E-Pao! Manipur - Rama worship in Manipur

Rama worship in Manipur

By: AK Vyas *

God does not take birth but incarnates. A formless God can manifest in whatever form(s) he intends to do. He can take same form many times simultaneously.

Of the numerous incarnations, the two incarnations, the incarnations of Rama and Krishna are the most important incarnations till date.

Since God incarnates himself so he has all the capabilities of God from very incarnation time. He need not do special efforts to attain Godly capabilities.

Incarnate God is distinguished with general human beings due to certain inherent virtues and special signs. He enjoys all the six opulence (Aishwarya) infinitely, e.g., full strength, full wisdom, full prestige (fame), full wealth (shree) full attraction or handsomeness and full detachment (Vairagya).

He performs three functions/tasks in the course of incarnate human life, e.g - removes/dispels the hardships of virtuous people, destroys the wicked and establishes righteousness (actually righteousness of a particular time is known as Yugdharma which is modelled on Vedic principles and suits that very time).

Rama had all the six opulence and he performed all the three functions with great perfection and niceness. He is known as Purushottam (excellent among human beings).

E. Nilakanta Singh in his article Ramayan in Manipur Literature and Folk Lore, Quarterly Journal (June 1976) of Manipur State Kala Academy mentions:
'It is difficult to say precisely when Manipur (meaning the valley area of about 700 sq miles) came within the fold of Hindudom. The identification of the Mahabharata Manipur with the present State of this name, which finds support from scholars like Dr RC Majumdar, became the pivot for linking up Manipur with Brahmanical Purana tradition.

Dr SK Chatterjee is of the view that the Meitei people of Manipur were within the Hindufold as early as 500 AD at least.

The copper plate inscriptions of King Khongtekcha (799 AD) start with the word - Sri Hari mentioning the existences of 303 Gods, of whom Hari is the supreme. A Vishnu temple under the Bengal style of architecture was built in the 15th century during the reign of King Kiyamba'.

'But it is only in the early part of the 18th century AD that Rama worship came to stay in Manipur. A great Manipuri King Garibniwaz was initiated to Ramanandi cult of Vaishnavism in 1737 AD under the influence of a religious preacher named Shanti Das Mahanta from Sylhet (present Bangladesh).

Earlier, the King became a convert to Bengal school of Vaishnavism under his guru, Gopal Das. This Ramanandi sect, associated with Ramananda (15th century AD) who preached 'Sita Ram' among all classes of people including Muslims (Kabir was a chief disciple), conceived Rama and Sita combined as the dual incarnation of Vishnu.

Vaishnavism of Ramanandi cult became a state religion during the reign of King Garibniwaz'.

Here it would not be out of consider present State of Manipur with that of Mahabharata Manipur on the ground that ancient Manipur of Mahabharata was beside sea shore so both can't be same.

They consider linking of present Manipur with Mahabharata Manipur as an impossible proposition and they want to link up Mahabharata Manipur with a place located somewhere in present Orissa State.

The recent research that Himalayan ranges are in formative stage and they emerged from sea-belt and as such entire State of present Meghalaya, in days of yore, was under deep sea gives credence to view of scholars like Dr RC Majumdar. If during ancient time the Meghalaya portion was part of sea naturally present Manipur was beside sea-shore.

As per Burmese (Myanmarese) chroniclers Dhajaraja of Shakya origin of Nepal terrai who king of the Manipur in 5th century BC. We know famous Vishnu temple of Angkor Vat was constructed during 12th century AD during ancient time Burma, Java, Sumatra etc were under the pale of Hinduism. Manipur was one of the three silk routes.

The Sangai Express columnist Oinam Anand has seen the Buddhistic articles found in excavation in Manipur. Under the shroud of controversy only large extent DNA test may explode fully the land-locked theory of Manipur and Hindu impact over Manipur.

While exploring the Hindu impact one have to keep in his mind that Hinduism is a continuum and amalgamation of local cult, belief and religion. At the highest level it is monotheistic but at the lower level it is polytheistic.

Considering all these logic we can't reject outrightly the view of Dr Sumiti Kumar Chatterjee that the Meitei people of Manipur were within the Hindufold as early as 500 AD at least.

He further elucidates how Rama worship became more popular in Manipur in following description: 'The King founded an image of Rama alongwith the images of Lakshman, Bharat, Satrughana and Sita and began their worship.

An image of Hanuman was also carved out of a big slab of stone and it was put in the brick temple at a place called Mahabali. Thousands of devotees of Radha Krishna cult still flock to this temple on special occasions, with the prayer for gaining strength to Hanumanji.

That Ramanandi school could not, however prosper with the death of Garibniwaz and was finally replaced by Chaitanaya's School of Vaishnavism during the reign of Rajarshi Bhagyachandra (1769-1798), when the renowned Ras Leela was dedicated to Govindaji in 1780 AD.

The impact of Chaitanaya Deva of Mayapuri West Bengal who is popularly known as Gaurang Mahaprabhu can be seen in every ceremony of Meitei life.

ISKCON movement is also popularising his chanting mantra if sixteen words:
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, Hare, Hare.
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare hare.

The impact of Rama worship in Manipur is so high that Manipur has a comprehensive Manipuri version of Ramayan compiled by Angom Gopi during the court of King Garibniwaz (1709-1748).

The Ramayan has permeated in Manipuri Durga Puja, old Sankirtana tradition, Kathaks (Wari Leeba) in the Pena music in the Khongjom Parba, in the Lairik Thiba-Haiba and in the Jatra tradition.

To him (Singh, E Nilakanta),
'Rama is divine and an incarnation of Vishnu while Sita represents Lakshmi and for the masses the listening to Ramayan singing constitutes an act of prayer and worship.

AK Vyas wrote this article for The Sangai Express . This article was webcasted on January 11th, 2006.

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