By Khuraijam Jibankumar
Climbing the nearest hill on Cheiraoba, a festival of Meitei, an indigenous people of Manipur to celebrate New Year’s Day is an age old tradition that have been practiced since the reign of King Lairen Naophangba (428-518 A.D.). The festival is celebrated on the first day of Sajibu month every year according to Meitei Calendar. On this day, cooked foods were offered to Emoinu Ima, the goddess of wealth at the fire place and to Hanu Kokchao and Hanu Leikham, the guarding deities at the entrance of every house. Married women offered gifts to their parents, brothers and sisters and seek their blessings. After having food, the locals climbed their nearest hill to seek blessings of Goddess Panthoibi or other deities. Conservation of forest in the form of sacred groves ie Umang lai is an integral part of the Meitei religion, Sanamahism. Forest patches dedicated to local deities are conserved and cutting of trees or killing animals and birds are not allowed. This ancient tradition were followed even before the invent of the concept of National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries. However, nature loving Meitei and their tribal brothers began to disregard their age old tradition and start cutting trees inside such forest patches. Deterioration of traditional belief led to vanishing of many green forests leaving only the place of worship. Such is the situation of the hill locks where local people climb during the festival, Cheiraoba. Devotees climbing the hillocks pollute the environment by throwing plastic packets of eatables, bottles and other waste materials. Wild animals and birds living in the hillocks are exposed to the indigestible plastic wastes that are fatal if ingested. Soil covered by such waste led to inhabitable condition for plant growth. Lack of belongingness and concern about the hillocks and its forest cover is lack of devotion to God. If we are real devotees of God, we should care for the green hills where our Gods reside. Let’s make every Cheiraoba, a green festival for the cleaner environment for you, us and everyone.
Khuraijam Jibankumar is Founder and Managing Trustee,
North East Centre for Environmental Education and Research (NECEER), Imphal