Etymology of Cheiraoba Festival
The name Sajibu Nongma Panba is derived from the Manipuri words, Sajibu, which as per the Meitei calendar is the first month of the year and Nongma is the first date of the month.
Legend of Cheiraoba Festival
According to various legends surrounding the sanamahism religion, the Meitei New Year or the Cheiraoba festival started during the reign of King Maliya Fambalcha also known as Koi- Koi, who ascended the throne at the age of 25 years. From the day of his coronation, the dating of Meitei calendar known as the Mari- Fam was introduced. And thus, the Cheiraoba festival was introduced and was celebrated amongst the people of Manipur.
Rituals of Cheiraoba Festival
The groundwork for the celebration is done ahead of the day of the Cheiraoba festival. It includes cleaning of the house and furniture, shopping for new clothes for family and friends. On the day of the festival, cooked food is offered to Hanu Kokchao and Hanu Leikham, who are the guarding deities, at the gate of every house. The ceremonies revolving round the festival starts early in the morning. The women prepare Athelpot that consists of fine whole rice, raw vegetables of different kinds, fruits and flowers of the new season. This is an offering to Lainingthou Sanamahi and Leimarel Ima Sidabi at the altars which are placed on south western corner and middle north corner of the house. Thereafter food is cooked for the family members to consume.
The cooked food is placed on round- cut plantain leaves and offered to Emoinu Ima at the fire place. This same fire is offered at the gate of the house to the guarding spirits. After this the family will dine together. An unusual tradition of climbing of the Hills is also observed. The villagers limb up to nearby hill tops. It is believed that this enables them to rise to heights in their worldly life.
In Manipur, the Cheiraoba festival is observed on 2 different days- the Sajibu Nongma Panba, which is the first day of Sajibu by traditional Sanamahi Laininglup and on the day of Charak Puja of Bengal which was introduced by Bhagyachandra Maharaja. The first one is following lunar year and the second is of the solar year astrologically. It is assumed that on the first day of Sajibu month the cosmic Universal God, Sidaba Lainingthou Sanamahi stays on the altar of the house which is kept in the south west corner waiting for the offerings from his devotees.
During this month all seeds sown in the previous month of Lamda sprouts. It is believed that seeds of 9 kinds of species like humans, animals, fishes, insects, mosquitoes, trees, bamboos, pulses and plants have sprouted. They show their heads like horns of deer as designed by God. The day of the Cheiraoba festival is considered to be the most sacred day.