Fearing Covid spike, Manipur government bans thabal chongba folk dance during Yaoshang festival


Amid a resurgence of Covid-19 cases in some states, the Manipur government has tightened restrictions and banned all forms of person-to-person contact, including Thabal Chongba, a popular folk dance and one of the main prints of the traditional Yaoshang festival.

Chief Secretary Rajesh Kumar issued an order stating, “No activity involving person-to-person contact such as ‘thabal chongba’ or ‘jatrawali’ will be allowed, but ‘Yaoshang sports’ can be organized subject to the observation of relevant SOPs ”.

The festivities around Yaoshang are likely to increase human interactions and physical contact, adding to fears of a second wave amid a new wave of infections reported in some states, according to the order.

He called on all deputy commissioners and district police superintendents to strictly enforce restrictions and firmly address violations, if any.

Although there is no ban on organizing sports from Yaoshang, the state issued an advisory on Thursday on preventive measures to contain the spread of Covid-19 during the festival. These include the ban on spraying or applying colors to others.

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The Yaoshang festival of the Meitei indigenous community is celebrated for five days from the Lamta full moon (February-March) of the Meitei lunar calendar.

It’s often described as Manipur’s version of Holi, but unlike the Festival of Colors, it has a traditional twist. Over the five-day period, the state comes alive with a myriad of festivities – from sporting events during the day to Thabal Chongba dancing at night.

A traditional dance form of the Meitei people, Thabal Chongba is usually performed during the full moon where boys and girls converge in open grounds and dance in a circle holding hands until late at night. Nowadays, however, the dance is performed throughout the month of Lamta.

During the five days of festivities, all commercial and commercial activities, including public transport, are paralyzed. Almost all institutions, both public and private, also remain closed. This year the festival will start on March 29.

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