competition are spelling competition, précis writing, quiz, mathematical competition, painting, comprehension etc. Marathon race and Meira Lamjen (torch race) will also be conducted during the 40th Annual Yaoshang Sports Festival. Physical contact events will not be part of the festival as a precautionary measure of COVID-19 pandemic.

Yaoshang festival of Manipur is indeed a platform for exploring the hidden talents of the youth in different sports and culture events. It helps in shaping the youth of the society in a better position maintaining the spirit. The sports festival which is organized at the locality level needs to be upgraded to the level of national and international standard. The spirit of games and sports need to continue after the end of the festival. Instead of organizing the sports festival not only in each locality, it would be better if it could be organized collectively in the state level form. It will save money and will be more competitive among the participants. Rather than entertainment it should focused more on sports and educational based programs. Wishing A very Happy Yaoshang.

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