-By Donald Sairem and Phurailatpam Kenny
Amid the COVID-19 outbreak and the subsequent imposition of lockdown and curfew by the government to combat the same, the Meetei community on Wednesday celebrated ‘Sajibu Nongma Panba Cheiraoba’
Cheiraoba is a grand festival celebrated by the Manipuris mainly by the Meetei community on the first day of the first month ‘Sajibu’ of Manipuri lunar calendar to mark the beginning of a new year.
However, pertaining to the COVID-19 outbreak, the festival was celebrated in a low key this time.
Sharing of different delicacies cooked for the day among the neighbours were not seen this time unlike before. Climbing of hills after lunch is also a major part of the festival. However, the people refrained from climbing the hills as the government imposed restrictions on the same.
Notably, married women were also not seen visiting their maternal place to present gifts to their brothers for the Manipuri New Year. Thabal Chongba in the evening were also cancelled pertaining to the pandemic.
Laishram Abecha, a daily wage earner from Sagolband, told the Imphal Free Press in this regard, “Though I am a daily wage earner, I usually celebrate Cheiraoba in a grand manner. I usually cook not less than seven dishes. But this time I could not afford as the prices of essential commodities are sky rocketing with many taking advantage of the lockdown.”
She said that she gives equal importance to Cheiraoba festival and present COVID-19 outbreak. Cheiraoba also comes once in a year and the festival holds a high significance in the cultural and traditional aspects of the state, she said. Nevertheless, each individual should play a major role in preventing the spread of this highly contagious disease, she stated. I also played my part and kept the festival low key this time, she added.
“Social distancing being the most effective measure to control COVID-19, I did not share my cooked food to my neighbours this time. I feel really bad celebrating only with my small family but what could we do. Sometimes, we have to make compromises and accept the situation,” said Abecha.
Phairenjam Bhartika of Thangmeiband said that she is disappointed on not being able to climb the Cheiraoching hill with her children this time. “But this is for our own good and safety. As such, it is not much a problem. We can always climb the hill next time,” she conveyed.
Khaidem Thoibi of Tera told that she has no problem celebrating the festival in a humble way as demanded by the present situation.
“At present, what is more important is how to break the chain of Coronavirus pandemic. Cheiraoba will come every year but if we did not take appropriate measure to contain the spread of this infectious disease, the society will be doomed,” she added.
Our Churachandpur correspondent has added that during the Cheiraoba celebration in the district, most remained confined to their households due to coronavirus pandemic. Maximum complaint raised by the Meetei community from Meetei Leikai, is not finding their favourite fish for the family feast.
However, there are no shortages of medicines at Churachandpur so far. Since shops remained shut, there has been reported incident of panic buying in the district.