The Mighty Mystic Manipuri Women

Bibinaz Thokchom *

Nupilan Ningshing Numit : Nupi Lan Observation :: 12th December 2012
Nupilan Ningshing Numit : Nupi Lan Observation on 12th December 2012 :: Pix - Jinendra Maibam

** From a speech given at 'Nupilan Day Observation at Delhi in December 2016 **

I play 'chak thongbi, keithel kabi' as a little girl
I sing 'thambal koubi leinungsi' Khamba thoibi anina' as nursery rhymes
I read 'Manipuri Nupi' with passion in my lower primary class
I hear 'ho leishabi macha' on my way to school
I want to grow more beautiful faster
I learn how to cook and clean well
I suppress my anger and treat others well
I keep my opinions to myself
I remain silent when elders and men speak
I maintain the status quo of being a girl
I preserve chastity and culture
I allow my guy to take control of me
I think i have a protective husband
I tolerate all household chores
I try to be economically self sufficient and supportive too
I pacify drunk fits of my husband sometimes
I bear abusive languages and jokes
I take some more offenses
I boil my negative emotions within
I weep in the corner
I idolise 'lingjel kanbi Linthoingambi'
I sit in 'Nisha bandi' to curb drug abusers
I become 'Meira Paibi to influence political leaders
I see somebody else instructing my husband and kids
I fiercely protect them
I strive to satisfy their demands and needs
I empower them to be men enough
I guard their prowess but never interfere in their decisions
I aspire but underneath the glass ceiling
I am a good daughter
I am a good sister
I am a good wife
I am a good daughter-in-law
I am a good mother
I am a good woman
I am Mighty Mystic Manipuri Woman

It is indeed astonishing to acknowledge the courage shown by Manipuri women against British oppression in 1904 & 1939. However, in today's time it's increasingly complicated to decipher the meaning and significance of their 'mightiness' as we attempt to identify ourselves as their descendents.

I wonder what triggered those historically unique forms of women's strong resistance against colonial subjugation in Manipur that gave rise to Nupi Lal, war by women only! What is the relevance of this ceremony in today's time? What is the purpose of having this observance in Delhi?

Who in today's generation are aware of the real issues of Nupi Lal other than simply a 'War fought by women of Manipur'? Is this to revive the resentments of colonial period? Are we still feeling colonised? By whom, why and how? Is the ceremony organised just in praise and remembrance of those proactive women? Or is it a question of present communal identity, the Mighty Manipuri women? Are we being able to live the legacy of these collective legendary efforts made by 'Emas'?

This Manipuri women's historic movement was 'unique' as women went beyond the socially predefined practices as ' just homemakers' and fought against political conspiracy that marked a change in the political regime during British colonial period. No doubt Manipuri women are mighty, but are we guiding this virtue in compassionate ways in present time?

Have there been real empowerments of women in Manipur since then, as we often claim to hold higher status than the rest of India? Well, crimes against women in Manipur have been accounted as increasing in the last ten years in local newspapers, online articles and even in National Crimes Record Beauro. And how many of such cases escape being reported?

On the contrary, It is also often recognised that Manipuri women's contribution in economic sphere is commendable and unlike any other parts of the country. Dr. Monisha Behal, chairperson, North East Network (2004) writes in an article based on research done in collaboration with NGOs and activists on women's rights in the region,
'The Ima Keithal or Mother's market also referred to as Keithal Nupi or Women's Market of Manipur is especially famous. It is one of the largest markets of the country managed exclusively by women. Stalls in this market place are handed down to a daughter or daughter-in-law and women from all strata of society manage these stalls. Wives of well to do engineers and doctors sit in the Keithal. Forums of these kind in the region have given women space for interactions and have facilitated dialogue and collective decision-making on crucial issues'

She continues however,
'While markets like the The Ima Keithel provide them an opportunity of earning, they have very little support to enhance their position as traders. No legal status is provided to these women who sell commodities in the market and they have little economic security. Thus, early this year, one of the market areas was pulled down by the police to make way for the construction of a high rise building. The women protested vehemently but they received no support from the administration as they had no official permission or legal status to run their business for the marketplace'

NEN (North East Network) study found that strong women's groups like the Meira Paibis are very much at the fore front of civil rights campaigns or agitations. However despite their strong social presence, such organizations are excluded from decision-making bodies.

According to UNICEF, Manipur has the second highest rate of domestic violence in the country. Mostly cases of domestic violence against women are not reported. Ms. Valley Rose, Editor, Aza Daily, said according to her own experience that "husbands and wives relationship must give more importance", as decision making processes starts from family itself. She explained that women must feel responsible to help other women who are the victims of violence.

As Arun Elangbam writes in his article, Between the lines: Stereotypes and prejudices,
'Since time immemorial, the life of a Manipuri woman was circumscribed by the social taboos and prejudices of a patriarchal society. The concept of an ideal woman in Manipuri mythology, itself speaks volumes. According to the deity Imoinu, an ideal woman is one who is faithful to her husband, who regards her husband as divine and worships him, who obeys orders and is submissive to the husband, who eats only when her husband has eaten and so on'.

He opens his article by saying,
'We often lose sight of the real status of Manipuri women, as we are first confronted with the legacy of Women's War, the Meira Paibi movement and women's active participation in trade and commerce and other economic activities'.

Well, on introspection, women in Manipur are neither lagging behind in making changes at time of social crisis, nor escape complicated abuses including emotional, verbal, and psychological abuses besides the more obvious physical abuses.

These lived contradictions between victimhood and mighty women raise an important question now, What happen to the sacrifices made by historical Emas that we proudly grasp once a year? If the number of women participation in decision is not sufficient, what is stopping them? Can we do something more than just hoisting monuments and yearly observance of Nupi Lal?

To me, holding such event is significant only if our society as a whole make some effort to open up to the aspirations of women without befitting them in the stereotypical bigoted conception of women as 'good homemakers' and free advices of how good women should be. On the other hand, women themselves need to understand their 'learned helplessness'(Martin Seligman's term) state of mind due to generations of fine-tuned conditioning of being a Manipuri woman. It's time to make attempts to move forward.

Moving ahead from 'learned helplessness' state doesn't necessarily connote violating your cultural values which is often seen as a threat to our vulnerable civilization, but it only adds wider spectrum of experiences and self empowerment. Some might respond, how these questions would matter for this is how the patriarchy world works across the globe. And I say, this justification is where 'the mighty' women entitlement becomes just mystic token and hypocritical construction.

Many research and non research articles have been written on the same concerned being raised here but our popular 'culture of silence' over intimate issues continues to haunt us in raising voices for women in many aspects of life. The emphasis here is given on the 'Mystical Might' of women who are swept under the rugs of domestic violence yet boldly fight against human rights violation against state oppressors.

To elucidate the dynamics of 'culture of silence', I like to highlight a very simple yet insightful social psychology lab experiment conducted on human normative conformity by an American psychologist Solomon Asch at Stanford University in 1951. This experiment required the participants to report accurate visual/perceptual judgements of 3 simple straight lines in comparison to a standard line.

Using line judgment task, experimenter put a naive participant in a room with seven confederates who had agreed in advance what their responses would be when the lines were presented. The naive participant has no knowledge that he is the only real participant in the experimental room. Each person had to state aloud which comparison line (A, B or C) was most like the standard line.

The correct answer was always obvious. However, confederates altogether deliberately gave wrong answers in 12 critical trials out of 18 trials in total. The real participant sat at the end of the row and gave his or her answer last. And this was repeated with 50 real participants. Experimenter was interested to see if the real participants would conform to the majority view even when they knew the majority view was wrong.

Experiment also had a control condition where there were no confederates, only a "real participant". Despite some experimental flaws, the results did illustrate the psychological (imagined) impact of pressure from others felt in having one's correct responses while majority disagree and found that 75% conformed under the imagined pressure of others on their judgements.

This further reminds me of the concept of pluralistic ignorance created by Floyd Allport & Danial Kartz (Social Psychologists) in 1930s describing misconception of others' values causes groups to act in ways that differ from what they believe in. Both concepts of normative social influence and pluralistic ignorance are talking about overreliance on presumptions without consulting the facts because of fear of 'violating' and possibility of subsequent 'rejection' from our sense of community belongingness. Though these are pervasive human tendencies in general, such miscalculations of others' judgements and quick unthought-of escapism from like confrontation with conflict happens more in diverse society like Manipur.

We, majority of Manipuries on retrospection, are mostly going with the flow of time and situation without attending to or questioning the intuitive signals that could successfully guide us. This is widespread in all socio-political scenarios, not only in issues related to women. Or we overreact with overwhelmingly emotional charges against any anxiety provoking situation.

Along this line, I like to also highlight the recent massive reaction on Irom Sharmila's resignation from more than 15 years of fasting to instigate ethicality in state oppressors. She was instantly brought down from 'Goddess to homeless'. Why would her decision shock people is evident in the aftermath video clips from news channels itself.

Former supporters' self imposed idolisation of one woman to sacrifice her life to bring success in our collective struggle against APSFA is a major reason of the shock. And hence our very own self claimed 'emas's (meira paibis) merciless burning of 'echa nupi Sharmila' to 'useless ash' eventhough temporarily.

But why would she be burdened to sacrifice her life to walk through the chaotic political unrest while no one even cares to give one day of their life on the same cause with such determination? Is that the myth the example set by historical mighty women? To what extent 'mighty' can be considered as virtue? These are some of the haunting questions one is to talk about historic triumph of 'Nupi Lal' in contemporary context.

Only two visions that i would like to propose here in today's context is:

1. Hatred/helplessness is a conditioned response (behaviour), we can uncondition anything that's conditioned.

2. Empathetic communication/dialogue with minimum preconceived assumptions could promise a great achievement if we are to talk about 'mystic mighty women of Manipur or with one another too.

I like to end with this quote:
'If you are neutral in situations of injustice you have taken the side of the oppressor'.
--Desmond Tutu


o Arun Irengbam, ‘Between the Lines: Stereotypes and Prejudices’ Opinion-1, Article published in Manipur Update-January Issue (Volume I Issue II, January 2000)
o Support Services to Counter Violence Against Women in Manipur A Resource Directory, 2002. Published by North East Network. Supported by UNIFEM
o Violence against women in north east India: an enquiry report, published by the north east network 2004. Supported by national commission for women, New Delhi
o Dr. Th. Binarani Devi, Women and Human Rights: Some Reflections in North East India (2014), published by International journal of English literature and Humanities.

Online articles:
o Manipur Women Rises To End Violence Against Women And Girls In State –Kangla Online, Feburary 13, 2013
o Manipur ranks 4th in domestic violence cases in the country - Eastern Mirror March 9, 2015
o Why sound legal knowledge is a must for Manipuri women - Sangai Express march 13, 2016
o Manipur: Police indifference shocks panel as abused women recount their ordeal – Asia Times may, 25, 2016.
o The Transcendental Role Of Women In Manipur History by Dr. M. C. Arunkumar & Irengbam Arun

** From a speech given at 'Nupilan Day Observation at Delhi in December 2016 ** *

* Bibinaz Thokchom wrote this article ; The writer is Assistant Lecturer, Ambedkar University, Delhi
This was forwarded to by MSAD (Manipur Students Union, Delhi) who can be contacted at msad(DOT)manipur(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on May 02, 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 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.

  • Manipur Sangai Festival 2016 #7 : Ooba
  • Cultural Program @ MCA :: Gallery
  • Parihal, Nimshimphy, Neilianthang: eMing
  • Ningol ChakKouba @MBC #3 :: Gallery
  • Oh dear Daddy, see I a Native Proud: Poem
  • Buddha's metta and karuna #3
  • Narendra Modi will never play Nehru
  • Photo Caption Contest by
  • General Call to All Former NPF Leaders
  • Penguin Readathon & Book Gifting
  • ENNG opposes inclusion of TCL..
  • Report alarm for Arunachal
  • Loktak witness drastic fall in migratory birds
  • Lecture on 'Rohingya Resettlement'
  • 'Weaves of Ching-tam' @London :: Gallery
  • Opening: Jadonang Football #1 :: Gallery
  • Robert's Weaves of valley & hills at London
  • Remembering boy..felled by fake encounter
  • Reorganisation of North Eastern Council #1
  • Sangai Photo Awards 2017 : Contest
  • The Killing Fields (2013-17) :: Timeline
  • Meeyam meekup nahum singna leibiyu
  • HighWays : Govt. needs seriousness
  • Singcha Wuya Won @Kamjong #4 :: Gallery
  • SDG Consultation: NE :: Gallery
  • North East Fashion Week #1 :: Gallery
  • Distribution Patterns of the Asian Eye
  • Sustainable Development Goal Consultation
  • Wrangle in Mapithel dam: Legal perspective
  • In the Slums of Heaven :: Poem
  • Wreath Laying Ceremony for AR Martyrs
  • Time to take a bow, Robert
  • Create jobs for NE to stop trafficking
  • Indo-Naga Talks 2017 :: News Timeline
  • March: Mera Houchongba #4:: Gallery
  • Sin-Lang Fest @DM College #2 :: Gallery
  • Sangai Festival: Ideas for a change
  • A shadowy dreamer :: Poem
  • Winter - A blessing in disguise for us ...
  • Course in Nanotechnology at NEHU
  • Pamel : Serene Natural Hub, near Lamlai
  • Vacancy at YVU Financial Services, Thoubal
  • System Operators @PR Enterprise, Khurai
  • Just by showing concern will not change..
  • Food Stall @Phayeng #2 :: Gallery
  • Miss Kut #3 :: Gallery
  • The moment :: Poem
  • Board exams decoded
  • 3rd NE Fashion at Itanagar: Day 2
  • Conference : North East in Globalized Era
  • NE-IAS launched to support Startup India
  • Painting Competition on Conservation
  • Ramkung Pamei is new MHJU Chief
  • Charuangc 2017: Rongmeis in Delhi & NCR
  • Priyogopal (Senior Artist)- Photo :: eRang
  • Kabui Dance @Jadonang Football:: Gallery
  • Fashion @NE Festival, Delhi :: Gallery
  • Deviance and Corruption in Kangleipak
  • Applied health research is vital to #endTB
  • 3rd NE Fashion at Itanagar: Day 1
  • Tri-nation Motorcycle Rally reach Imphal
  • Traffic woes continues
  • Kwatha festival #1 :: Gallery
  • Kokkhum Festival #1 :: Gallery
  • Special Rapporteur on Human Rights
  • The threat to balkanize Manipur
  • Cry of a Dying River - 6 :: Poem
  • Biological based integrated Congress grass
  • 3rd Audition of Fagi Unplugged
  • Sadar Hills District Demand: News Timeline
  • Of clean environment
  • Paonam Lily (Archery) Reception :: Gallery
  • North East Fest @ Delhi :: Gallery
  • Girls Football- Nov 4 #2 :: Gallery
  • IBSD, India & VITO, Belgium signed MOU
  • First angioplasty for in-stent restenosis
  • RIST Popular Talk-33: Quantum Hall states
  • Commonwealth alumni event of NE
  • Lecture on The Rohingya Conundrum
  • Tri-National Motorcycle Rally
  • 3rd North East Fashion Week at Itanagar
  • ILP Nov 30 deadline: Why not only for valley
  • Expected changes, do we see ?
  • Festival of Raas Leela #2 :: Gallery
  • Sin-Lang Fest @DM College #1 :: Gallery
  • Hari Uthan- Kang Chingba #2 :: Gallery
  • Code of silence: Concealing gender justice
  • God Rules Over All :: Poem
  • Five day 'Flower Show' at Ukhrul
  • Go birding to honour Bird Man of India
  • Inner Line Permit (ILP) Demand :: Timeline
  • Uphul Waiphul and Leikhom Leinang
  • A reminder to Central Govt.
  • Assam, Manipur bid to better ties
  • Ningol Chak-Kouba @Pune :: Gallery
  • Miss Kut #2 :: Gallery
  • Meitei Pictographic Writings :: Book Review
  • Careers related to mental health
  • Beauty & Money for a purpose
  • Human rights infractions in Mapithel Dam
  • AMAND Ningol Chakouba at Pune : Report
  • Chef Required at Kakching
  • NHPC Raising day at Loktak Power Station
  • Mary Kom enter Asian Ch'ships final
  • Of ST demand, ILP, peace talk
  • For elderly people
  • Prof. Nongmaithem Tombi Singh : A Profile
  • Hazari/ Tombi Polo Tournament #2:: Gallery
  • U-17 Footballer honored by Guv :: Gallery
  • Just in favour of nocturnal life
  • Dance of Fire Flies at Autumn :: Poem
  • North East Festival bids farewell
  • Protest over Naga pact
  • Agenda of Govt spelt out at DBC, Maram
  • Nurturing the future
  • Ningol Chak-Kouba @Delhi #2:: Gallery
  • NE Fashion Weekend @Delhi #1 :: Gallery
  • History will not forgive us
  • A girl :: Poem
  • Pre-merger political party struggle
  • JRF wanted at NIT Silchar
  • Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party
  • Welcome to Southern Nagalim greeting
  • March: Mera Houchongba #3:: Gallery
  • Girls Football- Nov 4 #1:: Gallery
  • Taxi- raising Air Pollution in Ukhrul
  • Back to basics to #endTB: Do it right
  • Man with Flower's Life :: Poem
  • Skill development training with MUDA
  • Quiz Competition at NE Festival
  • Free cataract operation at Loktak
  • Traffic control- still a flop show
  • Pui Thangamliu -Photos #1 :: eRang
  • NH7 Weekender [28 October] :: Gallery
  • Surjalal: Fellow of American Physical Society
  • Ithai Barrage for Irrigation: Beautiful Promise
  • NE Festival 2017 starts off
  • The Sun & the Cloud :: Poem
  • Land encroachment at Lamka College
  • Salesian College Grabs UK Project
  • Nagaland CM met Rajnath reg. Naga issue
  • Ranked 5th in women safety: stereotyping?
  • Prime focus
  • Miss Kut #1 :: Gallery
  • Hari Uthan- Kang Chingba #1 :: Gallery
  • Kangujam Chinglensana (Hockey) feted
  • reach the tipping point for childhood TB?
  • A round of applause for N Biren, CM..
  • Link Research with Education for NE
  • Culture is beyond Religion: Najma Heptulla
  • Vacancies @ Chirag Estate, Gurgaon
  • Defection of some party workers : NPCC
  • ST for Meiteis: Final say rests with Delhi
  • Understanding responsibility
  • Chavang Kut @Tengnoupal :: Gallery
  • Sub-Junior Girls Football #2:: Gallery
  • A crusade for a greener Manipur
  • Tourist Guide as career option #2
  • 'Govt working for inclusive development'
  • Namsai gets Buddha relic from Thailand
  • 5th NE Festival at Delhi: Program Schedule
  • 20th Asian Charter for Human Rights: Video
  • National Unity Day at Ukhrul
  • NPF MLA present at all parties meet
  • Of three Ws and Politics
  • Ningol Chak-Kouba @Delhi #1:: Gallery
  • Happy Kut Wishes :: e-pao Flash
  • Let's be racist
  • 3rd Ningol Chakouba, Delhi : A Report
  • Dr. Rahejuddin Sheikh : Best Director Award
  • I Am In You To Feel Myself :: Poem
  • Conference: North East in Globalized Era
  • Seeking contributions : Library Centre
  • RGU Celebrated National Unity Day
  • Run for Unity organized by AR
  • Of traffic chaos and mad rush
  • What if Pan Naga Hoho is final settlement
  • Chothe: Shabu Hong Rein :: Gallery
  • Eyek Tamba :: Learn Manipuri script
  • IT Employment Devlp Course :: Gallery
  • NH7 Weekender [27 October] :: Gallery
  • Red Light Area in Manipur ?
  • IT Enabled Employment Skill Development
  • Football in India needs encouragement
  • Indo-Naga Peace Process :: Articles
  • Meeting on Hornbill Festival 2017
  • Territorial integrity : No to separate admin
  • A confusing solution, if happens
  • Hazari/ Tombi Polo Tournament #1:: Gallery
  • Candle light for Belinda Morse :: Gallery
  • Hills are Better
  • Wedding :: Poem
  • Candle lighting in memory of Belinda Morse
  • NH7 Weekender: 2nd Day Report : 28 Oct
  • RGU launched Clean and Green Campus
  • Territorial integrity: All party meet sans NPF
  • Exhibition of Pottery Crafts #2 :: Gallery
  • MSAP Football match @Pune :: Gallery
  • .. should be Global Opportunity Hunter
  • Nation Needs Small Farmers
  • Welfare mentality & its impacts on society
  • NH7 Weekender Report : 27 Oct
  • Phayeng Cultural programme :: Gallery
  • Khongjom War Memorial #3 :: 360 ° View
  • Pot Lannaba: Houchongba #2 :: Gallery
  • Ichangi Laidhi #1 :: eRang
  • Ningol Chakkouba by Paomee:: Gallery
  • Urban Planning for Vision 2030
  • Ningol Chakkouba @Kolkata :: Gallery
  • Tourism Day @ Phayeng #1 :: Gallery
  • Ningol Chakkouba @Sikkim :: Gallery
  • Chakkouba Shopping #2 :: Gallery
  • Ningol to her mapam lamdam :: Gallery
  • Manipuri Calendar for 2018 : Download it
  • Mera Men Tongba :: Gallery
  • Footballer: U-17 World Cup :: Gallery
  • Imphal Evenings- Night plaza #2 :: Gallery
  • FIFA U-17 Profile :: Kh Ninthoinganba
  • FIFA U-17 Profile :: Thounaojam Jeakson
  • FIFA U-17 Profile :: Nongdamba Naorem
  • FIFA U-17 Profile :: Dheeraj Moirangthem
  • FIFA U-17 Profile :: Amarjit Kiyam (Captain)
  • FIFA U-17 Profile :: Thangjam Boris
  • FIFA U-17 Profile :: Wangjam Suresh
  • FIFA U-17 Profile :: Md Shahjahan
  • Featured Photo for 2017 #4 :: Gallery
  • Old Manipuri Movie #1 :: eRang Classic
  • Landscape of Manipur #7: Wallpaper