Poireiton Khunthok : An Abridged Translation
- Part 1 -

James Oinam *

 An illustration for the book 'Poireiton Khunthok'
An illustration for the book 'Poireiton Khunthok'

Author: Pundit Shrimoirangthem Chandrasingh
Manipur Sahitya Parishad, Imphal, Manipur
First Published: 1979
Publisher: Manipur Sahitya Parishad, Paona Board, Imphal
Printer: The Friends Union Press, Imphal

Translator's note: Poireiton Khunthok is considered one of the Puyas (ancient manuscripts of Manipur). The present book is written in Bengali script (the original was probably written in Meetei script). Hence, the text is a transliteration. Changes in pronunciation like "p" changed to "b" even in names can be noted.

Also, some significant terms seem to have been introduced like in one place "haibigneita" was replaced with "Satya Yug" (one of the ages according to Hindu religion). The editor/publisher of the book noted the difficulty in bringing out the book due to archaic, incomprehensible words in the manuscript. Hence, the text is divided into two parts.

The first part, in the upper part of each page, is word by word transliteration of the manuscript. The lower part is "modern" rendition in the author's own words, which closely follows the manuscripts, albeit the changes mentioned above.

Unfortunately, even this "modern" rendition (of 1979) is somewhat akin to archaic in the 21st century. Also, in majority of the texts the protagonist (Chingkhong Poireiton) names places and hills after his experiences (which makes sense in Manipuri language). For these reasons, to avoid errors in translation and tediousness, only an abridged version has been attempted here.

Poireiton Khunthok

Long time ago life and death were not divided, and the animals and men were not divided. In the land of the living, "Waba" (bird) helped in ruling the land. Tokpa (cat), who had many incarnations, was the ruler and was helped by others in his work, including Waba. Tokpa asked Waba, "Where you will sleep tonight?" Waba replied, "I will sleep in the eyebrows."

When asked again, Waba replied, "I will sleep in the big neck, leaning against the rock." Tokpa said, "You seem to be making fun of me. Tell me where will you sleep tonight?" "On the tip of sharp nose," answered Waba. At night, Tokpa spit his inside fire on Waba. He licked off the feathers and without even cooking on fire, he chewed and ate Waba raw. Waba died.

The next day, the quick Shabi who helps in building village came and asked where the hard-working Waba, who was follower of Tokpa, is. Tokpa replied, "I ate him raw without cooking at midnight." Shabi said, "If that is the case, you are not fit to be our elder brother."

Shabi thinking that Tokpa might eat him too started digging. The first earth he dug, he pushed in the front and then the later soil he pushed back and started digging until he reached Leinung Thongarel, who ruled the underworld, the land of the dead. Shabi held the pillar of Leinung Thongarel Ahanba and begged him. Leinung Thongarel enquired, "Shabi, what kind of men are you?"

Shabi replied, "I belong to the land of human." "Is there a humankind? What it is like?" asked Leinung Thongarel. "Yes, Thongarel Ahanba. In our world, there are sun, moon, and stars. There are animals and Thongju women. And there are flowers."

"When two roads do not cross, then it is difficult to return. When the width of the canal is wide, then it is difficult to empty the water. So Shabi brother, first you return to your world," ordered Leinung Thongarel. Shabi returned to the land of living.

When coming out to the land of living, holding komberei (a famous flower) and other items of the land underworld on the left hand and those of the land of the living on the right hand, it was found that things of the land of living was better. While flower of underworld was gray, flower of the land of the living was red.

Trees of the land of the living had more branches than those from the underworld. Thus, Leinung Thongarel thought, "Who should go to the land of the living?" I, Leinung Thongarel, am old and my grave has been dug here; my tree has been planted in the courtyard. Hence, younger brother Poireiton should go to the land of the living.

Poireiton retorted, "O Brother, I have no father or mother and I am a bachelor. Hence, I drift this way and that way. However, in the land of the living people are judgemental. As I am bachelor here, I will remain bachelor there also. And people will laugh at me. So, I cannot go."

On hearing this, Leinung Thongarel suggested, "Then take my wife Laikhurenbi with you as your wife."

Laikhurenbi intervened, "O husband Leinung Thongarel, I have grown old with you. We planted trees in the courtyard together. My mouth is wide, my eyes are narrow and slanted, and my bosoms are small. The people of land of the living will make fun of me. I cannot go."

"If that is so then take my younger wife Leinaotabi with you as your wife," said Leinung Thongarel.

Leinaotabi turning toward Poireiton gave her advice, "Dear Poireiton, do not be excited about the journey. Make necessary preparations with a calm mind. We must carry our food and other items of daily necessity.

100 items to eat fresh and 100 items that can be cooked and eaten; weavers of various cloths;
regarding rice varieties, we must carry tongnu phaudi, likshu khamen phaudi, yaisel yaiphau phaudi, chakcha chahao phaudi, etc.;
blacksmiths for agricultural implements and swords; black one you herd the cows;
white one you heard the goats; strong man you carry the axe to clear the shrubs on the way;
shamans you carry flowers for prayers;
footman you carry chickens and ducks to eat for strength; mother shaman you must take 'khoju leikham' (sacred herb that is smoked to drive away evil spirits) and take care of the front and back;
spearman you carry the spear to hunt animals."

"Brother Shabi we cannot go to the land of living by the route you have taken because it is path of the ants and there are bees. And it is too narrow for us to pass, and we would not be able to hunt animals to eat on the way. The other path is blocked by a large stone. Who can open this stone."

Choppa said he will open it. However, he was unable to open it and ended up leaking his ears. The strong man welding axe was not able to open it either.

"Who will open stone door?" asked Chingkhong Poireiton.

The bull declared, "I will try to open this stone door. Put gold in my right horn and silver in my left horn and put a moon mark on my face and decorate my body. Give a pot of food to eat in the morning and another pot to eat in the evening."

All these conditions were fulfilled. For five days he stayed away and fathered a bull. When the calf grew up, the god-like bull came and applied his left horn with silver to the stone door but it did not budge. Then he applied his right horn with gold to the stone door and the door opened easily. Thus, they all come out.

In order to leave and forget the land of the underworld, Poireiton asked his men to offer the fruit of the underworld. His men replied they forgot to bring the fruit. Also, Khamnung Takup Takayang forgot to bring five offerings to greet honourable men of the land of the living. Poireiton commanded, "You both must go back to the underworld to bring these things back."

Khamnung Takup Takayang quickly brought those things back. But his beloved wife Tangribi was one step behind and could not come out as the stone door closed again. "Please drag me up my beloved. Drag me up by holding my small wrist," cried the wife. With heavy heart he had to leave her behind.

To be continued.....

* James Oinam wrote this article for
The writer can be contacted at jamesoinam(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on March 22, 2023 .

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