TODAY -

Amrapura lest you forget

R.K. Shivachandra *

I had first visited Amrapura in the early part of 2001, a tiny Meitei pocket near Kamadaw Pagoda. The pagoda has a special attraction for the Meiteis for this is the monastery where the Manipuri King Garibniwas left three notches striking thrice with his powerful sword leaving behind for history to record the sovereignty of the Manipuris over the lands beyond the nine hill ranges.

Most of the Manipuris in Amrapura are specialists in weaving 'Achek' worn by the noblemen of Myanmar. The Manipur–Burmese relation had been belligerent nearly five century and half, since the early 13th Century. In the "Manipur Past and Present" edited by Professor Naorem Sanajaoba, it is found that several thousand Manipuris had been murdered by the Burmese invaders during the four successive devastations.

A large chunk of Manipuri expatriates had been put into service of the Burmese King and Nation. At the time of the fifth and so far the largest devastation in 1819, the Manipuri population was 55,000 and population had been reduced to 10,000 at the end of seven years Burmese devastation. There were uncountable numbers of exodus to Myanmar.

Ibudhou Pakhangba Sanglen at Amrapura, Myanmar


Unlike their wealthy cousins in Mandalay, the Manipuris in Amrapura are facing the toughest challenge of existence. Weaving is their way of life. Irrespective of gender, all are in the profession from dawn to dusk. The village which has brought back memories of the 1829 is waiting your arrival to tell their stories.

Like in Yechipao the village has two temples of Emma Leimaren Shidabee and Ebudhou Pakhangba.

Though the pedestal of the holy shrines had been there since long time, the temples however were constructed in early part of 1964 by a man with his 14 years son who was cobbler by profession than. However both the father and son are no longer Manipuris now.

They have been amalgamated to the Burmese stream and culture. Why they have done that? It would be a long chapter.

Once during a Lai haraoba at Amrapura in 2005, two Ava women appeared and wept so bitterly in presence of the temple. People were left only to console them and the Manipuri team who were there stood speechless. Later it was realized that the two well attired Ava women who could be about the age of 55 or so, are none other than the daughters of the noble man who had constructed the building in 60s.

In almost chalked and emotive Burmese language they lamented how much their daddy would be happy seeing the Manipuris who came all long way to observe the lai haraoba. Their father had been expired long ago and the son who had accompanied the father in constructing the temple when he was 14 years old is now at Yangon with hordes of offspring.

A meitei maiden at Amrapura, Myanmar


Unfortunately the very vicinity of the Ebudhou Pakhangba and Ema Leimaren Shidabee in Amrapura are no longer ours now. The land had been sold out that means we have no right even for offering a flower to the God, the Meitei deities. For the last two years we have not been allowed to enter the site.

The new landlord had barricaded around the temple. The shrine of Amrapura is exactly what we see in any other Umanglai shrines in Manipur. The thick woods, tall trees and people around the village are so close and dear to our heart. Though unspoken as nature always does, the silent trees and small cottages in the village however seemed to open its wide arm to receive us. A sense of belonging always felt in the air.

Despite my handicaps to buy a land in Myanmar, I made an attempt to buy the vicinity belonged to the God that the owner would never listen to. However I have been driven by a wild concept that if the landlord agrees to my proposal than I was optimistic of collecting funds from my friends in and around Manipur who would endorse to my views.

Thereby I along with those like minded groups in Manipur would be in a position to donate a handsome amount to the villagers of Amrapura to build the temple. I am really concerned of Amrapura in Myanmar. Sometimes in Manipur I happened to be just a 'laughing stock' when I start the Myanmar story.

Many of whom I respect and considered to be 'respectable figure' happen to pass remark in a sing song, "What made you so serious of the Manipuris in Myanmar when your very Manipur is leading to a multiple divided house". What a cruel argument? I was almost left dumbfounded.

During my recent visit to Amrapura in June 2008, I had brought back some good news however. If somebody care to listen what I am going to say next than please be responsible also at the same time. A poor Manipuri widow owned a land in Amrapura just adjacent to the present pedestal of the Ebudhou Pakhangba. It is measuring about 600 fits in length and 450 in breath.

She is ready to dedicate this site for the purpose of constructing the temple. How I appreciate her from the core of my heart? Amidst her hectic 'day in day out' duty before the weaving looms, she also thinks of her community which is almost at the verge of extinction. I wish I could touch her feet hundred times to get her blessings.

Now it is the construction part which is going to be involved a sizeable amount. The time calls for the good angels in everybody's soul to come out and act. A poor woman can dedicate a sprawling land belonged to her just for the cause of her community.

If she sells the land to someone, the amount could have made a fortune to her family. But she didn't do it. In next few years the temple which stood in its dilapidated form will be no more.

Let us not allow this takes place.




* R.K. Shivachandra, social worker based in Imphal, contributes regularly to e-pao.net. The writer can be reached at india_myanmar(at)yahoo(dot)com. This article was webcasted on October 06th, 2008.

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