Festivals of Manipur: Kang
The festival of “Kang’’ or ‘Rath-Yatra’ is one of the biggest festivals of Manipur celebrated by the Meitei community who follow Vaishnavism. The origin and theme of the celebration in Manipur are adapted from the Rath-Yatra festival in Puri in Odisha. The festival is celebrated every year as a commemoration of the day when the idols of Lord Jagannath, His brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra got enshrined at the Jagannath Temple of Puri, Orissa (Rath means chariot/cart, Yatra means getting enshrined). However, due to cultural evolution in the region, there is a slight difference in the way how the festival is celebrated in Manipur from that in Odisha.
Historical account of Rath- Yatra in Manipur
The foundation of worship of Lord Jagannath was laid for the first time in Manipur during the reign of Meidingu Charairongba (1697-1709 AD) when a Brahmin from Puri, Odisha was given settlement at Brahmapur locality. The descendants of the Brahmin got royal patronage to observe Rath-Yatra. However, the celebration for Rath-Yatra was started at the royal palace for the first time in 1780 during the reign of Maharaja Bhagyachandra after he installed Shree Bijoy Govindaji temple. Rath-Yatra became a public festival in Manipur in 1832 during the reign of Maharaja Gambhir Singh after the installation of the Shree Shree Govindaji temple which is the hotspot of the festival at the present. The idols of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra which are worshipped during the Rath-Yatra festival at the present are those installed by Gambhir Singh. Celebration of Rath-Yatra at localities became popular during the reign of Sir Churachand Maharaja.
How the festival is celebrated in Manipur
The festival of Rath-Yatra/ Kang is celebrated with gaiety on the second day of the fourth lunar month of the Manipuri calendar Engen which falls in late June or early July and lasts for 10 days till Purna-Yatra/ Kanglen. The main highlight of Kang in Manipur is at the Shree Shree Govindaji Temple. On the day of Kang, the idols of Lord Jagannath, His brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra are taken out from the temple and placed at the beautifully adorned Rath/ Kang (chariot) with rituals for the ceremonial procession called Kang Chingba. The procession is performed by pulling the chariot by devotees of the Lord who come to take part in the festival while devotional songs are offered by Sankirtana artists. Offerings are made by people to the Lord during the procession. As a tradition, Kang Chingba of Shree Bijoy Govindaji temple is performed before lunch while that of Shree Shree Govindaji temple which is also known as Konung Kang Chingba is performed after lunch and Kang Chingba at localities is done after Konung Kang Chingba is completed.
In the evenings of the nine days until Purna-Yatra/ Kanglen, apart from performing rituals, devotees offer devotional singing and a dance called Choitep Chongba to the Lord. After all these, the devotees share the Prasad of the Lord in the form of Khechri.
On the tenth day, Purna-Yatra/ Kanglen is celebrated the same as Rath-Yatra/ Kang of the first day. The ceremonial celebration of Rath-Yatra is completed with the procession of Purna-Yatra. On the next day, devotees sacrifice meals and vow to fasting in the devotion of the Lord. On the twelfth day, Ningol Paali is observed as a part of entertainment where the programs are organized, arranged, and performed exclusively by unmarried women. After performing rituals for Hari Soyon on the day of Ningol Paali, the festival of Rath-Yatra is completed in Manipur.
May Lord Jagannath bless us with love, prosperity, knowledge, and strength. May His love get enshrined in the hearts of everyone as He enshrined at the Rath.