History of Hiyang Tannaba
According to many, the beginning of this race dates back to Manipuri King Luwang Ningthou Punshiba. It is said that he is the one to have crafted the first boat in this ancient land. Two craftsmen, namely Wangmanao Sinmeiba and Nungban Wangmitkhu Khuteiba, used to work for him. Over the time the "hi" (canoe) slowly developed and took the form of "hiyang" (long boat). Legends are of the opinion that in the later period during the reign of King Hiyangloi Ningthou, it became a sport and a source of entertainment. The source of inspiration was a successful hunt which called for a boat race to celebrate his hunting expedition. This event led to the beginning of the sport which is still being practiced in Manipur.
Performance of Hiyang Tannaba
Only men are allowed to take part in this seasonal game. The boat used in the game is called 'hee' while the oars are termed as 'nou'. Usually, only two boats take part in the contest. However, sometimes many beautifully decorated boats can also be seen participating in this game. The dimensions of the boat are variable. The boat can carry as many sailors as they want, the minimum being 20. The race starts with a ritualistic ceremony to Lord Sanamahi. Lord Sanamahi is the ruling deity of every Manipuri household who is worshipped for safety and protection.
Even the sailors are up for the festival by dressing up in nice traditional outfits. The teams have a Tengmai Leppa or captain who positions themselves at the bow of the boat. Judges too are appointed - one positions him at the starting line and the other at the finishing line. Supporters of both teams are present for encouragement. The supporters, who are the intrinsic part of the game, are known as hiban chenba or khongban chenba in Manipuri language.
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