Me And My Manipuri Things

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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

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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


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