Gaudiya Vaishnavism : An Integrating force in the Amalgamation of Meitei Nation
- Part 2 -

Manindra Konsam *

As such, an initiation of an evolution of a common bonding of cultural tradition for the integrated Meitei power can be seen since the beginning of the amalgamation of the Meitei Nation. However, in the process of the common cultural evolution for the amalgamated Meitei power, there are historical evidences that shows: the Meitei also developed their own distictive culture different from the other groups they subdued and amalgamated to their own power.

For such insertion, the followings may be considered:-I. Meidingu Ningthoukhomba (1432-1467 A.D.) wanted to attack and subdue the Moiraang but hasitated as both the powerful Khuman and Kabo were allies of Moirang. Whereas the Kabo was friendly with the Meitei but the Khuman remaind a great adversary. So, the Meitei king planned a conspiracy with the Chief of Andro to make alleis with the Kabo to attack Moirang.

The Chief of Andro was sent to Kabo for requesting help for Meitei to attack Moirang. Meanwhile a night, Meitei secretly attacked Kabo and beheaded Kabo queen and placed the head atop the palace gate of the Kabo. The Meitei attackers on their return left scattering meal leftovers wrapped in lotus leaves to mislead them as Moirang as it was a customary tradition of the Moirang of wrapping their meal packages (Chayom) -4-in lotus leaves, whereas the Meitei wrapped their's in Leihouraa (plantain leaves of edible banana) and the Khuman in Changbi Laa (leaves of wild plantain).

II. Meidingu Nongyin Phaaba (1523-1524 A.D.) ascended at the tender age of 10 yr. after his father Meidingu Lamkyamba (1512-1523 A.D.). Taking advantage of the Meitei king's young age, Angom King Angoupaamba Kyamba forcibly married the young king's queen mother Chaningphaabi. One day the Angom king came to the royal court adoring Urekshek Chaashangba (painted feather of white Heron) on his head which was a customary to the Meitei but not of the Angom. So the Meitei queen mother protested the nature of the Angom king and consequently got killed along with her young king son.

On the other hand, it is also a well known fact that all the different groups of people (regardless of smaller groups that merged to one or another bigger group) amalgamated to the Meitei power and integrated through common cultural bondings in many ways, still continued to enjoyed their own distinctive ways of folk culture and traditions.

Each group had their own distinctive paterns and colours of costumes and ornaments that could show the identity of the group they belongs. They had day to day habits and ritualistic practices different from one another.

For example:-I. Meidingu Yaanglou Keiphaaba (969-984 A.D.) introduced the pattern of embroidering Khoi (a curve design) in the border of the Meetei womens' Phanek Mayek Naibi (stripe-sarong) which was adopted by all the groups amalgamated to the Meitei power. However that was done in different colours of distinctive stripe-sarong to identify the women wearer of the respective group she belongs. Such as :

a. Ningthoujaa (Meitei) : Thambal machu phanek (indigo and red stripe).
b. Khaaba-Ngaanba : Chigonglei phanek (golden and black stripe).
c. Angom : Langhou phanek (black and white stripe).
d. Chenglei (sharaang Leishaang and Haorok Konthou) : Loirang phanek (reddish and white stripe).
e. Luwang : Higok phanek (sky-blue and black strip).
f. Khuman : Kumjingbi phanek (dark blue and whitish stripe).
g. Moirang : Hangampal phanek (yellow and reddish stripe).

(Those trend of wearing distinctive colours stripe-sarong by the Meitei women conforming to their respective groups continued till the Great World War II. But after the War, Meetei women started trendsetting to wear any kind of stripe-sarong as they like and continues to be still in vogue.

II. The Chakpas of Manipur is a strong group of people who came and settled in this land since early days.Their main settlement areas with their religious practices which had affinity to the Tantric culture of Mahayana Buddhist were in and around the present day Bishnupur (Lamaangdong). They were defeated and -5-brought within the Meitei power during the reign of Meidingu Kongyaamba (1324-1335 A.D.).

But they continued to remain with their customary practices and distinctive dialect. As such, The Chairen, subdued and brought within the Meitei power during the reign of Meidingu Telheiba (1335-1355 A.D) also remained retaining their customary practices; whereas the Heirem Khunjaan, subdued at the same time with the Chairen got completely merged to the Meitei fold.

In addition to the above circumstances, alien groups with their distinctive cultural traditions started settling within the amalgamated Meitei power either by means of forced exlusive settlements as war captives or by migration from both the east and west. So, by the turns of the early 18th c. A.D., it may easily be concieved the the hard earned amalgamated Meitei Power and Nation might surely had faced a chaotic social order.

By the turn of the 18th c. A.D., the small valley of Manipur, though it housed the seat of power of the amalgamated Meitei Nation, had numbers of different cultural colours which were not rightly befitted for a nation. Other than the amalgamated groups of the Meitei Power and Nation, the valley had housed- Takhel (Tripuri) Vaishnav Hindu village (later to be mingled with Chinese), Mayaang (Cachari) Vaishnav Hindu village, Mayaang Kaalishaa (later Bishnupriya) Shaakta Hindu villages, Khraamran (Burmese) Buddhist village, Kameng (Burmese Karen) Buddhist village, Muslim villages and in between Brahmans from different parts of India with their different Hindu school of thoughts.

In such chaotic combinations of different cultures in a small land like Manipur valley where the seat of power for the amalgamated Meitei power and Nation leis, why a Meitei king would not like to adopt a state religion to bring common cultural traditions for his amalgamated subjects for integration as one?

Therefore, during the reign of King Pamheiba @ Garibaniwaz (1709-1748), there came a real time for the Meitei nation to have one common religion to shape one complete entity for the amalgamated Meitei power and its nation. So the king had to choose one from the three emerging religion of the world: -
1. Buddhism, a flourished religion of the south-east Asia including neighboring Burma, the then greatest enemy of the Meitei;
2. Islam, an alien but worldwide religion but then emerging forcefully in the eastern part of India;
3. Vaishnava Hinduism of India, the religion of the then friendly neighbouring kingdom of Ahom and Cachar.

The king rightly decided for Vaishnava Hinduism the religion, his father Meidingu Charairongba (1697-1709 A.D.) fondly embraced and patronised. But, adoptation of Vaishnava Hinduism by Meidingu Garibaniwaz for his amalgamated Meitei power brought more chaotic altercations than to bring common bonding among his amalgamated subjects as Hinduism in the valley of Manipur started reaching in varied forms with different colour and outlooks.

-7-PS: The English in the above article is subject to correction and improvement as the writer is not habitual of writing in English. - The writer.

To be continued...

* Manindra Konsam, Editor, Sanathong Monthly, wrote this article for Imphal Times
This article was webcasted on November 15, 2018.

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