heikru-hidongba-manipurHeigru Hidongba or the boat race festival is observed by the Meities society on the eleventh day of fortnight of Langbal month (September) of Meitei calendar. It is a very important joyous festival and has been observed at the Thangapat (moat) of Shri Bijoy Govindajee, Sagolband, Imphal. This festival had been observed since 984 and 1074 A.D. This festival marks the racing of two boats with pomp and spirit.

This festival is celebrated as a prayer to God for the welfare of the people and the country. In the past, King and nobles performed this festival for the welfare and well-being of the people and the community. One day prior to the festival day, the Maiba (priest) cleans and purifies the boat with Mantras and throws Konyai on the boats. Prayer is offered to Pakhangba (god of Meiteis) for the welfare of the king. Gold and silver coins are offered with a towel and garland on the deck of the boats.

On the day of the festival two boats join together known as Hi-Khabak-Lakpa and Shri Shri Bijoy Govinda. Rashewori are to be installed and offer Puja. Also a garland of Heigru, made of 108 Heigrus with an alternate bud of Hup and also a garland of Cheng Machang (fine whole rice) made of 108 pieces is offered. The offered garlands are worn by the Tengmai Leppa of the two boats. The Maiba or the Pandit decides whether good or bad year from the result of the boat race. The winner wears the garland of Heigru or that of Chengmachang. The king also offers gold and silver coins to Pakhangba for the prosperity of the land. Temporary camps are put up on the north and south of the Thangapat that runs from the east to the west. The public is crowded on both sides of the Thangapat and separate seating arrangements are made for the king and queen.

Pompous and graceful rowing of the two boats is the main attraction of this festival which is the biggest gathering of all around people of Imphal Valley. It is a wonderful and beautiful thing to witness the most grandeur festivals being held once in a year.

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