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Cheiraoba – The Meitei New Year Day

This year, Sajibu Cheiraoba, an important traditional festival of the Meiteis was held on April 4. This festival is celebrated on two different days – Sajibu Nongma Panba, the first day of Sajibu celebrated by traditional Sanamahi Laningthou and Charak Pujah on April 14 celebrated by the believers of the Hindu religion. King Bheigyachandra (1760 A.D. Saka year 1682) of Manipur introduced this festival on the day of Charak Pujah. Sajibu (April) is the first month of the Meetei calendar. According to Cheitharol Kumbaba (Royal Chronicles) – Reign of Meidingu (king) Lairen Naophangba say 428-518 BC – Cheiraoba is an indication of end, of the year and beginning of a new year. Sanamahi Laining lup’s Sajibu Cheiraoba is based on lunar year and the later is of the solar year.

A lunar calendar is a calendar that is based on cycles of the lunar phase. The only widely used purely lunar calendar is the Islamic calendar or Hijri calendar whose year always consists of 12 lunar months. A feature of a purely lunar year, on the Islamic calendar model, is that the calendar ceases to be linked to the seasons, and drifts each solar year by 11 to 12 days, and comes back to the position it had in relation to the solar year approximately every 33 Islamic years. It is used predominantly for religious purposes. In Saudi Arabia, it is also used for commercial purposes.

On the other hand, a tropical year (also known as a solar year), for general purposes, is the length of time that the sun takes to return to the same position in the cycle of seasons, as seen from earth; for example, the time from vernal equx to vernal equinox, or from summer solstice to summer solstice. The word “tropical” comes from the Greek tropikos meaning “turn”. (tropic, 1992) Thus, the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn mark the extreme north and south latitudes where the sun can appear directly overhead, and where it appears to “turn” in its annual seasonal motion. Because of this connection between the tropics and the seasonal cycle of the apparent position of the Sun, the word “tropical” also its name to the “tropical year.” The earliest Chinese, Hindus, Greeks, and others made approximate measures of the tropical year.

On Cheiraoba day, a responsible King’s servant riding a horse binding a bell and flag on a wooden pole giving the message on the streets and celebration of happiness of New Year so called “Sajibu Cheiraoba”. In the book “Kanglei Ningou Chahi” – Message from Pana – Mari – Four sides – Khurai, Khwai, Wangkhei and Yaiskul, the men wearing different clothes of different Panas riding the horse tiding bell on the pole shouting in the same manner the end of year and beginning of new year as “Sajibu Lakyel Taiba”.

Meidingu Khyamba in 1467-1508 the way of giving message by riding the horse and shouting in the streets have stopped and it became known as “Cheithaba” – The King selected a person who takes an oath on that day of Sajibu to accept all the burdens of the king and his subjects that are to be fallen in the coming year. The first named “Cheithaba” is called “Hiyanglei.”

From this year onwards a book started to write named as “Cheitharol Kumbaba” and such Cheithaba had been honored by putting his name in the horoscope of every child born during the year. In this manner though the name has been changed as “Cheiraoba” the celebration and festival have still been performing. In early days, the Cheithaba had been given award of cloth, one pari of paddy field and exempted from other duties of the state. During the reign of Sir Churachand Maharaja instead of awards and others the “Cheithaba” was given Rs. 10,000 and since then no record for such monetary award is known.

Charak Pujah, which is celebrated on April 14 every year, is a very enchanting flok festival of the Southern Belt of Bangladesh and West Bengal. It is also known as “Nil Puja”. The believers of the Hindu religion celebrate this on the last day of Chaitra (Chaitra songkranti). Hence, the Meetei Sajibu Cheiraoba is an original traditional festival of Manipur and Charak Pujah or the second Cheiraoba of April 14 was adopted from Bengal during the time of King Bhagyachandra.

In cultures which traditionally or currently use calendars other than the Gregorian, New Year’s Day is often also an important celebration. Some countries concurrently use the Gregorian and another calendar. New Year’s Day in the alternative calendar attracts alternative celebrations of New Year.

Chinese New Year is celebrated in many countries around the world. It is the first day of the lunar calendar (but corrects for the solar every three years. Normally falls between 20 January and 20 February). It can be seen internationally since the Chinese population is widely spread out. Hindu New Year falls at the time and date sun enters Aries on the Hindu Calendar. (Normally on April 13 or April 14 depending on Leap year).

Iranian New Year (Nowruz) which has been celebrated for our 3,000 years, is celebrated and observed by Iranian people and the related cultural continent and has spread in many other parts of the world, including parts of Central Asia, South Asia, North western China, the Crimea and some groups in the Balkans. Norway marks the first day of spring and the beginning of the year in Iranian calendar. It is celebrated on the day of the astronomical vernal equinox, which usually occurs on March 21 or the previous following day depending on where it is observed.

As well as being a Zoroastrian holiday and having significance amongst the Zoroastrian ancestors of modern Iranians the same time is celebrated in the Indian sub-continent as the New Year. On the modern Gregorian calendar as well as the Julian calendar used in ancient Rome, New Year’s Day is observed on January 1, the first day of the year. The Meetei Calendar has 12 months (Tha) like that of Gregorian calendar. The 12 months of Meetei Calendar are Sajibu, Kalen, Inga, Ingen, Thawan, Langban, Mera, Hiyangei, Poinu, Wakching, Phairen and Lamda.

*The article is written by Balu Thongam

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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