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Tingkao Ragwang: The Supreme God

‘Tingkao Ragwang is the creator, operator and destroyer’

God is the name commonly given to the ultimate source and power of the universe and the subject of religious devotion. He is described as the Supreme Being, the creator, and the ordering force of that is. He is infinite, eternal, immutable creator, preserver of all things and the object of worship. He is a perfectly good, true, and righteous personal spirit, that he is eternal and that he possesses omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscient.

The Zeiangrong people believe in the existence of one Supreme God who is the creator of the universe, giver and source of life, the dispenser of plenty and justice (Gangmumei Kamei: Philosophy and Theology of Zeliangrong Religion in Ragailong Youth Club Golden Jubilee, 1998). He is named Tingkao Ragwang. Tingkao Ragwang literally means the heavenly God, or God of the sky or Lord of the universe. R. Brown has made a reference that the Zeliangrong people worshipped a Supreme being who was the creator of all and Dumpapoi, a God who created man by the orders of the Supreme being. (Brown: Statistical Account of Manipur, Mittal Publications, New Delhi, 2001, p.27.)

The traditional religion of the Zeliangrong is basically based on the fundamental belief on the supreme God, Tingkao Ragwang. It was nameless before, yet now known as the Tingkao Ragwang Chapriak, the traditional indigenous religion of the Zeliangrong people of North East India. It was named after the Supreme God worshipped by the people since ancient time. So, ‘˜Tingkao Ragwang Chapriak’ means the religion of Tingkao Ragwang. This profound religious tradition is preserved and practiced through oral traditions by the ancient Zeliangrong community for ages.

‘Religion did not exist for the saving of souls’- the individualistic function of modern religion- ‘but for the preservation and welfare of society’. (William Robertson Smith: Religion of the Semites, 2005, p.xiv)  Ancient religion is collective in nature but modern religion is individualistic. Religion is the system of worship of God by men with a code of spiritual moral, social behavior dealing with God, men and society. (Gangmumei Kamei: The Zeliangrong Primordial Religion, Imphal, 2005, p.1) Primordial religion means a religion with a primeval existence, existing since the beginning of time, ancient and eternal. (Namthuibuiyang Pamei: The Trial from Makuilngdi The Continuing Saga of the Zeliangrong people), Shillong, Sept. 2001, p.30). Tingkao Ragwang Chapriak is thus a primordial religion of the Zeliangrong people. However, the Tingkao Ragwang Chapriak is polytheism: worship of Tingkao Ragwang, the Supreme God, Anbaan Ranun, other gods of the earth, Kairong Shong, village deities and Kairao, ancestors etc. It believes in the supreme God as the highest God out of the Gods. A God is to be supreme over all others, and the rest are but his vassals, his ministers or angels. (Frank Byron Jevons: The History of Religion, Orient Publications, Delhi, 1985 (Reprinted), p.383).

It is believed that Tingkao Ragwang is the direct maker of the sun, the moon and the earth. He is called ‘˜The father of the beginning’, ‘˜The first of the Gods of the upper world’, ‘˜He who adjusts the world by his hand’, and ‘˜The lord of truth’. He is also called ‘˜the king of the Gods’, ‘˜The lifter of the hand’ and ‘˜The lord of the crown’. ‘˜He rules supreme over the gods’. ‘˜He who has made the world and all that is in it’. (George Rawlinson: The Religions of the Ancient World, Award Publishing House, New Delhi, 1980 (Indian Edition), Pp.24-52). God is everywhere that He is ‘˜like wind’ and ‘˜like air’.(E.E. Evans-Pritchard: Nuer Religion, Oxford University Press, 1977, p.4) There was no such time when He was not there, and there will be no such time when He will not be there. He is the origin and mover of all things in the universe. He was never born, and will never die. Fire cannot burn it. Water cannot wet it. Air cannot dry it up. No weapon can cut it. He is beyond change. He is formless and colorless. He is the protector of men. (Ibid.p.8) Horace says, it is ‘Who guides below and rules above, the great disposer and the mighty king; than he none greater; next him none can be, or is, nor was; supreme, he singly fills the throne’. (Tryon Edwards (Compiled): The Greatest Quotations An Encyclopedia of Quotations, Crest Publishing House, New Delhi, 1999 (First Edition), p.434). Thus, He is worshipped as the Supreme God, the creator of the universe, nature, gods, men and animal.

Tingkao Ragwang is eternal with no beginning and no end, good, source of life, giver and ultimate goal of human soul, source of holiness, architect of men’s destiny, source of knowledge and wisdom. He is created out of nothing by his will. He has no father, nor mother. He just exists. He is beyond time and space. He is omnipresent (present everywhere); omniscient (infinite knowledge), omnipotent (unlimited power) and omnibenevolent (perfect goodness). (Gangmumei Kamei: The Zeliangrong Primordial Religion, Imphal, 2005, Pp.5-6; Chaoba Kamson: Ra Pari, Imphal, 2009, Pp. 1-3)

According to traditions and myths of the Zeliangrong, Tingkao Ragwang willed to create the universe, god, men and nature. It is Tingkao Ragwang who gives soul to man. Soul is locally called Buh mang. He is described as Buhshinmeipu-Buhdameipu, the giver and protector of Soul. He is the ordainer of the need of human kind, the creator of the uncreated and the destroyer of the created. (Tingkao Ragwang Kalum Kai, Souvenir, Imphal, 7th May, 2001, p.28; Conference on Zeliangrong Religion: A Commemorative Volume, Imphal, 1994, Pp.5-6).

Heaven means the dwelling place of God, and the abode or state of being of the saved, or the blessed in the afterlife or in the time after the last judgment. It is a place of peace and definitive happiness.

The term also designates the celestial sphere or spheres in contrast to the earth, the dwelling place of man and to the underworld, the abode of the souls. Heaven is also the place of the Sun, Moon, planets and stars, all of which give and symbolize light, a quality of the sacred and the good, as opposed to darkness, the quality of the underworld and evil. ‘˜God being above, everything above- the heavenly bodies and the movements and actions connected with them are associated with him. Thus anything associated with the sky is lacking in earthly things’. (E.E. Evans-Pritchard: Op.cit, p.3) The concept of Heaven is interpreted in various ways in different religions of the world.

It is believed that Tingkao Ragwang lives in the heaven above the sky called Tingkao Kaidai or Tingkao Ragwang kai; (Tingkao=sky, Ragwang=supreme God, Kai=abode). Every Zeliangrong people wish and dream to go to Heaven. Local tradition says, there is no suffering, no jealousy, no anger and everything is available in Heaven. It is the golden land of peace and happiness. It is believed that only the holy soul or the one who is free from any sin called Non or a doer of good in the human world, one who follows the tenets of the Tingkao Ragwang Chapriak and the performer of feast of merits such as Ragaidai, Bamjou Kimei, Muleng, Banru and Taraang in the name of supreme God will go to Heaven after death. (Tingkao Ragwang Chapriak: Ringlon Khatni Theilon, Imphal, 2002, Pp.63-65; Chaoba Kamson: Ra Pari, Imphal, 2009, p.3)  In Bhagavad Gita (15.6) That Supreme abode of Mine is not illuminated by the sun or moon, or by fire Those who reach it never return to this material world’.

Worship is an act of religious devotion usually directed to one or more deities. Evelyn Underhill defines worship thus: ‘The adoring acknowledgement of all that lies beyond us- the glory that fills heaven and earth. It is the response that conscious beings make to their creator, to the Eternal Reality from which they came forth; to God, however they may think of Him or recognize Him, and whether He be realized through  religion, through nature, through history, through science, art, or human life and character.’ (Evelyn Underhill: Education and the Spirit of worship, in collected papers, London, 1946, p.193) Through worship, man acknowledges his dependence on God and seeks to do His will, or on a lower level he tries to win God’s favor. An act of worship may be performed individually, in an informal or formal group, or by a designated leader. Religious worship happens in a wide variety of locations: in purpose-built places of worship, at home or in the open. Many religious traditions place an emphasis upon regular worship at frequent intervals, often daily or weekly or monthly at full moon day. Expression of worship vary but typically include one or more of the following: prayer, meditation, ritual, scripture, sacrament, sacrifice, sermons, chanting, music or devotional song, dance, religious holidays, festivals, pilgrimage, dining, fasting, temples or shrines, idols, or simply private individual acts of devotion.

The mode of worship of Tingkao Ragwang ranges from a small offering of water to the great sacrifices of Maku Banru, Bamjou Kimei and Taraangkai etc. In other words, Tingkao Ragwang is worshipped through prayers, sacrifices and meditation. Following the footsteps of Haipou Jadonnang and Rani Gaidinlu, they constructed House of worship known as Kalum Kai or Kalum Ki for the purpose of worship of Tingkao Ragwang. Now, there are twelve number of House of worship in Assam, Manipur and Nagaland. The followers of TRC come and worship Tingkao Ragwag, the Almighty God at the Kalum Kai every full moon day and every Sunday regularly (through prayer, devotional song, offering of holy wine and traditional dance etc.) for wellbeing and prosperity. All the believers in God are supposed to come and worship Tingkao Ragwang for his blessing.

Thus, Tingkao Ragwang is the Supreme God of the Zeliangrong people.

*The article is written by Dr Budha Kamei.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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