Nongmaithem Tombi Singh's contribution to the making of Hijam Anganghal a Mahakavi
- Part 4 -

Surjitkumar Loitam *

 Heisnam Basantakumar Award 2019 conferred to Nongmaithem Tombi Singh on World Book Day
Heisnam Basantakumar Award 2019 conferred to Nongmaithem Tombi Singh [L] on World Book Day (April 24 2019) :: Pix - DIPR

As agreed upon, they jointly took up the translation work for some time. At that time Oja Tombi had no idea of the joint venture. As told by Oja Khagendra, Jodhachandra started translating himself individually at home. After some days as a first step, the piece of translated work was brought to Oja Khagendra's house for his perusal and interaction. Thus some months went by working synergis-tically.

But then afterward Oja Khagendra, because of his piling up engagements, couldn't pay heed to what Jodhachandra had endea-vored. Consequently, Jodha- chandra too felt lethargic. And so he didn't go to Oja Khagendra's house any-more. Even what Jodha himself did to some extent also ceased as he misunderstood by thinking that the venture could have continued kicking him out as Oja Khagenra once said to tackle the task by forming a team.

Jodhachandra began to think of not proceeding with the task any further. After some months had gone by silently, a letter surprisingly got to Jodha's house one evening. That letter was from Prof. Nongmaithem Tombi Singh.

Jodha impatiently opened the letter and read. The gist of the letter was —"Dr. Jodha, I have heard that you have taken up the arduous task of translating the Khamba Thoibee Sheireng of Hijam Anganghal into English. Your endeavor is good fortune for all of us. As you have already started, go further. You are the right fit to do this job. Just to be blessed, please go once to Ebudhou Thangjing and pray to Him for smooth sailing."

This letter gave fresh vigor to Dr. Jodha. He then decided to accomplish the task as a mission. In order to carry out the very exhortation as said by Oja Tombi, he went to the shrine of Ebudhou Thangjing without delay. As a fortunate stroke of serendipity, Dr. Jodha on that very day had an engagement to participate in a literary function to be held on Loktak Lake.

So he went there together with Dr. Chingangbam Chandrakala, Rajkumari Sanahanbi, and Tonjam Sarojini. He offered rice, perilla seed, fruits, and flowers (cheng, thoiding, hei lei) to Ebudhou Thangjing and prayed for the shower of blessings of success on him for his translation work. From that day again he continued the task of translating Khamba Thoibee Sheireng into English.

He was so absorbed in the work that he did it with little food and little sleep and then ultimately could present the English version of Khamba Thoibee Sheireng of Anganghal to the reading public on 13 November 2016. In his translator's words, Jodhachandra wrote expressing his gratitude to Nongmaithem Tombi Singh, his inspirer—

One respectable friend, who I will never forget in my life, in this context is Prof. Nongmaithem Tombi Singh, Former Vice-Chairman, Jawaharlal Nehru Manipur Dance Akademi, and former President of Manipuri Sahitya Parishad, Imphal.

He wrote such a beautiful letter, classic in its nature, to me in line of encouraging me to complete the job; moreover, he gave me also eight precious books for reference, Manipuri as well as English, of verse-writing on ancient stories, and they happened to be the stuffs which I was looking for. His letter and his gesture immensely proved to be a huge prop for me to go ahead with my self-assigned task.

The extent of exultation that Oja Tombi could derive on the day of the book-releasing function would be no less than that of the translator, Jodha Chandra Sanasam himself. He also presided over the function. The memorable Presidential speech that he delivered to the huge gathering on that day reappeared in the Poknapham daily on 12 December 2016:

November 13th, 2016 was a day that will be reminisced for a long time in the history of Manipuri literature and also by the people who love Manipuri literature bringing radiant smiles to Manipuri literature.

That was the day on which the long-awaited English version of the Khamba Thoibee Sheireng was released. Dr. Jodhachandra Sanasam who had translated the epic into English enduring many trying times, and taking it as a challenge and an obligation for the motherland deserves repeated extolling. I laud you, hey superb translator! Manipuri literature has received a remarkable, cherished, and grand translator. I extend my warm welcome to you. You have become the very Edward FitzGerald of Manipuri literature.

One of Oja Nongmaithem Tombi's long-felt yearnings that would remain true forever was that with his influential ascendence being the driving impetus Dr. Jodhchandra Sanasam could accomplish the production of Khamba Thoibee Sheireng Of Anganghal. Fortunately, within a short time, the book was recommended in the syllabus of the English Department of Manipur University in the year 2017-18 and that of DM University in the year 2018-2019.

Writing a letter to the Sahitya Akademi for organizing a National Seminar on Khamba Thoibee Sheireng after it has been translated into English—
As we have now a perfect epic of Khamba Thoibee Sheireng in English version, Oja Tombi gradually conceived the idea of organizing a National seminar in a short time in an attempt to popularize it extensively at the National and international levels. For this, he promptly submitted a proposal to the Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi and it was tabled for discussion on December 5, 2019, in the Executive Board Meeting. In their proceedings, it was cited thus—

The Executive Committee was informed that the Sahitya Akademi had received a proposal from Prof N Tombi Singh, a former member of the General Council and Manipur Advisory Board of the Sahitya Akademi and former President, Manipuri Sahitya Parishad, Manipur, which was forwarded by N Kirankumar Singh, Convener, Manipuri Language Advisory Board of Sahitya Akademi regarding National Seminar to be organized by the Sahitya Akademi on the theme, 'The Epic Tradition and Contemporary Indian Literature' at any time and date suitable to the Akademi to honor and remember Mahakavi Anganghal Singh (1892-1943), Manipur who wrote the famous epic Khamba Thoibi Sheireng with a special session in the seminar on Anganghal's epic Khamba Thoibi Sheireng.

The Executive Board Meeting after a minute discussion granted approval to the proposal. But unfortunately, it had to be postponed due to the sudden outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic even after the fixation of the date for the seminar to be held in Manipur. As the situation of the pandemic was alleviated gradually, a two-day seminar was successfully organized by the Sahitya Akademi at INA Hall, Moirang, the place of origin of the story of Khamba Thoibee, on 21 and 22 March 2021 with theatre personality, Ratan Thiyam as the Chief Guest. Oja Tombi's dream came true.

His writings in an attempt to popularize Mahakavi Anganghal—

Although Oja Tombi, in his journey of life, could accomplish his endeavors for Anganghal, in his later life too, he set eyes on the task of writing further from his extensive reading of Anganghal's books, to continue to exalt Anganghal by making the entire world accessible to his assets thereon. Thus on his 79th birth anniversary, the collection of his loose essays, Confluence: Essays on Manipuri Literature & Culture was produced in English. In this book, there are five treatises primarily focused on Anganghal.

o Renaissance in Manipuri Literature: The Age of Chaoba, kamal and Anganghal
o Mahakavi Anganghal: Life and Works
o The Philosophy in Khamba –Thoibi Sheireng: An Amaklgation of Meitei and Hindu Thought.
o Manifestation of love in Shingel Indu: Separation and Union
o The Sublime Love Featured in Jahera ofMahakavi Anganghal

These treatises will help tremendously in acclaiming our Mahakavi Anganghal as a precious and rare writer belonging to northeastern India.


As an outcome of Oja Nongmaithem Tombi's dedicated endeavors throughout most of his life for Anganghal, today we can perfectly receive an esteemed Mahakavi of ours.
In the history of Mahakavi Anganghal's firm grounding, Oja Tombi's name cannot be ignored. Acknowledging his priceless contributions, in 2019 CE, Mahakavi Anganghal Trust, Hijam Romani Trust, Kabui Dharma Sabha, Loktak Khorjei Lup, and Sahitya Thoupang Lup collectively honored him with the presentation of the Mahakavi Anganghal Award to him. It should be our responsibility now to honor him further during his lifetime.

Translated from Manipuri by: Dr. Pukhrambam Rajendra Singh

Concluded ....

* Surjitkumar Loitam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on April 27 2023.

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