The onset of the spring season has been associated with the beginning of rejuvenation. It is a season when plants break dormancy leading to changes. One can see flowers bloom in free spirit, smell the soil dampened by winter harshness and feel the air entwined with the fragrance of wild flowers. Along with the season of change comes Sajibu Nongma Panba or Meetei Sajibu Cheiraoba, observed as the Meetei New year.
Sajibu Nongma Panba is the first day of the lunar month of Sajibu, which falls between March and April. It is the traditional lunar New Year for the Meeteis. Regarded as one of the biggest one-day festivals of Manipur, the occasion also marked by annual religious practice, rites and rituals observed with traditional fervour. It is an occasion which marks the temporal link between the new and the old. Thus, Cheiraoba literally means the declaration of a New Year.
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Meeteis fervently believe that the Almighty not only controls one’s fortunes but also guides human beings accomplish their hopes and dreams. However, this year’s spring rejuvenation will be remembered for many wrong reasons. Meeteis will be observing the day with subdued vivacity.
Manipur Chief Minister N Biren while wishing the people of the state on the occasion of Sajibu Nongma Panba Cheiraoba which falls on Wednesday, March 25 had stated that the people of Manipur are hard-pressed to observe maximum precaution to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the state. “For the sake of our health and safety, our loved ones and our community, we must practice social distancing and avoid big crowd while restricting the festive hours to offering of ritual prayers in the safety of our homes,” said the chief minister.
While exchanging greetings and wishing each other, this Cheiraoba is another opportunity for all to reflect on issues confronting Manipur.
While the day is generally observed with festive gaiety and sumptuous feasts shared with family members and friends besides the mandatory observance of age-old traditions, the ongoing lockdown enforced in the state has dampened the festive spirit.
However, this festive dismay should also mark the beginning of efforts to infuse new meanings to the annual ritual observance. There is no time to lament the grim and dark cloud surrounding us in these hard times. One needs to ponder on whether or not temporal renewal of existence does carry any symbolic consistencies with regard to change and turn the tide in our favour.
The idea of reinventing traditions by virtue of anxieties set in motion by the worldwide coronavirus pandemic can come as blessings in disguise. What is even more important is grasping the core concept of the collective spirit behind Cheiraoba and the future. One looks forward to fulfilling dreams based on concerted efforts for change and saving precious lives. These troubled times are indeed a spring to remember.