TODAY -

Hinduism in Manipur
- Part 4 -

Dr. Chirom Rajketan Singh *

 Shree Shree Govindaji Temple at Palace Compound, Imphal on January 21 2016
Shree Shree Govindaji Temple at Palace Compound, Imphal on January 21 2016 :: Pix - Deepak Oinam



On the first day of Holi small huts of straw are made where the idol of Shri Gourachandra is placed and worship in the evening. After the puja is over the huts are burnt. After this small children would go from door to door for Nakatheng (asking for money). Besides this the unmarried ladies come out on the road, stopping passers-by by blocking the road with a rope and asking for donations.

There is playing of colours, singing of holi hymns by old and young and Thabal Chongba at night (a kind of dancing to the music by holding each others hands). These are the various activities that take place during the five day Holi. Old people (both men and women) would offer their service to Shri Govinda, Shri Bijoy Govinda temples by singing Holi hymns.

Holi is totally a mixed festival in Manipur. It is not celebrated in this way in other parts of the country. The name of the festival itself is different. It is called Yaoshangin Manipur. The tradition of Thabal Chongba dates back to the time of origin of this land. Burning of Yaoshang (straw hut) is associated with the story of Gouranga Mahaprabhu. Playing of Holi is related to Krishna and Radha.

It is also related with the story of Holika (daughter of Hireinya Kaushipura) and Prahlada. All the Hindu festivals that are celebrated in Manipur are all modified according to the tradition and way of life of the place. So they all seem to have originated here.

Birth Rituals:

Birth rituals that are carried out nowadays shows intermixing of old Meitei tradition with Hindu religion. In Meitei tradition during pregnancy the would be mother and father have to refrain themselves from doing certain things. On the fifth day after the birth of a child the mid wife (Chabokpi Maibi) performs a ritual for the long life of the new born in the morning. This ritual is called Epan Thaba.

At dusk, the Brahmin performs Swasti Pujah. He prays to the Destiny god Swasti Devi for the child's long life. The child's maternal uncle (mamma) will shoot arrows. This is followed by the blessing of the new born by showering money and gifts. The morning ritual is Meitei tradition while evening's ritual is Hindu based.

Chakumba:

This is the ritual of introduction of baby to first solid food. The ritual is performed at 5 months for baby girls and at 7 months for baby boys. On this day the child is made to wear silver ornaments - anklets, bangles, neck chain etc. with traditional new dress. The ritual may be performed in a simple way without Brahmin, Priests or Astrologers.

The child is made to taste the fish and rice just for namesake after offering it to the gods. Then the child is made to touch certain objects like book, gold, currency note, paddy etc. which are placed in front of him/her. This is done to see what the child would become when he grow up. With the coming of Hinduism the ritual changes a bit.

In the Hindu temple, rice, sugar and milk are offered to Lord Vishnu for making Kheer (a sweet dessert). Then the kheer is given to the child. So it is either kheer or fish and rice which is given to the baby in this ritual.

Naming:

Naming of the child is considered very important as it is believed that if a child is not appropriately named then he might have short life or will suffer from illnesses. So priests are consulted before naming a child and the child is named after studying his birthday and month.

For the Meiteis who follow Hindu religion they consulted astrologers for the same. The ritual is not held in a big way for majority of the Meiteis. But for the Chakpa community of Manipur like Andro the ritual is held in a big way by arranging feasts for the people of their community including the priests.

Mana Hutpa / Chura Karan:

This is the ritual of piercing of ear lobe. Nowadays it is performed in a bigger way. The piercing of ear lobe is done either on the 5th day after the birth of a child or any other auspicious day by calling a goldsmith.

On the day of Chura Karan the previous earring is replaced by a new one. Then a barber shaves off the head of the child. Fire worship (Yagya) is performed by the Brahmin for the child's well being. This ritual is done when the child enters 3 or 5 years of age with a grand feast.

Luhongba (Marriage):

Marriage is a compulsory ritual for the Meitei community and is being performed since early times. The coming of Hindu religion influences the ritual. The word Shubh Vivah is used for the Marriage ceremony. There will be Sankirtan throughout the ceremony. As the groom sits the bride would go round the groom for seven times. Marriage ceremony of early times is quite different from today's marriage ceremony.

In the early times the elders of the bride and the bride groom after mutual agreement will perform a ritual called Heijing Kharai Puba. This ritual is considered equal to marriage. Marriage ceremony of the present day is almost influenced by Hindu religion.

Marriage as mentioned in old manuscript like Thawan Thaba Hiran, Panthoibi Khongul, Tutenglon, Nongban Pombi Luwaoba etc. is quite different from today's marriage. Once Heijing Kharai is completed the groom need not go to the bride's place. The bride will be sent to the groom's place on an auspicious day with a dowry.

For example, during the time of Meidingu Charairongba (father of Garibniwaj Maharaja), when his daughter Chakpa Makhaongambi got married, the groom i.e. the King of Samsok (Ava) did not come. She was sent after the Heijing Kharai ceremony. In old manuscripts like Panthoibi Khongul, Thawan Thaba Hiran etc. we can find that the groom did not go to the bride's place.

Today's marriage ceremony shows intermixture of Meitei religion and Hindu religion. Heijing Kharai, Yumlai Laipot, Lamlai Laipot, Apok Asa are all related with Meitei religion. Sankritan is not at all related with marriage.

The most important element of marriage is arrangement of offering for the gods is Laipot (for house deities and for deities outside the house) which is to be arranged by both marriage parties and get exchanged.

Other forms of matrimony like Loukhatpa, Lai Tin Thaba, Keinya katpa do not involve Sankirtan but Laipot is a must. Sankirtan is only the manifestation of Hinduism. It was adopted later as it was believed that whatever is offered without Sankirtan were not accepted by Lord Vishnu.

Death ritual:

Sankirtan is also a part of death ritual. There is a difference in the activities performed by the Meitei priest and Brahmin for the ritual. Not only this, the Brahmin and the Meitei Hindus hold death rituals on different days. After one year another ritual called Phiroi is held and this will be the last death ritual.

From the manuscripts we come to know that the people in the past bury their dead by putting in a coffin. After one year the dead body is dug out, the remains are cleansed and then buried again. This ritual is called Lu Tengba. Thus we can see intermixing of Meitei religion and Hindu religion in the death rituals also.

Hindu religion may have some influence on the various rituals but it cannot make them totally Hindu based. Hindu religion cannot replace Meitei religion. Till today Sanamahi, Leimarel is worshipped. There is no place for Hindu religion in Lai Haraoba .

Lai Haraoba still signifies a pure Meitei Tradition. Now in Manipur many Hindu festivals have been replaced by Meitei festival. For example, Durga puja is replace by Panthoibi Eratpa(puja), April 14 Cheiraoba is replace by Sajibu Nongma Panba Cheiraoba etc. These changes signify the return of the Meiteis from Hindu religion to Meitei religion.

The Meiteis never leave their traditional culture. That is why Hindu religion cannot replace Meitei religion. We can know this from the various rites de passage. All the Meitei ritesstill have the traditional element in them. If the various rites de passage are studied thoroughly only then we can establish the true identity of the Meiteis. .

Concluded....


* Dr. Chirom Rajketan Singh wrote this article for Imphal Times
The writer is Assistant Professor, Department of Manipuri at Kha Manipur College, Kakching
This article was webcasted on November 05, 2019.



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