Posts Tagged ‘manipuri culture’
Physically, a fine race, the Manipuris is devoted to sports and games. There are number of traditional games that have their origin back in Manipur. One of the most popular indoor game among them is Kang. The game, Kang is known to the Bishnupriya Manipuris as Gilla (though Gilla is developed as a variant of Kang) and Kanga-Sanaba to the Meiteis. It is an indigenous Manipuri game played on the day between Manipuri New Year’s Day (Cheiraoba/Bishu) and the Ratha Jatra (Kang) festival.
A round object called Kang which is the seed of a creeper (Uri) is used in this game. It is about one and a half inch in diameter and ¾ of an inch in thickness. The game is played among two teams each of seven either males of females usually mixed up. A player has to Shoot a point from a fixed position. If the parties hit the target twice with the Kang then, Lamtha is adopted. Lamtha is played by propelling the disk on its flat side along the surface of the ground by the force of middle finger of the right hand acting the finger of the left.. At the end of half a duration of the play, interchange of the directions takes place. Of the two teams, the one who can hit the target for a greater number by two Chekpheis (shooting from a standing position) and one Lamtha is the winner.
There are tales, both legendary and mythological, that claim that Kang was played by gods and goddesses, soon after the earth was created. According to some sources Kang is played by the deity “Panthoibi”. It is believed that the seven players on either side represent the seven days of the week and the Chekphei and Lamtha kangkhul are believed to 15 in number on one side and both sides represent 30 days, making a complete month. There are evidences that the Manipuris began to play this game well before the arrival of Vaishnavism in Manipur. Earlier, the dignitaries of the Palace including the Maharani and the Maharaja also participated on social functions. In the old days Kang was played during summer starting from Cheiraoba/Bishu to Kang.
Presently, the game is played in several tournaments through out the year. Rules and regulation have been modified to suit the changing needs of the game. In Bangladesh a Kang Federation is formed to organize the game annually. Besides there are few individual attempts to preserve the cultural tradition of Manipur in some Bishnupriya Manipuri localities like Tilakpur, Ghoramara etc.
To download the special issue of Pouri Patrika on Bishnupriya Manipuri Kang celebration and the Game of Kang click here.
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?
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
.. 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.
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 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 –
Jitegate Akta oya
Aloyte thang thang
Kngaor dine horou oya
lengka marup khomkoriya
Akta oya sajel koriya
habbi hato gang