TODAY -

Symbolism in the Tribal Art of Manipur
- Part 2 -

Mutua Bahadur *

 >Mutua Bahadur  speaking at Interactive Lecture series on  15 January 2019, at CMS, Library Hall, Manipur University
Mutua Bahadur speaking at Interactive Lecture series on 15 January 2019, at CMS, Library Hall, Manipur University



Symbolism in the Tribal Art of Manipur
Mutua Bahadur
Cultural Activist & Member, Kangla Fort Board.


(Presented as the key speaker in the Interactive Lecture series organised by Centre for Manipur Studies, Manipur University, 15 January 2019, at CMS, Library Hall)

ARCHITECTURE AND CULTURE

In order to build a house with carving, the tribals needed a lot of men and materials and incurred heavy expenditure. If a person in the village had accumulated a lot of stock in paddy, the community would have force him to build a house. After constructing a carved house, he would be reduced to a miserable condition afler the exhaustion of his wealth. Mention may be made here of an ancient settlement at the top of Koubru Hill by the Longdamei at an area called 'Kokloungou' (um).

At one season, these people built as many as thirty 'talangkai' (painted and carved houses). There was also the custom of building as rnany as nine different houses if one wish to build the 'talangkai' (ahongyum). The community danced and spent in merriment the entire wealth of the village in the construction of these houses, and they were rerduced to poverty which led to the desertion of the settlement Iater on. They moved eastwards leaving the houses behind.

Before carving of the houses, the tribals performed a lot of rituals as feasts of merit. At Mao, they are (i) Novii Kovii, (ii) Omo Kozii, (iii) Ozho Koso, and (iv) Ochizho Koso.

If these four actions were not performed, the tribe would not build the houses. The auspicious time of the rituals are in between 'chothone.khro' (January), and 'Chosolopra' (February). Some of the other tribes in the Mao however perform the 'Omozii', 'Otokosii zoso', 'Ochizo koso' in the respective months of 'Okrokhol' (December). chosolopra, chothonekhro.

After the performance of' these rituals & feast of merit the, Mao construct three types of houses namely, 'Onymosochi', 'Ochiyo kosomychi', and 'Uripi Koyhiinmchi'. When the house owner had to construct the Onymosochi, he would spend five days without consuming rice, but having only drinks and meat. When the ochiyo kosomychi, had to be built, the owner would have to spend one solid month on only wine and meat.

 [ See Picture 5: First, Ochiyho Kosornychi or rich man's house. Carving : Buffalo heads. human heads with headgear. wooden seats, discs, painted solar symbols. Mao. Senapati District. Second, Headman's house: decorated on the front wall of house  twenty five numbers of buffalo & six numbers of  mithun or cow skulls. Carving: Beak of hornbill. Koide, Senapati District. Third, Carved house: Buffalo heads, Paomata, Senapati District]
[ See Picture 5: First, Ochiyho Kosornychi or rich man's house. Carving : Buffalo heads. human heads with headgear. wooden seats, discs, painted solar symbols. Mao. Senapati District. Second, Headman's house: decorated on the front wall of house twenty five numbers of buffalo & six numbers of mithun or cow skulls. Carving: Beak of hornbill. Koide, Senapati District. Third, Carved house: Buffalo heads, Paomata, Senapati District]



 [ [See Picture 6: First, Headman's house : Carving : human heads, upside down tiger, Paomata, Senapati District. Second, 'Puki' or headman's house. Carving: Head of buffalo, human figures,upside down tiger, etc. Purul village, Senapati District. Third, 'posingka' or headman's house. Carving: Human heads, upside down tigers, buffalo heads, upside down human figures. Oinam village, Senapati District].
[ [See Picture 6: First, Headman's house : Carving : human heads, upside down tiger, Paomata, Senapati District. Second, 'Puki' or headman's house. Carving: Head of buffalo, human figures,upside down tiger, etc. Purul village, Senapati District. Third, 'posingka' or headman's house. Carving: Human heads, upside down tigers, buffalo heads, upside down human figures. Oinam village, Senapati District].



  [See Picture 7: Carved house: Buffalo heads' ornaments, Tribal motitfs, dancing men deity symbols, scabbards, Floral designs painted on jhalur,  colour-black, white & red, Tusem,  Ukhrul District. Second, Carved house: Buffalo heads' ornaments, human figures, floral motifs, cloth designs, headgear, dancing men, Tusem. Ukhrul District. Third, Carved house: Human heads, buffalo heads, ornaments, scabbards, cloth designs. Tusem, Ukhrul District].
[See Picture 7: Carved house: Buffalo heads' ornaments, Tribal motitfs, dancing men deity symbols, scabbards, Floral designs painted on jhalur, colour-black, white & red, Tusem, Ukhrul District. Second, Carved house: Buffalo heads' ornaments, human figures, floral motifs, cloth designs, headgear, dancing men, Tusem. Ukhrul District. Third, Carved house: Human heads, buffalo heads, ornaments, scabbards, cloth designs. Tusem, Ukhrul District].





At Tungam village, two types of houses namely (l) Keeche and (ii) Kolamthrok are built during the month of 'asiilompra' (January). At Purul two types of houses (1) Puki and (ii) Ngaiki are customary. At Oinam village, three types of houses (i) Posingka (ii) Reeka (iii) Pongka are customary. At the construction of the above houses, it was customary for the owner to spend the duration of the period of construction only on wine and meat.

The Tangkhuls like the Oinam, build three types (i) Khurtchon, (ii) Kharuk, and (iii) Sheikhui. The denomination of the houses are however different. They are given as (i) Lengcheng shim (ii) Ngaishim shim or ohongnao shim and (iii) Rameishim.

The elders of Nungbi build three types of houses namely (i) Phen saam, (ii) Phen salaka asari maksa and (iii) Sambat takakasa. Among the Tangkhuls adjacent to the Mao tribes' first after the day of the decision to construct the houses, the owner would not cut his hair wash his clothes or sleep with his wife. Many elders also confirm that during the house construction season the owner would not have sex with his wife, change his clothes or even wash the same.

At Oinam Purul and Paomata, if the headman had to construct a house it was essential to search for a tiger for sacrifice. After the killing of the tiger a representation of it would have to be carved on the front-wall of the house, carved with its head upside down. At the house of the headman of Oinam, it was also customary to carve not less than .three tigers. At Purul, not only at the headman's house, but also almost all houses had one tiger carved on the walls, that too in life size.

The headman would spend five days during the construction without speaking a word, without taking food or wine. After this he would spend another five days only on wine, keeping respect for customary taboos. If by chance, there is a breakdown of construction materials or the house they would stop work for three clays, observe the taboo.

Like other tribes, the Kabuis also distinguish many types of houses. They would construct not less than seven types of houses. They are (i) Pumchan Kai or Pumtan Kai, (ii) Lakpui Kai, (iii) Sianlonpui Kai or Senloi Kai,(i) Hoi Kai, (v) Thingpu Kai, (vi) Uche Kai and (vii) Khong Kai.

The Kabuis at Khoupum understand the Pumchan kai as one which consumed a lot of energy and dedication in work. Lakpui Kai is the house of the married woman. At the house-warming ceremony of this house, all the married women of the tribe would dance before it. Sianlonpui Kai is the type of house built with women going around and dancing, with eating discs in their hands.

At the house-warming ceremony of this house, water is poured on the discs, and the women carry it around and dance. Hoi Kai is the house with the hoi shouts. There is the hoi chant wherever a work is started or finished. Thingpu Kai is the house constructed with planks of wood - The whole construction is of wood. Roofing is also done with wood. On the house-warming day the youths and girls gather inside the first room of the house and they sing and dance.

The Kabuis who settle at Tharon and are known as Liangmei Kabuis build three types of houses. They are (1) Chapiyuki, (ii) Bankiyuki and (iii) Chungkiyuki. Chapiuki is a rare type of house, which is difficult to build. Like other tribes, the Liangmei Kabuis also observe certain taboos for house construction. The owner would have to spend with only meat and drink during the construction time of the house. If he does not observe this taboo, and if he eats even vegetables, he is taken to be of inferior status.

At Lukhambi, if a Kabui is able to kill tigers or men, he is entitled to build the talangkai house. At some other places, before the talangkai is built' the owner should kill a tiger, ten mithuns and a hornbill. If the sods command him during his dreams to build a talangkai then he could forego the aforesaid customs.

If any of the above conditions are not fulfilled, even a moneyed Kabui cannot build a talangkai. There is a belief that if anybody could live in a talangkai,his soul would go to heaven after death. All youths and girls in the village come to see the building of the talangkai' and encourage and respect the owner. Especially, the women are the preservers of this custom.

The owner feeds the youths and girls with food and wine and they help in erecting the pillars all around the site. The pillars should not be less than thirty-five in number. Sometimes skulls of animals are hung on top of these pillars. During the construction of the talangkai, the eldest male member of the clan, the mailupao stays in the front room of the house. Before the end of feasting of all the participants of the house construction, he should not move away.

If there was no mailupao in the village, it was customary to hire the services of the mailupao of the next village. Younger mailupaos however do not perform such functions. If he had to perform such functions, it was believed he would not have long life. If a mailupao was hired from another village, he would be taken to his village with full escort of the youths and girls after the construction. The Kabuis take the Talangkai (ohong r-une) as the house of women.

To be continued ....


* Mutua Bahadur who is the Cultural Activist & Member for Kangla Fort Board , wrote this article .
Aheibam Koireng Singh sent this article to e-pao.net
The sender is and can be contacted at akoireng(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on February 04 2019 .


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