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Kom Tribes On The Path Of Cultural Revival

Champion boxer Mary Kom belongs to the Kom Tribe of Manipur.

IMPHAL, Feb 2: Although almost all Kom tribes are Christians, a handful of this tribesmen living in Khoirentak village in Churachandpur district have resolved to revive their indigenous culture and tradition which they forsook when they adopted Christianity about a century back.

Located about 43 Kms from Imphal, Khoirentak Khuman village has a population of around 500 Kom tribesmen.

With a population of around 20,000, the Koms are leading the Komrem people, a conglomerate of six small sub’“tribes whose total population is around 34,000.

Besides Kom, the other Komrem tribes include Kharam, Chiru, Aimol, Koiren and Purum.

S Achon Kom, secretary of Kom Cultural Dance and Research Institute (KCDRI), is the driving force behind the movement at reviving and promoting Kom culture and tradition.

‘Whereas people across the world have been preserving and promoting their respective indigenous culture and identities, the Kom tribes only saw a declining trend. This disturbed very much and I decided to do all I can to revive our culture. For the last 15 years, I have been striving to revive Kom culture and tradition,’ Achon (47) said.

‘Initially I moved around all Kom villages scattered around the foothills in the valley districts, collected ancient artifacts including basketry, clothes, ornaments and weaponries and set up a small museum at my village,’ Achon said.

He also succeeded in convincing Kom elders to teach the community’s traditional dance, songs and the dying art forms to the youths.

‘After years of struggle, we have now around 50 Kom cultural troupes. We are also proud to have over 200 artifacts including ancient Kom clothes, weaponries, musical instruments, utensils, ornaments and basketry in our museum,’ Achon added.

For his sustained efforts to revive and promote the dying Kom culture and tradition, the North East Zone Cultural Centre (NEZCC) honored him with the title ‘˜Guru’ in 2005.

Acknowledging his efforts to revive indigenous culture, a ten-day workshop and documentation and cultural program christened ‘˜Akathlengsa Mandonsotna’ (Remembering the past) was organized at his village under the joint aegis of the Indira Gandhi Rastriya Manav Sangrahalaya (IGRMS) Bhopal and KCDRI.

The event features workshop on documentation of folk narratives and cultural heritage of Kom tribe, display of the tribe’s artifacts at the village museum, photo exhibition and exhibition of various Kom dance and song.

‘With my strong insistence, a traditional Kom house has also been built at the IGRMS complex at Bhopal. Though we are Christians, we’ll continue to work to promote our dying culture and tradition and identity,’ Achom added.

N Shakmacha Singh, Museum Association of IGRMS, who takes part in Khoirentak program, said the main idea of it is to promote and revive Kom culture and make it as a tool of social integration.  Shakmacha lauded Achon Kom for his relentless efforts to promote Kom culture and identity.  About KCDRC, Achon said it was established in 1996 with the primary objective to preserve and maintain ancient traditions of the Kom tribe with research on their costumes and culture.

The institution has been extending its activities with ceaseless endeavor to show the identity of the community in district, state and national level functions, he said adding that hordes of awards have been given to it  Among others , the centre bagged first prize in folk dance competition organized by Manipur art and culture department in 2008,  second prize in the 15th all India multilingual drama competition in 2007, second prize in all Manipur folk dance competition in 2006 and cultural excellence award in national context .

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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