Heikru Hidongba is the traditional boat race festival celebrated in Manipur during the month of September. It has been a celebration of great cultural and religious significance held every year at the sacred Thangapat in Sagolband Bijoy Gobinda, Imphal since 1779.
The festival is observed by offering of Heigru (Amalaki) fruit to Lord Bejoy Govinda on the 11th day of Meetei lunar month (Langban), accompanied with an exciting contest of ‘Hiyang Tanaba’ (Boat race) in traditional attires, which is the main highlight of the festival. The boats are operated by rowers and each boat has a leader or captain known as ‘Tengmai Leppa’. Thousands of people from different parts of the state gathered around the Thangapat to witness the event.
The rituals and other highlights of the festival:
- Carry the sacred idol of Lord Bejoy Govinda out of the sacred temple (Mani Mandir) to the sacred boat (Khunet-hi) in the early hour of the day.
- Offering of the Heigru Pareng (Garland) to the scared idol of Lord Bejoy Govinda by the priests for the bliss and welfare of the society and devotees.
- The scared idol is then carried on a boat around the moat to receive offerings from thousands of worshipers waiting on both the banks of the moat and then places it near the finishing point of the moat field, symbolising – the divine Umpire’s position of the boat race competition.
- Retreat of the scared idol into the Mani-Mandir after the boat race in the midst of noisy shouts and singing of devotional songs.