Friday, May 12, 2006

More on Culture of Manipur

It would be wrong to say that this post is about the Culture of Manipur, because Manipur, as I keep saying is a Mini India with its own set of Castes, classes, Politics based on the same, multi-religion, Corruption and of course Pulp and Mushy Movies, with lots of songs and running on Hilltops, and sometimes around trees, and villains and the overcooked comedian.

I would be referring to the Culture of the Manipuri Hindus, who follow a sect called the Vaishnavism. Borrowed from the mainland, cynics would say, but then I find no wrong in borrowing good culture and assimilating with the same. But of course that is a totally different aspect altogether.

I wanted to narrate about the culture.
The Meeteis are a passionate race, and so passionate about what we do that, we borrowed a culture and then perfected it, so goes the saying. Without the passion, it would have been difficult to give to the World, The Manipuri dance, Raas Leela, Pung Cholom and of course the Royal game of Polo, from a small group of people hardly 15 lakhs in total.
The passion, some would observe, as the doings of people with no better things to do in life, but I am suddenly fond of my culture.

Last month I had gone home to attend to the last rites of my Aunt who expired suddenly, May her soul rest in peace, and the rites following the cremation, that continued for 14 days was far from borrowed culture, and if we did borrowed, it had been refined to the last tee, again cynics would compare it to superstition, when I performed a part of the rite, it felt so pure and good to be part of such an old tradition kept alive. I don’t know if mine would be the same when I die in old age in an unknown city..

On the 5th day of the death, we have something called the “Asti”, when we go to the cremation ground to collect the ashes. The Ash is not collected on the day of cremation or death. Ash taken from the temple, or forehead of the death is kept in a sealed container and buried somewhere in the cremation ground. It is removed on the said day, the container cleaned in the river and then 5 different matters, I don’t understand, and since the whole atmosphere was of a very serious tone, I only did what the pujari asked.

I was dressed in white and carried a tumbler and a stick to the cremation ground on the riverbank, and I took a dip in the river, and then came up to remove the container. I went again dipped myself and the container in the River, and came up to wash it in the first bowl, made from plantain leaf, and then I went and took a dip, 5 times more till the container was cleaned in the last bowl. Then the ash container was handed over to my cousin who was son of the demised. I went back for my last dip, changed into a Dhoti and ran so that I reach home before the party reached. Phew…

Did I mention that there was a whole coterie of singer who played the Pung or Manipuri Dholak that is quite famous more for the antics of the drummers than the drums itself.. and then there were the huge Gotals, or Jhans or something we call, Cymbals they are in english I guess… Two dish like bronze thing to be slapped against one another to create a sound. And they sang some kritans..


(Extreme right, guy with turban has a Cymbal)


From the daily grinds of Mumbai, and datelines and proposals and client Demos, It was a trip down yesterdays. A part of the journey called Life.

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"it felt so pure and good to be part of such an old tradition kept alive. I don’t know if mine would be the same when I die in old age in an unknown city."

Well you can help keep it alive.
I am of tibetan ancestory born in dharamshala, now earning a living in US...In my journey picked up remnants of a culture from my parents, influenced by culture politics of india US both...
But still do keep a cultural identity from my ancestoral land, It wont be the same some may say, but it never is...It always changes.
The issue is not so much what ritual will you choose when you die, but
what rituals/thought patterns actions do you practice that keep your link alive.
Culture is essentialy related to creation, its allways evolving and changing as long as transitions are peaceful and respectful its all good.

17/5/06 5:09 AM  

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