Yaoshang: Celebrating the Festival of Colours in Manipur

The spring festival of Holi is celebrated as Yaoshang by the Meitei tribe in the state of Manipur, lasting about six days.

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The Beginning of the Festivities

Yaoshang starts on the first full moon day of the month of lamda, from February to March. It commences with worshipers singing hymns and kirtans (recitations), and making offerings to the image of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the founder of Gauda Vaishnavism in a thatched hut.

Ceremonies Before Yaoshang Mei Thaba (2020-03)Incredible India!

Preparations for the celebrations start in advance, with the colourful women’s market being one of the places most visited. The Ima market is run entirely by women!

Women's Market in Manipur (2020-03)Incredible India!

Day One: The Kangla Procession

Sports is a large part of the festival for the youngsters. In Imphal, the very first day of Yaoshang starts with a procession from the Kangla Fort to inaugurate the local sports meet.

Children Line-Up For the Procession (2020-03)Incredible India!

Carrying the Sacred Flame

Children, local clubs and local personalities converge at the fort to light their torches and carry the sacred flame to the sports complex.

The Procession Through Manipur (2020-03)Incredible India!

The Ceremonial Hut

That evening, the idol of Lord Chaitanya is removed from the hut, and the hut is then set aflame after sunset – a ritual known as Yaoshang Mei Thaba.

Straw Huts Prepared to Burn (2020-03)Incredible India!

Chants of He Hari and Hari Bola fill the air as the hut is set ablaze. The ceremonial hut is burned in every locality as a yearly reminder of the greatness of Lord Vishnu's avatar who defeated evil

Religious Rituals Performed Before Burning the Huts (2020-03)Incredible India!

The Burning of the Hut

The ash from the burnt hut is considered extremely auspicious. It is collected and smeared on the foreheads of devotees, as well as at the entrances of houses. 

Yaoshang Mei Thaba, The Burning of the Straw Huts (2020-03)Incredible India!

Come nightfall, the local children dress in traditional attire and visit every house in their neighbourhood to collect the festive lucky money. This is called nakatheng in the native language.

Children Dressed in Yaoshang Attire (2020-03)Incredible India!

It's up to the children how they wish to spend this lucky money – either save it up, or spend on treats – which adds to their special delight in this festive season. 

Children Dressed for Yaoshang (2020-03)Incredible India!

Day Two and Three: Pichkari

The second day of Yaoshang is celebrated as Pichkari, the day Holi is played with colour, in the Shree Shree Govindaji Temple and the Shree Shree Bijoy Govindaji Temple. 

Service at the Temple (2020-03)Incredible India!

pichkari is a water gun commonly used to squirt coloured water during the festival.

Playing with Colours at Govindaji TempleIncredible India!

Pichkari is of utmost importance for the Sankirtan Band – if they miss performing on this day, they are not allowed to perform in residences.

A Woman Dressed for Prayer Service (2020-03)Incredible India!

They sing devotional hymns, accompanied by musical instruments such as a the dholak, cymbals, and sea-shell.

Musicians Perform at Govindaji Temple (2020-03)Incredible India!

The last few days are spent enjoying a number of sports like tug-of-war, soccer and the Meitei game of Yubi Lakpi.


Learn more about the sport here

Yubi Lakpi (2020-03)Incredible India!

Rock Concerts by the Youth

The youth of Manipur has given the festival its own modern flavour – hosting rock concerts, shows, open parties and more! 

Concert Held During Yaoshang (2020-03)Incredible India!

Thabal Chongba

Another facet of tradition embraced by the youth is the Moonlight Folk Dance known as Thabal Chongba. 

The young boys and girls of the city join hands in a circle and dance to rhythmic drums and saxophones. 

Performing the Moonlight DanceIncredible India!

Festive Feasts

A variety of snacks and sweets are prepared over the six day celebrations. As per tradition, vegetarian fare is consumed during the festival. 

Chak-hao gula (spherical black rice sweets)...

singju (savoury snack with lotus stems)... 

...and keli chana (tangy white pea salad) are just some of the Meitei delicacies prepared.

A Yaoshang Spread (2020-03)Incredible India!

Day Six: The Brajamai Procession

A procession of young women, called the Brajamai, sets out from the Bijay Govinda Temple to Shri Shri Govindaji Temple to perfom the closing ceremony, Halankar, on the last day of the festivities.

The Procession Makes its Way to Govindaji Temple (2020-03)Incredible India!

Halankar - The End of Yaoshang

The Brajamai, represent the women of the Braja village, the birth place of Lord Krishna. Halankar is a dance re-enactment of scenes from mythology. The key scene depicts the Brajamais running after the Brajagopis (cowherds of the same village) with sticks, after being teased.

Women Participate in the Brajamai Procession (2020-03)Incredible India!

After the performance, a spray of colours follow, and the Yaoshang festival comes to an end. 

Temple Congregants in Pink Holi Colour (2020-03)Incredible India!

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