TODAY -

Pena : The Royal Court Music Of Manipur

Seram Neken *

Pena Eshei 'Ukai Kappa' at Laihui Festival 2010 :: 16-19 December 2010
Pena Eshei "Ukai Kappa" at Laihui Festival 2010 :: 16-19 December 2010



The government must frame a policy for preserving the valuable indigenous art forms of various communities in Manipur
Review of the Hueiyen Rendezvous-I


Pena is not a mere musical instrument for entertaining the audience. It signifies creation and evolution. As a primordial art form, Pena had medicative values in the days of yore.

A Pena artiste is usually a healer of a variety of ailments. It is said that the Meitei kings patronized this art form so much so that they used to accompany a Pena artiste while heading for voyages. It is said that Chandrakiti Maharaja accompanied a Pena artiste in his Jilla Darbar trips for the purpose of interpreting topographies and also for entertaining him.

Pena may rightly be described as the royal court music of the Meiteis, as almost all civilized nationalities had such an institution. The Japanese too had paid high respect for their imperial court music.

The highly valuable aesthetic elements of the Pena were interacted upon in the Hueiyen Rendezvous - I held on 12th January, 2013 at the Literary Hall of Hueiyen Lanpao Daily at Imphal. The academic interaction and demonstration of the indigenous art form of the Meiteis was organized by the Hueiyen Lanpao Columnists' Forum.

Dr. Makhonmani Mongsaba, scholar and cultural activist addressed the session with his resourceful lecture. Padmashri Khangembam Mangi, renowned Pena artiste presented his performance as part of the programme. Prominent cultural enthusiasts, columnists, writers and media persons took active part in the discussion-cum-demonstration rendezvous.

Hailed as a Shumang Lila artiste in the early period, Padmashri Khangembam Mangi is renowned Pena performer who has made superb contribution in the preservation of indigenous music of the Meiteis. Right from 11 years of age, Shri Mangi started learning Pena from famous teachers such as Ahongjao, Kanhai, Mohon, Pandit Achouba and Kullachandra.

Before retirement from JN Manipur Dance Academy as Visiting Guru, he visited various countries including Russia and United States for demonstration of Lai Haraoba Pena music.

Besides being the president of LAIHUI, he is presently holding the charge of Lupa Leikham Sanglakpa at Sana Konung. Shri Mangi is also advisor of the Umanglai Kanba Apunba Loop (UKAL). In the first Hueiyen Lanpao Rendezvous, this prominent Guru enthralled the audience with his 'Kao-Phaoba' episode.

It was indeed a meaningful rendezvous which hunted the rudiments impounded in the dying art form 'Pena'. The discussion brought forth the need for more research and further discussion on the origin and style of the evocative musical art of the Meiteis. It is high time, rather late, for the present generation to explore the aesthetics inherent in this indigenous art form.

Every component of the instrument has its own meaning. Every posture and every movement of the artiste playing Pena has significance. Pena embodies traditional healing practices, martial arts and evolutionary theories of the Meiteis.

For instance, the performer's fingering on the Pena strings resembles the healing message on the body of a patient. The up and down movement of Pena which identifies with a rhythm symbolizes the heart beat of human beings.

The parts of Pena such as the strings, main body, tube, handle etc. indicates the highly skilled artistic creations of the Meiteis. The technology is truly civilized and outstandingly hi-tech.

Without any script of its own, Pena artistes amazingly play and recite stories with highly literary verses moulded entirely with their intelligence and oratory. It reveals how skilful and intelligent our Pena performers of the yore were. The famous poet Hijam Anganghal extracted the valuable narrations of Pena artistes of his time to compose the legendary epic 'Khambi Thoibi Seireng'. Pena, therefore is a precious and unique literary source of the nation.

According to Padmashri Mangi, 'Pena Phamsak' style has been dying in the contemporary Manipur, due to various reasons. Lack of encouragement on the part of the government and the general people has led to diminishing values of this aesthetic art form. Popularity of Pena has reduced radically nowadays. Learning of Pena has not been institutionalized so far. State patronage is highly called for in the revival of the dying art form.

The Art and Culture department of Manipur needs to put extra efforts to enliven the teaching of and research on Pena music. It has a lot to do in tracing the pre-historic beauty of the Meiteis, thereby preserving the identity of the Meiteis. Moreover, with due scientific studies and improvement, Pena may well be developed as a valuable world-class musical instrument.

It has all the elements of being at par with other contemporary classical music forms. It is however unfortunate that there is no institution for learning the valuable Pena art form in the state. Not only Pena, almost all valuable indigenous performing art forms in Manipur are continuously vanishing.

It is high time the government framed a concrete policy on Indigenous performing Art forms of Manipur to preserve the native art forms of varied communities residing in the state. Such a policy will surely enliven the emotional integrity among the various native peoples of the composite Manipur nation and heighten the richness of our heritage.


* Seram Neken wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao (English Edition)
This article was posted on January 21, 2013



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