Dr Jamini Devi's 'Lumbini Leikolda Shat-houba Leirang' :: Book Review

Jodha C Sanasam *

The name of Oja Dr Ch. Jamini Devi’s book is "Lumbini Leikolda Shat-houba Leirang"; its literal meaning is The Flower That Was Found Blooming at The Lumbini Garden.’ Here in this book she narrates about the experiences, which she and her team of the Raseswari Pala came into, during their religious tour in Nepal and also at a few centers in the West Bengal. This book, as the author herself mentions, belongs to the genre of a travelogue. The tourist spots she and her team covered, which are rather more of religious centers, to mention a few Kathmandu, Pokhra, Chittawan, Lumbini, are all in Nepal. All of us know Nepal is a country that belongs to the Himalayan Region.

The author’s beginning sentence itself in her forward ‘The Himalayas stand as the King of Mountains’ shows a vast canvas in her initial presentation of the book.

As a lover of Nature and its creations, she expresses her feelings, which she had when she saw the majestic look of the snow clad Himalayan range and its magnanimity in terms of its rivers, and its flora and fauna, as the gift of nature. Her chanting of a hymn to the Buddha, I believe, will reach out to touch the heart of any reader:
'Asto ma sadagamaya, Tamaso ma jyortigamaya, Mrito ma amritanggamaya'

She gives her views too on the possibility of the outstretching hands of Buddhism to have had reached Manipur even, a land in a far corner of the world. She discusses about the ancient and distinct artifacts and gods’ figures that we in Manipur have, which as she claims, have features similar to the Buddhist art and culture, and craft and architecture. She shows examples with photographs in this book.

She mentions too that Buddhism appears with certain variations in different aspects from place to place according to the land or region, as she came across: Buddhism in Myanmar, Buddhism in Sikkim, so on and so forth.

Raseswari Pala, her team, is a religious and cultural group of ladies. So far I know, it is a team of ladies or women whose fathers or mothers are or were of the Royal Family Pedigree. They perform Sankeertan group songs, which are devotional in nature, with a strong faith that God Himself participates in or is present during their performance. The devotional songs are of Hindu and Vaishnavite faith; are of stories about Lord Krishna and Radhika, and about Chatanya Mahaprabhu and his devotee followers.

I believe, the members of Raseswari Pala are kind of followers of Sheeja Laioibee, the devotee daughter of Rajarshee Bhagyachandra, the King of Manipur who enriched Vaishnavism intermixed with Manipuri culture; he was the creator of the worldwide famous Rasa Leela as we know it today.

Before the team departed for their journey, they took the opportunity of receiving the blessings of Her Excellency the Governor of Manipur Dr Najma Heptulla to inform her Excellency too that they were embarking on this religious journey in the land of Nepal.

In fact, Oja Jamini probably had already planned to write down every detail of this pilgrimage journey in her diary and make a travelogue out of it. Unfortunately she had an accident in the beginning part of their move and her right hand got injured incapacitating her to write. Her account in this book is more of a post-tour writing which she has done pretty well.

Well, Oja Dr Jamini Devi, many of us know her very well, she needs no introduction to us. She is a prolific writer who has had more than forty books published under her authorship. She was the Chairperson of the Manipur State Commission for Women too. Her books are of various genres: essays, aspects on art and culture, short story collection, poetry, travelogues and many others. As she was closely associated with education, sports and physical training and social activities, her writing thus tends to dwell more in the uplift of education, social norms, cultural and devotional studies of faith and religion, study tour for children, study of environment etc.

There are two composites in literary writing namely ‘fact’ and ‘fiction’. As most of Oja Jamini’s books are of essays, travelogues or the like, her style of writing is also more dominant in facts than in fiction. Thus her travelogue books sound very suitable and distinct with her tenet and areas chosen. We are proud that we have such a dynamic woman writer in the person of Oja Jamini among us, after the generation of the three pioneer women writers of Manipur, namely Oja Thoibi, Mk Binodini and Khaidem Pramodini.

In this present book, the author herself says, ‘This is not just a travel or tour; rather is a journey of culture.’ History reveals that Manipuri women took active roles in trade and commerce, especially in selling vegetables in the markets of the Northeast: in areas of the present Nagaland, Mizoram, Assam and Meghalaya. Many others left their homeland and followed their Princesses who got married to Kings and Princes of the kingdoms of Tripura, Shivsagar, Cachar etc. In the later part of the centuries following the conversion of the population into Hindu Vaishnavism, flocks of women have been traveling beyond Manipur on pilgrimage to centers like Nabadweep, Brindavana, Mathura and even Dwarka in Gujarat.

In the modern days many Manipuri young girls and ladies are now travelling outside Manipur in pursuits of educational studies, sports activities, and for earning in jobs. Apart from all these, it is Oja Dr Jamini who has taken the role model of a leader to have taken housewife women who have not traveled outside Manipur, youngish and middle aged women and women on the elder side to visit religious and cultural centers far away from home. While doing so, she imparts in them travel experience and knowledge of the modern infrastructures seen at the cities, airports and hotels. It is her genuine interest and praiseworthy dedicated deed as part of her program for women uplift and women empowerment as well.

I would rather not go into a lengthy narrative about this book. I would rather leave it for the readers to find out their own sensibilities as they read. Here the writer has covered every detail of their experiences during the tour: starting from the incident of the ignorance of a member with the security procedure at the Imphal airport itself, their arrival at the Tribhuban International Airport in Kathmandu, their stay at the Manasarovar Hotel, their visits first at the Kopal Monastery, Buddhanatha Stupa, Buddha Neelakantha Vishnu Moorti at Ratnapuri, and then most importantly their Raseswari Pala Sankeertan performance at the world famous and world heritage site Pashupatinath Temple.

With the favor of the office of the highest pinnacle of the country i.e., the President of Nepal Smti Vidhya Devi Bhandari, they had the opportunity of having a rare thrill of a reception extended by the President of the country herself. They exchanged talks on the facts of historical relationship between Manipur and Nepal in the sense that Nepal Princess lswari married Maharaja Bodhachandra of Manipur and became the Queen of Manipur.

At Pokhra they stayed at Centrelake Hotel; they did not miss a boat ride trip on the Phewa Lake, a shopping spree at Malakhu Bazar; visited the Davy’s Falls, Mahendra Cave etc. At Chittawan they ventured a Jungle Safari. The natural beauty of Pokhra and Chittawan enchanted them. They visited a model village and Tharu Museum too there. Lumbini was the last site they visited in Nepal. There they went to see the Statue of Buddha at the Lumbini Garden, Ashoka Pillar, Lumbini International Peace Flame, Maya Devi Mandir etc.

On their way back from Nepal they touched Nabadweep, performed their Raseshwari Pala Sankeertan at Anuprabhu Mandir. The Anuprabhu statue sculptured with the same jackfruit wood out of which the Govindaji Statue at the Govindaji Temple here at Imphal was hued. It was again Shija Laioibee, the devotee daughter of Rajarshi Bhagyachandra to have taken the God’s Statue as she settled at Nabadweep in worship of her God. They had a detour too, to Murshidabad perhaps to visit the Samadhi of Rajarshi Bhagyachandra. There they organized a symposium wherein many Vaishnavite scholars of Bengal participated; Oja Jamini was one of the resource persons. There too, they sang their Raseshwari Pala Sankeertan in front of the Bor Govinda God.

Finally when they reached home, in the mandap pavilion of Shri Shri Govindaji Temple; the statues of Lord Krishna and Radhika came out of the temple on entourage, they sang their Raseswari Pala Sankeertan.
Oja Dr Jamini Devi possesses a distinct style of her own, especially in writing travelogue and she is good there. This she had shown earlier too with her previous two or three travelogues, which were also more like religious and cultural trips. Her words and expressions are striking with strength and with a good flow of literary values. Readers, I am sure, will enjoy going through the pages. This book will definitely be a part in the treasure of Manipuri Literature. God bless Oja Dr Jamini.

* Jodha C Sanasam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on August 06, 2017.

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