Sports in Manipur: The Yaoshang Kangla Procession

Sports have been a focal point of Yaoshang celebrations in the state of Manipur for over 70 years.

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The spring festival of Holi is celebrated by the native Meitei tribe in Manipur as Yaoshang, and lasts for over five days. Yaoshang is one of the most important festivals in the state and is celebrated with colour, atheleticism and fervour.

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The Kangla Sports Processions

In a practice that has now become tradition over the last couple of decades, neighbourhood sports and cultural clubs come together to host a number of sporting events during the Yaoshang festival. These begin with a procession from the Kangla Fort to the local sports complex.

The Kangla Fort

The Kangla Fort is over two millennia old, and home to the erstwhile kings of the region. Before Imphal, Kangla used to be the ancient capital of Manipur. 

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Kicking off Yaoshang Festivities

On the first day of Yaoshang, local sporting communities and clubs come together with their representatives and gather at Kangla Fort. 

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The Sacred Flame

As an honour to the Meitei ancestors and to take their blessings, the sporting events are officially initiated at the ancient Kangla Fort. Each group brings their own torch to bear the ‘sacred flame’, much like the Olympics.

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A solemn ceremony, the local Meitei women dress in their auspicious yellow...

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...while the Kangla priestess lights the torch for each group to proceed with the procession.

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Procession to the Festive Complex

Each representative group then joins up with their companions waiting outside the fort for the procession to begin.

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The processions take the lit torches through the 400 year old streets of Imphal to each neighbourhood’s festive complex. These could be community centres, local playgrounds, or sporting complexes.

The torch bearer for each group is always the fittest and most prominent member of the club or locality. They are flanked by local women dressed in the brightest yellow. They lead the group in procession in an orderly manner for the entirety of the walk back home.

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Once at the complex, a host of friendly competitions are held, with activities such as cycling, wrestling, football, athletics, volleyball and more.

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A daily schedule of activities are held for the duration of the Yaoshang festival, and local team supporters usually come together to cheer. Meanwhile, across the city, the spring festival celebrations continue. 

Learn more about the Manipur celebrations here

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