TODAY -

An introspection to some dimension of compositeness and oneness of the settlers of Manipur
- Part 2 -

Dr Priyadarshni M Gangte *

The varied communities of Manipur
The varied communities of Manipur :: Credit - DIPR Manipur



Elwin, said, "The derivation of the word is still obscure". Gangmumei said "If the Kiratas of the later Vedas, Epics and Puranas were the Indo-Mongoloid tribes of eastern India, the Nagas were definitely among them. But the Nagas of the Sanskrit literature, especially of the Puranas are not the present Nagas under discussion".

Robinson said, "The origin of the word Naga is unknown; but it has been supposed to have been derived from the Sanskrit word 'Nanga' and applied in derision to the people due to scanty nature of their clothing. Be it as it may, the theory of Naga coming from Sanskrit or Hindustani Nanga cannot be easily discarded. The Meitei historical and literary works refer to the Naga tribes as having been in occupation of the hills of Manipur.

Some aspects of homogeneity :

In confirmation, their close affinity is still in manifestation in many aspects of the life-style of these people but for professing of Hinduism by the Meiteis which seemed to have pushed apart these homogeneous groups of Meiteis, Nagas and Kukis. Yet, it would be interesting if we can highlight some such life-cultures of affinity among them.

(1) Attention to genealogy : McCulloch, said, "I have before noticed the circumstance of the Koupooees believing themselves to be occupying the sites of villages which once belonged to the southern tribes, and as this belief tallies with the Khongjai (Kuki) idea … the latter had formerly occupied the position now occupied by the Koupooees (Kabuis). …They pay great attention to their genealogy, and profess to know the names of their Chiefs in succession from their leader out of the bowels of the earth…"

Similarly, he said of the Meiteis that the attention of these tribes to their genealogy is curious, and the circumstance of "…the Munniporees preserving in each family a "Mei-hou-rol" or genealogical tree is a coincidence of custom worthy of notice". This tradition is equally practiced among the Kuki Chin societies. The Kabuis, like the Meiteis worship Lainingthou and Lairembi. Both the communities have accounts of their stay at Koubru hill long time back. One oral history of the Kabuis says that in the ancient time there was a man named Ibodhou Khunthoulemba who had two sons. The elder brother stayed back in the hill and renamed as the Kabuis, while the younger brother moved down to the Valley and became Meetei. Such is an instance of cultural relationship of the people of Manipur without explanation in detail.

(2) Disposal of dead culture : Different death rites such as Burial, Aerial, Water bearer, Consigning into flame etc. were the practices. However it needs hardly be overemphasized that when a person dies, the corpse is buried. This culture is prevalent till date since time immemorial without change despite the fact that the Nagas and the Kukis have embraced Christianity these days.

This burial tradition among the Meiteis was prevalent till the time of Maharajah Garib Niwaz who ordered that the Meiteis should exhume the bodies of their ancestors which they used to bury formerly inside their compounds. It is well known that upto the advent of Hinduism, the dead were buried, and the chronicles mentioned that Khagemba Maharajah enacted a rule to the effect that the dead were to be buried outside the enclosures of the houses. This was altered during the reign of Garib Niwaz.

It is said that he exhumed the bones of his ancestors and cremated them on the bank of Engthi (Ningthi) river. Since then, he ordered his subjects to burn their dead. This change took place sometime in the year 1724, said Hudson. Regarding the death rites and rituals the Meiteis residing at places like Sekmai,Pheiyeng, Loitangkhunou, Khurkhul, Andro, Leimaram and Kwatha are more or less same as that of the Kukis.

The Meiteis of Pheiyeng observed death rites even the same as are prevalent among the Thadou society. The female relatives of the deceased (Chanute) such as own daughters and grand-daughters are obliged to kill at least a pig of 5 (five) wais (one fist) to observe exclusively the family members of the deceased in token expression of sorrow and grief.

It includes persons who took part in digging the grave at the burial ground and those who are near and dear ones. The eldest son, though not the heir also has to perform in like manner to pay respect to the departed soul. Offering cooked rice to deceased is also one of the features performed in token expression of sympathy.

(3) Sanskritic Origin : In as much as protagonists of Aryan origin of the Meiteis claiming descent from Pandavas through Babrubhahana (further research is yet to be done) there are ample Sanskritic backgrounds of the Kukis. Grierson, said, "In the Raj Mala, Siva is stated to have fallen in love with a Kuki woman, and the Kukis are mentioned in connection with the Tipperah Raja Chachag who flourished about 1512, A.D."

Similarly, Kabui, said, "If the Kiratas of the later Vedas, Epics and Puranas were the Indo-Mongoloid tribes of eastern India, the Nagas were definitely among them." And so, said William Robinson that the word Naga had been supposed to have been derived from the Sanskrit word 'Nanga' and applied in derision to the people due to scanty nature of their clothings which must on no account be easily marginalized.

(4) Mera Houchongba Festival : Banned by Garib Niwaz on acceptance of Hinduism on ground of purity and impurity or touchable and untouchable between the hills and the plain, Mera Houchongba Festival as a common culture among the people of the hills and the plain is one glaring evidence that had been in existence for centuries together before it was forcibly made to abandon.Khoibus are still known to preserve the cultural affinities with the Meiteis is represented by a ritual dance, Haichingbawng, the most important of the many on the occasion which falls in the full moon during the month of October every year.

On this occasion all the people from the valley and the hills brought together their offerings to the King all varieties of new arrivals of the year's crops and vegetables including paddy from their fields and made their festivities in the presence of the King and in praise of the Almighty for the abundance of blessings given to them and for a more rich harvests in the years to come. Unfortunately, with the embracing of Hinduism this was discontinued with a decree from the King.

It was revived in recent years mainly with a view to bringing about a closer and better relationship and emotional integration among the people living in the hills and the valley. Yet, all the while, such a rich culture has been in vogue among the hill people which have now been officially declared as general holiday on the day of Kut for the Kukis and Lui-Ngai-Ni for the Nagas.

(5) Affinity in Vocabulary : Being under the Tibeto-Burman Family group speaking dialects of the same language, the Meiteis, Nagas and Kukis ought to have certain amount of linguistic affinity which should be manifested in their vocabularies. In this regard it will be relevant to note that –

(i). Kuki language is called in Manipur Thadou-Pao. This language does not have 'L' for 'R'. Thus for a word that requires 'R' in its spelling it is substituted by either the letter 'L' or 'G' as the case may be;

The Nagas do not have a common language unlike the Meiteis and the Kukis. Yet, the most outstanding advancement in developing a common language is the TangkhulNagas who adopted the Ukhrul dialect as their common language. So when language affinity is made on comparative study Tangkhul language will be used.

(To be continued .....)


* Dr Priyadarshni M Gangte wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is Associate Professor and Co-ordinator, Human Rights & Duties Education Centre, Damdei Christian College, Motbung
This article was posted on June 13, 2017.


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