Rath-Yatra or Kangchingba is a festival of Meitei Hindus. The idols of Shri Jaganatha (lord Krishna), Shri Balarama and Shri Subhadra ( the replicas of the Lord Jagannatha, His brother Balarama and sister Subhadra of Puri, Orissa) are paraded in public. This festival always falls on the second day of Engel-Tha (June-July) per Meitei Calender
The fashion and the procession similar to the Rath Yatra of Puri though in a miniature form. After the procession of Rath-Yatra of Shri Govindajee temple, Raths of other localities in Imphal area and in other villages start their own processions with sankirtana.
Male and female, young, old, adults and children participate in the Kangchingba procession. At every house people offer flowers and fruits and sweets to Shri Lord Jagannatha and His siblings wherever the procession goes. Every one enjoys this festival with a great zeal and glamour.
At the night time for the full period of either eight, nine or ten days which ever may be as indicated by the astrologer from year to year, there is a sankirtana (religious singing) known as Jayadev-Chongba at the Mandop of the temple wherever the Rath Yatra procession has been performed.
This type of sankirtana is performed by both group of men and women separately, the men first, and then women follow. Such sankirtana is performed by standing in a circle with a pungyeiba (drumer) in the middle. The song is sung with the rhythm of the Pung (a kind of mirdanga used by Manipuri).
After the sankirtana in circle is over some group of young women and girls use to dance or perform dances at the rhythm of the Pung. After it followed the distribution of prasadam the “Kshechiri” (cooked rice with dal, turmeric, chilly and salt and ghee), Uthi (peas, pieces of bamboo shoot with salt and soda), “Ironba ” of “Laphu” (plaintain trunk) and some other items can be added.
This is very interesting to note that the “Kshechiri” is to be put on the round lotus leaf only since no other thing is allowed but also taseteful, be used for the purpose during those days of the festival. All the people coming to relish/enjoy the prasadam of Lord Jagannatha are to be sitted in rows and the Brahmans distribute the prasadam to all of them, young and old, men and women with no bar for any sort of community.
The well to do families of the locality contribute and share in daily offering to the Lord Jagannatha by from the day of Rath Yatra to that of Purna Yatra. It is the duty and responsibility of the Brahmans who are the owners/devotees of the Lord to cook the “Kshechiri” and other items and offer to the Lord and distribute the prasadam to all the people present. It is totally free service to please the Lord Jagannatha.
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness of Manipur has also been observing the Rath Yatra Festival at the campus of Shri Radha Krishnachandra Mandir at Sagaiprou and the Rath Yatra procession goes up to Keishampat Junction and back from there. In between offering of fruits and flowers and performing arathi are done on both days of Ratha Yatra and Puma Yatra.
[Presented by intern Debrata Sarma from Guwahati]