TODAY -

Story of Kaina's Theibong : Cultural History Of Manipur

Dr. Ch. Jamini Devi *

Chief Minister, Manipur , Okram Ibobi inspected Kaina Shri Shri Govindajee Tourist Complex on June 04 2014
Chief Minister, Okram Ibobi inspected Kaina Shri Shri Govindajee Tourist Complex on June 04 2014
Pix - Arunkumar Thongam (DIPR)



The mountain range that extends to the south of the small hill called Langmaijing, which is situated about fourteen kilometers to the east of Manipur valley is known as the Kaina Hill. It was known as Lakhai Phandong Ching in the olden days. The Meitei Vaisnavs call it Bhashmukh Parbat. The idol of Shri Govinda was sculpted out of a Theibong (Jackfruit) tree that grew on this mountain range. There is a lovely story that tells of how this magnificent Theibong came to be about.

One day, a man belonging to the Pangambam clan, broke open a Theibong in order to make offerings to the deity. He found only two seeds inside. He put the two seeds in an earthen jar, keeping the deity in his heart in prayer; he placed the jar in the Phung-ga Lairu (a place near the hearth inside a traditional Meitei kitchen). After some time, one of the seeds sprouted. The man took the sprouted seed, and planted it at a location on the eastern slope of the mountain. In time, there grew a beautiful Theibong tree.

By the blessings of God, the Theibong tree had healthy limbs that spread its branches wide on all sides, which attracted attention and admiration from those who saw it. To the southern direction of where the Theibong tree grew lay the village of Lisamlok. A Tangkhul woman that lived in the village frequented the mountain slope while collecting firewood. On her trips to collect firewood, she often saw a good looking sweet young boy that seemed to have appeared from nowhere each time.

The hill woman's heart was smitten by the adorable looks of the boy. The boy approached the old lady, and played with her and sought her affection. He told her that he was hungry and thirsty, and begged to let him eat the food that the woman carried with her for her lunch.

Each time she saw him; she opened her packet of food and shared it with him. An eternal bond of affection grew between the old lady and the young boy. The mesmerizing looks and mannerisms of the young boy captured the old woman's heart completely. She packed food for him and visited the location every day. Every day, she opened her packet of food and fed him.

A man named Pangambam Oma witnessed the rendezvous between the old lady and the boy, and reported it to the king. In the meantime, Shri Govinda gave his Darshan to the king in his dreams and reminded him, "Karta, I have been waiting for you without food and drinks on the Kaina hill for so long. Now you have regained your throne. Your hard times are over. Have you forgotten our conversation?"

The dream, coupled with the news that was reported by Oma, made the king feel like a guilty person. The king summoned is ministers and officials, and discussed the matter with them. As per the decision made by those assembled, a search for the Theibong tree was made on the Kaina hill.

Upon reaching the area, they looked for the woman and asked her about the young boy. According to the woman's direction, they searched for the boy, but he was not to be found anywhere. The search party looked far and wide for the location of the Theibong tree. They followed a path on a fork and came upon a large, defied Theibong tree.

Karta Maharaj considered the Theibong tree to be Shri Govinda himself, and prayed to it. It was decided that on an auspicious day, to be calculated by Khumbong Siddhanta, the tree would be cut down. The auspicious day arrived on a Wednesday morning, on Sankranti, the 22nd day of Lamta. The sun just peeked out on the horizon. After performing the Puja accordingly, Pangambam Oma Singh struck the Theibong tree a blow with his axe. Lo and behold! An endless stream of blood trickled down from where the axe hit the trunk.

The king consulted with scholars and pundits regarding the phenomenon. According to their advice, Khumbong Siddhanta and Bhaskar Sharma uprooted the tree instead. The citizens helped carry the uprooted tree across the mountain range. The tree was then dropped into the Lisam Lok. They then discuss as to how the tree would be carried to the king's palace. The place where the people gathered to discuss the matter (Khannaba) came to be known as 'Khannarok'.

After much discussion, the tree was finally carried through Langdum Santrok to the Iril river, where it was let to float down the river. After a brief journey down the water way, just before it reached Lilong, the tree sank. The people there tried to bring it up on the surface. When divers attempted to bring it up, they were not able to move it even an inch. The attempt to raise it with the help of the elephant from the royal palace also failed.

The dispatch rides reported the matter to the king. On receiving the news, Karta Maharaj arrived at the location without any delay. Wahengbam Ojha sang the sankirtan and the Brahmans prepared offerings and Aarti. The king lay prostrate on the ground in prayer. Following that, the tree was dragged along the river and brought to the palace.

The place where the tree sank came to be known as 'Urup', and the place where Aarti was performed came to be known as Arapti. Since Shri Govinda once made his presence felt in these places, Urup and Arapti are considered today as places of pilgrimage.

The tree finally arrived at the intersection of the Iril river and Turel Achouba. Upon reaching Lilong, the tree was lifted out of the water at Leisang Hiden. When it reached Langthabal, people offered flowers and fruits in worship. At present, the place where offerings were made has been developed as a market known as 'Heijigang Keithel' and is located across from the Manipur University.

From there, the tree was carried to the top of the Langthabal hill, and left it there to dry for a year. Upon receiving the news that the Theibong was finally dry, the king summoned the master sculptor Sapam Lokhon, and commissioned him to make an icon of Shri Govinda.

(Extracted from the book Cultural History of Manipur, Sija Laioibi and Maharas by Dr. Ch. Jamini Devi)


* Dr. Ch. Jamini Devi wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao
This article was posted on July 04, 2014.


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