Tuesday, 25 March 2008

The Unique Rituals…

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Like any other Hindu community, the Bishnupriya Manipuri has its own customs and rituals, more appropriately societal systems. One among this systems are Lokei and Ghar Mangoni.

By BN Sinha, New Delhi

The population of Bishnupriya Manipuri community is very small in size and is widely spread in the north eastern part of India in Assam, Tripura and Bangladesh. We all believe that we are Aryans and considerably rich with respect to ethnicity and dogmas. The community as a whole is considered as peace loving and devotional and claim itself as Vaishnavaites as it worships Lord Krishna.

There are some distinctive rules or norms prevalent in the Bishnupriya Manipuri community with respect to customs and rituals. Though Bishnupriya Manipuri community is blessed of not following the system of casteism other communities in India. However, the community is segregated into various numerous clusters with respect to their origins known as Lokeis, and Gutras. Though gutras are said to be the fleet of same Gurukul named after several mythological Rishis namely, Shandilya, Atraya, Bharadwaja, Baiyagra Padya, Kashyapa. etc which can also be noticed in other communities.

Adding to that, the uniqueness in Bishnupriya Manipuri community is the lokei system. The community is divided into clusters respective to lokei they represent like Raja lokei, Khulakpa lokei, Amungo lokei, Lempa lokei, Nenthangkpa lokei to name a few. There are more lokeis. There is not a definite history that describes the evolution of these lokeis but it is believed it originated with respect to their location, common habits or after the name of their respective ruler of the ancient Bishnupriya Manipuri inhabitants.

There are various unique norms Bishnupriya Manipuri community follow which exists in the lokei system as the people of same lokei are also known as sakeis. There are several occasions which every sakei performs together. Various obligations and rules like in Bishnupriya Manipuri marriages the lokei and gutra both have to different between the bride and groom. There is also a typical Bishnupriya Manipuri custom prevalent in the lokei system which is known as “Ghar Mangoni”.

Ghar Mangoni is basically a time period in which members of specific lokei irrespective of the territory they belong can not perform any kind of auspicious celebration or performing of puja etc. The unique nature of Ghar Mangoni is that it occurs only when a person is born or when someone dies. There are various norms and rules need to be followed at the time of Ghar Mangoni , which restricts their daily life styles and food habits. It is so prominent and of intense importance that even the 21st century urban Bishnupriya Manipuris also have not forgotten to follow these norms.

But as the whole mankind move towards the sci-fi century, all the typical customs started plummeting from all the communities including Bishnupriya Manipuri. The 21st century individual wants to be more logical and scientific and sets his own norms and rules considering the aspects of “ demand and supply” which is definitely for the betterment of mankind and the system as a whole.

But is it always justified to disobey all the old social norms and customs may be unscientific or shall we need to study the evolution of all these norms or shall we quietly follow all those norms prevalent in order to conserve the unique community customs?

I definitely need to be enlightened…..

Read more:

Biography of Pandit Motilal Sinha
Amar Ela
What are We Waiting for?

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Meeting held to built Shri Shri Bhubhaneshwar Sadhu Thakur Mandir

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On 23 rd March 2008, a meeting took place at Mr. Shiva Prasad Sinha’s residence at Fort William, Kolkata to discuss upon acquiring a plot of land either in North or South Kolkata for the construction of a Mandir of Shri Shri Bhubhaneshwar Sadhu Thakur. People present in the meeting were requested to search for a better plot and they have agreed to do so.

Mr. Rebati Mohan Sinha, the Working President of Nikhil Bishnupriya Manipuri Mahasabha (NBMM) presided over the meeting. In his speech he expressed his happiness to be a part of the gathering where Shri Shri Bhubhaneshwar Sadhu Thakur’s teachings were discussed. He even pressed upon the unity among the Bishnupriya Manipuri inhabitants of Kolkata and its suburbs.

Mr. Nirmal Sinha assured in the gathering that they will continue celebrating Bishnupriya Manipuri festivals along with the Birth Anniversary of Sadhu Thakur. Mr. Rajat Sinha who was present in the meeting expressed his sorrowness to the deteriorating standard of education prevailing in the B.M.villages in Assam and Tripura. He requested the gathering to find a way out to improve the quality of education in those villages. He also told the gathering that they can not just scalp of their responsibilities towards the Bishnupriya Manipuri society which they are part of it.

On this point, Mr.Rebati Sinha intervened, saying, "the parents and guardians should be held responsible for the present affairs because they have no time to even look at the Progress Report of their wards. They are busy in ‘Village Politics’ i.e (Dola-Doli)".

People present there have cheered up by clapping their hands. There were no points to dwell upon for the day, the president called off the meeting in a happy note.


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Friday, 21 March 2008

Wish you a very happy and prosperous Phagua

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Holi the festival of colour and joy is celebrated with great enthusiasm by all. This festival is celebrated in different ways by different communities. Our Bishnupriya Manipuri community also has its own way of celebrating this colourful festival.

By Ranita Sinha, Kolkata

Holi or Phagua is a major festival of the Bishnupriya Manipuri community. In the villages on the day of 'Phagu Purnima' most of the individuals fast during day time. On that day the 'Firal' (Bishnupriya Manipuri holy flag), put on each and every house of the village are collected. With the poles of the 'Firal' a tower like structure with a hollow inside is built. The structure is called the 'Jarma". The 'Jarma' is built on the empty paddy field.

After sunset all the villagers irrespective of gender, age and status assemble near the 'Jarma' with flowers and bhog (fruits, sweets etc) to offer to the Lord. The village priest than appears at the site with the idol of the village temple and prepares for the puja inside the empty space under the 'Jarma'.

After the preparation is complete the priest performs the puja amidst 'Arati' and other devotional songs sung by the villagers. Once the puja ritual is complete the 'Jarma' is set on fire. Then all the villagers circles round the fire thrice with folded hands with the prayer that all sufferings may be burnt along with the holy fire and that a new and prosperous life be ahead of everyone. Once it is complete the young boys and girls put colour on the foreheads of the elders and take their blessings by touching their feet. Then everyone present their put different types of colours on one another.

When everybody is overdosed with fun they return to their home and break their fast with a well cooked vegetarian meal. After that for next five days holi is celebrated in the villages.

During these five days, people of the villages form groups and go from house to house singing 'Hari Naam' and other devotional songs and collect money. This is called 'Hari-Kayani'. The people who go for 'Hari-kayani' do not enter the houses. They stand in the court yard and sing the songs. Once the singing is complete they utter 'Hari Hari Bola, A Hari'. Then the lady of the house brings some money in a 'Selpak' (a standing dish used to serve paan) and put in the floor in front of the group. The group collect the money and leave.

For five days different groups of 'Hari-kayani' visit the houses. There is fun in the atmosphere for those five days. The money collected are later offered for developmental works of the respective village temples. The younger generation again sometimes have grand feasts with the money collected by them.

Thus, in this way the Bishnupriya Manipuri people celebrate their Phagua in the villages. The article is just an attempt by me to recollect my memories of 'Phagua', which, once I celebrated long back in my parental village. As such, the terms used may not be accurate. Please feel free to point out the errors.

Wish all the Bishnupriya Manipuri people a very Happy and Prosperous Phagua.

Interested! Read more

Hori Bola E Hori by Ashim Singha

Sri Sri Bhubaneshwar Sadhu Thakur by Ranita Sinha

Look Beyond by Ranita Sinha

Bishnupriya Manipuri Status in Google by Rishikesh Sinha

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Thursday, 20 March 2008

The Bishnupriya Manipuri Kitchen: Chakam

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Chakam - the Bishnupriya Manipuri kitchen has significance of its own. The traditional chakams are built on the 'Agni Kun' according to Vaastu Sastra. It is mainly build at the rear end of the house. It usually has two doors - one connecting it to the rest of the house and the other opening at the backyard.

By Ranita Sinha, Kolkata



The Bishnupriya Manipuri kitchens are very spacious and has 'kutcha floors'. It usually has two earthen chulhas known as 'leirang' and a make shift chulha known as the 'Phunka' or 'Udal' which is mainly put at the centre of the kitchen.

A common sight that is seen at every chakam is the household granary known as the 'Barong', built at one corner of the kitchen.

Every morning the Chakam is cleaned and mopped with a mixture of mud and cow dung. No overnight used utensils are kept in the kitchen. No one is allowed to enter the chakam without taking a bath. Shoes and slippers are a big NO NO in there.

Onions, garlic, eggs and meat are not allowed inside a Chakam, though fish is consumed at a large scale. The lady who cooks the food is not allowed to roam around or touch anything or anybody while she is preparing food. Before preparing every meal she has to take a bath.

A layering of mud is done on the outer surface of the utensils used for cooking food. It is necessary because the food is cooked in the 'Leirang' with wooden fire, which releases lots of carbon, which makes the utensils black and very difficult to clean. With the layering the cleaning part is made easier.

The make shift hearth (chulha) known as the 'Phunka' or the 'Udal' has its own significance. It is made by digging a hole of approximately one foot deep and one feet wide. Upon it an iron stand known as the 'Lechupi' is put, over which the utensils used for preparing food are put. The main feature of this Phunka is that the fire is always alive. It is because the hole is filled with skins of paddy called 'Chuss' which once put on fire does not extinct.

The Phunka is mainly used to make tea, boil milk, make roti, roast potatoes, dry fish, Hidol etc. It can even be said that it works as a modern day micro oven. The Phunka is also a popular place of 'adda' for the household. It is the place where on a winter night all the family members sit around and gossip.

But since life is changing at a rapid pace and so also technology. Now a days such Chakams are very rare. Now in the remote villages also all modern amenities like gas and ovens etc. are used in the kitchen. The Leirangs and Phunkas are rarely seen. Now dining tables has taken the place of the Barong. No more household adda takes place surrounding the Phunka at a winter night. Now the village lanes do not smell of the Chossor ji.

But it is life. It has to change with time. Yet it is definite that the food cooked on a cooking gas does not taste the same as the food once cooked on wooden fire. The real taste of Bishnupriya Manipuri food cooked on darour ji (wooden fire) is missing.

Update: by Rebati Mohan Sinha

Earlier I had appreciated Mrs. Ranita Sinha for her articles; like potato-fry, Chinchu etc. And today, again I am going to praise her. The words written in B.M kitchen, leirang, phunka, udaal, chakam and chuss etc ,are fading away from our minds, as she mentioned in her article that these are being replaced by modern days utilities,such as, dining table, Gas stove and oven etc. During my last visit to my native place I have enjoyed a lot, the way she has narrated in her article i.e the phunka,where the household (people)eagerly waiting for their turn to occupy the place around it, like a game of musical-chair; but my berth was assured, as I was second senior most at home.These all could happen,when the Kitchen(chakaam)is spacious, as mentioned in the article and to substantiate this, I am attaching a photograph,showing how the household having their food in the spacious chakam.



Photo by: Rebati Mohan Sinha

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Saturday, 15 March 2008

The Thread is Missing

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My Aiga expired this evening. His death came as a shocking news for my family, and of course to me. It has jolted me from inside. All his countenance that has taken place with me since my childhood is flashing on my eyes. His smile, his way of asking about my wellness, when I used to visit my Mohanpur village is surfacing in my mind.

I am not able to digest the fact that he is no more on this earth. I will not be able to see him next time I drop at my village. There will be no person who would be asking me "Rishi, kishade aileta?...Habbi hoba oya asi ta?." These two sentences were enough to relax me from the tortuous journey I used to travel to get to my village. The sentences had a magical effect on me, it was so soothing. The calmness it brings to my nerves is something I never felt before. But now the voidness he has created I am feeling, sitting thousands of kilometres away from my home.

I would no more see my Aiga, wearing a khuttei busy working in the garden of my home. Though he is elder to my father, his physical texture was opposite to my father. During my last visit in the year 2006 he was hale and hearty, full of energy and without an iota of illness. We met at my Didi's (his daughter) marriage.

My Aiga has nothing, absolutely nothing that can be put on the measurement of the world that we all refer to: status, education, job, achievement. He was a peasant who had spent his entire life working in the fields and participating in the village's work, customs and rituals. Moreover, who has seen us growing in the path of life.

He is the thread who has been joining the past and the present. But his death has cut the relationship, not withstanding the roots I carry.

No more......I have jotted down that went to my mind.

Aiga is my uncle - my father's elder brother.
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Friday, 7 March 2008

Genie of Inter-caste marriage!

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Couple of months back, in the Orkut Bishnupriya Manipuri community, a long, contagious debate took place on the inter-caste marriage. The debate was hot, hot as much it could bring sweat down under everyone's collar. If one remembers, and has closely followed it. It was indeed so.

I remember both the sides 'for' and 'against' were armed to teeth with facts and figures. They had a point and logic what they were putting. Some were damn practical to their views and some adamant to their beliefs.

But it was interesting to the hilt. And I enjoyed it thoroughly. No doubt of it, their were comments that were very much personal and hence mitigating the whole spirit of discussion and fruitful debate.

No problem! At the end of day we were all having the same blood running in our veins - Bishnupriya Manipuri. Quarrels do take place when from various parts of the world people congregate and exchange their precious views.

The debate brought slew of perceptions that we have on inter-caste marriage. If I go personal to this issue that is slowly engulfing the Bishnupriya Manipuri: 1. guys going for girls from different community. 2. In return girls choosing boys other's caste. 3. Boys and girls of the same community that is Bishnupriya Manipuri tying nuptial knot.

If we keep aside those areas where the community is based and has roots. And if we come out to those areas where our people are sprinkled here and there, say for any purpose like job and education, then the probability is more of the 1 and the 2.

Reasons are many and widespread. First the required interaction between the boy and the girl is absolutely nil, so the probability to tie the knot is nowhere and doesn't come into the picture.

Second, there is a big gap of geography and the mental frame of both the parties. And the way the modern living is going on both the sexes had a fear and they are in apprehensive state about the future. How the future will take its course?

Third, there is a mismatch in terms of education, economic status of boys and the girls. This is the reason why those coming in the bracket of economic prosperity and higher education remain bachelor and bachelorette.

It is good and fantastic if both boys and girls is from the same community. But, taking into consideration all these factors than leave it to god. The almighty will decide where the boat will sail and anchor.

Written by Rajesh Sinha

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Sunday, 2 March 2008

Bishnupriya Manipuri troupes performed Rash in Bangladesh

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The three-day Folk Music Festival ’08 came to an end in Bangladesh with the presentation of Manipuri classical dance titled Rash being performed by the Bishnupriya Manipuri community inhabitants of the country.
The artists presented the Rash in three fragments of art forms. However, the classical dance is performed nightlong.

The festival took place in the premises of the Bangladesh Asiatic Society [BAS] on February 29. BAS arranged the festival to its project called 'Bangladesh Cultural Survey'.

Besides dance and music, research papers on folksongs were presented.

Ten troupes performed in the evening session of the programme. The event began with staging of the Manipuri Moithy community's folklore. They staged two Jagous (a traditional performance in dance-music form featuring the myth of Khoma-Khoibi duo). Moreover, they presented a part of Khubak Oishey ( a kind of ballad). The presentation of the indigenous performing art forms of Manipuri Moithy was enjoyable. Reported by The Daily Star.

Other communities of the country like Chakma, Tripura and Marma, also participated in the festival.

I failed to understand: what is a Manipuri Moithy? Bishnupriya Manipuri people in Bangladesh can answer it better.


Source: The Daily Star

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