TODAY -

Kalum Kai: A house of worship of Zeliangrongs

Dr Budha Kamei *

 Tingkao Ragwang Kalum Kai inaugurated at Paching (Maipham) village near Nambol Maibam Lokpa Ching on April 19 2019
Tingkao Ragwang Kalum Kai inaugurated at Paching (Maipham) village on April 19 2019 :: Pix - TSE



Introduction

A place of worship is a specially designed structure where individual persons or a group of people such as a congregation come to perform acts of devotion, veneration or devotion or religious study. A building used for this purpose is sometimes called a house of worship. Temples, mosques etc. are examples of structures created for worship.

A monastery of Buddhists may serve both to house for those belonging to religious orders and as a place of worship for visitors. Joshua J. Mark writes, “A temple is a structure usually built for the purpose of, and always dedicated to, religious or spiritual activities including prayer, meditation, sacrifice and worship.

The word temple dates to around the 6th century BCE in reference to Roman places of worship. Usually, Roman temples faced east or towards the rising sun, though a notable exception is the great pantheon which faces north (only preserved after the rise of Christianity because it was made into a church instead of being destroyed and built over, which was the fate of most ‘native’ temples).

In ancient Rome, only the deities of the Roman pantheon had a templum; any building honoring a foreign deity was called a fanum. Visitors to Rome were welcome to worship at the fanum of their native gods but were required to worship the gods of Rome in the temples.

After the rise of Christianity the word ‘temple’, with its native connotations, was rejected by most Christian congregations in favor of designations such as ‘church’ or ‘cathedral’, though the word is still used by the Eastern Orthodox Church to refer to their places of worship.” In 447-432 BC, the Parthenon was built in Athens, Greece for the goddess Athena; and remained devoted to her cult for nearly a thousand years, later on serving as a Christian church and then as an Islamic mosque under the Ottoman Empire.

Background of Kalum Kai

Kalum Kai means house of worship; (Kalum means worship and Kai, house). Construction of house for worship/religious purpose was not a feature of Zeliangrong culture except abodes or places of deities. It was Haipou Jadonang who first introduced temple culture in Zeliangrong society. He constructed two temples at Kambiron village with the help of his followers. It was possibly done by him at the influence of other religions. He claimed that it was revealed in his dream. He said, “I built temples because Lord Bisnu told me in a dream that there would be prosperity and good health for every one if I do so, although it is not our custom to build temples.”

The first temple was built in 1929 and the second temple was six months before his arrest in the year 1931. These temples are known as Kao Kai, high house; (Kao means high and Kai, house).

“Next to the house of Jadonang was a temple built on high wooden piles, and entered by steps out in a long log. The temple was a building of bamboo matting, thatched, with a small verandah in front and behind. It consisted of one room with bamboo benches the whole length of each side wall. From a cross beam in the middle hung an oil lamp.

At the far end was a bamboo platform, with a railing round three sides, and a flight of steps on the fourth side. Facing the platform were four wooden chairs on each of which was a white felt hat.” The second temple was located in the upper part of the village. In this temple, images of God Bisnu and his wife wearing typical Rongmei dress were installed on the way of Hindu idolatry worship. But, he did not worship Hindu deities.

“In design it was similar to the first except that there was a long narrow room on each side, parallel to the long central room. The central room contained bamboo benches similar to that in the old temple. There was a shrine in place of the pulpit approached by a flight of steps, ornamented in black and white. At the top of the steps was a door, behind which was a red covering the opening of the shrine. On the top of the shrine was a platform, approached by a second flight of steps on which was a chair.

Just above the chair was a python, curled upon on the ridge pole of the roof. In front of the shrine was a sacrificial block made out of a log at which goats were sacrificed.” In the fronts of these temples there were wild creepers hanging up to be the strings or ropes. Rani Gaidinliu also built a temple at her Nungkao village with the initiation of her Guru. These Temples were erected facing to the east. The new religion of Jadonang was a synthesis of Christian Monotheism and Hindu idolatry and temple culture.

In the first temple, there was a pulpit from where the worshippers used to worship. He gave guidance to his followers in worshipping Tingkao Ragwang, the Supreme God. “Worshipping consists of facing east, putting the hands together and saying Tingkao Ragwang Do what is good for us.” He composed songs to be sung in worship and also gave instruction for the composition of dances to be performed by the worshippers. These hymns, songs and dances were revealed by God. However, worshipping or preaching from pulpit was not a feature of Zeliangrong traditional religion.

One finds the influence of Church pulpit preaching. Sitting on benches/chairs inside the temple in worshipping was perhaps adoption of Christian mode of worship. In other words, one finds the outward influence of Christianity in the church like temple for religious congregation and services. Worship of Tingkao Ragwang was strongly stressed. He emphasized that one has to worship God with clean body and mind. One cannot go before God unclean. He constructed two houses for bathing near the Rah Kai; one for male and the other for female. Husband or wife who had been sleeping together had to wash before approaching the God.

With the temple as the centre of religious and other social activities, attaining full status of successful man and spiritual man, after performance of his Taraang Kai sacrifice, Jadonang abolished irrational and obscurantist religious practices and social taboos. Abolition of taboos and gennas had purified the Zeliangrong traditional religion. The basic contribution of Haipou Jadonang was the worship of the Almighty God Tingkao Ragwang in a rational form; individual and community worship of God for welfare and prosperity through prayers, ritual hymns, dances and sacrifices; discovery and exploration of the ancient holy abodes of Lord Bisnu in the caves of Bhuvan Hills, Assam and pilgrimages to these places.

God is everywhere that He is ‘like wind’ and ‘like air.’6 There was no such time when He was not there, and there will be no such time when He will not be there. He is the origin and mover of all things in the universe. He was never born, and will never die. Fire cannot burn Him. Water cannot wet Him. Air cannot dry Him up. No weapon can cut Him. He is beyond change. He is formless and colorless. He is the protector of men.7 Horace8 says, it is “Who guides below and rules above, the great disposer and the mighty king; than he none greater; next him none can be, or is, nor was; supreme, he singly fills the throne.”

Kalum Kai is a place of worship and religious discourse. It is separate from the rest of the village in the way it is conceived, as physically treated and respected. Every TRC village must have one Kalum Kai; it is the most sacred ground for the people. It is usually built on the highest point of a village. It is done in the same model of the first temple built by Haipou Jadonnang and Rani Gaidinlu invoking tradition as a chain of memory for legitimation. Every Kalum Kai must be constructed facing to the east or north.

East is vital for two factors: it signifies the direction of Bhubon cave, as well as that of the sunrise. According to Evan Pritchard, east indicates to life and west to death. Van Gennep says, the rites connected with laying the foundation for a house and constructing a house falls into the category of rites of passage.9 They follow certain ritual formalities in building of a house, without which the house is considered incomplete. Once the proposed site is selected; the ground is leveled and then an auspicious day for laying the foundation post is chosen by consulting with the priest/priestess.

On the favorable day, they will perform a ceremony called Tengdai Khunmei, upright of foundation pillar invoking Tingkao Ragwang for successful completion. Usually, such ritual is performed in the morning when the sun rises in the east. In other words, it is good and favorable time to perform Tengdai Khunmei when the sun rises. Usually, Tengdai stands for the backbone of the house. This is followed by offering of holy wine to Tingkao Ragwang and deities. The front of the Kalum Kai looks like the front of ornamented ritual house of Tarang sacrifice (Tarang Kai).10

After completion of the construction, in an auspicious day, the House of worship/Kalum Kai is dedicated to Tingkao Ragwang with hymns, devotional songs and offerings. The offerings are consumed by the devotees as Prasad. Before entering the Kalum Kai, the devotees are purified by sprinkling of water with Ten Mhaimit; shoes must be removed. It consists of one room; inside, at the far end is a pulpit/platform, centrally placed and elevated. One must climb the seven steps to it, proceeding the right leg, then left, and right…..

On the left of the platform there is a bench for the office secretary and on the right is reserved for the secretary, president and priest of TRCP. At the center of the platform, Bamdon, a kind of chair made of wooden plank is adorned with male’s traditional clothes like Renglan and Pheingao muffler and a gold ring, which symbolizes the resting place of the Almighty God. It is about three feet from the Boudaan, which is painted on the wall. Two jugs are placed on both sides of the Bamdon for oblation of holy wine.

Two spears are also upright on both sides of the same. There is an offering box for coin and paper money in front of the Bamdon; fruits, flowers and rice can be placed close to it. This offering is accompanied by a prayer (personal and private). Once that is finished, one must turn anticlockwise (away from the right) and return to one’s place.

Secretary, president and intellectuals of TRC give lectures from the platform. Facing the platform is the space for worshippers; the right side is for the male and the left for female. There are two main entrances one at the front and another at the side; the same entrances are also used as exists. In addition, there is left side door.

Boudaan

Boudaan is a symbol of Tingkao Ragwang, which is painted in the Kalum Kai. This symbol is based on ritual worship of Tingkao Ragwang locally known as Tingkao Ragwangjang Lamei. The outer circle represents the universe and the two poles in the east and west represent as Didet (Bread). The two poles in the south and north represent as Ditung (Length). The centre space is known as Dichung (centre). The circle is the sun and the white circle is the moon.

This symbol is used both in performance of prayer on every Sunday and every Full Moon Day offered to Tingkao Ragwang and any occasion of worship of Tingkao Ragwang. The universe, the sun, the moon, the earth and all other cosmic objects are the creation of Tingkao Ragwang, the Almighty God. He is believed to be absolutely benevolent.

Now, all the devotees of TRC use the name Tingkao Ragwang Chapriak (for short TRC) for educational, official, employment and census purposes. The symbol of Tingkao Ragwang does represent His divine grace and power as reflected in the cosmos and universe. This symbol is used as lockets and stickers and also the identifying mark of Tingkao Ragwang Chapriak (TRC). Under International Humanitarian Law and the Geneva Conventions, religious buildings/places of worship are offered special protection, similar to the protection guaranteed hospitals displaying the Red Cross. These international laws of war bar firing upon or from a religious building.11

Conclusion:

Kalum Kai is a place of worship and religious discourse. It is a sacred place for the TRC people. TRC is growing day by day based on the Kalum Kai. Religious architecture expresses the religious belief, aesthetic choice, and economic capacity of the people. The Kalum Kai of Chingmeirong, Imphal is the biggest temple among the indigenous religions in Northeast India. However, it was built by contribution of the people who wanted to protect and promote the indigenous religion.

Tingkao Ragwang Chapriak is giving great emphasis on the prayer and meditation on Tingkao Ragwang for the salvation of the soul of men. Every person may now try to attain salvation through the prayer to Tingkao Ragwang. Come and let us pray to Him on every Sunday and every full Moon day at Tingkao Ragwang Kalum Kai.


* Dr Budha Kamei wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on November 25 2019.



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