Maring Identity: A Brief Historical Origin

K. Modar Maring *

A Maring Cultural Troupe
A Maring Cultural Troupe

The term "Maring" is derived from the word "Meiring" or "Meiringba" where "Mei" stands for "fire" and "ring" stands for "alive" which means "the people who keep fires unquenched/alive".

The traditional oral history says that this people "Maring" or "Meiring" or "Meiringba" obtained fire from a traditional ways of making fire called "Meihongtang" using dry wood of a particular tree called Khongma-heeng with bamboo strips and dry bushes or grasses. The bamboo strips are rubbed with dry grasses/bushes against dry Khongma-heeng until fire produced due to friction.

The fire thus produced is considered "sacred" (Meikhring) and were set up at sacred places like village altar called Malamun or Rlhamun, Village Gate called Palshung and Dormitories called Rkhang. The sacred fire is kept burning by feeding fire woods (Meirupheeng) and this practice of keeping fire alive/burning continued till the dawn of Christianity in Maring Land.

Today, the Marings are settled mostly in Chandel District in the South-Eastern part of the present State of Manipur (India) bordering Myanmar. Some of them are found scattered in places like Senapati, Ukhrul, Churachandpur, Tamenglong, Thoubal, Imphal East and West Districts of Manipur.

But the oral legend of our forefathers that have been handing down from generation to generation says that the Marings were once living inside a cave called "Nungmuisho" in Kulvi-Shongshong under the rulership of Khopu-Rampuwith full civilization like;

  1. 1) Charang: Purangmei (Rangmeithil) 2) Dangsha: Khalsherung 3) Makung: Kungkrung and 4) Tontang: Tangkirung (Phur'in-Phurkham/Tumpok-Khingmanchok)
The legend further says that the life inside the cave or underneath the Earth was terribly difficult and hard. However they could not come out of the cave as there was a big stone gate called "Lungthung" sealing the gate of the cave. They tried to open the Lungthung (stone gate) using several means like pig, cow and buffalo but failed.

According to the legend, the flattened nose of pig and the crack marks on buffalo's horns were received while trying to push open the Lungthung (Stone gate). After much consultation among themselves, Shirimpa Bungrang (a black male Mithun white spotted) was sent and the Mithun opened the gate at last.

Thus, the Marings who had been struggling to set free themselves from the terrible and hard life in Nungmuisho (Cave or underneath the Earth) at last could come out of the cave and thus the first settlement on earth begun there at Kulvi-Shongshong.

It is also said that Mithun is therefore the only accepted animal for important rituals and ceremonies like naming of person (Minphuk-phalphuk), erection of monument stones (Thillai), ritual ceremony for erection of flower vats and poles (Paryao/halbu-bun), as Bride Price, etc.

From Kulvi-Shongshong, the Maring people gradually scattered to different directions and established many settlements into village. The Indigenous faith/belief (Primal religion) of the Marings has been firmly based on traditional ways of invocations, worships, offerings, sacrifices, appeasement and healing.

They believed in all these systems and practiced them for their sustenance. The Marings believed that there is one God, called/known as Om (The Supreme Deity), whose natural benevolence is believed to be only one and is above all.

Maring War Dance
Maring War Dance

He is the Creator (Seempi-ShapiPu) of all things, including heavens (thangwan, nungthou, khiya ram) and human beings and things; the Sustainer (Dunpi-yukpiPu), the God of Universe (Shimlei-ThangwanPu).

Besides this, they worshipped other lesser gods or gods of the lower realm called 'Thrai'. They also worshipped the local deity called Rampu-tupu/ram thrai/lukbamthrai (god of the high places/sacred places); they also believed in the village deity (Kholamal-pu/pallshungthrai); and the 'ancestral deity' called Cheem-thrai.

Whenever the Marings worship God/Umpu or the deities, they make offerings (thuina-put makat), sacrifice animals (malamthut), ranging from a mere offering of water (yuykhyingbunsunda) to an offering (sacrifice) of birds and animals including Mithun(Shirim).

Maring Lasses in Traditional Attire
Maring Lasses in Traditional Attire

They also prepare ritual feasts. The Marings also believed in the existence of the evil spirits or devils, called Shea-krao, Langa (lhim-krao), tathi-tahoikhi-krao, kmang-krao, etc. These are the malevolent spirits, which caused sickness or diseases and sufferings to human beings.

These devils or the evil spirits are not worshipped, but they were propitiated/appeased with sacrifices of animals called luk-khang or luk-thut or puluk-thut so that they don't harm or trouble human beings.

The Marings believed that there is life after death. They believed that those who died the good dead will go up above, while the bad will go below to a place inside the earth i.e. khiya ram (the hell or the place of dead).

But those who died in an extraordinary/unnatural manner will flit about between heaven and the earth (uncertain place). The reward of a virtuous life is immediate, since "after death the good are born again at once into this world".

The Marings performed ritual rites in every feast or festival and various occasions connected with the traditional and customary functions such as seed sowing, harvesting, house constructions and inaugurations, child births, cleansing ceremony after the child birth (tuytrumkngei), marriage and death or condolence and funerals, etc.

Marings worshiped God in different forms and places according to the situations and occasions. They worship the household deity as cheemthrai. The local deity is worshipped as rampu-tupu.

The deity of high places/sacred places or groves is worshipped as Lukbamthrai; the village Altar deity is worshipped as Kho-lamunPu; the fertility deity' is worshipped as Umhai.

Maring Lads in Traditional Attire
Maring Lads in Traditional Attire

The God of blessing is worshipped as Umkarsui-Umkarshang. Above all, the Marings worshipped the God of Universe (Shimlei-ThangwanPu), the Creator of both living and non-living beings as Seempi-shapipu Dunpu.

They also worshipped the spirit of the Patriotic Heroes of the village(s) in order to protect the village(s) or the villager(s) from their enemies and the evils and even to help them in the warfare or in the battle fields to confront their enemies during the times of head hunting.

The Maring Tribe belongs to Naga inhabiting mainly in Chandel district of Manipur

See a gallery photos of Maring in traditional attire here

* K. Modar Maring contributes to regularly. The writer is a residence of Waithou Phunal Maring LilongBazar, Imphal East Manipur-795130
The contributor may be contacted at kmodar(at)gmail(dot)com
This article was webcasted on August 17, 2011.

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