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'Meigi Ching' echoes Manipuri women's bravery against British

Oinam Mission *

 The 2nd Nupi Lal 1939 (Women agitation against British) :: RKCS Painting
The 2nd Nupi Lal 1939 (Women agitation against British).
Warning: These images CANNOT be reproduced in any form or size without written permission from the RKCS Gallery



"Meigi Ching", a play by Yangam Leirak Nupi Leela Association retells the story and the circumstances surrounding the outbreak of the two Nupi Lal (Women's Wars) in Manipur which took place in 1904 and 1939 respectively.

The Association presented the play on the third day of the 1st Nupi Shumang Leela Competition, which is being organised by Art and Culture Department at Iboyaima Shumang Shanglen, Palace Compound on Saturday (Novemnber 27 2021). "Meigi Ching" is written by Babudhon Saikhom and directed by Maibam Purnimasi.

The role of male characters are played by Angoubi (Churachand Maharaj), Nungsi Leima (Bor Saheb), Aingbi Leima (Soto Saheb), Chabungbam Bina (Kasturi), Pratima (Jhuria, Kasturi's child), Shanti (Lukhoi/Amuba), Memcha Devi (Chandra Yaima), Inaobi (Khoidum) and Ningjenthoibi (Khoibak), along with Memmi, Sunita and Premlata donning,the role of soldiers.

Meanwhile, Rebika (Keithel Lairembi), Premila (Sabi), Sakuntala (Tongoibi), Phulka (Rajni), Menaka (Sanajaobi), Kavita (Kwathabi/Kaboklei) and Laija (Subola) played the female characters.

The once sovereign kingdom of Manipur fell into the British hands following the defeat in the Anglo-Manipuri War of 1891. The royal family remained in title only and the people oppressed. The British officers enforced the 'Lallup' system and made the Meitei people work without wages.

The men involved in the arson of Bor Saheb's building were punished to bring back the timber from Kabaw Valley for rebuilding the residence. Those who refused to do the hard labour were brutally beaten up, while many went into hiding. During such difficult times, Manipuri womenfolk raised their voices against the atrocities committed by the British.

The vendors of Khwairamband Keithel led the women and proceeded to dump the timber brought from Kabaw Valley into the rivers, letting them drifted away. As such, this agitation of 1904 came to be known as the 1st Nupi Lal of Manipur. Thirty five years later, the second Nupi Lai was fought in the state during the reign of Maharaj Churachand in 1939.

The Marwaris (businessmen) of the time colluded with the British and exported all of the kingdom's rice, resulting in shortage of rice. Mills in Khwai-Yaiskul, Khurai and Wangkhei Pana did not have any rice and the people were forced into starvation. The womenfolk could no longer remain silent and again rose up against Bor Saheb and Soto Saheb, without any fear of death or injury.

The agitating women resolved to destroy several storehouses. They fought against the soldiers and many of the women were injured, while some were killed. Thus, the play, "Meigi Ching" is an attempt by Yangam Leirak Nupi Leela Association to inform the audience of the events which subsequently led to the occurrence of the two Nupi Lal.

The artistes of Yangam Leirak Nupi Leela Association work hard to showcase the emotions and the courage exhibited by Manipuri women, whenever the kingdom found itself on the brink of despair. Although there is still an uncertainty on whether the audience would be able to grasp the feelings, one can see the efforts of the artistes in portraying the inner thoughts of the writer.

When the play was watched from the start to the end, some flaws could be detected. However, the flaws could be regarded as miniscule, considering the massive improvement in the way how Nupi Shumang Leela were performed in the present days compared to the past.

Meanwhile, Malom Tulihal Awang Leikai Nupi CHAOKHAT Thourang Lup will be presenting its play, "Britishgi Mayokta Nupi Lal-1904" on Sunday (November 28 2021). The Nupi Shumang Leela Competition is being organised as part of the 'Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav' .


* Oinam Mission wrote this article for The People's Chronicle
This article was webcasted on December 12 2021.



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