Translation of our holy book "Puya" in English : A visionary approach

Samarjit Kambam *

Ancient writings (puyas) found in Kangleipak (Manipur)
Ancient writings (puyas) found in Kangleipak (Manipur) :: Pix - Wangkhemcha Chingtamlen

Youths of the present generation don't have much fundas about 'Puya', the sacred and holy scripture of the Meiteis. So far we only know upto the extent that the Puya was burnt to ashes in the second quarter of the 18th century. It is a known fact that Puya was burnt down to ashes during King Pamheiba's time when one self proclaimed godman known as Santidas Gosai from Sylhet Bangladesh, a Bengali thoroughly brainwashed the king with his great art and dexterity in toying with chemicals. That's why, very year we observe the day when Puya was burnt to ashes known as "Puya Mei Thaba Numit".

We were also told by our elders that the king looked upto Santidas Gosai and hailed him to the level of a real god in flesh and blood by ignoring and taking into granted all about his roots and went on a rampage of converting the Sanamahists i.e. those worshipping the millennium old deity of the Meiteis into Hindu Vaishavaites tilted towards Brahmanisation thereby creating a rift between our hill brethrens and those residing in the valley areas, resulting into a colossal original cultural loss with emergence of a fusion culture of Hinduism among the Meiteis.

However, many secretly worshipped Sanamahi and the number has increased favourably. Luckily, for us one of our visionary forefather Maichou Chaopa made a copy of the Puya as he knew that the sacred book was under imminent threat of being destroyed. During the time of making the copy clandestinely, he himself was under imminent threat from the king. Our applause goes to this great visionary who knew very well that Puya would be forever lost to the Meitei race.

The kids of now-a-days are drowned in the world of technology that they don't know their roots anymore. Ask them what 'Puya' is and they might take it as a new online game. As it is said, "Better late than never", the announcement by our Hon'ble Chief Minister N Biren Singh to translate the copy of Puya into English comes as a ray of light at the end of the long and dark tunnel. Actually, this translation thing should have been carried out years or decades before.

Here, I give my heartfelt appreciation to Hon'ble CM for being a visionary because even though we are drowned in a fusion culture, there are many among us who want to know our roots, the historical significance of our pristine culture and tradition, the way of life, other secrets of Meitei civilisation which lasted more than a thousand years independently, without any influence from outside elements.

The Meiteis in the valleys and our hill brethren existed peacefully with mutual cooperation. It was the lethal combination of Hindunisation of Meiteis along with the residue of 'divide & rule policy' of the British colonial rule in Manipur that the spirit of blood brothers in Manipur went ultra-vires when soups of hatred were brewed between the hill and valley people.

It is said that seven clans (salai taret) of the Meiteis alongwith 34 indigenous tribal groups co-existed in Manipur peacefully since time immemorial. Now, it is high time that the present generation of Meiteis need to know about the origin of the seven clans, our secret deities, our bloodline, our blood-brother relationship with our hill brethrens (story of elder brother who went to reside in the hills leaving his younger brother who stayed in the valley is still being told every now and with its significance reflected in festivals such as "Mera Hou Chongba", how our surnames came into being, the religious practices, the sacred history, cultures on food, tradition, way of living, social and economic status, myths and legends such as Kanglasha, Ibudhou Pakhangba and scores of others and when and how our flag comprising of seven colours (one colour for each clan) came into being et al.

One thing I am definitely sure is that we led the tribal way of life and translated version of Puya into English will also come as a boon to those demanding ST status for Meiteis as it will make it very clear to plough its way through the Indian Constitution that the Meiteis truly deserve ST status reservation.

It is a known fact that there are many Meiteis spread across different parts of the globe forming associations of Meiteis in Canada, Singapore, England, United States and many parts of European countries. The translated version will also equip them as a handy tool when they stumble into the status quo where they where they have to be answerable about their roots.

Resource persons have opined that the Puya contains many scientific facts apart from the spiritual form of Religion of the Meitei Race such as Big Bang Theory, the Creation Theory, Evolutionary Theory, the scientific facts of the semen and sperm, etc. of the Ancient Meetei Race of Kangleipak with the humans beings the last species of evolution on earth. It has also been considered to contain the Soul Theory, more logical and more scientific than any other races of the Earth.

We have ancestor worship Lam Lai (Outdoor God) with ceremonies such as Tarpon Houba & Tarpon Loiba still prevalent in our society, Yum Lai (Indoor God), Ningthoulai(King God), Umanglai (Forest Dwelling God).

We badly need to know how the word "Ebudhou" came into being such as Ebudhou Pakhangba, Ebudhou Yangoiningthou, Ebudhou Khamlaangba and tags of "Ema" such as Ema Panthoiba, Ema Kondong Lairembi, Ema Khunthoi Haanbi, Ema Ereima etc etc.

During Lai Haraoba, we can witness our native dances of Manipur from all sects before the arrival of fusion ones such as Ras Lila. We would further like to delve in about the names and number of such indigenous dances. We have heard quite a few about our sublime hierarchal ancestral tree but only from words of mouths without knowing or seeing the actual facts.

Say, I would like to know how our surnames end with the letter 'm' and I want to know how my very surname "Kambam" came into existence. When we were kids, our elders used to tell us that we got our surname from our forefathers who used to protect the 'Kamba' hills from outside intrusions whilst Manipur, the then Kangleipak was an independent kingdom.

It may be right, it may be wrong but we were further told stories that the Kambas were brave warriors during the time and had hold records for killing the greatest number of tigers thereby protecting the villagers and their cattle from being slaughtered by the canine carnivore. And thus my desire for knowing my roots grows manifold.

The Meiteis have a long tradition of writing with their own script. It has been learnt that the Puya was written in the script of old Meitei Mayek. Disposal of Puya through burning was the major reason for the ever-widening divide witnessed between hill and valley people of Manipur when the Meiteis were forcibly converted to Hinduism giving rise to caste system with the hill people being treated as impure with the "amang-aseng" culture of Hinduism.

Scorned, the hill people embraced Christianity. With difference in religion there arose differences in outlook and approach and the once pristine blood-brother relationship between hill and valley people gets a beating.

It is really heartwarming to learn of a recent development where a book on Identification of Sate Flags of the Ancient Kingdom of Manipur was published by Khuraijam Athouba. As a country's flag is the symbol of its independence and its integrity, the ibid book will sure act as a doorway to information on how the flag of seven colours (each colour depicting one clan) to the common people.

The writer's intention is to revert the bond of blood-brothers between hill and valley people. We should not forget that outside elements played a big and devious role in spreading hatred and disunity among people of different communities of Manipur.

I sure hope that many historians and resource persons alongwith the help of Manipur University of Culture and Kangleipak Cultural & Historical Centre will burn the midnight oil into bringing out the translated version of Puya as early as possible. Our Hon'ble CM needs to provide all the requisite fundings as an impetus to materialise this project. Once materialised, it may be included in the curricula of history of Manipur in the books of the younger generations.

Once the translated version of Puya gets released, I may be the first to purchase it either through online or from a bookstore.

* Samarjit Kambam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on September 01, 2017.

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