Posts Tagged ‘bishnupriya’
T.S.Eliot wrote in his famous poetic work “Four Quartets” that time past and time present are both present in the time future. To make the way for the future we should explore our past. It is history, which is the gateway to enter into our past.
All the races or nations posses their own national history. History merely does not give an account of the rise and fall of kings or their kingdoms but it is a representation of the state of an entire civilization i.e the state of development of art and culture, literature, knowledge and science of a nation. The Bishnupriya Manipuris, being the part of a great Aryan civilization, were probably the first cultured race in possession of Manipur. Here I would rather impress upon you all to use the word ‘race’ than the word Nation. In the “History of Greece”, Dr. K.C.Choudhury said “The Greeks were rather a race then a nation since they lacked political unity which is regarded as the very foundation of national existence. The Greeks were divided into Ionians, Aeolians, Dorians and others smaller branches sprung from a single stock.” In the same manner as that of the Greeks we may say the Bishnupriya Manipuris consist of five dominant principalities under different clans like- Khumols, Moirangs, Angoms, Luwangs. Due to the ravages of time and historical misadventures the Bishnupriya Manipuri cronological history. If we go in search of the reasons behind this loss we find the following dominant factors:
Firstly, the Bishnupriya Manipuris like their Aryan ancestors lacked historical sense. Here I may recall the lines drawn by Arthur A Medonell in his “History of Sanskrit literature”: “History is one weak spot in Indian literature. It is in fact non-existent. The total lack of historical sense is so characteristic that the shadow of this defect, suffering as it does from an entire absence of exact chronology….”. The Bishnupriya Manipuris, like their ancestors, believed mostly on oral traditions.
Second, but the most dominant factor was the damage of historical relics, old records and other relevant information by the Meitei king Pamheiba or Garib Niwaj during the seventeenth century A.D.
Thirdly the three consecutive Burmese aggression to Manipur which have forced the Bishnupriya Manipuris to leave their ancestral home and settle down in different scattered locations in present Myanmar, Assam, Tripura and Bangladesh. During those dark days while people were struggling hard to save their own lives have forgotten to preserve the old records.
However, from such a virtual non-existence of any historical records some western and non-Bishnupriya Manipuri Indian writers (including historians from Manipur) have drawn brief sketches on the historical backgrounds of the Bishnupriya Manipuris. From their reference one can be sure that there were Bishnupriya Manipuris on the soil of Manipur. Among the western writers we may name Captain Pemberton, r.Brown, E.T.Dalton, T.C.Hudson, E.Gait, B.C.Allen, and Major Mc Cullock etc. But some of them quoted distorted facts under the influence of Meitei kings and intellectuals. Even the great master compiler of Linguistic survey of India, Sir G.A.Grierson could not free himself completely from referring to such distorted facts.
However, we express our heartfelt gratitude to him because with his justified statements we have won our war against the menace of a sested interests to cut out our existence from our historical roots. We pay our deep respect too to Late R.M.Nath who has highlighted certain facts on the history of the Bishnupriya Manipuris in his famous work “Background of Assamese Culture”.
History is a Science based on facts and reason, leading from hypothesis to thesis (from hypothetical knowledge to logical conclusion). Who will write history of this race? I may answer this question in the spirit of Bankim Chandra Chattapadhyaya that “It is I; It is you”. All of the Bishnupriya Manipuris should write their own history because in its truest sense only the Bishnupriya Manipuris can approach sincerely on the indepth and systematic study in this field.
Here we also remember with deep respect the works done by Late Mahendra Kumar Sinha. He is the pioneer in Bishnupriya Manipuri historical research. His work is compiled into three volumes of “Manipurer Prachin Itihas”, the first of which has been published earlier. We are awaiting eagerly the publication of the remaining volumes. Late Sena Singha contributed a lot with his work “Manipurer Itibritta”. But some of his findings are not free from controversy. We pay our deep respect to him too.Other scholars also contributed a lot in this field. They are Late Krishna Kumar Singha, Haridas Singha and other respected persons. There are other interested persons who have sincerely devoted themselves to the study of history. Most of their works are yet to be published. We are certain that one cannot be totally agree to all the findings by the earlier scholars as mentioned above. Moreover with the passage of time more informations are coming into light, which bring new spheres of speculations.
Contributed By – Dils Lakshmindra Sinha
* Excerpts from the Welcome address by the convener in the seminar on the History of the Bishnupriya Manipuris
.. The fragrance of Lonchak… the taste of Irolpa, Ngouthong, Sinchau… the festival of Bishu, Kang, Mera, Kartika, Raspunima, Fagu … the legends of Soralel, Sanamahi, Pahangpa, Leimarel, Khamba-Thoibi… the Nungshi flowers Lehau, Senarai, Singarei, Malati that bloom in every house yard… the fascinating beauty of a Bishnupriya Manipuri girl with the traditional dress Lahing, Chaksabi, Inafi… the golden crops and the green field that I see when I look through my window… the rich ritualistic and recreational Dance forms, Songs, Tunes of Pung Cholom, Pala, Raslila, Khubak Ishei, Thabol Chongba, Basak… the artists with glamorous costumes and ornaments… its the exclusive individuality that makes Manipuri culture so rich… I am proud of that… I am really proud of that.
…And the warm hospitality I have experienced in the remote villages… The sweet words of the people… their simple and easy lifestyle… the folklore and folk tales narrated by our old Dango’s and Bopa’s… make me proud.
…And the pattern of our houses, furnitures… even the design of our jewelry… the arts and science our forefathers developed through ages… so unique so matchless… I am really proud of my individual identity as a Bishnupriya Manipuri.
…And the fact that in almost all schools and institutes, Bishnupriya Manipuris are generally in the top of their classes among others… in studies, in literature, in performing arts and in games… I am proud of that.
I could go on and on about a thousand more reasons that make me proud as a Bishnupriya Manipuri!
I will always prefer to born as a Manipuri… and die as a Manipuri.
I just happen to go through two textbook prepared by National Curriculum and Textbook Board, Bangladesh and what I found was some cheap, immature and distorted information about manipuri people living in Bangladesh.
The textbook ‘Social science’ of class V describes manipuris as little eyed,flat nose and white skinned creatures.They also said Manipur is inside Assam, Manipuri boys and girls dances together in the night of marriage, manipuris build houses near riversides, Gauranga is a demigod etc. The other book ‘English for Today’ for class IX & X has mentiioned that Manipuris used to decide the future and success of the marriage by tying up the wings of a Cock in ground. Then the writers even have gone crazy to facricate a proverb – ‘En khang tam nau bau’ which make no sense either in Manipuri Bishnupriya or in Manipuri Meitei language.
It is clear that the writers of the textbooks have been misguided by a mischivevous force all throug. It is indeed a discrimination against a ethnic group without any sorts of study, research work or verification. It is very important to have a field work and ground study before making up stories which are invariably related with any race, people, culture and their sentiments.
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).
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
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