TODAY -

Manipuri Women: A Complete Person
Special Feature on International Women's Day

Seram Neken *

Manipuri Women: A Complete Person :: At Saroi Khangba event in Imphal on 8th March 2014
Manipuri Women: A Complete Person :: At Saroi Khangba event in Imphal on 8th March 2014 :: Pix - Deepak Oinam/Shankar Kh



On the occasion of International Women's Day today, the writer pens the beauty, strength, courage and spirit of Manipuri women in spite of the challenges, hardships, oppressions and discriminations they are living with. Even when women of the state have startled the world with their feats, most Manipuris treat the women as inferior, weak and timid. Violence, rapes, assaults and discrimination of the females will always be against social progress. It is time to bring the other half of the society in the forefront so as to make progress in the society.

A number of Manipuri daughters defeated their opponents in the field of sports at the national and international competitions thereby bringing laurels for the country. If someone asks how women of Manipur can shine in the field of games and sports, the answer is that they possess special qualities which they inherit from their forefathers. In her book 'My three years in Manipur', Mrs. Grimwood glorified Manipuri women as "--- The Manipuris do not shut up their women, as it is a custom in most parts of India, and they are much more enlightened and intelligent in consequence".

When the neighbors invaded Manipur several times during the ancient period, the male-folk of the kingdom had to defend the country with their military skills. At the same time, women of the land besides taking the responsibilities of family also learnt the skills of self defence and offence. That was why queen Linthoingambi could easily capture the enemy when the king was on some other expedition. Princess Sija Phongdalokpi, the daughter of Maharaj Gourashyam and queen of Tekhao could save her husband from the clutches of the enemy.

In the Moirang Kangleirol, Princess Thoibi came riding on horseback from Kwakta to Moirang to save her prestige. During the days of Khamba Thoibi, women of Manipur participated in athletics such as Lamjel, Kang Sannaba, Boating and Horse Riding. As a tradition, Manipuri girls in the past used to regularly play simple indigenous games such as Uraobi Tannabi, Amangoi Tannabi, Phibul Habi Sannaba, Seboti Kaonabi, Laphu Phukpi Mairen Phukpi, Kwak Mangjong, Amangbi Sannaba etc. in each and every locality.

Although such games are not played by the young girls nowadays due to unavailability of space or changed lifestyles, it is obvious that the females of this land have imbibed sports in their blood. So it is no wonder to see a Manipuri girl playing the game of Polo sitting on horseback with stick in hand in modern times. Because they have been imbibed with the game spirit by their forefathers, and as they grow up, they can adjust to any kind of sports readily.

In London Olympics 2012, woman Boxer Mary Kom won Bronze Medal while L. Bombela represented the country in Archery. Earlier, the legendary sportswoman Mary Kom had earned champions in various international boxing competitions such as in Hungary in 2002, in Hisar in 2003 and in Taiwan in 2005. In addition to the Arjuna Award 2003, Mary Kom is the recipient of the prestigious Padmashri Award in the year 2005.

In weighlifting, Th. Sanamacha Chanu of Manipur took part in Sydney Olympics in 2000 and Athens Olympics 2004. L. Brojeshwori and S. Kunjarani participated in Athens Olympics 2004 in Judo and weightlifting respectively. Some other women of Manipur who showed remarkable achievements in sports are N. Kunjarani (weightlifting), Tingongleima (Hockey), Sunita and Omega (cycling), Basanti, AS Marshi and H. Luingamla (Archery), Thuinuirem Chiru, Pratima, Khomdonbi, M. Sunita and L Chaoba (football), record holder Linthoingambi (athletics), Anita (mountaineering), Pratima (Gymnastics), Sunitibala (Polo) etc. Thus sportswomen of Manipur have exhibited their indomitable spirit to the world. Only with the active participation of women players of the state, Manipur became the team champion in the Vth National Games in 1999.

Manipuri women are ahead of others in Canoeing and Fencing. S. Kumari of Manipur became the captain of Indian football team two times. W. Surjalata Devi was the captain of Indian women Hockey in the first Afro-Asian Games. Weightlifter N. Kunjarani of Manipur earned the first medal for the country in the Beijing Asian Games in 1990. She could bring laurels from a number of international sporting competitions including the 3rd Weightlifting competition held in Manchester UK, the second Asian Women Weightlifting in Sanghai in 1989, and the 8th Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in March 2006.

Renubala Chanu of Manipur also contributed in the medal tally of the country in the 8th Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. Manipuri women have the strength, courage, perseverance, patience, knowledge and skills in numerous fields. They expose their talents in various fields - football, hockey, athletics, martial arts, weightlifting, cycling, fencing etc.

Among the famous veteran women players of Manipur, mention may be made of Ningthoujam Momon, Hajarimayum Jamuna, Khaidem Tararani, Lamabam Bani, Yumnam Priyobati, S. Gourikumari, O. Mema, Thongam Harimati, Huiningsubam Ibemhal, T. Pramodini, Arambam Tombimacha, Chongtham Jamini, M. Sanatombi, etc. who pioneered various games in spite of the social taboos on women during the 1940s, 1950s and 60s.

Women of Manipur take a variety of roles in the society. Right from rearing the children and managing the household; women earn for the family, feed the other members, involve themselves in reforming the society, and take part in policy formulation and governance. Women of Manipur glorify the land by exposing their excellence in terms of cultural and sportive competitions.

Manipuri women gallantly came out to fight for the nation during the two historic Nupi Lals (Women's War) in 1904 and in 1939. In almost all agitations in the society, women of the state have been taking the leading role to fight out errant policy makers and executers. Women vigilante groups in the form of 'Meira Paibi'(Torch Bearers) in every locality of the state have been protecting the youths from the commissions of the security personnel.

In controlling drug abuse and alcoholics, women groups have been burning the midnight oil in local streets everywhere since decades back. The historic nude protest in front of the Kangla in the infamous Brutal Murder of Manorama case reflects the inherent courage and will of Manipuri women. Right from the small economic activities to earn for the family to the active participation in nation building exercises, women always take unlimited roles in Manipur.

In spite of all the glories, Manipuri women at large still face discrimination and exclusions. There is no end to the cases of rapes, sexual assaults and domestic violence in Manipur. It's indeed necessary that women should be kept fit enough - both emotionally and physically to protect themselves against all brutalities. Here, the society at large needs to change the old mentality that a woman is submissive, weak and timid.


* Seram Neken wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao
This article was posted on March 10, 2014.


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