What is Manipuri ?
- Part 2 -

Thokchom Ngouba *

Read Part 1 of this article here

Name Speaks

Name implies three things ?
(1) It indicates the name of a person differentiating him from other persons,
(2) It carries the language of the bearer indicating his community, and
(3) It also implies the lineage or the ancestry of the person.

Apart from indicating the name of a person, it carries a meaning in the language of the community the bearer (of the name) belongs to. People could understand the language that speaks by the name as the name carry some words and those words carry a meaning as defined in the language of the community the bearer belongs to. What are people naming a person for? People give name to a person or a thing so that they could distinguish the named person from others.

There is nothing in a name when it could differentiate the bearer of the name from other persons. It is not the good or bad of the name, it is the purpose for what it was given that matters. It indicates an instrument people need to make a person reply when he is called. It is an indicator. What is name all about? Name speaks the language of the community he belongs to. People generally give name to a person with a word or group of words chosen from the language of their own community or a word borrowed from the language of other community.

That name indicates the language of the community to which the person is born as the name is carrying a meaning as defined in the language of the community. For instance, a person is called Wei Feng or Yumiko Takemoto or Tomba. First name speaks Chinese. It indicates that the person is a Chinese because the word ?Wei Feng? is a Chinese word.

Second name speak Japanese. Likewise it also indicates that the person is Japanese as the word Yumiko Takemoto is a Japanese word. Third name Tomba speaks Manipuri and it indicates he is a Manipuri because it is a Manipuri word. Therefore, it is not that what name we give to a person but what the name speaks or indicates about the man and the language of the person who carries the name and what meaning the name carries that is important.

If the name of a person carry the Manipuri word e.g. Tomba, then people shall easily recognize him as the Manipuri as it is a Manipuri word and carries a meaning in Manipuri Language, if the name carry the Ao (Naga) word e.g. Bendang then he can easily be recognized as an Ao (Naga). Here it is seen that the word Tomba indicates both his name and community. Therefore, it is not wrong to say name is an indicator. It not only indicates a particular person but also indicates the language of which community the bearer belongs to.

Name serves as an indicator of a person?s lineage or ancestry. Different communities prefix or suffix additional word as title or surname indicating the lineage or ancestry to their names. Naga tribes prefix names of their fathers before their names and suffix the title or surname after their name e.g. if a person born to Ao Naga community is named Bendang (an Ao word), he is the son of Mr. Toshikaba and whose title or surname is Jamir, then his name sha! ll be written in this manner i.e. Toshikaba Bendang Jamir or T. Bendang Jamir.

This name indicates (1) the lineage or the ancestry, (2) name of the person and carries meaning as defined in the Ao Language; (3) the surname of the person. Assamese, Bengali and other Indian communities suffix their surnames after their names e.g. if a person is named Jayanta and his surname is Saikia, then his name shall be written like this i.e. Jayanta Saikia. All Indian Hindus be it Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu, etc. have common names of Sanskrit root and all names carry different meaning.

They have the similar convention of keeping their title or surname after their names. Identity cards what the people are carrying speak of the name of the person whose photograph has been given in it; that name speaks of the language to which community he belongs to and much more. Identity Card without name does not make sense. Simply by listening a name, we can make out what community he belongs to e.g. Kishore Mahanta, we can say he is Assamese, Sudip Chakravorty then Bengali.

Name indicates not only the name of a person but his community also and some names indicate his lineage or ancestry apart from their surname or title. If a person?s identity card carries a Bengali name, it can easily identify him as Bengali. What name is to a man? What is name all about? Name is indeed a most important thing in the personality of a man?s life. Good or bad, beautiful or ugly whatever it is, people place their highest esteem on their names and they are proud of it. They strive to perpetuate it for generations to come.

By nature man wants to be important, looks to be beautiful and wants other person say good things about them. For this reason why, wherever they go, they want their presence felt, they want to be looked beautiful and they want to leave an impact in the minds of the people so that they say good things about them. A little act of neglect to one or one?s name kills one?s enthusiasm and develops a desire of avoidance to the person and it adversely impact to the fall out of dissociation.

Disregards to one or one?s name indicate one?s presence is less important. This self esteem or ego drives man to work hard to make their names alive and reach high stations in life. I love my name Rajendra Singh though it is non Manipuri word because in it I hear the sound my parents, feel their love and see the image of my beloved father, mother and brothers who gave this name to me. However, I am Manipuri and I am proud to be a Manipuri unfortunatelyt my name does not speak Manipuri.

Manipuri names? It appears Manipuri does not follow any convention or a specific rule for naming their children. They give name whatever they like be it any language, they do not care about it. Manipuri is the peculiar community in the world. Peculiar because Manipuri is the only community 80% of whose names are given in foreign language (non Manipuri words) or names borrowed from other languages.

For instance my name is Rajendra Singh. It is a word of Sanskrit root formed by joining two words and having a meaning as defined in the Sanskrit language (Raja + Indra meaning king of Heaven). And it does not speak Manipuri language. It indicates me but it does not indicate my community, my language and speaks of different root. The title ?Singh? does not carry any Manipuri word or signify any Manipuri title or surname.

Outside North East India, on hearing my name people are often confused as though I am from Bihar, UP, Rajasthan, etc. etc. On seeing my face they confuse me to be a Japanese, Korean, Chinese, etc. etc as I am a foreigner coming from these countries visiting India. When I say my name is Rajendra Singh, they do not want to believe me. Generally we cannot make out a Manipuri by the name (of non Manipuri word) if they do not put their title or surname before or after their name.

Let us take another name. My nick name is Thokchom Ngouba. It speaks Manipuri language. Ngouba indicates my name and it also carries a meaning in Manipuri (Ngouba means white). Thokchom indicates a lineage or ancestry or title or surname of the Manipuri.

As a general convention, Manipuri does not maintain any convention or orderliness in putting their surname or title to their names. For instance, Hijam Ibungoton, Khoirakpam Manihar, C. Tongbra, K. Chongtha, I.S. Kangjam, A.B. Meetei, Y. Gopaldev Singh, Brajakumar Thokchom, Rajendra Singh, Chaoba Luwang, Bishojit Angomcha.

In these names, we find some put their title before their name, some put their title after their name, some put their title in short, some put their yek instead of their surname, some make their surname more distinct such as Tongbra, some put the name of the community after their name. What do we try to show to the world? I do not question their wisdom in keeping their name and title. But this reflects our disunity to the world.

To be continued...

* Thokchom Ngouba wrote this article for
The writer is a resident of Kohima; The writer hails from a small village called Pallarbond located on the Silchar-Imphal Road in Cachar District of Assam. The Village is 17 KM away from Silchar Town towards Jiribam in Manipur. This village has nowadays become a small rural township.
(As per the author, ...Regarding the terminology 'Meitei' and 'Meetei' , I used the Meetei following an Order of the Government of Manipur that was published in the Gazetteer of Manipur dated 20th April 1980 notifying the word Meetei to be correct term to avoid confusion between these two.. )
The writer can be contacted at thokchomngouba(at)gmail(dot)com
This article was posted on November 26, 2013.

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