The 242nd Heikru Hidongba festival was held on Tuesday with Manipur Governor La Ganeshan, Rajya Sabha MP Maharaja Leishemba Sanajaoba, and Patsoi AC MLA Sapam Keba gracing the event at Sagolband Bijoy Govinda Thangapat in Imphal.
Introduced in the 1779, the Heikru Hidongba has been a festival of great cultural and religious significance where prayers and rituals are performed for prosperity and sanctity. The festival is celebrated every year on the 11th day of Meitei lunar month, Langban, which corresponds to the month of September in Gregorian calendar.
Thousands of people thronged the banks of the Bijoy Govinda Thangapat in Imphal to witness a boat race and offer prayers to Lord Vishnu and Bijoy Govinda.
The traditional boat race festival, Heikru Hidongba, has a great traditional significance and is observed with a ritualistic approach in Manipur.
Apart from performing religious rites and rituals and paying obeisance to the Gods for bountiful blessings, an exciting race between two boats is the main highlight of the festival.
On the day of the race, a garland is assembled from 108 Heikru ( Gooseberry ). In between each Heikru, there is a tip of ‘hup’ interspersing the strand. Another garland is made out of 108 rice grains, each grain picked by fingers from its husk.
The two garlands are being offered to Shree Bijoy Govinda and then placed on the deck of the two boats. Which garland will be placed on which boat? This is decided on the day of the race by pundits.
Before the start of the Heeyang Tannaba (boat race), graced in a Khabak Lakpa Hee (two boats tied together), Shree Bijoy Govinda goes on a procession along the sides of the moat and stops at every Hiden. This is known as Lai Lamyengba.At these stops at each Hiden, spectators make offerings of fruits, flowers, and arti to Shrimati Rasheshori and Shree Bijoy Govinda.
Heikru Hidongba began after installing the idol of Lord Vishnu. Later, Heikru or gooseberry is offered to the lord. As a traditional belief, it is forbidden to eat gooseberry before the festival.