TODAY -

Legacies of the Khamba-Thoibi classics

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  Khamba-Thoibi Jagoi - An RKCS Painting at Ibudhou Thangjing , Moirang, Manipur
Khamba-Thoibi Jagoi - An RKCS Painting at Ibudhou Thangjing , Moirang, Manipur
Pix - Recky Maibram



The classics of Khamba-Thoibi cover wide range of art and cultural heritages of ballads, ballets and epics, among many others, in the tapestry of Meitei culture of Kangleipak (present day Manipur state).

Starting from the Khamba Thoibi Jagoi, an ancient classical dance drama, often enacted as a part of the Lai Haraoba's ritualistic dancing and musical theatrical performances, to the antique classical lores of Khamba & Thoibi through Pena Sheishaklon balladeering (often referred to as "Moirang Sai" in modern Meitei terminology), the legacies of Khamba and Thoibi, the two lovebirds, are immortalized in diverse ways.

The Khamba Thoibi Sheireng, a Classical Meitei language epic poem, authored by Hijam Anganghal, is no doubt a masterpiece of not only the writer but also of Meitei literature. Having a length of 39,000-40,000 lines, this Meitei literary work holds the third place among the largest, or the longest epics of the Indian subcontinent, just after the two Sanskrit language works of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.

The classics of Khamba-Thoibi emphasize a matter of pride of Meitei language and literature, among its contemporary ancient languages (like Tamil, Pali, Prakrit, Persian, Telugu, Kannada, etc.) as well as among its contemporary modern languages (like Bengali, Assamese, Hindi-Urdu, Punjabi, Gujarati, etc.).

Legacies of the classical dance drama :

"I was delighted to see Khamba Thoibi at Manipur when you produced it as perhaps the first full scale ballet in the Manipuri form of dancing. The whole conception and execution was excellent and some of the dancers were obviously highly talented and extremely well trained. I personally think that the Manipuri style is the most graceful form of Indian dancing and I wish you every success in your attempt to develop and popularise it."
Humayun Kabir (saying to Mrs. Vimala Raina, on 1st January 1960), the then Union Minister for Scientific Research and Cultural Affairs, Government of India

"Ambassador John Kenneth Galbraith is inclined to agree—The Manipuri Dance managed and directed by Mrs Vimala Raina staged a beautiful performance of Khamba Thoibi. It is a Dance Drama based on a story of royal life in the 11th century. He believes Khamba Thoibi would win acclaim in any America theatre."
The Baltimore Sun (of the United States of America)

"Khamba Thoibi is a Manipuri tale of delicate charm. This ballet of unusual charm has been composed by Vimala Raina. The most appealing aspect of the show was the care and patience with which the music, dances, costumes and settings had been brought together to create authenticity. Every scene was realistic that one felt transported to the magic land of Manipur in the medieval days of the King of Moirang. The market scene and the water-sports on the lake were quaint and beautiful."
Times of India (Delhi on 6th and 7th November 1961)

"I shall never forget the beautiful dancing in your ballet. The story was so lively and the whole thing moved along with grace and drama. We wish this kind of ballet could come to the United States. It has colour and vitality and good appeal to Western audiences. Your ballets were easy to understand as well as charmingly done."
Mrs. J.K. Galbraith (saying to Mrs. Vimala Raina, on May 2, 1962), wife of John Kenneth Galbraith, the 7th United States Ambassador to India

 Khamba Thoibi Jagoi performed at JN Dance Academy , Imphal :: 26th December 2019
Khamba Thoibi Jagoi performed at JN Dance Academy , Imphal in December 2019 : Pix - Lamdamba Oinam



Legacies of the classical epic lore :

"Considering its growth, Khamba and Thoibi is a popular or folk-epic. The epic of this kind may be regarded as the final product of a long series of accretions and syntheses brought to approximate unity by the intervention of conscious art. By general agreement poems like the Greek Iliad and Odyssey, the Germanic Nibelungenlled, the Anglo-Saxon Beowulf and the Finish Kallevala are classed as folk-epics. ... It is one of the finest stories in literature produced by the Sino-Tibetan people in India. ... A gem of a literature which may be compared to any great epic rediscovers the glory of ancient moirang, the cradle of Manipuri civilisation. It is truly an epic, dignified and elaborate with epic breadth of vision, richness of details, directness of ideas and a faithful portrayal of national life and manners. ... When I think of the extent and comprehensive character of Khamba and Thoibi Seireng. I am remined of the Shah-nama, the National epic of Persia and the Kalevale, the national epic of Finland on the one hand, and of artistic epics like the Latin Acneld of virgil and the English Sigurd the Volsung by Willam Morris on the other. I am convinced this single work will considerably raise the value of Manipuri among the languages of India and the World."
L. Damodar Singh (AKASHVANI: Vol. XL. No. 35 ( 31 AUGUST, 1975 ). N.p.: All India Radio (AIR),New Delhi, 1975)

"The narrative of Khamba-Thoibi of Moirang is a musical genre singing the epic love story of the legendary hero and heroine, Khamba and Thoibi of Moirang principality, a celebrated place for the ancient civilisation in Manipur."
Rituparna Bhattacharyya (Northeast India Through the Ages: A Transdisciplinary Perspective on Prehistory, History, and Oral History. India: Taylor & Francis)

"Khamba Thoibi, which forms a part of Moirang Saiyol, is a folk epic of Manipur that has been told and sung over the ages and is known to every person in the land. If all the stories of Moirang Saiyol are taken together, it will form an even bigger epic."
Chirom Rajketan Singh (Folklore Studies in India: Critical Regional Responses. India: NS Patel Arts College)

"Chief amongst them is the singing of the history of Khamba Thoibi to the accompaniment of the stirring tunes of the instrument called Pena. The story of the love of Khamba Thoibi is sung by a single artiste where the bow of his instrument becomes a prop for enactment."
Kapila Vatsyayan (INDIAN CLASSICAL DANCE. India: Publications Division Ministry of Information & Broadcasting)

Legacies of the classical epic poetry :

"H. Anganghal Singh's Khamba Thoibi Sheireng (Poem on Khamba Thoibi, 1940) is a national epic of the Manipuris based on the story of Khamba and Thoibi of Moirang. The poet composes the whole epic in the Pena Saisak style of folk ballads sung by minstrels or bards popular in Manipur."
K. M. George (Modern Indian Literature, an Anthology: Surveys and poems. India: Sahitya Akademi, 1992)

"I think the entire work should be published and that will at once raise the prestige and dignity of Manipuri literature; and an abstract of the poem in English with translations of typical passages, and a critical study of it, will be desideratum in Indian literature bringing home to the rest of India and to the world what important things, important from the point of view of voicing the aspirations, the ideals and the social and cultural milieu of a whole people are being done in this distant corner of India. The position of our Poet is comparable to that of Rabindranath Tagore in Bengali and Modern Indo-Aryan literature."
Suniti Kumar Chatterji (AKASHVANI: Vol. XL. No. 35 ( 31 AUGUST, 1975 ). N.p.: All India Radio (AIR),New Delhi, 1975)

"Anganghal's masterpiece "Khamba Thoibi Seireng" celebrated the immortal love of Khamba and Thoibi of ancient times and civilisation, faithfully portraying the national life and manners, the hopes and aspirations of the people, their struggles, sufferings and joys with epic breath of vision, richness of details and directness of ideas. It was a significant contribution to Indian literature from a Tibeto-Burman language to the vast corpus of modern Indian epics."
M. Rameshwor Singh (Literatures from Northeast India: Beyond the Centre–Periphery Debate. India: Taylor & Francis)


* This article was sent to be published at e-pao.net
This article was webcasted on 14 February 2024 .



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