Me And My Manipuri Things

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Today is Yaosang, the Manipuri version of Holi.

The Manipuri observance of Holi differs a lot from the normal Holi observed throughout India. It is a five day festival of of Importance,often referred as ‘Phaguwa’ by the Bishnupriya Manipuris. While the basic Vaishnavite features of the festival are present, the manipuris have given it the added significance of its being a commemoration of birth of Sri Chaitanya or Gauranga Mahaprabhu.

On the first day, bamboos and thatches are collected from houses to construct a small mandir(hut) or shed called Yaosang near the road side. The image of Sri Chaitanya is brought into the shed and groups of people male, female, old and young arrange offerings in conformity with traditional and Gaudiya manner. In the evening of the full-moon day they set the hut on fire. After burning down the shed people collect ashes and paste them into their forehead.

It is said that the festival is observed to symbolize the pang of separation between Radha and Krishna and the manner in which Krsihna sees Radha after burning the shed.It is also evident that into this Vaishnavite festival certain traditional Manipuri aspects have been incorporated. It is likely that the Yaosang festival, was originally connected with the coming of spring, and that the burning of the Hut (Yaosang) may have symbolizes the destruction of the Cold and the farewell of winter.

The most characteristic feature of the festival is that, from the second to the fourth day, groups of people – irrespective of age, sex and rank – walk from house to house to collect “Vikkha” in the form of rice and money. During the begging they recite the lines in chorus “Hori Hori Bola – E Hori”. Smalls boys and girls beg money from the passersby. Youths are seen parading the streets with red powder, painting or sprinkling colored water locally called as “Pechkari”. In Manipur, boys and girls participate in the traditional Thabal Chongba dance.

Happy Yaosang and Happy Holi to all!

Special thank goes to Sangram Singha (Correspondent, Daily Jugantor and Ekushey TV) for sharing the pictures and video clips.

Pics:

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It’s been two hundreds or more years since our forefathers settled here from a beautiful place called Manipur and consequently they had developed a diverse identity for us. The identity of Bishnupriya Manipuri was a result of long historical process and series of struggles. For years we, bishnupriyas, meiteis and pangons are living here with a very close relationship and harmony as manipuris, as a undivided community. Though I take utmost pride of being a Manipuri, life has never been usual like other Bangladeshis here. I suffer the same side with other indigenous tribes living in political boundary of Bangladesh. If you are a non-bengali you are always 2nd class people here. Even if you are Hindu, you are 2nd class Hindu because you belongs to a marginal ethnic group. And I guess that is the same for hundred percent of the people belonging to Manipur or the other North Eastern states of India. As constitutionally the definition of ‘Indian’ or ‘Bangladeshi’ doesn’t include us, this is a price we indigenous tribes are forced to pay for national integrity.

The law of nature is ‘Survival of the fittest’, in a close ecosystem or forest where diverse population occurs; the dominantly populated species will always try to take maximum resources. If the resources are scare then they will try to eliminate the lesser-populated communities, thus extinction occur. This is similar to human being also. But there are so many people still our community who are sadly prone to disease of being copycap Bangalis, their role model has been some typical ‘Bengali Bhadaralok’. What gives me more shock is when educated people suffering from inferiority syndrome and usually try to ignore and hide their identity as a Manipuri. How to make these people realized that “you cant become the son of other mother, as she has her own sons”? How can people forget the endless struggles and sufferings our godly ancestors had gone through to develop a social structure, rules and regulations, economy system, an honest way of living and life leading, a unique dress code, a language to communicate and above all, to establish a proud identity for us?

If we ever tried to trace our roots we would hardly find it in history books. In the past years I have come across enough incidences and accounts that build up this immense anger and disappointment in me and I don’t understand where it will all go. In these years I have understood the importance of bringing our ever neglected history, culture, fine art, language and literature in front of the world. We have to make extra effort to find and preserve our glorious history and culture. Whatever little or more we know should be shared with everyone.

We are lucky to have portals, website and blogs like manipuri.org, pouri.org, bishnupriyamanipuri.blogspot.com etc and we should make the most out of it by contributing articles and other stuffs, which are related to our identity and culture to share it with everyone. I deeply appreciate these endeavors and my special thanks goes to the people responsible for bringing up such a wonderful sites.

Giving more importance to our own culture might seem too fanatical or selfish. One of my friends criticized me for not being interested about Bengali culture and not being stereotyped like wearing Saris and Lungi, listening Rabindra Sangit, talking in fluent Bengali, eating Meats, visiting Loknath baba ashrams or Durgabaris as well. She was shocked when I replied – “do you like to wear a Lahing or Inafi, can you talk Manipuri, do you eat Paltoi and Sinchou, do you bow down to Apokpa?” To that, naturally came, “You indigenous people are very selfish! You just think of your people, your culture, your identity.”

Well if we don’t think about our people or our culture will Superman fly in to save us?

Great Personalities who have made a difference to Bishnupriya Manipuri society in the fields of Arts, Music, Dance, Education, Literature, Religion, Social work etc and contributed a lot to Bishnupriya Manipuri culture and spirit. Let us have a look on profiles of those great personalities who make us feel proud to be a Bishnupriya Manipuri.


Read Part one here

Part Two (1960-1980)

In the post 60’s – a brave and dynamic leader, a devoted community worker and a great writer was revealed in Bishnupriya Manipuri Community. His Name is Sarvashri Jagat Mohan Singha, former secretary of Nikhil Bishnupriya Manipuri Sahitya Parishad, popularly known as ‘Jagatda’. Jagat Mohan was born in 13th December of the year 1920 in a remote village of Assam. He played impressive rule in the language movement demanding the recognition of Bishnupriya Manipuri Language in post 60’s and 70’s. He was respected with the title ‘Sarvashri’ given to him for his dynamic and courageous leadership. His literary works mainly the criticisms under the nickname ‘Dolan Ipu’ was very popular among the mass. He compiled the valuable research work on Bishnupriya Manipuri language and history – ‘The Bishnupriya Manipuris and Their Language’(1976). Jagat Mohan was also a dramatist and composer of many songs on social enlightenment. Songs like ‘Jonome Jonome more diya petheis hunar Manipure..’ or ‘Loktake kader, kader akkhula … ahir pani bela bela ‘ are still source of inspiration for Bishnupriya Manipuris.

Another remarkable community worker and a dedicated leader is Late Sri Dinanath Singha of Tilakpur, Bangladesh. He worked throughout his entire life for the betterment of Bishnupriya Manipuri community living in Bangladesh. He worked as the president of Bangladesh Manipuri Samajkalyan Samitee which was joint platform of Bangladeshi Bishnupriyas, Meiteis and Pangans. In 1973 and 1975 a deputation leaded by him met the that time Prime-Minister and that time President of Bangladesh arguing to provide faculties for Manipuri students, patronizing Manipuri culture, construction of Manipuri Mandhavs and broadcasting Manipuri programs in the national media. As a result of his efforts, in 1976 the Govt of Bangladesh started telecast of regular programs from Radio Bangladesh, Sylhet station in Bishnupriya and Meitei language under a common Manipuri line. The Govt also granted a fund for maintenance of the Mandavs and provided reservations for Manipuri students in Govt institutes. Dinanath’s leadership pressurized the govt to establish ‘Manipuri Lalitkola Academy’ to extend Manipuri culture and Music. Bishnupriya Manipuris of Bangladesh inaugurated many associations/awards by his name viz ‘Dinanath Smriti Academy’, ‘Dinanath Puraskar’, ‘Dinanath Britti’ etc.

Hanjaba Guru Bipin Singha may rightly be called as the “Father of Manipuri Dance and style”. He was awarded with a number of the prestigious titles like Bharat Ratna, Kalidas etc. He has the past four decades with his disciplines – the Javery sisters -has contributed a great deal in the field of Manipuri dance and culture. In Bombay the famous performers and teachers are the Jhaveri sisters – Nayana,Suverna, Darshana and Ranjana Jahveri. They continue this tradition at their institution ‘Manipuri Nartanalaya’. Guru Bipin Singha is one of those artists who have spread the beauty of Manipuri dance all over the world and have been honored both nationally-internationally on this subject and thus brought glories for Bishnupriya Manipuri community.

Among the living legends, the name of Dr. Kali Prashad Sinha comes at first. He is the first and foremost Bishnupriya Manipuri to be entitled with the degree Ph.D and D. Lit. He is the first exponent of Bishnupriya Manipuri linguistics. Dr K P Sinha passed M.A. in Sanskrit from Jadavpur University in 1963. He visited almost every village of Bishnupriya-speaking people in Assam, Manipur, Tripura and Bangladesh; studied dialectical differences and collected the vocabulary of the language. With all this materials a thesis entitled ‘A study on Bishnupriya Manipuri Language’, on which he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy by Jadavpur University in 1968. He joined the Assam University as Professor & Head of the department of Sanskrit. His remarkable contribution is the first ever ‘Bishnupriya Manipuri Grammar’ and the significant work ‘An Etymological Dictionary of Bishnupriya Manipuri’. He wrote a number of essays on Bishnupriya Manipuri linguistics, social problem etc and composed numerous poems, vaishnava padavalis and modern songs. He translated the whole Rasleela songs into Bishnupriya Manipuri language expressing the divine love of Radha and Krishna, which are previously found only in Bengali-Brajabuli version. Greater contributions of Dr K P Sinha are in the fields of Indian philosophy where ‘Nyaya-Darsana-Vimarsa’, ‘Sankara-Darsana-Vimarsa’, ‘The Buddhist Theory of Non-Self’, ‘The concept of Absolute Indian Philosophy’ etc worth mention. Dr K P Sinha was once involved with social activities with Bishnupriya Manipuri Mahasabha and later he formed Bishnupriya Manipuri Sahitya Sabha. In 1994, his statements along with his research works that were submitted to the Assam Backward Class Commission played an vital role in recognition and inclusion of nomenclature “Bishnupriya Manipuri” in the list of OBC. In personal life, he remained unmarried and he spent all his earnings in publishing books, organizing community events and founding the cultural point ‘Divyasram’.

References:
Souvenir of Word Conference 2003 by NBMM
Kothika Matek by Prof. Ranjit Singha, 1992
Souvenir of 50th anniversary of NBMSP & NBMSP, 2006
Ithaak, January 11th, 1995 Issue
Pouri Patrika, August 2007 Issue

Acknowledgements:
Sri Samarjit Singha, Tripura
Prof. Ranjit Singha, Mouvibazar

Contd…

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On Saturday, 24-11-2007 the auspicious observance of Maha-Ras, the principal festival and the foremost annual cultural event of Bishnupriya Manipuri Community in Bangladesh, was celebrated in a grand way and with great enthusiasm. The king of Manipur Maharaj Bhagyachandra (1763-1798) introduced Manipuri Raslila to Manipuri society and from the time onwards Raslila became the most important aspect of Manipuri culture. Since the mid-nineteenth century when the Manipuri Bishnupriyas and Manipuri Meiteis settled in Bangladesh, this festival has been observed in cooperation at Madhabpur Juramandav in Kamalganj upaziala of Moulvibazar district.

As per the records maintained by authorities, the first Maha-Ras ever held outside Manipur, was at Madhabpur Juramandav in 1842.

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A few decades ago Manipuri dance was not as popular as the other classical dance forms. But the subtlety of the tender dance form and the variety of the rhythm impressed Rabindranath Tagore so much that he is credited with introducing this enchanting style to the other parts of the world. Renowned gurus were invited to teach this dance form in Tagore’s idyllic institute, Shantiniketan. Gradually the practice of this dance form extended outside the Manipuri community and was practiced with great enthusiasm, especially among the Bengalis. Following that initial period, the individual who can be credited for empowering and popularising the dance form, is Guru Bipin Singha.

Guru Bipin Singha was born on August 24, 1918 in a Bishnupriya Manipuri family deeply involved in Manipuri Culture. His grandfather P. Tona Singha was a Manipuri Maiba (priest), his father Laikhomsana Singha was a poet and his mother Indubala Devi was a vocalist. Thus dance and music are in his blood.

Right from his childhood Guru Bipin Singha received intensive and elaborate training in the art of Manipuri dancing from various experts residing in Manipur and its surrounding districts like Cachar, Sylhet and Tripura. Guru Bipin Singha is a rare combination of a dancer, choreographer, scholar and a teacher. For over the last 50 years he had dedicated himself to the task of exploring and revealing the classical elements of Manipuri dancing in order to preserve, promote and propagate the art form in its pristine purity.


His genius for creating and innovating dance compositions and choreography had given him a rightful place among the choreographers of Indian dance. He composed various dance items, emphasising each classical element in a stylised way, bringing out its beauty to the fullest and keeping true to its original form and spirit. He gave a new direction to dance dramas and choreographed them keeping within the traditional framework. From within these dance dramas he chose the solo pieces and re-choreographed them for the stage, thereby making them complete. He was a pioneer in introducing solo dance performances in the Manipuri style.

Through studies and researches, he had continually established a significant correlation between the available Vaishnavite and other Indian texts on dance, as well as the oral tradition of Manipuri dance and music. His scholastic abilities had enabled him to analyse, classify, systematise and codify various aspects of Manipuri dance and create fundamental and universal principles and disciplines to impart effective training.

Guru Bipin Singha in collaboration with his well-known disciples Jhaveri sisters and Kalavati Devi, founded Manipuri Nartanalaya in Bombay, Kolkata and Manipur. The creative contribution of Guru Bipin Singha and the Jhaveri sisters had been to bring the traditional and classical dances of Manipur from the temples to the theatre without altering its form and spirit.

The state of Manipur recognised his scientific attitude and scholarly approach and had accredited his ‘school’ of dancing as a significant ‘gharana’ of Manipuri dance.In order to acknowledge and appreciate his contribution to the field of dance, Guru Bipin Singha was awarded with many prestigious awards among which were Nrityacharya by Maharaja of Manipur, National Sangeet Natok Academy awards given by Late Indira Gandhi, Uday Shankar Fellowship Calcutta, Kalidas Samman Madhya Pradesh, Anamika Kala Sangam Awards Calcutta and many others.


Guru Bipin Singha’s teachings and the Manipuri dance style were popularised in Bangladesh by Shantibala Sinha and Kalavati Devi at Chhayanat. Two of her direct students Sharmila Bandyopadhyay and Tamanna Rahman are now carrying on the legacy of Guru Bipin Singha in Bangladesh and introducing the young generation of dancers to the Manipuri style.

Contributed by: Tamanna Rahman | Dhaka

50 Great Bishnupriya Manipuris

Great Personalities who have made a difference to Bishnupriya Manipuri society in the fields of Arts, Music, Dance, Education, Literature, Religion, Social work etc and contributed a lot to Bishnupriya Manipuri culture and spirit. Let us have a look on profiles of those great personalities who make us feel proud to be a Bishnupriya Manipuri.

Part One (1920-1960)

Perhaps the most remembered idols among the Bishnupriya Manipuris are Late Gokulananda Gitiswami and Late Sri Bhubaneswar Sadhu Thakur. Gokulananda’s song immortalizing Mother Bishnupriya and Bhubaneswar Sadhu Thakur spiritual teachings played a pivotal part in defining Bishnupriya Manipuri gokulananda3.jpgculture, both in Bangladesh and India. The impact of this great wandering social reformer Gokulananda on the Bisnupriya Manipuries has been manifold. He traversed the whole of Bishnupriya-speaking region – singing with a missionary fervour of the ills of our society and their remedies He devoted his entire life to the serve the community, to improve the condition of our people and to keep pace with the progress of other communities. He dramatized the plight of our women against the comparative indolence of men. He came under lot of turbulence of the times and he appeared to have wider sympathies. Because of all these qualities of abhubaneswar_sadhuthakur1.jpg very high order, grateful people conferred on him the title “Gitiswami” along with a silver medallion, in a special session of Nikhil Bishnupriya Manipuri Mahasabha, in 1935. On the other hand, Sri Bhubaneswar Sadhu Thakur was a popular spiritual master who born at Baropoa, now renamed Bhubaneshwar Nagar, in Cachar. He taught a moral code of love, forgiveness, charity, contentment, inner peace, devotion to God and Guru through his teachings and songs. He saved the people from spiritual degeneration owing to abject poverty. They have learnt from him to live honestly and peaceably with what little they have. He established the temple Sri Radha Gavinda Jew Mandir popularly known as “Govindabari” at Nabadwip in West Bengal which is a veritable abode of peace for the devotees.

Late Sri Mohendra Kumar Singha (B.A., B.T.) of Silchar was a renowned social worker of Bishnupriya Manipuri community and also one of the few knowledgeable persons of his time. He was the pioneer in Bishnupriya Manipuri historical research. His historical work is compiled into three volumes of “Manipurer Prachin Itihas” which took him a vast amount of research works and findings. He edited ‘The Bishnupriya”, the month-piece of Mahasabha. In the third decade of 20th century, when a group of young and educated persons started publishing journals and literary magazines like, a wave of consciousness and nationalism sparked the society – the foremost among the young fellows was Late Sri Falguni Singha. Falguni was the editor of ‘Jagoran'(1925) and ‘Manipuri’ (1933). Beside literary activities he was a very good organizer. He worked in many ways to solve conflicts among Bishnupriyas and Meiteis. That time, other scholars like Late Sri Sena Singha, Late Krishna Kumar Singha and Sri Haridas Singha also contributed a lot in the field of historical research. Here we also remember with deep respect the social works done by Late Sri Tonubabu Singha Superintendent, Sri Manik Singha, Sri Kamini Singha, Advocate Sri Babuchand Singha, Sri Hemachandrajit Rajkumar and few others. Shaid Rajbabu Singha was a social worker, who sacrificed his life in 15th march 1933, when a rival group took away his life for what he is doing for the society.

In the field of dance, Guru Nileshwar Mukharjee from Bangladesh (of kamalganj Thana of undivided Sylhet district) and Guru senarik_rajkumar2.jpgSenarik Singha Rajkumar from Cachar district of Assam are well known to Manipuri society as with them the new department of Manipuri Dance was created in the Shantiniketon (Calcutta) in the early 30’s. In 1921, the poet Rabindranath Tagore encountered Manipuri dancing in Sylhet district, a Bishnupriya Manipuri enclave (Machimpur) that is now part of Bangladesh. Tagore was fascinated with a Ras performance and he consequently invited these two Gurus. That was an epoch making events in the history of Manipuri Dance and within a decade in crossed its regional as well national fields and became a reputed international style.

In the field of Arts, Literature and Music, the name of the eminent dramatist Leikhomsena Sinha from Singari near Silchar comes frist. Leikhomsena was the father of Guru Bipin Sinha, the great exponent of Manipuri dance. Leikhomsena singha was the author of the dramas entitled ‘Harishandra’, ‘Manipur Patan’ and ‘Khamba Thoibi’ and composer of many padavali songs. Madan Mohan Sharma of Sanicchara was one the four main writers of pre-50’s Bishnupriya Manipuri Literature. Madan Mohan Sharma was the author of a number of Kiratana-type works namely – ‘Balipinda’,’ Subal Milan’, ‘Tilottoma’, ‘Basak’, ‘Sudama Bipra’ etc. Amusena Singha of Cipersangan was also one the four main writers of early modern Bishnupriya Manipuri Literature.Amusena sinha wrote a number of Kirtana-type works based on Ramayana, namely – ‘Angada Raybar’, ‘Saktisel’, ‘Taranisen Badh’, ‘Nagapas’, ‘Mahiravan Badh’ etc.

References:
The Mahasabha Review,1970
Souvenir of Word Conference 2003 by NBMM
Kothika Matek by Prof. Ranjit Singha, 1992
Loktak 10th issue, 2005
Nuwa Ela, 23rd year, 6th Issue, 2005

Acknowledgements:
Late Sri Lalitmohan Singha, Tilakpur
Sri Nilmani Chatarjee, Ghoramara

Contd…

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