The Beckoning New Magaimai Village of Senapati District Manipur

Mamta Lukram *

Along the Paren Road, Senapati District of Manipur, getting down 8/9 km, is located the New Magaimai Village, established in 1995, inhibited by Maram tribe with 50 households and approximate total population of 300. The sex ratio is favourable. It is around 90km away from Imphal due north.

The nomenclature, Magaimai according to the villagers is neither a tribe name nor a clan name, but simply a name matched to their dialect and unconventional to trace meaning. A socio-economically backward village is Magaimai. Khi Solomon, 73 years is the eldest in the village. Agriculture, farming, and cultivation are major the economic domains, sustaining through the mobilisation of natural resources available all around.

Search for a new settlement site sprouting from Maram Khullen constitutes the evolving history of this village. Public passenger service is inaccessible, four households have private vehicles, either they are to be contacted for pick-up, or trucks for road construction or to walk from Maram Centre to reach the village. No health service facility is available, except for the lone ASHA volunteer taking care of women and children.

There is one primary school with classes from I-V. Children within this age limit stayed back, while the rest move out of the village for their study. Almost all their youths are scattered away at different parts of the state for study and relevant purposes.

 Village foundation stone with the list of founders at the entrance of the village
Village foundation stone with the list of founders at the entrance of the village

Health is the major concern and as shared by the local club president, while trauma poses the greatest threat. Restrained by unavailability of the passenger service, health and medical check-up is a matter villagers never opted for unless situation compelled. For expecting mothers with approaching delivery due dates, the whole family have to remain alert waiting for the natural labour pain.

Families owning private vehicles are the unclaimed health volunteers as service provider. One frustrating high risk is the referral of patient from one hospital to another during health lapses. Maram Bazar is first destination, however certain cases will be referred to Senapati District Hospital and finally to hospitals at Imphal if situation worsen, 90 km; two and half hours drive, enough to succumb on the way. For getting admitted at hospitals, villagers either must camp with every requirement or bear extra expenses and therefore, final option is avoiding getting admitted.

Two natural perennial springs - Karanglam Karii and Kunglam Karii; are the main water sources for drinking and domestic purposes, where the former is described more reliable. There are four main water tanks in different spots of the village meant for storage purpose.

 Water tank beside the Revivalist Church, ongoing construction
Water tank beside the Revivalist Church, ongoing construction
 Another tank near the Catholic Church
Another tank near the Catholic Church

Socio-culturally, the community is marked by four traditional festivals.

Meilem (war festival- first week of December) festival manifests men-folk's war commitments to their community. During the ancient times the ancestors waged wars with many other groups, and thus war practice is an integral social aspect. This festival glorifies war skills as an act of confession or purification for commitment.

Kanghii (naked wrestling-December-January) is a pure traditional entity, displaying gender construct of the community, showcasing 'masculinity/ manliness' through physical strength. This festival is forbidden for girls and women, but allowed as spectator from a specific distance. This festival is not celebrated separately in Magaimai, but celebrated collectively in Maram Khullen, the original ancestral village.

Mangkang (women festival- April), is merrymaking festival. Young girls would adore and dance, attracting attention of the young men of marriageable age. This festival provides an opportunity for match-making. Young boys are bestowed chance to pick and choose girls of their choice through this festival. However this festival must not be plainly understood as the exaggeration of endogamous nature of the community. According to the villagers, the community doesn't discourage exogamy.

Kapok Hangmii (plantation festival- June/July), this festival marks the importance of community plantation activity. The village chief/king would fix a day and will inform it to the villagers. Men and women together in the community would collectively carry out the plantation works followed by feasting.

As per view of the villagers, traditional festivals are degenerating due to over-emphasise on Christianity based festivals and observances. They apprehend the changing scenario, yet are not totally disheartened with the changes, since this intervention enhanced, and uplift their living standard. The only people, who come down, interact, and listen to the woes of the villages are the missionaries. There are two churches in the village, one Catholic another Revivalist, while a third one, a Baptist Church is on the way.

And it has been through the church and community initiative that every step of constructive change is planned and taken up in the village. Less attention has been paid from outside world, according to the villagers. By denomination half the villagers are Catholic and half Revivalist, while only 2/3 families are Baptist. It through the support of the religious leaders the villagers are able to construct churches and lived a religious life.

 The only Primary School of the village
The only Primary School of the village

Sustenance and Emerging Issues

The New Magaimai Village is a village out of nothingness. Natural resources are the sole means of sustenance. There are 6 government employees only in the village, out of which one is a graduated female working in the paramilitary force. The rest of the villagers are all cultivators/farmers and manual labour in different places. According to the villagers engagement in road construction work under BIPL and BRTF are two main employment sectors for the villagers.

BIPL took up construction work for one year while BRTF took up almost around five years. To them the longer the agencies take to construct the road, more economically sustainable for them. For the younger generation, they aspire to get recruited in the paramilitary forces in the future. Graduation is the average landmark of education for the youths in the village.

The New Magaimai Village is on the other hand bestowed with abundance of natural resources. 'Stone, Fire-wood and Water,' are the main natural resources, the mobilisation through which villagers sustained. The main agricultural products of the village are rice and seasonal vegetables. Cabbage, mustard, pumpkin, arum, cassava, beans, potato, banana, stinky bean, locally available wild vegetables (roots and leaves) and other seasonal vegetables.

 Stone; the resource of the village
Stone; the resource of the village

Climate change becomes area of concern ever-since the forest cover in and around the village depletes faster. According to the villagers, they are aware as outsiders used to comment over the change. Natural resources are the integral part of the community and they understood of it as a taken for granted entity. They haven't inculcated the sense of treasuring it. Exploitation to a great extent is intercommunity matter, due to ignorance and indifference.

The advancement towards modernisation, the increasing population, and multiplying of demand has over-pressured the environment. Citing example of stinky beans, a favourite local cuisine, and villagers shared how they used to grow as much trees as possible for commercial purposes. Matured trees bearing stinky beans are on annual lease with buyers, who later is given the monopoly of trading beans. Owners used to lease out the trees with cost ranging from Rs 20000-30000 upto Rs 40000/50000, depending upon the bean yield.

However in the recent years, trees naturally dried up or become fruitless circumscribing a blow to annual income. Villagers apprehended climate change as causative factor with cognizable temperature increase and less rainfall in the last few years. Villagers look forward for initiatives from relevant authority, NGOs, or any other organisations towards sensitisation of climate change, since so far there has not been any despite the fact of sustaining in the raw ecology.

  Villagers in front of the Catholic Church
Villagers in front of the Catholic Church

The villagers are seeking attention from the government and other concerned authority for possible socio-economic upliftment of the community. The areas of concerns for the villagers are availability of passenger service, health service, upgrade school to upper-primary, and subsidy seeds for farmers.

Presently, the only worth mentioning feature of the village is the stone piling over the hill-slope, called Lakka Tingdan. It is a simple spot, which according to villagers, an elderly lady called Lakka, used head baskets carrying up the stone purposefully and placing it over there, attempting to draw attention from outsiders for converting it into a tourist spot, spoiling her 30 phaneks (traditional wrap around).

However her dream remained a dream, with stones lying scattered devalued out of villager's indifference attitude. Her wish of erecting relics is the only treasure villagers owned nowadays and are determined of developing it into a tourist spot in the future, the materialisation of which villagers sought through collective endeavour of the villagers.

 Lakka Tingdan
Lakka Tingdan

* Mamta Lukram wrote this article for
The writer can be reached at mamtalukram(AT)yahoo(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on March 27, 2019.

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