For the enthusiastic people living in Imphal Holi festival is a time to relax and chill out. Here, the Holi festival is celebrated for five days. Most of the institutes including the education institutions and media remain close for these five days. Even the markets look deserted particularly on the first two days.Many different activities are organised during these five days. However, over the last few years many changes have taken place in the way it is celebrated.

One major changes that took place is the fund rising program for organising holi. Funds are required in large amount for the various activities that are held during these five days. In the past, funds were collected by seeking donations from each household in the locality. At present, it has become a trend to raise the funds by organizing ‘housie’ game. The tickets for housie are sold to each and every household in the locality. Often, people from other localities too participate in housie. The housie are held two- three days before the holi begins. Apart from the fund raising program, changes have also taken place in the participations of other activities associated with the Holi celebration. Some gained popularity while others lost their charm. Here I discuss some of these trends:

Playing with colours:

Like in other parts of India, people play with colour during holi. It begins from the second day of the festival. However, it has gradually losing its importance. In the past, both children and adults used to enjoy playing with colour. They not only played among themselves but would also seek out others who would be hiding. People would enthusiastically apply coloured powder on others and sometimes drench them by pouring buckets of coloured water on them.  But nowadays it is mostly the small children and teenagers who play with colours. Most of the adults avoid playing with colour. But for those who like to play with colours one of the favourite past-time during holi is to fill balloons with coloured water and throw it on unsuspecting people, especially strangers. Small children also like to play with pichkaari and water pistols.

Seeking donation:

On the evening of the first day children gather for worship at the place where the shack is built. Little girls wear the traditional wrapper round and drape a chunni and carry small money bag with them. The boys also wear their best dress. After worshipping Gouranga Mahaprabhu, the shack is burnt. Right after the shack is burnt, the children go to each house in small groups and seek donations. They would call out’ Nakadheng’ after which the owner would give money of small denomination. After receiving the money, it is customary for the children to bless the owner of the house with prosperity and happiness. It is believed that if the children return empty handed from the house, the owner would not prosper that year. So, even the poorest would give money. The group would then use the money for merry making. However, even this custom is slowly dying. In the past, children used to go for the ‘nakadheng’ till the last day of holi. Often they would visit the houses of their acquaintances from nearby localities for nakadheng. But nowadays it is done mostly on the evening of the first day and the early morning of the second day.

Conducting Sports:

Conducting sports during the holi festival became very popular in the recent years. In the past it was not held with so much enthusiasm as is done at present. The sports usually begin on the second day and ends on the last day. In most localities it begins with the torch rally. The flame for the torch is brought from the historical Kangla fort. Most of the localities take care to ensure participation by maximum number of individuals by organizing the events for different category such as children, young girls, married women, couples, male etc. Apart from the usual track and field events like 100 m race, 200 m race, marathon, shot put etc, competitions in many indigenous games are also held. For instance, yubi lakpi or coconut snatching, climbing bamboo stem, pot race etc. One of the most popular games is the tug of wars organized for the married women. Usually, women of other nearby localities are invited for the tug of war events. No doubt, the raising popularity of such sport events are responsible for the decreas participations in eother activities such as playing with colour or going for the nakadheng. Most of the children reach the venue early in the morning and stay till the end.

Cultural and literary events:

It is another event which is gaining popularity in the recent past. These events are held in the evening. Quiz show, spelling competitions, drawing competitions, poem recitations etc are some of the events for literary competitions. The cultural programs include dance competitions based on film and album songs. Fancy dress competitions are also held. Often members of the locality would invite talented people from other localities to showcase their talents.

Holi Pala:

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Holi Palas are the group of devotional singers who sing songs based on Lord Krishna and Radha. Each group has members of around 20. The group consists of either all male members or female singers accompanied by 2-3 male dholak players. Dholak and the cymbals are the only musical instruments used during holi pala. The group sings the song in some selected household. The female members wear white blouse, carnation pink traditional wrapper round and drape a white coloured cloth while the male members wear a white or saffron kurtas and white dhoti. Each member may hang a pink or saffron coloured cloth over the white cloth. Incense sticks are burned and offerings are made to the God before the group starts singing. It is one of the events whose popularity has not diminished with time.

Thabal Chongba:

It is the folk dance organized especially during holi festival. It can be organized during any of the five days. The young men and women hold their hands and move in circle in the ground while dancing in the rhythm of drums. It begins from around five in the evening and continues till around 10 p.m. It is customary for the ladies to wear the formal dress consisting of blouse, traditional wrapper round with horizontal stripped pattern and a half sari. As the men are mostly from other locality they do not have any dress code. The males of the locality join the dance in the beginning and towards the ends while in between they as the volunteer to ensure that everything is organized smoothly. Earlier it used to continue till very late past midninght. But since last decade or so, it has become a tradition to end it by 10 p.m

Source of the photo: personal collection


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