TODAY -

Cultural Heritage Complex
- Part 1-

By: Mutua Bahadur *


Introduction
Manipur is one of the states of the India's Northeastern region. Since time immemorial, the different groups of people came from east and west and settled in this state. It has a distinct character of a multicultural mosaic, which are composed of various ethnic groups. There are 33 tribes which include in the Schedule List and other Non-schedule tribes along with the Meetei who lived in the valley. Culturally and linguistically, they have a close affinity to the cultures and languages of the people of Southeast Asia. And geographically, Manipur provides a land bridge and cultural corridor between Southeast Asia and India.

Mutua Museum has a long cherished dream of Cultural Heritage Complex which can encompass all the material cultures of the people of this land. It hopes that the Complex can share a little knowledge in the understanding of the history of Manipur. The dream is realized after the establishment of a Cultural Heritage Complex at Ando village in 1993. In this Mini Complex, we planned to exhibit all kinds of things that related to the material cultures of different ethnic groups of Manipur along with their own styles of traditional houses. An attempt is made to build up these traditional houses with the materials that easily available in the various places of the different groups and also strictly observe their associated rituals.

Why in Andro
A small Chakpa village of Manipur known as Andro, lies in the foothills of Nongmaiching hill about 26 km from Imphal in the eastern side. The village has a distinct identity of its own by preserving the age-old cultures and traditions. The practice of fire worshipping is still continued in the temple of Panam Ningthou. It is prepared in turn by the every house-hold member of the village. A traditional system of village administration by nominating its members and the posts of authorities on the basis of lineages is practiced. The community of Andro has occupied a major portion in the map of traditional pot making culture. They still preserve the traditional rituals and norms relating to the process of pot making. Moreover, the villagers are nature loving people and always maintain a good relation with the nature to keep a pollution free ecosystem. In brief, we can call the village as the living heritage village. This is the main reason why we select this particular Andro village as a suitable place for our Heritage Complex.

Exhibition
In this Complex, we displayed many items into two broad categories. In the first category things exhibit within the traditional houses of different indigenous groups of Manipur. The second one is outdoor exhibition. Many of the materials, which we displayed in the house, are simply arranged in a manner that the common people used to preserve and exhibit things in their own way without investing more money. The sole aim of this effort is that it will not distract the minds of our visitors from the ordinary way of life of simple villagers.

In the outdoor exhibition, we attempted to display the different cultural practices of stone monuments of the tribal groups of Manipur in the form of models in tune with the Megalithic Cultural practices. The reason why we give a more emphasis on such monuments is that the Complex attempts to highlight the distinct characters, which are different from the other monuments of India to the general public, researchers and students. Here, we exhibited about 33 indigenous groups by erecting pillars with different symbols. Our lone ambition is to preserve the cultural symbols of indigenous people as well as to exhibit the interwoven cultural criss-cross and their integrity.

Preservation
Due to lack of adequate funds and as an experiment, the different traditional houses of the indigenous people of the Complex are made of the traditional raw materials, which are collected at their seasons. After finishing of construction, each and every house is inaugurated by performing traditional rituals and practices. All the houses of the Complex are well exposed in the smoke about 3 months before we use for exhibition. So that we can protect them from the untimely decayed and invasion of insects and worms. This experiment is followed the traditional method of preservation.

The Complex is maintained with a view to bring a Centre for Material Cultural Studies by collecting materials of different groups of Northeast India and Southeast Asia. It is believed that the Centre will able to provide an academic help to those researchers who pursued the knowledge of material cultures of this specific areas.


FIG 1

TYPICAL MEETEI YUMJAO (MEETEI HOUSE)
This is made of wood and bamboo. Its roof is usually covered with thatch. The main horizontal support beams, lower horizontal support beams and lower cross beams are also made of wood. Bamboos are used for the lower and upper roof supports. The wall of the house are made of bamboo chip or/and reeds and then plastered with a mixture of mud and straw chip. The approximate size of an ideal Meetei house is 4.80 m. in breath and 12.00 m. in length. There is an important place within the house for Lord Sanamahi and Goddess Ima Leimarel Sidabi. The kitchen and another important fireplace (Phungnak) are also well attached to this house. There is a small mound for ritual performance (Lairu) near this fireplace.

In this house, we exhibited the different forms and designs of pots which are collected from different parts of Manipur, other states of Northeastern India and Southeast Asia.

Pottery
There are the reports of the finding artifacts from Nongpok Keithelmanbi that reveal the use of hand made pottery in Manipur since 4460 + 120 B.C. The records so far we have proved that there are painted pots from 1170 onwards.


FIG 2

It is traditionally used a different kinds of pots like three legs pot of which shape is bulging in the middle, long neck and narrow mouth, and legless pot of which shape is narrow mouth, bulging in the middle and having mouth lid etc. There are different marks around the middle of the pot, such as Solar symbol, Corded mark, Honeybee mark, Herring bone mark, etc. It is used to make pot in black, white and red colour. The different forms of smoking pipe are also found in the excavation. These are made in the mould by using earthen material. Most of the smoking pipe found in Manipur are to some extent similar with those found in Myanmar in 14th to 16th centuries, (Inwa period).

The excavated sites where we discover the earthen pots are: 1) Neolithic site - Nongpok Keithelmanbi, Phunan, Laimanai, Napachik (1450 BC) etc., 2) Metal site - Mongjam, Moirang (1170 A.D.), Panjao Phalum, Naongpok Keithelmanbi etc., and 3) Historical site - Kameng, Sangaithel, Khangabok, Sekta, Kharam, Laphupokpi, and Andro, etc.

The different places of Manipur where the pottery is still practiced are: Andro, Nongpok Sekmai, Chairen and Thongjao in the valley. In the hill station of Manipur, like Oinam and Nungbi, there is still practicing pottery culture. In the valley earthen pots are no longer used for the preparation of food, but still there is an inevitable need of pots in the society for their ritual practices.


FIG 3


FIG 4


FIG 5



To be continued ....


Mutua Bahadur


* Mutua Bahadur contributes to e-pao.net regularly. This article was webcasted on March 30, 2010.


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