Of kombirei and daffodil

Akham Bonbirdhwaja Singh *

 Kombirei - An indigenous flower from Manipur as captured through the lenses of Jinendra Maibam :: July 2012
Kombirei - An indigenous flower from Manipur - July 2012 :: Pix - Jinendra Maibam

Last year, my daughter sent me beautiful photos of Daffodils, it was first time for her to see real daffodils. This time when I came to London in the first week of March, amidst the pandemic virus Covid 19, I found that it has just started flowering, lines of hundreds of flowers, yellow and white both.

I need not narrate the beauty of this flower, Robert Herrick enlivened it, later Wordsworth have immortalised it. There are a few other beautiful poems on daffodils. By late winter and early spring, it flowers in full bloom.

So, in the first week of March, I found that everywhere the daffodils buds are seen, all the roadsides, church campus, grassy glens, courtyards of private buildings, setbacks of roadside buildings etc. Covid 19, when I flew from New Delhi, the first victim of the pandemic virus died in UK but then a few days after I reached here it increased exponentially.

Now also condition is not getting any better. In the meantime, I bought a few plants of daffodils (sprouted bulbs with buds) and my daughter planted them in her apartment mini garden, they have flowered for almost a month and still flowering, the daffodil flowers last quite long, most of the temperate flowers do.

The PM of UK ultimately announced the belated lockdown after a lot of initial resistance and after getting serious criticisms, but when the lockdown started, the daffodils have flowered and they became my friend.

The scientific name of daffodil is intriguing. So, I was brooding upon it. There are a number of myths about Narcissus that you might have read or heard, let me tell you one of them. Narcissus was the most handsome man and was a hunter from Larconia. He has broken hearts of many of his suitors.

One day he went for hunting in the mountains and seeing his handsomeness, Echo the mountain Nymph fell for him and she followed him. Narcissus asked who was following him and on that she told that she loved him. Narcissus told that he do not love her and he do not care, so she should not follow him. Heartbroken, the nymph died and disappeared, only the echo remained with the mountains.

Nemesis the goddess of revenge felt sorry for the nymph and wanted to teach Narcissus a lesson. She made him thirsty and guided him to a pool where on seeing his image and fell in love with his own image. Unable to get his love reciprocated, he died of passion burning inside him and melted to a narcissus flower.

There are other stories in Greek Mythology in which Narcissus ended as a flower. But there are comments that the name of the flower may not have anything to do with the myth.

Another opinion is that it might have been due to the fragrance, but then I have my opinion that some of the taxonomic nomenclatures have been on mythological or traditional connections of the species with the society, though most of the nomenclatures are on scientific characters.

I could gaze the flower for hours together to fill my heart with pleasure as Wordsworth did because, I had no chance of roaming around in London and not much pleasure was in my heart thanks to covid 19.

To appreciate the beauty of the flower was one good thing I could do. Seeing the way the flower seem to look on itself, I even wonder that Narcissus is the proper name, Narcissus pseudonarcissus L.Calling the flower Narcissus, for the western eyes this must have been regarded as the most beautiful flower.

What about our Kombirei?

It also has gregarious habit which increases the visual effect. It is one of the most beautiful flowers belonging the Iris group, Iris laeviegataFisch. Earlier, following Dr. D.B. Deb, it was presumed to be Iris bakeri Wall.

Both Kombirei and Daffodil develop bulbs and can be propagated through it also. I have no intention to compare these two iconic flowers, but to tell honestly, the daffodil is highly flamboyant, showy but the Kombirei, it is so cool, its deep purple blue giving sophisticated and aristocratic look. It matches the Manipuri psyche and our art forms particularly our classical dances the subtle moves and intense beauty.

We also have half a dozen songs dedicated to this flower and it has a strong cultural link with Meitei society. But the point is, the popularity of daffodils and pride they have taken in the flower combined with British passion for gardening, I do not think that there is any threat or danger of the daffodils getting extinct.

One hospital planted thousands of Daffodil plants in an open ground, the civic bodies are planting it in many places. On the contrary, our Kombirei once a very common and important flower is facing grave danger, many scientists and flower lovers have expressed their concerns many a times. There is also another threat that it may be out shadowed by the new varieties being brought in lately.

So when, our Kombirei is so dear to our culture, tradition and folklore, why it is facing grave danger of getting extinct?

When it has found a place in our hearts, why canít it find a place in our gardens. Why canít all of us take pride in planting it in our gardens and near domestic wetlands to protect it and to add value to our collections.

It does not seem possible to rehabilitate it in the Lamphel Pat or YaralPat, these wetlands have been all heavily encroached. So, the public can contribute here. Like British, the Manipuris also have passion for gardening and strong love for flowers, so it is highly possible.

Initially, some problem may be there for its seedlings, here the research centres and concern departments can come forward and help.There are over 300 varieties of Iris and a number of countries have cultural associations with Iris flowers.

There are many similar to Kombirei and of late many might have been introduced in our state, so getting our true Kombirei is important (four varieties are reported) when we go for its cultivation and protection and avoid those varieties brought from outside, else we may end up adopting something else and cut a sorry figure later.

Late Tamo Brajachand, the renowned orchid enthusiast and Orchid Development Officer tried to preserve two of the original varieties of our Kombirei in Khonghampat Orchid Preservation Plot (now renamed as State Orchidarium), if the same are still available, those need close preservation and multiplication.

Elsewhere also Kombirei gardens have been promoted to take advantage of its popularity in our society and rightfully so.Here, we should not make compromise and care for our original one, the lovely Kombirei.

* Shobha Shukla - CNS (Citizen News Service) wrote this article for
The author can be reached at bonbir13(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on May 12 2020.

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