An extremely popular boat race amongst the natives of Manipur, is a vital feature of one of their vibrant festivals, the Lai Haraoba festival. Mythology refers to a boat race between the Lainingthou and the Lairembi. This incident is re - enacted on the last day of the festival. The episode is known as hikaba. It is a seasonal game, and is only played by men. The boat is known as hee in the local language, and the oars are called nou.
Usually only two boats participate in the contest. These boats are colourfully adorned. Their length is not fixed, and can carry as many sailors as they want, the minimum being 20. Alongwith the boats, the sailors are also dressed in colourful traditional garbs for easy identification. The captain positions himself at the bow of his boat. The contest takes place in a moat, the judges placed at the starting and finishing points, while groups of exuberant cheer - leaders race along the banks goading their teams on. These morale - boosters, an intrinsic part of the game, are known as hiban chenba or khongban chenba in Manipuri.