Lui Ngai Ni Festival in Manipur Date in the current year: February 14, 2024

Lui Ngai Ni Festival in Manipur Lui Ngai Ni is an annual spring festival celebrated by the Naga people in the Indian state of Manipur on February 14 and 15. In 1988, the government of Manipur even declared it a state public holiday.

“Naga” is a collective name of various ethnic groups native to Northeast India and the northwestern part of Myanmar. The majority of the Nagas, which is over 2.7 million people, live in the Indian states of Nagaland, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, and Assam. The majority of the Burmese Nagas live in the Naga Self-Administered Zone of Myanmar.

The term “Naga” originated in Assam as an exonym used to refer to a few isolated ethnic groups. Upon their arrival to the region, the British adopted it for a variety of ethnic groups with loose linguistic and cultural affinities. Today, about ninety ethnic groups in India and Myanmar are classified as Naga.

The Naga peoples speak various Sino-Tibetan languages, collectively referred to as Naga languages. These languages aren’t necessarily mutually intelligible, which means that two people from different Naga tribes might not be able to understand one another, even though their languages belong to the same language family and do have a number of similarities.

The Naga people are very proud of their traditional culture, which includes folk tales and songs that have peen passed through oral tradition, colorful folk dances performed at religious occasions and festivals, traditional clothes and jewelry with patterns unique for each Naga group, and cuisine characterized by smoked, dried and fermented foods (for example, smoked meat and fermented bamboo shoots, soybeans, or various leaves).

Although the majority of Naga tribes have converted to Christianity, they still celebrate traditional festivals. Most of these festivals are tribe-specific, but there are two inter-tribe festivals designed to promote the unity of the various Naga groups: the Hornbill Festival in Nagaland and the Lui Ngai Ni Festival in Manipur.

The name “Lui Ngai Ni” was coined using words from three Naga languages: Tangkhul, Rongmei, and Sopvoma (Mao). Each of the three words means “festival” or, more specifically, “seed sowing festival” in its respective language.

Every February, all Naga tribes living in Manipur (and there are more than twenty of them) come together to celebrate the beginning of spring and showcase their rich cultural heritage. Naga groups from the neighboring states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Nagalend are often invited as special guests and also partake in the festivities.

The central ritual of the Lui Ngai Ni festival is a symbolic sowing of the first seeds that marks the beginning of the agricultural season. It is accompanied by prayers for good crops and prosperity. After that, the tribes showcase their traditional music, folk dances and songs, and costumes.

Lui Ngai Ni is celebrated in all parts of Manipur with a significant Naga population, but the main event is hosted alternatively by four district headquarters: Chandel, Senapati, Tamenglong, and Ukhrul.

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