Before setting off on the campaign trail for the Manipur elections candidates are holding a special flag-hoisting ceremony Athenpot Thinba in their respective constituencies.
The practice, unique to Manipur, cuts across parties, ethnicities, religions and communities.
About Athenpot Thinba
- The ceremony is usually held in the courtyard of the candidate’s home on an auspicious date in the calendar. While the event simply involves the candidate hoisting the party flag, followed by a prayer by a priest and blessings by community elders, its scale and ceremony vary from candidate to candidate.
In the Meitei-dominated Imphal valley, a practice called the Athenpot Thinba is a key part of the flag-hoisting ceremony. In it, women from the community carry a variety of fruits and vegetables, rice, traditional snacks and flowers, and deposit them at the base of the party flagpole. Other gifts are also given to the candidate to wish him/her luck for the elections.
Athenpot Thinba is a ritualistic procession that marks the auspicious beginning of any event. “Athenpot usually refers to an offering, which includes a mix of items, such as food and flowers, and Thinba means to present/drop things,”
The giving of Athenpot is common practice, and found in other traditional festivals such as Lai Haraoba, and even weddings.
- In religious ceremonies, Athenpot is presented to appease the gods; in elections, it is done to show support to the candidate.
- The date of the ceremony is selected on the basis of astrological predictions in some areas.
- The Meiteis, who follow Vaishnavism and Sanamahism, may have a puja in the ceremony. In the predominantly Christian hill districts, the ceremony is usually presided by a pastor who delivers a sermon, with blessings by elders, and may be followed up with singing of hymns.
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