Me And My Manipuri Things

Almost in every villages of the Bishnupriya Manipuris, there are at least one or more ‘Mandav’ (sometimes referred as ‘Malthep’ ‘Mandop’ etc.), in which religious and cultural functions are observed. Although the ‘Mandav’’s have close similarities with the temples of Bengali Hindus or the ‘Namaghara’ of the Assamese, there is lot of difference between them. ‘Mandav’s are squire in shape and are very unique in architectural design. A ‘Mandav’ is considered as the core social center for the Bishnupriya Manipuris.

 

There is often a temple called Dou-gor-Leisang (‘Leisang’ in short, meaning the room of the God) is associated with a ‘Mandav’ though not mandatory for every ‘Mandav’. The images worshipped in the village Leisangs are Radha, Krishna, Jagannatha, Subhadra, Balarama, Gopala Deva, Saligrama etc. Composiye figures are very rare in the leisangs. The Manipuri Vaishnavs also worship sacred scriptures such as the Bhagavat Gita, Bhagavat Purana, Chaitanya Chatitamrita and other Vaishnavite scriptures. In the Leisangs, such books are also placed on an alter and the devotees offer flowers and Dhup.

There are few villages which do not have at least one ‘Mandav’. It is said among the Manipuris that a Lam(place) without a ‘Mandav’, a Bamon and an Astrologer is not worth inhabiting. It is considered virtues to spend a part of one’s earning in the construction and endowment of a ‘Mandav’ or ‘Leishang’. In the villages, the ‘Mandav’s are not only the center of religious diffusion, but also the social life of the people. In early days the land grants for the ‘Mandav’ and the gift of vast amount of wealth to the village Bamons who are the caretakers of the ‘Leisang’s attached to a ‘Mandav’ by the Kings of Manipur. Outside Manipur, rich and wealthy people come forward by donating lands, idols, money, cloths and ornaments for the deities.

The most religious and ritualistic festival of the Bishnupriya Manipuris is the Kartika festival which continues during the month of Kartik from the Laxmi Purnima to the Rasa-Purnima. Throughout this period Arati’s (offerings of lights) to Radha-Krishna are performed in the morning, in the for-noon and in the evening in the temples by following traditional rites and rules. Bhajan songs are sung to the accompaniment of Kartal, Pung (Dhak), Bell, Selbong and Moibung. That time they offer Kaboks (puffed rice mixed with sugar) and fruits to the lord.

Religious text , specially the Mahabharata and Ramayana, are recited and explained at every mandav’s or at any certain places where the people gather. The citation & explanation of religious scriptures is called ‘Leirik-Thikorani’.

Generally two knowledgeable and learned persons do this – one plays the role of ‘Thipa’ (the narrator) and the other one as the ‘Warilipa’ (interpreter). The ‘Leirik-Thikorani’ culture played a very important and significant role in propagating the Vaushnavite literature among the people and at the same time it helped in developing the folk and ancient literature of Bishnupriya Manipuri language.

After the ‘Arati’ or ‘Leirik-Thikorani’, prasadam (the food offering given to the Lord) is distributed among the people. They are fed on banana or lotus leave.

Moreover, in the period of Kartika, competition of dance with traditional ‘Dhol’s or wardrums. ‘Jhal’s or big cymbals etc are held almost everyday from villages to villages. These cultural competitions are called ‘Kartikar Phanna’ or the rivalry of Karitika. The big drums ‘Dhol’s and the big cymbals ‘Jhal’s are frequently used by the Bishnupriya Manipuris almost in every socio-religious occasions. It has been heard from some old-aged persons of the community that formerly the competition of ‘Kartikar Phanna’ used to held under the patronage of the kings.

The Kartika festival ends at the day of Rasa Purnima, the great Rasa celebrated on the full moon day Kartika (December).

Link: An article on Kartika Festival in My Bangla Blog

The Kang festival of Bishnupriya Manipuris is a festival of nine-day duration in the bright fortnight in the month of Ashar (June-July) with elaborate paraphernalia. It is observed with great festivity and celebration. On the first day and the last day of Kang festival, Chariot-Procession with the idol of Lord Jagannatha is led out.In Manipur the Kang festival was introduced by Maharaj Gambhir Singh on 1832 AD. He founded the images of Jagavandhu, Balarama and Subhadra and commenced worship on the model of Puri. It should be mentioned that in the village Leishangs image of Lord Jagavandhu is worshippedwith proper rites.

The images are bathed on the day of Snana-Yatra, before fifteen days of Kang. The images are carried out on the Kang ( A wooden chariot specially made for Lord Jagannath) to the accompaniment of music, offerings of fruits by individual house-holders. Sometimes persons stand behind the image and fan it with the Chamora. The structure of the Kang is squire, it has four huge wheels, its head takes the shape of Burmese pagoda and there are two or more long ropes so that the divotees can pull the chariot.

The songs sung during the pulling of Kang in praise Lord Jagannath are both devotional and humorous in nature. One of the songs goes like this–

Akhi paka Jagannath ( Lord Jagananth with giant eyes)
Att tuppa Jagannth ( Lord Jagananth with no hands)
Theiping Chora Jagannath (Lord Jagananth who steals jack fruits)
Chehem Chora Jagannath (Lord Jagananth who steals pineapples)
Heinou Chora Jagannath (Lord Jagananth who steals mangoes)

It is said that Lord Jagannath doesn’t mind if the divotees make fun of his physical appearance. Reciting the physical appearance is not regarded as an offence where its sole aim is the complete devotion toward the lord, rather it improved the literary value of the devotional songs. It should be mentioned that the soul of Bishnupriya Manipuri Vaishnavite culture is ‘Bhagabat Lilagiti’s or ‘Radha-Krshna Lilagiti’s. From Birth to death it is our mandatory tradition to observe the rituals through ‘Bhagabat Lilagiti’s along with ‘Nrityabadhya’s. To Manipuris, praising the lord with his quality by singing is more devotional than merely chanting his name.

Every evening during the periods of nine-days of Kang festival, devotional songs are sung, particularly those from the great Vaishnavite literature Gitagovinda of Jayadeva, who is considered to be the most eminent ‘Vaisnnav Padakarta’ of Bengal. The songs are sung along with clapping and dancing, by the people in the Mandav’s or shed for religious and cultural performances. After the singing of devotional songs, feasts of ‘Khichuri’s (a kind of dish made of rice and split pulses) offered everyday by the people in turns, are distributed among the folks.

Kang is an important event in the socio-religious-cultural life of Bishnupriya Manipuris. There is a traditional game called Kang, also related with this Kang festivals. From the early modern and modern literatures of Bishnupriya Manipuri we can find the cultural significance of Kang festival. That’s why renowned Bishnupriya Manipuri poet Sri Madan Mohan Mukharjee writes –

Khalparor kang

Jitegate Akta oya

Aloyte thang thang

Kngaor dine horou oya

lengka marup khomkoriya

Akta oya sajel koriya

Khalparor kang

Tiloilaha, tiloilaha

habbi hato gang

 

The knowledge of culture of a society can be known from the festival they perform. We can learn about their philosophy, their talent in fine arts and creativity and their social structure by study of their festivals, their development and significance. Bishnupriya Manipuris performs all the important festivals connected to the cult of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, but there are some colorful and notable festivals which are particular to Bishnupriya Manipuris only.
The most important of all the festivals is Bishu. Bishu is identical with the Cheiraoba festival of Manipuri Meiteis, which is celebrated in the first day of Manipuri month Sajibu (March/April) in order to herald a ‘New Year’. Every house including the royal family in Manipur take part in this festival with great enthusiasm. The Bishu festival is traditionally observed from the last day of the year and continues for seven days.

On the first day of the festival, special worship of family ancestors with offering of specially cooked food items (mainly different kinds of dhal and vegetables) are carried out in every Bishnupriya Manipuri family irrespective of their Sageis or Lokeis. The offerings are decorated in a banana leaf and placed at front of the main gate (Aarang) of the house. After the offering the different kinds of cooked dishes are exchanged amongst the families of neighborhood and relatives.

At the evening the women folks get busy with making different kind of Pitha’s with paste of rice or wheat and distribute them among the guests. From the evening of the day up to the seventh day, competition different kind of traditional games are held between different parties. The principal game played during Bishu is ‘Nokon’ – a special kind of game. Another traditional game played during Bishu is ‘Gilla’, which is played with a flat and round piece of horn or wood. The players are mainly groups of young boys and girls.

The festival of Bishu is a traditional festival based on traditional customs, rituals and philosophy. It is a living testimony of a well-organized civilization that our forefathers established centuries ago.

Photo: Girls playing the traditional games ‘Nokon’ during Bishu (courtesy: RKCS)
Links: An Article on Bishu celebration in my Bangla blog

In Bishnupriya Manipuri society, the women were never neglected. Indian customs like widow-burning, dowry culture or devdasi system were never in practice in Bishnupriya Manipuri community. Goddess cults and myths in Manipur are very ancient and most of them prove the position of women in the society. After the propagation of Vaishnavism of Sri Chaitanya, the position of women became higher, as it is proved by the honor showed to them in religious rites like Birth rituals, Marriage ceremonies or Death rituals and in cultural observances such as ‘Kirtana’, ‘Rasleela’, ‘Vaasaka’ etc.

An unmarried girl is referred as a ‘Ningon’ in Bishnupriya Manipuri Society. ‘Ningon’ acquires such a wide meaning as to cover the unmarried girls, the socio-religious ceremonies cannot be performed without the attendance of them. Even after their marriage they are very respectably invited by her sagei (clan) in every social or religious observance. In the traditional design of Manipuri house ‘Inchau’ – there is always a dormitory for the girl called Ningolpham.

The role of women as a mother was, by far, the most important. Most respect was shown to het than to the father. The saying that ‘there may be a bad son but that we do not have a bad mother’ is so true in regard of Bishnupriya Manipuri community. Their sexual morality is above blame though they have been enjoying freedom and allowed to work outside freely with males. From the grand time down to the present, their activities are not confined to the four walls of domestic life unlike the Indian women who failed to attain even up to present day. They go out freely for purposes of petty trade mainly in the scale of products of their own hands. They weave fine and durable textures where colors are assembled in the most attractive manner. At the same time Bishnupriya Manipuri women have shown their gallantry and velour in desperate and critical situations.

As a wife, Bishnupriya women struggle throughout their lives to bring a peaceful and prosperous family. But some women have been put in a heavy burden in the name of family life. They accepted the way they spend their lives after marriage without a question because it is an old tradition. The influence of Indian society has made such an impression that women should be obedient to her husband and in-laws without consideration right or wrong.

Fortunately, these days, Bishnupriya Manipuri women are shining in the fields of education, because they are equally given the rights of education by the society and the families. Nowadays we can find lots of Bishnupriya Manipuri women are proving their excellence as professionals like Teachers, Doctors, Lawyers, Executives, Writers, Artists or Social workers. Some of the women came to challenging professions like journalism. Few of them have started making websites and writing ‘Blog’s in the internet. So we should be very proud of our Bishnupriya Manipuri women and wish to help to improve and transform them as sophisticated modern women as far as we can.

Beni-Ras is the only form of Ras, performed in Day-time in all seasons. It is also known as Diva-Ras. The highly glamorous Rasleela of SriKrishna with his divine lover of Brindaban may be divided according to the Manipuri tradition into four categories being Maha-Ras, Kunja-Ras, Basanta-Ras and Nitya-Ras.
Diva-Ras is categorically under Nitya-Ras, the name ‘Diva’ naturally indicate that it is presented in the Day time. There is, as yet, no agreement among scholars as when Diva-Ras originated.

This costumes and ornaments of this Ras form is quite different from the other forms of Ras. The traditional costume Pollei, is replaced by Sharee’s or combination of Chaksabi-Inafi.

The Manipuri Gurus recast its dress and frameworks to meet the need of time factor. The traditional framework followed in this Ras consists of aspect of time, music and choreography. They have the option of alteration and changing in their hands, but the modification should not be out of the basic concept of Manipuri Ras style and theme.

Related Link: Pics from Manipuri Beni-Ras

Jobor haroupar yarihan,amar gang e emtaga sou sumarar kaje matribhasat (bisnhnupriya manipuri thar) sikkha nenar bebostha ahan oil.Gangor uthsahi gaurapa kotogoi madhabpuror dekhadekhi school ego chalu korla.Karigori sohojugita ditara SIL BANGLADESH.

Udbudhoni onusthan ohat youonir souvagya isil morta.Sil etto dugo ahisila.Leirik uta chang subidha naileu nuwa jinis ahan dekluta je leirik uta habi ikorousita amar manure diya.

Prodhan otithigor sombhason

imar tharor byapok chorcha baro bikoshor ka esade uddug habirang thakat peitoi.Summer Institute of Lingusitic Bangladesh (SIL) bultara songstha ohar arthik baro karigori panglake e schoolgor shukkhadan karjyakrom oudinetto okorla. 2 March 2007 tarike iya gelga onusthan uhanat prodhan otithir asonhan gnalkorisili SIL Bangladeshor prosasonik kormokorta Sri Sarah Selin baro besesh otithigo oya ahisil Sri Manna Mondol. Onusthane artau nanan pesar manu tilosila. Lomanir patape baro Sri Suniti Sinhai ela hunuilo. Thangnat Schoolgor sou otai ela, nacha, abriti poribeson koriya habire harou korla. SIL or lerik uta cheilu,changuhan jut nase. yari / kobita uta kacha baro oporisilito mone il.

Epei arak dukhho ahante thyle, sou sumarar upojugi kioriya sahitya likhanir moto protibha amarta akgou kita asita?


Boron Dahanir Ela
(Rain Invoking Songs, বরন ডাহানির এলা) is the most renowned ancient folk song in Bishnbupriya Manipuri, which has been handed down through oral tradition. This song was composed at a time, when the story of the epic became very popular. The song is addreesed to Soralel, the king of Gods.It is believed that this song is endowed with the power of calling-forth rain. Accordingly, in times of dearth, this song is sung at night in chorus by males and females with a view to calling forth rain.

These songs are composed in Medieval Bishnupriya Manipuri Language, 1450 A.D.

 

1.

Soralelelete rajaro leipak kumou koilo
liepake marai makhonge khoimure jangal dilo
khumolor mati hukeilo boron diyade douraja
lukong mahei lukulil boron diyade douraja

English Rendering: O Saralel, the King of the gods, the land of the Khumals has become sandy because of dearth. Khaimu is making a dam with grass and other things. O King of the gods, the land of the Khumals has dried up i pray, send us rain.

 

 

2.

Horio ramo leimelte kunggoi pit kore
leimel mana nungsipa donlo loya benur ate dilo
rabonor puto birbau birbare bukor dhian koilo
bukor dhian korernai losmone phulor leirang dilo
leikeiro kalaro dahiau dei kadiau kheinaro

English Rendering: O Rama, who will eat and drink in this sorrowfully condition ? I have given an offering of all my joys and, sorrows together with wealth to Benu (Pahampa), just as, Birabao, the son of Rabal(Ravana) Practised penance ( as a result of which ) lasman favoured him with flowers. O Kala, living in the neighbourhood, please call other and offer, please weep together and eat.

 

3.

Tampharo aparo horeigo dole dumeye yeichil koilo
hilong lalong e hilro sora gongai laloiliye
najeiga ghate buliyaho karong leimai doriya thameilo
habi dou e huno moirang pachai nahunoka nungsiye hoyo
monjar khanir tolete sirio ramo gurure lekhat doilo

English Rendering: O Father Tamphi, Dumei has consulted astrology (and has visualised that) Gahga is rushing down through mountain tribulets, but Karanga, the daughter of Pahangpa, bars the on-rush. May all the gods realise our condition, but Moirang-shouId not hear about it.

 

4.

Antara giriro jilok yeimapire antara
tampake huna peitega leilenge huna chaore
leitenge hirire mengko koilo
jomjomade jeiriga doner koirengore

English Rendering: Astrologers say that the rainlessness has been caused by Pahangpa, who is angry because of the insult shown to Chamel by the King. They advise the people to bring Chamei and Beti back to the kingdom. The second daughter of Giri (Beti) is being brought. When she reaches the vast field. she is welcome with various auspicious things and, consequently, she proceeds gorgeously like the God of Wealth (Kuvera).

 

5.

Phijapina langjapi madoi wang khele
madoi wang khele ho hunar langchak beror jalat thoile
ailide bela eilinai, denu moire bela beilonai
hoibanar matao nuarlo, chinchi nanchak diao nueilo

English Rendering: O Midai, a woman, has suspended her weaving and speaks of Beti. Bela comes and speaks ill of Denu.

 

6.

Chomeio beti thokurare
kohonilo dore dibangta jonom aro
kala kala angara dola dola lengoulo hoyo
donete chari chilalo Pahangpai bario nadilo

English Rendering: Chamei is hesitating to come. The women are ,abusing him, and the angry old persons tell them to welcome him with coal and sand, instead of incense. It is his good luck,, they say, that though he is very poor, Pahangpa has not punished him.

 

7.

Choha jura bado senarei pidia naso
Choha jura dabo ho Moirang e leirir tole homeil
Hiliri bilor pohon chakauda kene alojarga
borbilor dola touthara nalade lusu boheila

English Rendering: Rain is coming gradually. Pahangpa is also glad and is coming over the big lake(Loktak). Women are glad and are proposing to dance with their hair locked and with flowers in their ears.

8.

Nalade lusu boheila, garbage solut doreila
kala chingkheir borone kmne tala nanluga
udai dilo tingla tala pahuri gore beli ailu
batiye ali karere maje khongneme
muthi muka cheiluta sena changninge
kochur pata na bader liksaro sena moichamre
Pahangpai bokor henou maglo
bokor henou karirina, Pahangpai chone hodabello
Deinai dilo donukhan chirtei nachirer
uthanro agar bekurinai dorteo nadorer

English Rendering: Rain is falling cats and dogs, and persons are catching fiihes from the canals with various instruments. Persons are out to catch fish before dawn. They have forgotten to ,bring umbrellas offered by their friends. Some are tying the rice-plants. into bundles, in which silvery water-drops are seen. The leaves of arum cannot bold the rain-water. The people cannot return home owing to heavy rain. They are anxious to return home and pay offerings of mango demanded by Pahangpa, but the rain does not stop.

 


Summury of the Rain Invoking Song

A Khumal King was defeated by a Moirang King, several times. Once more, he wanted to try his fortune and proposed in his ministerial council to attack the Moirang kingdom. His younger brother Cha mei objected to this, where for the enraged King insulted him and ousted him from the meeting hall. Chamei, thus insul ted ,left kingdom alone. Seeing him thus leaving, a maid-servant (beti) followed him with a few clothes for him. When the prince noticed her, he asked her to go back. But as they, were by then far from human habitation, it was not possible for her to go back. The prince, followed by the maid-servant,, reached the Kabru hill where he was cordially received by the Kukis. After a span of time, Chamei had an issue through, the maid-servant. Gradually, three years passed away. During this period, there was no rain in the Khumal kingdom, as a result of which a severe famine came upon the land.

SOURCE AND REFERENCE :
DR. K.P SINHA, THE BISHNUPRIYA MANIPURIS, CALCUTTA, 1984

Bangla Version: ষোড়শ শতকের একটি বিষ্ণুপ্রিয়া মণিপুরী বৃষ্টি ডাকার গান ও তার বাংলা অনুবাদ

 


Madoi Soralelor Ela’
s (Madoi Soralel Songs, মাদই সরাহালর এলা) are the ancient folk songs composed in Medieval Bishnupriya Manipuri Language, in between the period 1650 A.D. -1700 A.D. These are one of the most renowned ancient folk song in Bishnupriya Manipuri, which has been handed down through oral tradition. This song was composed during the last part of Chorai Rongba’s reign, i.e., during the first part of the eighteenth century, when the Vaishnavism of Sri Caitanya entered into the society, as a result of which a cultural conflict arose therein.

This song has a clear reference to drinking and eating of meat – custom which goes back to a period anterior to the conversion of these people to the school of Lord Sri Chaitanya. This song, therefore, points to a period when Vaishnavism or Sri Chaitanya or any other sect of Vaishnavism had not struck its roots into the hearts of the people.

1.

Madoi gidei saloili, boksabadiya saloili,
koiou durei oilita
tengara sinchat laloili, babaro matiou na deklo,
kotou durei oilita
pampol tingdiya kadiri, ima bulia dahiri,
kotou durei oilita

English Rendering:

(Madai, a maiden of the Alakga family has been given in marriage to Saralel, the king of the gods.) She starts for Soralel’s place. She stretches her hands, cries loudly, crosses over hills and dales and goes far away. (Thus, she goes above in heaven.)

2.

Hunorta raja hunorta, hunorta raja hunorta
babro gorgo pureko, jeikga raja jeikga
najeiga madoi najeiga, tor babaro gorgo napurer
jeinga raja jeinga, hunarkeirak lama diyade
babaro gorgo purerko, jeinga raja jeinga
najeiga madoi najeiga, tor babro gorenajeiga
tor babro gore gelega huror pohu kheiteiga
huror pohu kheiteiga, modro sorap piteiga
modro sorap napitou, huror pohu naheitoi
hunar keirak lamade, jeingaraja jeinga
korifaba kheya jaga, hunarkeirak amadilu
tor bar gore gelega digali pirak naboheiga
modro sorap napisga, huror pohu naheisga

English Rendering:

(One day, Madai hears a loud noise coming from below and, looking downwards, finds that a mass of smoke is rising from her father’s house.) She tells the king that her father’s house is in flames and requests him to allow her to go to her father’s house. Saralel first tells her that her father’s house is not on fire. When Madai expresses her strong desire to go, he says that he, apprehends she may take meat and wine if she goes to her father’s house.
Madai promises that she will not take meat and wine there. Then Saralel proposes that Madai should keep Kari Phaba, her son, with him and go to her father’s house alone. Madai accepts the proposal. Saralel warns her not to sit on long couches. He then stretches downwards a golden ladder.

3.

Madoi gidei keirak lamaniye
dakou kurung bareitara, belao kekruk rhoeitara
madoi gidei keirak lamaniye
ningolo jethi ahili, digali piranikalei
naboitou baba naboitou, digali pirat naboitou
rajaro mana napeilu, naboitou baba naboitou
ningolo jethi ahili, modlo sorap nikalei
modro sorap nikalei, huror pohu radhedei
huror pohu neheitou, modro sorap napitou
modro sorap napitou, digali pirat naboitou

English Rendering:

Madoi descends along the golden ladder. All look at her joyfully. When she comes, her father orders the family-members to offer a long couch to her. Midai declines to take her seat on the couch. Then, the father ,orders them to offer her drink and meat, of boar cooked. Madai declines to take wine and meat of boar.

4.

Nadektoi ima nadektoi, tambul hathan tangtou e
mohori hathan khalkoro, homaga madoi piga
lomoilu baba lomoilu, lomoilu baba lomoilu
rajaro keirak tulloko, lomoilu baba lomoilu
na kadi karifaba, leipak thipi kariphaba
madoi gidei khamna laloiliye

English Rendering:

Then, the father proposes to offer her wine at a place ,covered by seven mosquito-nets, so that Saralel does not see her taking wine. (Madai accepts the proposal. When she is just going to take a sip of wine, Saralel spits from above, and the spit, passing through the seven mosquito-nets, falls upon the wine-pot. Madai understands the matter.) Looking behind, Madai finds that Saralel is lifting the golden ladder. She is greatly shocked, cries loudly, consoles Kari Phaba from below and passes over hills and dales.

 

 

Department of Linguistics
3600 Market Street, Suite 501
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-2653

PENN LINGUISTICS SPEAKER SERIES Fall 2003
Held by the Department of Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania. Co-sponsored by the Institute for Research in Cognitive Science (IRCS) and the Graduate Student Associations Council (GSAC). Open to members of the greater university community.

Speakers

Sept. 18
Geoffrey Pullum
University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC)
ENGLISH GRAMMAR: THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE MISSING TWENTIETH CENTURY

Oct. 16
Shobha Sathyanath
University of Delhi, Delhi, India
BISHNUPRIYA AS A CONTACT LANGUAGE

Oct. 23
William A. Ladusaw
University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC)
GETTING BEYOND FUNCTION APPLICATION: RESTRICTION, SATURATION, AND MODIFICATION

————————————————————————————–

Shobha Sathyanath
University of Delhi, Delhi, India
BISHNUPRIYA AS A CONTACT LANGUAGE

BISHNUPRIYA AS A CONTACT LANGUAGE

This talk is about Bishnupriya language which emerged as a result of contact between Indo Aryan Languages such as Assamese and Bengali and Tibeto Burman languages such as Meitei. The available evidence suggests that Bishnupriya must have emerged as a contact language in Manipur sometime in the late 18th century as a consequence of the spread of Hinduism (in particular, Vaishnavism) in the North Eastern Part of India. Though Bishnupriya emerged as a contact language in Manipur, a majority of the Bishnupriyas are at present located outside Manipur in parts of Assam, Tripura and Bangladesh, where they have come into a secondary contact with local Bengali vernacular.

The ongoing controversy regarding whether or not Bishnupriyas can be allowed to have any claims over Manipuri identity has its roots in the state politics and culture and the superimposed dominant presence of Indic languages, in particular, Bengali and to some extent Assamese that has been perceived as a threat to the very existence of tribal identity and culture in the North East. Thus, while the claim for the use of the term Bishnupriya Manipuri is seen by the Meities as a dilution of their own identity, the Bishnupriyas see it as their legitimate right to create a small but distinct space within the overall Meitei space (regional and cultural). However, the problems of the Bishnupriyas are much more complex precisely for the reasons that they can neither be regarded as Aryans nor as entirely Meitei or Tibeto Burman in general. This is because Bishnupriyas represent ethnically and culturally a mixed group and their language clearly a result of contact between the Tibeto Burman and the Indo Aryan population.

In this talk I intend to present Bishnupriya as a contact language and provide an overview of its major structural and cultural traits. I would also draw a comparison between the structures of the various languages that are involved in the contact and discuss the continuation of the features of the source languages on the one hand and transformations, innovations and changes on the other.

 

It should be noted taht the people of Manipur comprise both the migrants of East and West who came to Manipur in different periods of history. During the earlier period migrants were in general assimilated and assigned to one or other to the clans, no doubt according to the area in which they settled. There origins were remembered by the terms Nongpok Haram (The Mongoloid migrants from the East, mainly the Shans, Kabaws and Pongs, a little of Chinese and Burmese) and Nongchup Haram (The Dravidian and Aryan migrants from the West, mainly the Bishnupriya’s, the Brahmins etc.). The history of Manipur witnesses the process of racial fusion undermining the geographical features. So the mass people of Manipur is a composite one to which the Mongoloids, Dravidians, Aryans, Pongs, Chinese, Siamese, etc, were contributory.

 

Also some Linguistic Points shouldn’t be ignored:

 

a) The relation between the Bishnupriya and Meitei language is well established. The Bishnupriya grammar is also influenced by Meitei

 

b) Bishnupriya Manipuri language incorporated some features from the languages of hill tribes. Sir G.A. Griersons(LSI Vol-4, p- 419) observation on BPM was the word for ‘bad’ is ‘good-not’ hoba-naya, as in all Kuki-Chin languages. The use of demonstrative pronoun after the noun which it qualifies is also a typical of Kuki. The Suffix of the dative ‘rang’ a Kuki idiom. The form of future that in ng, is taken from Thado Kuki.

 

c) Bishnupriya language has considerably good number of (more than 4,000) Meitei words. For example: laupuk, mang, matik, marup, ning, nungsi, pang, pham, sing, thungba, yathang etc. The most remarkable feature of Bishnupriya Manipuri Language is that it retained many older phonology of Meitei and also some words of Meitei of archaic and medieval age. It was because the Bishnupriyas left Manipur during the last part of 18th century. Colonel W McCulloch compiled a comparative vocabulary of Meitei and Bishnupriya which in published in 1859.

 

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