TODAY -

The endangered art of Lamangdong's stone bowls and the Toupokpi sculptor

Phanjoubam Chingkheinganba *

Stone Bowl: An antique blackened stone jar no longer available
Stone Bowl: An antique blackened stone jar no longer available



Flipping through the pages of history books or amidst a casual conversation, interested lot might have heard about the hand-made black potteries of Longpi and redware counterpart available and considered as the heritage of the ancient villages of Andro and Chairel.

However, rarely have one heard about a unique craftsmanship deeply embedded with the historically important place of modern day Bishenpur, formerly Lamangdong, the place where the first known brick temple, dated 15th century, of the Indian state of Manipur, was built.

Half-an-hour drive from Imphal, minutes before reaching Nambol market, along the Tiddim line, dozens of families used to engage in making stone bowls, candle stands, Shiva Linga and crockery. Today, one person in Lamangdong struggles to maintain an almost extinct art of this traditional ethnic Meetei craftsmanship of making stone crockery particularly stone bowls.

A time-consuming process in the past which requires tremendous physical labour, few simple tools are all that is required to make various sizes of smoothly polished stone bowls. Despite the meagre economic benefits one gets from venturing into this stone crockery endeavour, Yanglem Sushil Kumar, pursues the craft for his deceased father had instructed him that the art should be kept alive, no matter what.

Though Sushil has focussed onto other businesses, due to financial necessity, the 41-year-old now makes such stone bowls, candle stand and others including the Shiva Linga, as per the orders he gets from customers.

He said, in the ancient past, craftsman would procure raw materials from nearby Heibirok, Lukhrabi Yumpham at Ningthoukhong and from the vicinity of Loumeilok River, which presently comes under Senapati district. He says the stone boulders cut out and available near Loumeilok stream is of better quality for making rock crockery items as stones available at other places are sometimes liable to develop cracks, have lumps or break down in the middle of making stone bowls.

In early times, chunks of stone were brought in bullock-cart to the work-shed where the gruelling task of transforming formless rock chunks into a refined polished product of art are carried out. The stone boulders are firstly cut into the somewhat desired shape with the simple tool "Nungkhai" literal meaning of which is stone cutter, an iron tool similar to that of a chisel.

For determining the sizes of a desired bowl, a primitive geometrical compass like V-shaped tool referred to as "Kati" is employed to measure the diameter so as to mark it before the task of chiselling and drilling is initiated. Precise focus and attention is of utmost necessity while making stone bowls as the craftsman has to ensure the edges of the bowl are in proportion with the faint marking made by Kati.

Having cut and chiselled the stones are then kept immersed in water for a few hours to make it more convenient during the polishing process before it is glued into an indigenous cylindrical-shaped wooden tool "Phundrei". Prior to polishing and scrubbing, the cut out pieces of stone chunks are attached to the "Phundrei" with a paste made out of oil and local incense like product known as Menkruk.

Y Sushil drilling a stone with a modern day motor rather than the traditional Phundrei
Y Sushil drilling a stone with a modern day motor rather than the traditional Phundrei



The paste is used for attaching the stone chunks to the wooden-tool "Phundrei". The purpose of attaching is to detach a finished stone bowls from the Phundrei with two/ three strikes with a chisel and a hammer. This, however, have been replaced with a modern tool.

Coming back, once attached, the long hard road of curling and polishing begins. One person would continuously rotate the wooden tool with a rope or chain, while another would use a sharpened iron-edged tool to scratch the stone mass till the desired form is achieved, said Sushil.

But with the advent of the electric powered rotating motor, the traditional "Phundrei" used for drilling holes and curling the stone chunks are no longer in usage. Unfortunately, the usage of modern machinery, however led to the disappearance of the blackened stone crockery which was more preferable and represents the uniqueness of this art form.

He explains that in ancient past black stone crockery were more in demand than the present grey coloured avatars. Explaining the reason behind the blacked stone bowls of the past, he continued that fire were used to detach the attached stone chunks from the "phundrei" after the task of scrubbing was completed resulting in the blackening of the stone chunks.

But for worse, the advent of metal utensils and modern motor system has rendered this craft unnecessary. With the art of making stone bowls of Lamangdong almost on the verge of extinction, the option available is to preserve it by establishing a museum/ training centre for Lamangdong's blackened stone bowls, remarked Sushil who says if he stops making such rock bowls, the art of making stone bowls in Lamangdong will forever go unnoticed in the annals of history.

The Loupokpi stone sculptor

Few minutes from Lamangdong, is the Loupokpi locality, where an elderly, dark skinned has been making stone-sculptures from the early eighties of the last century.

State Awardee Oinam Mangi Singh, established his own stone carving centre, at Toupokpi. Now, 67, the slim man, have in his credit over 100 stone-carved sculptures of various figures that include Hindu deities, traditional representation of Manipuri sports, lifestyle, the Buddha and others.

Toupokpi Sculptor: Oinam Mangi gives final touch to a stone figure
Toupokpi Sculptor: Oinam Mangi gives final touch to a stone figure



Though not financially sound, the sculptor has accomplished some remarkable feats. He is currently working on a life-sized statue of a woman in Manipuri costume which is supposed to be installed in Manipur Bhavan Delhi.

Purchasing the stone chunks at the rate of Rs 3000 from the landowners at Laimaton (Leikha), located some 35 km from his place, Mangi has to pocket out another Rs 15, 000 to pay the truck driver for their services of bringing in the stone masses.

Under his supervision, some 50 sculptures/ labourers are learning the art form which he says requires lot of physical labour, creativity but hardly any financial gains.

Mangi has in his possession, dozens of stone figures, finished as well as unfinished, lying and scattered around his work shed. Having learnt the art from his father, the hardly unrecognized sculptor claims that the longest period he had undertaken for making a sculpture is one year. He said many Buddha statues and Hindu deities have been purchased by the Myanmarese and Myanmarese Meeteis respectively.


* Phanjoubam Chingkheinganba wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is a Correspondent for Assam-based newspaper Asomiya Pratidin and journalist a Press Trust of India PTI Imphal) and can be contacted at phanjching(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on March 18, 2017.


* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of e-pao.net. We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.


LATEST IN E-PAO.NET
  • Nangna Helli Nungshiba #2 :: eRang
  • Pung Chollom : Gallery
  • Wakhal Seireng :: Book Review
  • Imphal Jamboree by Global Shapers
  • Importance of regular health check-ups
  • Meetei demand for ST is Constitutional.. #2
  • Weapon Display organized at Moreh
  • Ex-Servicemen Rally organized
  • AR helps Orphanage & Old Age Home
  • Search of comprehensive culture & identity
  • List of MLA (Jan 2018) #1 : Gallery
  • Manipur Gas Today :: Android App
  • Imoinu Erat Thouni #3: Gallery
  • GNRC media fellowship announced
  • The Meiteis- Festival & celebration maniacs
  • How to make bridal mehndi long lasting
  • Governor's attention drawn to RIMS
  • Scientist develops prototype of electric car
  • Stereotypes about NE make people living..
  • Light Show at Loktak Lake #5 : Gallery
  • Candlelight vigil for Pravish : Gallery
  • Imbroglio of ethnic identity of Ranglong
  • Foundation For Excellence scholarship
  • Time Table - Class XII Exam 2018
  • Mail spoofing- Trickery by deception
  • The Killing Fields :: News Timeline
  • Trial by fire
  • Call for solution before election
  • Villagers along Myanmar border get pass
  • Meetei Chanu 2017 #3 : Gallery
  • Tonreimung, Willubuibou: eMing
  • Art and Artist, A Creative Space
  • NEROCA FC Vs Indian Arrows #2 : Gallery
  • Ode to Thy Mellow Light :: Poem
  • Xmas with Meitei eche at Phaijol
  • Time Table - Class XI Exam 2018
  • Indo-Naga Talks 2017 :: News Timeline
  • IMC , now another hurdle to traffic mgmt
  • Setting aside two days for the people
  • Maring: Kummui Chaa-um : Gallery
  • Miss Manipur 2017 #5 : Gallery
  • Statehood Day Women's Polo Tournament
  • Time Table - HSLC Exam 2018
  • Bananas: Beauty's best friend
  • DPC for Follower at Manipur Police
  • Job Openings at JCRE Skill Solutions
  • The lost treasure
  • Nagas' Interests : Stand of NPF MSU
  • Nagaland polls on schedule: HM
  • Mukna Kangjei Tournament #2: Gallery
  • Keisham Manihar : Natyabhusan(Leela)
  • World Tourism Day #3: Gallery
  • Responsibility of protecting the environment
  • Phishing vs Vishing: The Verbal Challenge
  • BNHS Bi-monthly Program for Jan-Feb
  • Managing weight for preventing diabetes
  • Making democracy peoples' participatory
  • Progressing from media to SC
  • Manipur to set up modern food lab
  • Gaan Ngai @ Kakhulong Khun: Gallery
  • A trip to Moreh #2 : Gallery
  • How long catchy slogans keep hopes alive
  • Recycling of hospital waste-water
  • I am sometime or somewhere : Poem
  • Angami Zapu Phizo's Surreal 2017 AD
  • Film "Legacy Of King Narak" awarded
  • Of PM and our CM
  • Patronising the killing machines ?
  • Deferment of polls unlikely: Ravi
  • PM may visit Manipur in March
  • Emoinu Khoiramba @Koubru #2: Gallery
  • NEROCA FC Vs East Bengal #2: Gallery
  • Transform Colleges into Innovation Centres
  • New Delhi: World Book Fair 2018 :: Review
  • Cry Of A Dying River...12 :: Poem
  • Workshop on National Pension for NE
  • Law enforcers action - Well & good
  • Final pact yet to see light of day
  • Cold wave hits Manipur
  • Take out the cymbals, Manoharsai to stay
  • Indo-Naga Peace Process :: Articles
  • MaiOn - Scenes #2 :: eRang
  • Imoinu Erat Thouni #2: Gallery
  • Miss Manipur 2017 #4 : Gallery
  • Is Global Warming Natural or Anthropogenic
  • Prof Gangmumei Kamei: Legendary hero
  • Common Education System rally organized
  • DAMMS launched 2018 calendar
  • Chorus for 'Solution Not Election'
  • NEROCA FC Vs Indian Arrows #1 : Gallery
  • Gaan Ngai @Moirangkhom : Gallery
  • I was born healthy, I wanna die healthy
  • Practice peace & change the life
  • TSA Moreh Block installed
  • Cycle Rally: common education system
  • Ethics, medical profession & soaring fees
  • Press Club observes foundation day
  • Meet on film equipment
  • Meetei Chanu 2017 #2 : Gallery
  • Inner Line Permit (ILP) Demand :: Timeline
  • Meira rally for Pravish : Gallery
  • Accelerate momentum to endTB for SDGs
  • The call that can't be turned down
  • Live@MDU: New act with same old vibes
  • 1st Centre of Excellence- Electronics Skill
  • LED Lights installed by Loktak Station
  • NE tragedy: Policy failures & influx
  • Angaoba - Scenes #3 :: eRang
  • 51st Mr Manipur Contest 2017 #3 : Gallery
  • Result: Manipur Sangai Intl Digital salon
  • Use Swachhata App to Make Imphal No. 1
  • Career @ events and celebration
  • Night nourishing
  • Indo-Nepal Friendship: 25 yrs of Don Bosco
  • Understanding the indices of life
  • Poppy cultivation & drug cartels
  • Emoinu Khoiramba @Koubru #1: Gallery
  • Day 10: Closing of Sangai Fest #4 : Gallery
  • The creation of the universe, matter...
  • Mumbai: The city of dreams
  • Let this new year kill your new fears
  • Asian Waterbird Census: Count waterbirds
  • Looking for a better inclusive alternative
  • Coaching & commercialisation of education
  • New Year picnic @ Singda Dam : Gallery
  • Miss Manipur 2017 #3 : Gallery
  • Despite Stolen Dreams :: Book Rvw
  • Handloom Training @Hojai : Gallery
  • The Perfect timing
  • IGAR (south) meets Chief Minister
  • Communique from Neiphiu Rio on NDPP
  • Discussion on 'Rohingyas' at Delhi
  • In the process of making change- Manipur
  • Looking ahead from vantage point 2017
  • 'Naga problem is an International issue'
  • Manipur tops insurgency fatalities in NE
  • NEROCA FC Vs East Bengal #1: Gallery
  • World Tourism Day #2: Gallery
  • Immediate Manipur
  • Easter Peace :: Poem
  • You are what you eat
  • Goals for Girls: Leadership Summit @Delhi
  • Imoinu Erat Thouni #1: Gallery
  • Eyek Tamba :: Learn Manipuri script
  • Front Page Photo #6: Gallery
  • LUCIFER-X released debut EP
  • ..on the ocean of despondence :: Poem
  • Happy new year to State lovers
  • New year, new me: Re-designing self
  • Quiz Competition & Career Awareness
  • Calendar for the Year 2018 :: e-pao Tools
  • Gaan Ngai : Zeliangrong festival :: Flash
  • 51st Mr Manipur Contest 2017 #2 : Gallery
  • Crowd @ Flower Festival @Mao #4: Gallery
  • Gaan-Ngai Festival of Zelianglong
  • Goodbye 2017, welcome 2018
  • Cry of a dying river- 11 :: Poem
  • Free Heart OPD & Echocardiogram
  • Peoples' mandate: what next?
  • Understanding Manipur and its history
  • Kwatha (Indo-Myanmar Border) #2: Gallery
  • Thang Ta @Parlimentary : Gallery
  • A Hymn for Goddess Emoinu
  • Bamboo for poverty alleviations
  • A costly peace deal
  • The song of the speech-impaired : Poem
  • Opportunity for NE Youth @Delhi/NCR
  • Chief Of Army Staff visits Manipur
  • Waiting for another begining
  • NE: Little change albeit promises galore
  • Flower Festival @ Mao #3 : Gallery
  • Miss Manipur 2017 #2 : Gallery
  • Why the Ngamu Fish ?
  • Unsung heroes
  • Wishing a goa in Manipur!
  • Handloom Weaver at Nagaon, Assam
  • Reminder on role of media & political party
  • Hospital death: Deliver justice if delivery ..
  • Restricted Holidays 2018 : Govt of Manipur
  • Lourembam Bedabati : Sangeetbhusan
  • Culturals @ Mera Houchongba #3 : Gallery
  • Handloom Training @Assam : Gallery
  • Purgatory :: Poem
  • Survival of Manipur..in the hands of Meiteis
  • A glimpse of happiness
  • Blessing of Christmas
  • India, ASEAN & dismal infrastructure in NE
  • Meetei Chanu 2017 #1 : Gallery
  • Ras Leela @Parliment committee: Gallery
  • List of RIST popular talks during 2014-2017
  • Career at Insurance #2
  • Rape & murder of Shila Nengneikim Haokip
  • Manipuri troupe @Serendipity Arts Fest, Goa
  • Handloom Weaver at Hojai, Assam
  • 'Good Governance Day' & Manipur
  • 51st Mr Manipur Contest 2017 #1 : Gallery
  • Christmas eve @ CCpur #2 : Gallery
  • Fireflies: Documentary selected in Athens
  • Public Holidays 2018 : Govt of Manipur
  • Christmas eve @ CCpur #1 : Gallery
  • Pui Thangamliu #2 :: eRang
  • Christmas Carol @ Lamphel : Gallery
  • 4th Intl Sankritan Day #2 : Gallery
  • Royal Crematorium at Bangkok #2 : Gallery
  • Christmas Carol at Namdulong : Gallery
  • K Padmakumar's Play 'Sambal' : Gallery
  • Ng. Brajachand: Veteran Scientist of Manipur
  • General Holidays 2018 : Govt of Manipur
  • Three ladies and a polo tournament
  • 3rd Flower Festival @ Mao #2 : Gallery
  • Lafoi Shamda puthorkpa #1 : Gallery
  • Sagolshem Tijendra :: Sangeetbhusan
  • Nupilal Ningsing Lamjen : Gallery
  • cYK_rb TwaI :: Seireng
  • Manipur Sangai Festival 2016 #7 : Ooba
  • Manipuri Calendar for 2018 : Download it
  • Old Manipuri Movie #1 :: eRang Classic
  • SPONSORED ADS