Like all weddings, Manipuri wedding rituals are enormous and varied. One such wedding ritual is the Nga-thaba which is performed during the ceremony itself.
The grandeur of celebration is at its peak when a marriage ceremony is to take place but equally astonishing is the minute strictures given by the elderly of the family during the whole proceedings. A wedding is considered auspicious if the household of the bride and the groom follow certain practices and mores. Not only does the couple benefit from the favourable situation created by the carefully instructed precept but it is believed to reap benefits for both the household involved.
The Nga -thaba ritual
When the wedding is in process at the mantap (mandap), two ladies from the groom’s side and one lady from the bride’s will conduct an auspicious ritual of Nga thaba. It is considered to be of utmost importance for the future life of the bride and the groom. This ritual sets out with the three ladies taking two live and healthy fishes to be set out in water.
The fish has to be “ngamu” or smaller variety of the Channa orientalis. The fishes are kept in the “Lai-ningthou” room of the bride’s household (or the room where the main Deity of Meiteis is worshiped). It is always located at the south western corner of a Meitei household. And the kondum or the aluminum pot icontaining ngamu is kept in there. The number of fish can be 5 to 10 and the duty of the ladies is to select the strongest and the most active fishes. Then after the selection, two ladies hold a ngamu each and head for the nearest water body led by the third lady who is holding the lantern.
The basic idea is to take two of these fish preferably active and strong ones held by each lady of the bride and the groom respectively and to let free in a nearby pond or lake on the eastern or northern direction of the wedding venue. While the third lady will hold the lantern and lead the way.
Symbolism and Meaning of Nga-Thaba
The ladies will let go of the fish in the water at the exact same time. This is symbolic of the journey of the married life of the newly weds. Since we do not know how the fishes will fare in their journey similarly the new journey of the bride and the groom is unknown. But the ladies make sure that the fishes they select are strong and active.
The Channa orientalis fish or the ngamu is highly adaptable that they can survive even under mud and can locomote by drilling the soft earth with its strong snake like head. Since the fishes will survive any harsh environment, the newly wed couple will endure any ordeal if presented before them. Once the fishes is set free in the water one of the three lady will urinate nearby. This will symbolically take away any heavy burden the new couple might have to carry around their shoulders.
This post was written by Eliza Nongthombam. She is a regular contributor at ManipuriWeddings.