Water as cultural symbol of Meiteis
- Abstracts from NE Water Talk 2023 -

Mamta Lukram *

 Kanglei Haraoba Festival at Ibudhou Marongkhong Chingdrensana Pakhangba Laibung, Imphal :: June 07th 2017
Kanglei Haraoba Festival at Ibudhou Marongkhong Chingdrensana Pakhangba Laibung, Imphal in June 2017 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam

The Meitei evolutionary myths believe that concept of God is connected to the entities of Nature. God dwell in Heaven, Goddess in water and enshrine on Earth. It is heaven-earth-water syncretisation. Water is considered as the most scared realm where God dwell in.

'Lai ikouba' is a ritual of spiritual invocation of God from water appeasing them to enshrine on earth for blessing peace, prosperity, happiness and oracles instilling preparedness to face possible ill- for- tunes too.

In 'Lai-Haraoba' or Merrymaking of Gods rituals, Lai-ikouba is the traditional opening ritual. Rituals are performed by 'Amaibi' priestess assisted by 'Amaiba' priest. Water is a cultural symbol engrained with mosaics of identity to the Meitei community.

The eight (8th) lunar month, 'Langban' usually falling during September-October is traditionally dedicated to worshiping of ancestors and departed souls called 'Langban Heisoi Katpa'. Married away daughters of the family would bring fruits, flowers and other ritual items to their ancestral homes a day ahead or on the day's early morning. Families with no daughters support on their own.

Preparation of fruits slicing in specified uniform manner and other ritual items along with flowers are done by female family members. Offerings are made by elders of the family into the nearby water body, rivers in particular or wetlands.

 Beautiful landscape of Loktak Lake as seen on 8th June 2022
Beautiful landscape of Loktak Lake as seen on 8th June 2022 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam

Water is Mother. The goddess of water we call her Ereima, Mother water. We call our 'Loktak Lake' Ema/Mother. The story of community resistance in all contestation of interests with development stake-holders and the margi- nalised fishing community of lake has always been spearheaded by Emas, mothers. They understand it as their obligation to protect and conserve the lake's ecology.

Simultaneously, they also believe it as their birthright to live with Blessings of Loktak Ema. Nevertheless, the womenfolk who lead the resilience movements are often left aside from negotiating tables with minimal partici- pation in policy making.

Besides the narratives of good water, there are also myths of evil water. Amongst the Meitei community cases extreme skin rashes and itchy feel on the skin is traditionally referred to as 'Erai-khonglai,' a skin infection rather temporary in nature, believed to befall when the evil Goddess that resides on the natural drains and ditches is being offended.

Onset of monsoon season is the time when it usually happens, where medical science has its explanation on the cause. Belief system of the cure is based on appease, negotiate and chase away. Traditional healers would make offerings called 'Khayom Lakpa,' done in water bodies. Healers identified the items of offerings and chanting.

Similar instances are found in narratives of people of other ethnic commu- nities like Maring tribes of Manipur who inhabit around Tengnoupal district. It is believed that muscle cramps, sickness or skin rashes are due to mistaken contacts or utilisation of water from stream or water source identified of possessing negative energy. Cases mostly spike during onset of monsoon season.

Traditional healers perform the healings by making offerings that include selected herbs. Coincidentally these practices have been proving effective ever since. Hopefully there may be scientific reasons behind for such cure.

 Langban Heitha Leithaba Numit : For martyrs of Great June Uprising at Kekrupat :: September 30th 2023
Langban Heitha Leithaba Numit at Kekrupat on September 30th 2023 :: Pix - Khaba Kh

Faith in Rain God is another animistic entity of the Meitei people. Worshipping of rain God in times of urgencies like drought or rain is a popular oral history. 'Nong Kouba' invoking the rain God is traditionally performed by a group of women when there is drought or no rain for many months.

It is believed that the rain God must be made to listen to the clarion call from the earth below for its blessings of rain on earth. The reverse myth is also apparently there, 'Nongkhamba' is the faith of halting the rain for specific time/hours. In certain cases, whenever there are important occasions, to divert the rain direction people use bamboo basket tied on a pole with negotiating remarks followed by simple rituals.

There is also popular culture of 'Pangan Maiba' Muslim priest in cases of drowning and manual rescue operations. As a land with plenty of water bodies and wetlands, one non-negotiable incident is cases of drowning. Rescue operations are usually relied on community people. However in tough situations, reference is made of 'Pangan Maiba.'

May be coincidence, expertise or myth, search operations have been successfully carried out in extreme cases. Without any scientific equipment for life support, they evolved calibre of staying underneath water for long during the search.

The concepts of youth's connectedness with concepts of water and water bodies are tap water, recreational parks and picnic spots. Youths of today's generation are over indulged in phones killing inspirations for physical works. It also afflicts the patience and listening capacity.

Generally speaking, hardly do youths initiate volunteerism of cleaning a polluted water body. Instead, picnic spots are the locations of preference for the youths. Post-picnic spots littered with irresponsible scattering of polluting items are becoming iconic youth culture connected to water in Manipur.

Management of water bodies is becoming the striking key note with regards to all discourses on water in Manipur. Shrinking wetlands, mismanaged water bodies, polluted rivers, untreated direct dumping of waste into the water bodies, refilling and reclaiming land acquisition over wetland ecologies, imbalanced development projects are some challenges the State is currently facing.

In the valley of the State in the name of irrigation and water supply, dams have been constructed, blocking the natural flow. The outcome of the dams and the cost-benefit analysis has given clear picture of how those barriers over our rivers have brought more damages than gain. Simultaneously, agricultural productivity is affected a lot losing the self-sufficient food status of the State.

The second 'Nupi Lan,' women war of 1939 against the massive export of rice from Manipur would never come back again in the history after dams are constructed, as productivity decreases with losing away of land, population increase and inevitable dependence on the imported products. The height of impacts farmers are facing due to mismanagement of water bodies is an alarm.

A lot has been discussed on the issues of the valley, while bringing up an issue from the hilly region; rivers in Tamenglong side are taken for granted natural streams for the development stakeholders. The construction works of Railway Tunnels and due to direct dumping of waste into the rivers and erosion, natural flows are blocked.

It affects the water quality, volume and velocity of the rivers. Streams are drying up and the rivers are not able to supply the quantum of water they used to before obstructions. It severely affects the productivity of tribal community who are known for their margina-lised economic background.

Water commercialisation and water conflicts are foreseen future if the lacunae is not checked efficiently. Water, a natural resource where the people harness it without any hesitation is more becoming issues of inter-village, intra-village and inter-community conflicts.

The current ethnic crisis and the connected discontent with massive deforestation and depleting catchments regions of the many perennial rivers, streams and springs is a point to be pondered upon. The rise of commercial water supply plants and water tankers monopolising the water issues in all pockets of the State shows the ineffective public water supply schemes. While people struggle for water, commercial water traders prosper.

Use of single use water bottle is the trending culture amongst the Meiteis. Once break open the cap, a bottle is being understood as used. Sharing bottles is not encouraged, may be more an impact of COVID-19 pandemic, where half-full, quarter-full, just caps open water bottles are disposed in plenty.

During feastings, social functions and occasions, biggest challenge in the post-event management are the discarded water bottles. Water bottles and bottles everywhere is the intriguing water culture of the Meiteis.

* Mamta Lukram wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on November 01 2023 .

* 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.

  • North East Meet on Free Flowing Rivers
  • Violence in Manipur 2023 :: News Timeline
  • Why Separate Admin can pose threat to India
  • Manipur launches 'War on Drugs', but ...
  • Pollution is an incurable disease for the Planet
  • What is the way forward ?
  • Wasting seven months
  • Hereditary Chieftainship exists only in Manipur
  • Make labour & migration safe for women
  • The Power of Poppy - 10 :: Poem
  • Medical Assistance to 4 Journalists
  • African Swine Fever- A threat to pig farming
  • Infiltration from across the border
  • Forcing to fight a losing battle
  • Relief Materials @Sawombung : Gallery
  • December Calendar for Year 2023 : Tools
  • Manipur champions 29th Natl Thang-Ta
  • Rollback of Kangpokpi District
  • India's G20 Presidency & multilateralism
  • 8th eNorth East Award 2023
  • Politics over dead bodies
  • The darker side of Kuki CSOs
  • Sagol Kangjei Esei #1 : Gallery
  • Featured Front Page Photo 2023 #5: Gallery
  • Petition to Rectify UN PR surpasses 100000
  • Workshop : Integration of Social Change
  • Homemade face packs with honey
  • Indo-Naga Talks (From 2012) :: Timeline
  • Where have the guns come from ?
  • Securing future for the next 1000 years
  • Oinam Chaoba Devi: Sepak Takraw : Gallery
  • Mirik Memories
  • Program Explores Gender & Mental Health
  • Ensuring proper sanitation as careers
  • Purul Paoki (Paddy Plantation) #2 : Gallery
  • Young Adulthood: A Blank Canvas
  • Demand for Naga Flag, Constitution are hurdle
  • Meitei Alliance officially launched [Upd]
  • Indian fisheries : The sunrise sector
  • The descent of Radha-Krishna #12: Download
  • 6th NE Fashion Week : Final Report
  • Misuse of medicines is making infections ...
  • A unique initiative by Coal & Lignite PSUs
  • Relief Materials @Moirang : Gallery
  • Plant disease management in organic farming
  • AMEA - 40th foundation day
  • HPV Vaccination Services launched
  • 40th Foundation Day AMEA : Gallery
  • 43rd Foundation - Manipur Women's college
  • Is Myanmar on the brink of 'breaking apart'
  • Guideline for preparation of UPSC exams
  • Art Exhibition: RKCS Art Museum #3 : Gallery
  • Growing call to find all TB to stop TB
  • Ethnic strife in Manipur :: Poem
  • Meitei 'Tribal', almost ST now
  • Honouring tribal tradition and pride
  • Questions on sticking to SoO
  • Pinning hopes on justice delivery system
  • Naga-Kuki Clash 1992-94
  • Volcanoes of India
  • Climate in 2023, a tipping point for crisis
  • Day 3: 6th NE Fashion Week
  • Photography & Creative Writing Contest
  • Time to go after the big fishes
  • Political insensitivity to suffering of citizens
  • Interview : Ayekpam Maipak (Sepak Takraw)
  • Shillong Cherry Blossom Festival
  • Technologies in veterinary extension services
  • National Integration & Social Harmony
  • Paradox of ignorance & quest for knowledge
  • More than sighting a flying object
  • Seeking central help to end conflict
  • Relief Materials @Phubala : Gallery
  • Adolescence Crisis
  • European Higher Education Virtual Fair
  • Day 2: 6th NE India Fashion Week
  • Will govts firewall health from Big Tobacco
  • Missed call campaign from MTU
  • Questioning the legitimacy of Kuki history
  • The descent of Radha-Krishna #11: Download
  • For Whom the Bell Toll ?
  • Cancer Awareness at Imphal East
  • Winter Relief for IDPs at Moirang
  • Licypriya to miss UN Climate in Dubai
  • Careers related to controlling diabetes
  • Relief Materials @Sawombung : Gallery
  • Those responsible for 'removal' of RN Ravi...
  • Relief Distribution at Sawombung
  • JAC against Brutal Killing of Birchandra
  • National Lok Adalat at Lamphelpat
  • India's UPI: Global front-runner in digital
  • The ill-logic of ITLF's self-rule declaration
  • Frustrated call for 'self rule'
  • Sonia Khundrakpam: Yuva Puraskar Award
  • Moirangthem Nilamani: Lifetime Achievement
  • The Power of Poppy - 9 :: Poem
  • Maipak Inka: 1st Inpui Christian Convert
  • Cancer Awareness & Screening at Thoubal
  • World Diabetes Day 2023
  • The self-rule ultimatum of ITLF
  • Debate over ST for Meiteis demand
  • Designate Moreh as a Special Admin Zone
  • Relief Distribution at Keibi Heikakmapal
  • Black Rice & Glycemic Index
  • Innovative nanofertilizer for green agriculture
  • Art Exhibition: RKCS Art Museum #2 : Gallery
  • Surviving Pre-adolescence
  • Ride Against Narco Conspiracy
  • 15th Manipur State Film Award 2023 Results
  • In the stillness of night :: Poem
  • Skincare essentials for travellers
  • Dark Diwali & Fasting Chakkouba
  • Killing two birds with one stone ?
  • Morning : Mera Houchongba #1 : Gallery
  • Ningol Chakouba Funds to Support IDPs
  • A book & a story for the kids
  • World Diabetes Day - 2023
  • Burning hay is suicidal for farmers
  • NCC Car Rally - Nagaland Leg
  • Tasks before the Government
  • The sound of silence - missing teens
  • Tangkhul legends & Tenimiyas
  • Catch them Young! Early Childhood
  • Merciless November :: Poem
  • Free Eye Camp on diabetic retinopathy
  • Ningol Chakkouba or Chakkoudaba
  • Internal displacement, not separation
  • An indication to road ahead
  • Manipuri Student in Bangladesh : Gallery
  • Meeting with SABF, NID & CCU Taiwan
  • Livelihoods Development Program for IDPs
  • NSUD Diamond Jubilee Celebration at Delhi
  • Sleep :: T Lingcholi Sangtam
  • Disaster Management as Career
  • Mass rally demanding NRC #2 : Gallery
  • Licypriya appears in CBSE textbook
  • Mapam Lamdam Chatnatha :: Poem
  • Absurd rebuttal of Shimray
  • Rebuttal to article "Meitei's exclusion"
  • Writing India's growth with logistics efficiency
  • A place of pride on the medals tally
  • Time for India to rethink on its balancing act
  • Promoting Chakhao : Manipur's Black Rice
  • Truly powerhouse of sports : Manipur
  • Scholarship for Nursing & Paramedical
  • Legal Services Day & Commendation
  • Cancer Awareness at MU
  • Digital Library for the benefit of students
  • Drop the two Ministers
  • The bane of prolonging internet shutdown
  • Interview with Shanglakpam Nilakanta
  • Successful fruiting of Thailand Yongchak
  • 5 selected to attend 54th Intl Film Fest
  • Know your pest : Spiralling Whitefly
  • Flagging off ceremony of Mobile Van
  • World food India 2023 & beyond
  • Disturbing writings on the wall
  • At odds with the SoO pact
  • Guard of honour: Anand Kumar #2 : Gallery
  • Relief Services @Serou : Gallery
  • 6th North East India Fashion Week
  • Know more about canine parvovirus
  • Preventing Exploitation of Environment in War
  • Missing : The thread that connects
  • The right way to deal with miscreants
  • Hope Fest, for people displaced #2 : Gallery
  • The Power of Poppy - 8 :: Poem
  • Tokhu Emong: Post Harvest Fest of Lotha
  • Mizoram: AAP leaders from Nagaland ..
  • Theatre Workshop & Book Review
  • Hand-over Moreh to Army
  • Manipur needs to come to her senses
  • Capitalising on Manipur crisis
  • Mass rally demanding NRC #1 : Gallery
  • The Sentinelese, World's Lonely Tribe
  • Mental Health and our Environment
  • Condemns Committee's Highhandedness
  • Beauty tips for the perfect Diwali look
  • Lying for a lost cause
  • Is internet ban the answer ?
  • The descent of Radha-Krishna #10: Download
  • The last gaze- makes millions weep :: Poem
  • Which is responsible- greed or grievance
  • Felicitation of Awangbow Newmai
  • Let's safeguard our heritage through AV
  • Garo Language in Eighth Schedule
  • Mera Houchongba #2 : Gallery
  • Time's ceaseless voyage :: Poem
  • Vegetable/ fish IFS by using water tank
  • World Food India 2023
  • Leap for higher education in India
  • Defang the militants
  • Decoding objection to state force deployment
  • Guard of honour: Anand Kumar #1 : Gallery
  • Meira Paibis- between violence & narratives
  • Winter Relief Services : Gallery
  • Meetei ST Status: An artificial Controversy
  • The Human Mind Unravelled :: Review
  • Detecting illegal immigrants
  • Who is responsible for death of Moreh SDPO
  • Ayekpam Maipak (Sepak Takraw) : Gallery
  • Condemn cowardly killing of Moreh SDPO
  • SC Jamir recalls encounter with BK Nehru
  • Veganism- big way to save environmental
  • The essence of Rashtriya Ekta Diwas
  • Time to act with an iron fist
  • Dragging on for nearly 180 days
  • Water as cultural symbol of Meiteis
  • Condemn the brutal act at Moreh
  • The Power of Poppy - 7 :: Poem
  • Tuesday holiday not Friday !
  • Relief at Temporary Shelter Home
  • Ningthamtha changlakpagi relief camp
  • The politics of conflict : Why is AR here ?
  • Role of fringe elements in prolonging crisis
  • Chaga Ngee: Age-Old festival of Liangmai
  • Kolkata, the Roshogolla City
  • Breast Cancer Awareness at Khwairamband
  • Career for women in police
  • What to do when your dog is poisoned
  • Ensuring rule of law matters more than ever
  • Mind your common sense: Carcass in Loktak
  • Bor khoiramba @Hiyangthang #2 : Gallery
  • When will we start caring for our caregivers?
  • For those who stood :: Poem
  • Meetei exclusion from ST- queer controversy
  • Visit to relief camps : Gallery
  • Signature campaign: Rectify UN press release
  • Winter Relief @ Kakching : Gallery
  • Tarpon chaklen @Andro #1 : Gallery
  • 4th Rongmei Freshers' Meet (Delhi)
  • Shanglakpam Nilakanta (Hockey) : Gallery
  • Rally against Narco-Terrorism #4 : Gallery
  • Students Murder Protest [Sep 27] #3 : Gallery
  • Students Murder Protest [Sep 26] #3 : Gallery
  • Help for injured students : Gallery
  • Collective fund for injured students
  • Students Murder Protest [Sep 27] #2 : Gallery
  • Students Murder Protest [Sep 26] #2 : Gallery
  • Students Murder Protest [Sep 27] #1 : Gallery
  • Protesters & AR @Pallel #2: Gallery
  • Rebuttal: EGI Fact-finding Mission Report
  • List of Kings of Manipur: 33 - 1984 AD
  • Model of Spelling-bee Competition
  • HSLC 2023 :: Top 25 Rank Holders
  • HSLC 2023 :: Subject Topper
  • HSLC 2023 :: Full Result
  • HSLC 2023 :: Compartmental Result
  • HSLC 2023 :: Pass % : Govt Schools
  • HSLC 2023 :: Pass % : Private Schools
  • HSLC 2023 :: Pass % : Aided Schools
  • HSE 2023 Toppers :: Science
  • HSE 2023 Toppers :: Arts
  • HSE 2023 Toppers :: Commerce
  • From May 3, 1993 to the present
  • COVID-19 : Impact in Manipur :: News Timeline