TODAY -

Loktak Folklore Museum aims high to preserve dying practices of fishing community

Phanjoubam Chingkheinganba *

Loktak Folklore Museum  entrance
Loktak Folklore Museum entrance



Growing up in a small floating biomass in the vicinity of the largest fresh water lake in North East India, the Loktak Lake, Tongbram Amarjit always had an spiritual and emotional bonding with the majestic lake characterized by series of floating islets, the slopping Thangjing hill ranges surrounding it and the only floating National Park in the world-Keibul Lamjao.

34-year-old Amarjit hailing Thanga Tongbram Leikai locality, located some 53 km south of the capital town, to pursue his higher studies and currently works as a Manipuri to English translator at the state Legislative Assembly.

The passionate poet who published a collection of poetry "Labuk ki Manam" literally meaning "The Aroma of the Paddy Fields" in 2013 had always harboured the concept on how to preserve the folklores, myths, legends associated with the Loktak Lake as well as the tools employed by the fishing community based nearby the 287 sq km surface area but limited resources continues to hold him back.

Establishment of the Folklore Museum

Pursuing his Ph.D. in English literature from Manipur University, Amarjit told PTI that he always wanted to present and preserve the rapidly diminishing techniques and tools used by the early fishing community of Thanga area and peripheral areas of Loktak Lake in Bishnupur district, but have been hampered by lack of support from certain quarters.

Nevertheless, a determined Tongbram, from his early days understood that unless he establishes a platform; the objective to preserve the culture and tradition associated with the historic Loktak Lake will never materialize. Henceforth, he voluntarily took up the difficult task of taking a step forward.

The painter artist lamented that though it is an absolute necessity, substitution of early fishing and agricultural techniques with that of modern tools has further deprived the upcoming generations to learn the actual practices associated with the past of Loktak Lake, which presents the "face of Manipur, when it comes to tourism and livelihood" in the state.

This is when the literature enthusiast and painter Tongbram Amarjit with the active assistance of his father Tongbram Ahongjao and siblings decided to turn his dream and passion into reality by establishing the "Loktak Folklore Museum" back in October last year at his own residence after cleaning up the cow-shed in their courtyard.

He continued that he is always on the lookout for any antique items wherever he goes for his infant museum but also had to purchase some items as many of items used in the past are hardly found.

Several of the collections displayed in the tin-roofed infant museum are bamboo-made materials used by the fishing community of Thanga area, bamboo made conical hats, musical instruments, traditional weapons and others.

Collections at Loktak Folklore Museum
Collections at Loktak Folklore Museum



Another uniqueness of this infant museum is the inclusion of a separate section which displays several "medicinal plants grown in flower-pots and used for healing purposes in the past, particularly fever".

Amarjit has high hopes to gradually expand the four-room Museum over the course of years, and that "his foremost priority is to develop a separate gallery for oil paintings" so that it vividly illustrate visitors about the ancient and medieval lifestyle and "the civilization which grew and flourished around Loktak Lake since time immemorial."

President of "Sahitya Thoupang Lup", an organisation, which promotes contemporary Manipuri literature, Amarjit took more than six months to find and convince an elderly person to purchase the two medium sized wheels of which is being kept at the entrance of the museum.

Of these two medium sized wheels, Amarjit opines that "its necessity lies in the fact that it symbolises the development of agriculture."

Historian Professor Gangmumei Kabui in his "History of Manipur" mentions about the presence of Moirang principality which eventually became part of the ethnic Meitei community.

Recalling his great grandfather's narration, Amarjit said "one of the paintings displayed in the folklore Museum illustrates an ancient practice pursued by the early settlers of Thanga on how to lure and catch tigers and other wild animals when it comes to prey upon the livestock reared by the common people of the time."

Despite the financial constraint faced by Amarjit, to enlarge the Museum, he has already spent some Rs 3 lakhs from his own pocket to reach the present level of the museum.

On the other hand, construction of Ithai Dam and deposit of wastes by rivers has rapidly changed the eco-system of Loktak making it more vulnerable to gradual diminishing of the traditional purposes.



Tongbram Amarjit
Tongbram Amarjit



Sangai Festival 2017 and Folklore Museum

Hopes rose high for Amarjit after the newly elected state government decided to organise a 21-km Sangai Run Half Marathon as a prelude to the largest festival of the state.

With the objective to promote the tourism potentiality of the lake, and its historical and tourism values, Chief Minister N Biren Singh had launched a website on October Monday last.

On the other hand, co-founder of an athletic organisation, Ajanta Moirangthem had informed that runners from African region, particularly from Nigeria will be invited for this ten-day long annual event.

Accordingly, an enthusiast Amarjit has been moving around between his Thanga residence and his Imphal residence, more than twice a week, to draw and put up signboards with directions to enable to let "interested individuals" have a look of his museum.

Nevertheless, he acknowledges that his museum lacks varieties of items, required to be called a proper museum, but is quite confident that his primary focus which is to highlight the ways of fishing community of Loktak Lake will succeed and tourist can learn more about the development of the early settlers of Thanga locality.

Despite his hectic official and governmental workload, Amarjit Tongbram is charting out ways to be present at his museum most of the time to narrate more on the items kept in his museum.

Thanga locality is part of the Moirang principality and has deep relationship with the ethnic Chiru and Chothe inhabiting the southern portion of the state, according to the ancestors of his locality, concluded the poet painter Tongbram Amarjit.


* Phanjoubam Chingkheinganba wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is a correspondent for the Assam based newspaper Asomiya Pratidin and also a journalist at Press Trust of India (PTI) and can be contacted at phanjching(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on October 06, 2017.


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