India is a country blessed with a very rich cultural diversity. A multitude of traditions and rituals are being followed and practiced since time immemorial across the length and breadth of the nation. One such tradition is ‘Laamor Baat’, an offering of food to our ancestors and departed souls, seeking their blessings – celebrated on the last day of Chaitra, every year. This is a ritual followed by the Bishnupriya Manipuri community.
It is generally offered on a banana leaf. A variety of vegetarian delicacies are prepared. I remember my Maa preparing at least 21 delicacies that contained 108 types of ingredients in the complete preparation (vegetables/pulses/herbs, etc.). The 3rd of our sisters, Manomi Sinha who stays in Assam plucked a variety of vegetables from her vegetable garden, for preparation of the delicacies. Laamor Baat is usually offered at an open place. The head/son of the family first offers the puja with offering followed by obeisance by the other family members.
Our only brother Raja, the youngest of six siblings, along with Baba offered ‘Laamor Baat’ in Delhi. No family member stays at our home in Assam at present, as all shifted to the cities. We have a Mahadev temple (has Swambhu Shivalinga) within our home premise. A Pundit family stays there to offer PUJA in the temple every morning and evening and to celebrate all festivals in the temple premise besides taking care of the home. The Pundit Ji also offered ‘Laamor Baat’ in our home there on behalf of our family.
‘Laamor Baat’ is different from Shraddh (during which, we Hindus in general, offer homage to ancestors in Haridwar and other holy places). We, Bishnupriya Manipuris, also offer homage to our ancestors in the morning of Mahalaya (the first day of Durga Puja that falls in October-November). It is done either at home in an open place where Ganga Jal is offered with flowers with the accompaniment of chanting of mantras flowers, lighting of diyas, burning of incense. The gotra of the person is mentioned by the chanter (generally a Pandit) and gradually the departed souls dating back to generations, are invoked and their blessings are sought. Raw rice, pulses, spices, vegetables, etc., which is termed ‘Sidda’ are offered in the local temple in the name of the ancestors. These are used in the preparation/cooking of bhog, which are then offered to the deities of the temple. We consume the bhog and the delicacies prepared as ‘prasad’. Many come to Haridwar, and our other holy river side to do the same.
Besides the two aforementioned rituals dedicated to our ancestors, we, Bishnupriya Manipuris, also offer homage to ‘Aapokpa’, termed ‘Apokpa Dou Homa’. Prayers are offered at the place where the in-house granary (in village) or where Anna (rice grains) is stored (in towns and cities where there is no granary) with fruits at the same time lighting diya and incense. This is done indoors. When we offer prayers to our ancestors during Shraddh or during a marriage ceremony at home, which is a must, for seeking blessings, the 1st offering is done to Apokpa, the Kuldevta of the Bishnupriya Manipuris.
Who is Apokpa? Bishnupriya Manipuri community from the Northeast (they majorly reside in Assam, Manipur, Tripura, Meghalaya; now scattered across various parts of India and the world) draw lineage from Pandava prince Arjuna and Manipuri princess Chitrangada. It was during his exile that Arjuna visited the Northeast where he married Manipuri princess Chitrangada. Apokpa belongs to the 7th generation from Arjuna and Chitrangada. A detailed account of this is described in the ‘Khumal Purana’ – one of the many ‘Puranas’. few months back I shared a chart of the lineage from Arjuna-Chitrangada to Apokpa and more later generations.
Perhaps, Bishnupriya Manipuris are the only Sanatani community, who have not converted to Islam of Christianity at all despite attacks or tortures. No Christian missionaries could ever play or succeed with their conversion tactics with this community. 99.99 percent of Bishnupriya Manipuris are still Hindu.
The first image attached here is offering of ‘Laamor Baat’ done by 4th sister Miilee Tapesh Sinha and her family. Nephew Taksheel is invoking the ancestors after offering ‘Laamor Baat’, symbolic of carrying the legacy of continuing this ritual (happening generation after generation). Offerings by other siblings Manomi and Raja also attached.