IMPHAL: While younger Manipuris shake a leg with their chosen partners during the Thabal Chongba dances during the five nights of Yaoshang festivities, the older generation turns towards spirituality during the Vaishnava festival Holi.
Upholding one such tradition, Vaishnavite minstrels of Manipur traverse the Imphal valley singing songs in praise of Lord Krishna at Meitei homes to the accompaniment of instruments such as dhol, khol and kartal.
“It is believed that their songs bring peace and prosperity. They have to be informed beforehand. They are paid a sum by the inviting household, but others can also pay the singers a token amount. Generally, elders attend these sessions,” said Thangjam Uttam, who invited a group of Vaishnava singers to his house in Imphal.
The singers have to be strictly vegetarian and bathe early in the morning during the five days of Yaoshang. The singers don the traditional Vaishnava colours of yellow and white for their performances, which typically take place around the tulsi (sacred basil) plant present in most courtyards of Meitei homes. “Our songs are a continuation of the tradition of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s devotion to Lord Krishna who revived Gaudiya Vaishnavism around Navadwip in Nadia district of West Bengal,” said 62-year-old Vaishnava singer Pramila Devi.
The young generation is also not completely cut-off from the traditional Vaishnava songs. Many of them turn up for the performances and some pay a token amount and seek the blessings of the singers. “We do what a normal teenager does such as going to concerts and dancing in Thabal Chonbga but still pay obeisance to the Vaishnava singers who uphold our tradition and our Meiteiness,” said 18-year-old Rabichandra Khuman.