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Shumang Lila: Presentation & Representation Of Culture

Shumang Lila is an aesthetically and structurally unique form of theatre originated in Manipur. This art-form reflects the dynamics of culture and tradition of Manipuri society, serving as a medium of both entertainment and efficacy, and in the process changes itself with the exigencies of the time.

Shumang Lila is a very unique form of theatre of Manipur. Its uniqueness lies as much in the form as also in the fact that it has unfailingly held up a mirror to the moral-ethical concerns and preferences of the society and polity as also in its broad political and social ferments over the decades. Etymologically ‘˜Shumang Lila’ is a combination of the words, ‘˜Shumang’ (courtyard) and ‘˜Lila’ (play or performance). So, structurally it may be termed as ‘˜courtyard theatre’. It is performed in an area of usually 13 x 13 sq. ft in the centre of any open space’”courtyard of a house or playground or mandap (pavilion) of Hindu temples or complexes of local deities or lais. The physical setting of its performance does not require such props as a raised stage, background scenery, or visual effects except a table and two chairs kept on one side of the space. They serve as props helping the mimic communication of messages. This space is surrounded by the audience, leaving only one passage that serves as both entrance and exit into the green room.

There are other Vaisnavite dance drama genres, which follow the structure of Shumang Lila such as Gouralila, Sanjenba (an episode of the play between Krishna, the Gopis and the cows), Udukhol (an episode from Krishna’s childhood plays). They are seasonal performances that draw on the common spiritual pool of the audience. On the other hand, Shumang Lila is secular in content having no specific seasons of performance and commands wide popularity among the people.

Shumang Lila is a touring theatre performed by a group of around twelve or thirteen artistes, who are invited by an individual, or a group who pays them ‘˜dakshina’. These troupes may be either exclusively female (Nupi Shumang Lila) or exclusively male (Nupa Shumang Lila). In this theatre form, there is social sanction for transvestism. In Nupi Shumang Lila, the female artistes dress themselves up as males depending upon the characters. They try hard to look masculine using the masks of heavy costumes and make-ups. But more popular than them are ‘˜Nupi shabis’ (female impersonators) who can be called ‘˜male actresses’ of the Nupa Shumang Lila. They are feminine par excellence in their looks, bodily gestures and facial expressions. These Nupi Shabis gained entry into Shumang Lila due to social constraints on women’s participation in a bisexual secular theatre ensemble. Being a touring theatre, Shumang Lila needed female artistes to mingle with their male counterparts day and night, which patriarchal Meitei society would not tolerate. Further, Shumang Lila’s adoption of the realistic presentation style throws open private life into public space. So, the artistes are potentially liable to enact the physical coziness of say, husband and wife, in the performance space which a female artiste dare not act out before the audience. So, Nupishabis had an easy birth as Meitei society had already approved the tradition of transvestism through the institution of Maibis.1 This tolerance towards cross-dressing is also seen in the religious performing arts. Female artistes dress up as Krishna in Rasa Lilas2 of

Manipur. This was why women artistes in Nupi Shumang Lila did not have much problem in cross-dressing as kings and nobles.

History of Development of Shumang Lila

Shumang Lila is a purely Manipuri contribution to the world of theatre. The history of the development of Shumang Lila can be broadly divided into three phases’”first, the period preceding the time of Chandrakirti Maharaj (1850’“1886); second, the period between the time of Chandrakirti Maharaj and 1950; third, from 1950 to the present day.

Shumang Lila as a theatre form is a development from Laiharaoba festival, which is performed in the temple of lais (deities). Laiharaoba is a treasure of Meitei philosophy and arts. Structurally, the Shumang Lila performance space is the same as that of Laiharaoba where the entire ritualistic performances, including dances, are performed in the sacred space surrounded by the audience who are also devotees. Stylistically the heavy dependence of Shumang Lila on pantomime is a clear development from the various Jagois (dances) of Laiharaoba. The whole philosophy and process of creation of the cosmos, the human body, the performance of daily routine works and other rituals are rhythmically and aesthetically created by the movements of parts of the body, mainly hands of the Maibi in a genre called Maibi Jagoi (Maibi dance).

The main dramatic repertory is found in the episode of ‘˜Tangkhul‘“Nurabi Loutaba’ performed on the night of the last day of Kanglei Haraoba. This episode is believed to have been incorporated in Laiharaoba festival during the reign of King Loiyamba (AD 1074’“1112) as documented in Loiyamba Shilyen.3 This is an enactment of the repartee between Tangkhul, the incarnation of lord Nongpok Ningthou, who dresses up in the Tangkhul attires, and Nurabi, the incarnation of goddess Panthoibi, who dresses up as Tangkhul lady, when they are out in the field for farming. This episode incorporates the philosophy of fertility in terms of reproduction. Again, it teaches the importance of work culture for a polity to sustain and progress. The existence of this episode in Laiharaoba also documents the close affinity between Hill and Valley people. This has all the elements of a Shumang Lila performance’”humour, pantomimic elements, with simple but meaningful dialogues from the rites, traditional proverbs, riddles, sayings with singing and dancing. Tangkhul, the main protagonist, has to enact a repertoire of roles in every subplot of this episode such as his incarnation as Lord Nongpok Ningthou, meeting with Nurabi, quarrel between them as ordinary young man and woman and reconciliation, food and drink sequence, Tangkhul in drunken state, seduction of other women and Nurabi, reunion of the two in ecstasy, working together in the field, gathering of honey from beehives etc. The whole episode is presented with a tinge of eroticism in dialogue and body movements.

In addition to Laiharaoba, some forms of entertainment on the lines of Shumang Lila were believed to have been in existence in the period preceding King Khagemba’s (AD1597’“1652) rule. One of them was known as ‘˜Chengpak khulou yengdaba huidri padam loudaba toknga makhum hangba’ (it means speaking out whatever one wishes).4 During Khagemba’s time, it was known also as ‘˜Mitou tamba’ (to imitate). Such forms of entertainment were basically episodic without regularity in performances and formal theatrical structures.

Though this first phase served as prologue, the second phase ushered in a formal structure of theatre in Manipur. During the reign of Chandrakirti Maharaj, a genre called Phagee Lila (farce) came up.6 The comedians of the land were summoned to the palace and made to perform during the ten-day-long Durga Puja festival. Phagee Lila was out and out comedy, cooking up of absurd stories on the spot to entertain the audience. Very talented artistes like Abujamba Saiton and Heining Maru performed throughout the ten days of the Durga Puja without repeating the plots. Then it was succeeded by such plays as Ramlila, Sabha parba, Kabul lila etc. During this time, modern proscenium theatre (Phampak Lila) made an entry into Manipur from Bengal with the staging of the play Pravas Milan (1902).6

Shumang Lila with various rasas (sentiments) was ushered in with the play Harishchandra (1918). Then it was followed by such plays as Sabitri Saitavan, Meiraba Charan, Thok Lila etc. Thok Lila was special in that it addressed the social and economic problems of the people. A gifted artiste called Chungkham Ibohal and his troupe performed7 a satirical play against the water tax levied on people using Imphal River. Hearing of this, Maharaja Churchand (1891’“1941) had him arrested. Then he was made to perform in front of the King. Taking the opportunity, he delivered his celebrated line’”’˜papi machagi lainasida leiramdrabadiko’ (had this cursed disease not afflicted me!)’”with his face frowning with severe pain. This single line enthralled the king so much as this clearly expressed the pain he went through due to his suffering from piles. Then Ibohal was allowed to perform whatever he wished to. This was a clear case of theatre being a powerful tool of expression.

During the time of Sir Churachand Maharaj the powerful influence of the Bengalis was consolidated in the field of culture, literature and performing arts in Manipur. Educated people felt pride in speaking Bengali and mixing up as many Bengali words as possible in both spoken and written Manipuri language, while speaking English was considered to be polluting. Though it helped in enriching the knowledge bank, there was also uncritical and unscrutinised acculturation of various cultural traits, mostly by the people in the capital city, and subsequently diffused to the rural masses. That way Manipuri language had to suffer, especially in performing arts including Stage Lila (proscenium theatre) and Sankirtan singing.8 Thok Lila genre also had to suffer identity crisis. With the deepening influence of Bengali culture and language in the 1930s and 1940s, the trend to equate the Manipuri genre with Jatra9 gained pace. So the Manipuri genre lost its name and was replaced by Jatra or the amusing term Jatrawali (those who play Jatra). Since then Jatra encompassed all those forms of theatre having the structure of the present-day Shumang Lila.

One of the most significant accomplishments of 1930s was the dramatization of the legends of Khamba and Thoibi of Moirang Parba. Before this, the Manipuri audiences relished the taste of Moirang Parba only through Pena10 musical genres. But then this truly indigenous form of rendition had to suffer cultural corruption. Imagine Nongban, the antagonist of the play, singing a song in Bengali dreaming of his marriage with Thoibi and their prospective children playing Krishna and Radha in the Rasa Lila! It was a clear sign of lack of consciousness of the sanctity of this epic, blinded by Vaishnavism, which could have been separated and kept in its own dignified spheres. Such influences were more so due to the royal patronage of Vaishnavism, which the masses readily internalized in their socio-cultural lives.

The third phase started in 1950 with the introduction of scriptwriting. The first scripted play was Puya Meithaba of N. Angouton followed by the play B.A. Mapa Lamboiba. This opened up a new horizon for the creative writers to experiment and advance the dramatic literature. This period also marked a turning point in the political history of Manipur when it was merged into India (under the controversial ‘˜Merger Agreement’ of September 21, 1949). Shumang Lila reflected the existential crisis of Manipuri society, a crisis aroused by the necessity to assert its survival and to make its presence felt to an ‘˜other’. Puya Meithaba11 was a play based on the events leading to the burning of sacred Meitei scriptures called Puya during the reign of King Pamheiba or Garibniwaj (1709’“1751) under the instigation of a missionary of the Vaishnavite sect, Ramandi. That was the first manifest attempt in Shumang Lila to go back to the past and assert the Manipuri identity. It was more so with the decline of monarchical edicts on the social, religious and cultural affairs. The play was influenced by the ‘˜revivalist’ movement, which had been underway, though latently, since 1940s in the valley.12 This play and its recorded audio version were (still are) able to stir the sentiments of the Manipuris and germinate the sense of historicity in their minds. N. Angouton who enacted the role of Shantidas Goshai became the target of the anger from the side of the audiences because of his superb portrayal of the character.

This phase saw the upsurge of value-loaded ‘˜social plays’ performed by the organized Shumang Lila troupes in the nook and corner of the Imphal valley and even outside it. Thus, like other performing art forms, Shumang Lila evolved as a crucible of experimentation by mixing ideology with entertainment, and successfully weaving the two elements into an organic whole. In the process, it established a link to an absent ‘˜other’, abolished time and space to create a symbolic time and space, and confronted the ‘˜other’ ‘˜here’ and ‘˜now’. Such social plays succeeded in highlighting the various socio-politico-economic dynamics of Manipur. Most of the plays of Shumang Lila are tragi-comedies with an elaborate use of melodrama in which the comedians play a vital role in entertaining the audiences while spreading a new socio-political-cultural awareness.

The 1970s marks another milestone in the development of Shumang Lila. This period saw the entry of Nupi Shumang Lila troupes (female troupes) into the Shumang Lila culture as distinct from their presence as female artistes in the proscenium theatre since 1940s. It was a movement to revive the forgotten tradition of Moirang Parba in Shumang Lila, which had been overtaken by social plays since 1950s. The movement was feminist, not in the sense that it was anti-male but that of an enterprise to materialize the sense of responsibility and creativity of the female artistes. It started as a purist approach to rectify the adulteration that marked contemporary performances from the old Moirang Parba forms. It was more so because they were not so far accommodated in the Shumang Lila space and also of their knowledge that Shumang Lila could be a great vehicle to disseminate the sense of belongingness to the audience, given the sweeping impact of this popular genre. It has not been smooth sailing for them, though they made their presence felt. But the female troupes are not regular touring troupes unlike the male ones, due to various domestic and social constraints. Nevertheless they are very much part of the annual Shumang Lila Festivals though they sometimes perform in Laiharaoba festivals.

The second big change in the post-1950s era was the emergence of a new genre called Eshei Lila with the addition of live background music and playback singing on the lines of Hindi movies. This again introduced a tradition of male singers singing in female voices. The change came as a response to the booming entertainment media such as cinema and television. This also brought in a major level of commercialization, as the Shumang Lila artistes were professionals who lived out of the earnings from this theatre form. Some of the Eshei Lilas of that time were Krishna Bal Lila (1975), Thadoi (1976) and Ashira Mioibagi Punshi or Chakthekpi (1977). They were performed alongside the Dialogue Lila. But the latter had a very unfortunate demise and today Manipur has only Eshei Lila genre.

1971 saw the formation of All Manipur Jatra Association.13 The Manipur State Kala Akademi started organizing annual Jatra Festivals since 1973, which served as a platform for the troupes to compete with each other. It was also a period of introspection on the very name Jatra of this theatre form. Seeing its inappropriateness, in 1973, the Akademi changed the name into Shumang Lila.14

Politically also, the 1970s was a tumultuous era with the rise of insurgency15 in Manipur and grant of Statehood in 1972. This was also an era of the beginning of militarization of civil spaces in the state. This was mirrored by Shumang Lila. The play Halakhidraba (the one who never came back) of 1975’“76 brought to light the excesses committed by the State Armed Forces. It was a play based on the rape of a girl called Charui Rose of Ukhrul by BSF personnel in 1974 and her subsequent suicide.15 State power was manifested when it banned this play. Again in 1978’“79, Eegi Nong (rain of blood) of Chana Lukhoi depicted state violence against the civilians. For this, the police incarcerated the writer. Despite such repression, the show called Shumang Lila goes on attesting to the vibrancy of this art form.

Shumang Lila’s popularity lies in its umbilical cord with the audience. The play 23rd Century (1997’“98) showed Manipur under the rule of a Punjabi (Sardarji) Chief Minister in yet-to-come 23rd century. It was a grim prognosis, given the sentiments of the people of Manipur. But the time is changing too. If Lanpungi Pungkhol (the sound of the war drum) of 1994’“95 addresses the genesis of insurgency in Manipur with threadbare analysis of the ‘˜Merger Agreement’, Natonchabigi Basanta (2004) ‘˜dares’ to speak out against the interference of the insurgents in the daily existence of the people. The themes of the Shumang Lila can thus be anything ranging from heaven to hell, since theatre cannot be bound within certain space and time. For instance, the play World Trade Centre (2002) showcases the agony of the loss of basic human relationship in the aftermath of 11th September 2001 destruction of Twin Towers. In this vein, the play Lidice gi gulap (2004) explores the theme of war and peace, which is contextualized in the Manipur milieu of today.

Theatre and Ritual

Both ritual and theatre are performances because they both share the commonest element, ‘˜action’. In ritualistic performances, there is mass participation in the act. This is because of their shared view of the sacred world and its relations with the profane world. Here, staying away means rejecting the congregation or being rejected by it.17 On the other hand, theatre comes up when a performer or a group of performers address an audience in a histrionic manner. Here the audience may or may not respond to the performance by attending it. If the audience stays away, it is the theatre that suffers and not the audience. So, ritual is an event upon which its participants depend whereas theatre is an event that depends on its participants. But there can be no watertight compartmentalization between the two. Theatre has ritualistic elements and ritual theatrical elements. Both exist as a braided structure.

Shumang Lila also has many ritualistic elements. The performance space becomes sacred once the mandali puja (offering of fruits or betel nuts and leaves along with burning incense) is performed in the centre of it. So, the audience does not step upon it with shoes and slippers. The performers also wear only socks while performing. Next ritual is the worshipping of Khangjeng Lairembi,18 the goddess of theatre, in the green room by the artistes immediately before starting the play. It is a prayer to give them confidence and protect them from any mistake while performing. Then a group of artistes marches in line on the performing space singing, one playing dholok and others kartal (small cymbals). This is called Kouwaj which is giving respect to the god. After this, another song called Beitha is sung giving respect to the audience while sitting on one side of the space. These two forms also took different turns in their development. In the beginning Kouwaj was religious in theme in the sense that it was invocation of Radha and Krishna to establish a Sankirtan in the performance space. But in 1957’“5819 both the lyric and tune were redone by Mutum Bori to introduce patriotic elements in Shumang Lila. Instead of the religious invocation, the song starts with an ode to Meitei Leima (motherland). This was again a part of the assertionist movement. But today this ritual of singing is not practiced by most of the troupes (they say, it consumes time). Instead the singers present one or two songs with orchestra before starting the play to engage the audience.

Styles of Presentation

The performance space of Shumang Lila is very simple and natural without many props. One table and two chairs adorn one side, while the orchestra (in case of Eshei Lilas) occupies another side. Two jointed poles are erected in the four corners for affixing microphones and tube lights or half lamps (during earlier days). Now we can have a comparative study between the Stage Lila and Shumang Lila. In case of Stage Lila, there is freedom to use any number of props to enhance the effectiveness of the show. In this genre, the directors are equipped with permutation and combination of various tools, including avant-garde techniques. But the technical range is very limited and is made deliberately, so in the case of Shumang Lila, in order to preserve the traditional fervor. In this case, there is elaborate and intricate use of the actor’s voice, body and mime to depict an imagined world corresponding with that of the audience. This means that there must be a symbolic communication between the audience and performers in order to facilitate and enhance the latter’s participation. Acting in Shumang Lila is particularly difficult, for the whole body of the actor has to act, as he/she cannot hide anything from an audience that surrounds him. Once he/she is in the performance space, he/she is left to his/her own devices. The actor is now completely at the mercy of the audience. On the other hand, Stage Lila being only unidirectional can aid the actors with techniques assisting them. For instance, in Stage Lila the night scene can be created realistically with the able handling of the lighting system, whereas in a Shumang Lila the solitude and darkness are painted with the actor’s body movements, facial expressions using the art of mime (assisted by background music in case of Eshei Lila). In dialogue delivery, Shumang Lila tilts to the natural conversational style of the masses.

Sociology of Shumang Lila

Shumang Lila is a community theatre both in terms of its ‘˜form’ and ‘˜content’ and its social relationship with the people. A Shumang Lila troupe is invited to perform by an individual or a group’”say, a local club20 to be a part of any big event or just to have some entertainment. Performances of Shumang Lila in Laiharaoba festivals have become frequent due to increasing popular interest in secular elements (performances). It is a big question whether or not Shumang Lila should be a part of Laiharaoba festivals. But it is a current trend that the ritualistic side of the Laiharaoba is sidelined by the onslaught of secular elements such as film music, dances, etc.

Shumang Lila also has a long association with marriage ceremony (Luhongba). Often a groom’s party sponsors a play of the bride’s party’s choice, in the courtyard of the latter, one or two days before the ceremony. Again Shumang Lila plays are part of celebration of a new born baby on the eve of Soisti Puja, a birth ritual performed on the sixth day after it is born.22 But sometimes it is documented that a play is performed on the death ceremony, Shradha or Sorat of a person which is held on the 13th day after the death. Such choices are not value-loaded but there is also a trend among some people who invite Shumang Lila troupes to perform on the marriage and death ceremonies clearly rejecting the Vaishnavite Sankirtan singing. This is a response to the religious ‘˜revivalist’ movement. Again Shumang Lila performances are part of political campaigning. This whole involvement shows how this theatre form is multi-purpose.

The audience response and structure are vital to any Shumang Lila performance. Shumang Lila in a Leikai (locality) or Khul (village) is a carnival time for the people of that area and its neighboring areas. The audience is seated mostly on the ground on a first-come-first-served basis. The audience structure is itself a microcosm of the Manipuri society. All existing modes of social stratification, except sex, are dismantled. There is free intermingling among the audience, divided into two spatial groups’”Ladies and Gents.22 It is functional in the sense that people enjoy the play and the ambience with the feeling of oneness, which is also enriched by the world of the young men and women engrossed in romantic and furtive exchange of glances. Its slightly dysfunctional side can be witnessed when there are fist fights sometimes triggered by an excess of that local liquor called Yu.24 But that is also a part of the dynamics of a community and also of theatre.

Prospects & Challenges before Shumang Lila

Manipuri society is at crossroads today caught between the pulls of two countervailing forces. One force works for purism which tries ‘˜to conserve’ the ‘˜true Meitei cultural and religious essences’ with fair amount of indulgence in cultural policing. On the other hand, there is a counter force that loves anything new and fashionable. This involves fetishism, a fetishism that blinds the conscious ‘˜self’. Both the forms seem unviable and cannot stand as binary opposites to each other. The first force cannot stand firm, given the kind of cultural and knowledge diffusion Manipuri society is exposed to. The second force is insensitive. Any alien cultural trait, be it music or clothing or food, needs to be closely scrutinized before it is merged into the way of living. Also borrowing any form of art in toto in the name of creativity is irresponsible.

Shumang Lila is also not immune to such forces. Today, it is exposed to the influence of various media of entertainment, e.g. cinema, television, etc. But to attribute wholesale imitation to popular demands is unconvincing and self-destructive. Entertainment and knowledge dissemination also demands caution, a caution that also should not serve as an impediment to the creative enterprise. For example, Devdas need not look like Shah Rukh Khan or any Bengali Bhadralok in the play Devdas but a Manipuri Devdas. But it is also not advisable to regress Shumang Lila to a form tracing back a few decades. What is needed is the consciousness emerging both out of local fervor and ‘˜globalization’. ‘˜Desire’ creates ‘˜culture’, and it subsequently becomes ‘˜need’. But one can balance the ‘˜desire’ before it turns into a nagging ‘˜need’. It is high time that Manipuri society comes out of the clutch of this dialectics of unmonitored regression and progression.

Notes & References

1. Maibis are the priestesses in the Laiharaoba festival. They can be either female or male but male Maibis cross-dress as female.

2. Rasa Lila of Manipur is a form of dance drama started by King Bhagyachandra (1759’“1762 and 1763’“1798). It is a depiction of the story of Sri Krishna’s divine love sports with Radha and the Gopis of Brindavan, as explained in the 10th Chapter of Srimad Bhagavata, see Singh, 1975, p. 63. It has different categories’”Basanta Rasa, Maha Rasa, Kunja Rasa and Nitya Rasa. The styles are taken from the Manipuri dance forms already present in Laiharaoba ceremonies though the theme is Vaisnavite. They are performed in temples.

3. Ningomba, 2000, pp. 2’“3 of Chapter 6. There are six types of Laiharaobas: i) Kanglei Haraoba, ii) Moirang Thangjing Haraoba, iii) Chakpa Phayeng Haraoba, iv) Andro Haraoba, v) Sekmai Haraoba, vi) Kakching Haraoba.

4. Gathered from N. Angouton, the first scriptwriter of Shumang Lila.

5. Singh, 1980, p. 8.

6. Ibid., p. 31.

7. Gathered from M. Binod, popularly known as ‘˜Jagat Singh Daku’ (Jagat Singh, the dacoit).

8. Sankirtan singing is a form of community devotional singing and an invocation of gods, performed in temples. It is a combination of dance choreography, songs and music. Traditionally, Rasa Lila is preceded by Sankirtan singing. Also a part and parcel of marriage and death ceremonies, the stories of the eternal love between Radha and Krishna and the life history of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu are rendered in song accompanied by Pung Yeibas (Mridanga players). Its different forms are Nata-Pala, Manoharsai, and Dhrumel; see Doshi, 1989, pp. 19’“29. It was sung mostly in Bengali language but recently the lyrics have been translated into Manipuri language.

9. Jatra of Bengal is performed in similar structure as that of Shumang Lila with the major use of songs, dance and poetry. Its origin is traced in the 15th Century AD when Bhakti movement swept Bengal with devotees singing and dancing in procession. They sang in temple courtyards, narrating the events of their patron god’s life, and expressed their devotion with frenzied acting. This singing with dramatic elements gradually came to be known as Jatra which means ‘˜to go in a procession’; see Gargi, 1996, p. 14.

10. Moirang Parba or Moirang Kangleirol or Moirang Saiyon is a collection of great epics of the nine incarnations of Nongpok Ningthou and Panthoibi, the legendary hero and heroine, which originated at Moirang, the cultural centre of Meiteis, 42 kms South-west of Imphal. Out of these nine, the Khamba-Thoibi incarnation is the most popular one. The stories of these Saiyons are minutely and aesthetically narrated by Pena khongbas (players of pena, a bow and string instrument). But later they started to be sung by Khongjom parba singers (khongjom parba genre started after the Khongjom lal or Khongjom battle, 1891); see Sarangthem, 2003, pp. i’“ii. Then the Khamba’“Thoibi epic was popularized by male Shumang Lila troupes. The female troupes also perform plays based on Saiyons other than those of Khamba’“Thoibi.

11. Gathered from N. Angouton.

12. In 1930, a Meitei, Naoriya Phulo started an anti-Brahmin and anti-Hindu movement in Cachar District of Assam. He established a group called Apokpa Marup (association in the name of Meitei ancestor deity). In Manipur valley following his movement a movement called Sanamahi (named after a Meitei house deity) was started in 1945. The Central organization is called Meitei Phurup having many branches (Marups); see Sircar, 1984, p. 121.

13. Gathered from S. Hemanta Singh, the present General Secretary of Manipur State Shumang Lila Council and also one of the leading comedians.

14. Singh, 1980, pp. 2’“3.

15. The seed of insurgency was sown in 1948 when Hijam Irabot fought against the combined forces of semi-feudalism and semi-colonialism of the then king and the British; see Naorem, 1988, p. 245. In 1964 United National Liberation Front (UNLF) was founded by Arambam Somarendro Singh. This was followed by another group, People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) under the leadership of R.K. Tulachandra. And then N. Bisheswar Singh founded People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in 1978.

16. Gathered from M. Binod.

17. Schechner, 1983, p. 142.

18. The origin of this ‘˜deity’ Khangjeng Lairembi is dubious. The present day Shumang Lila artistes follow the worship because their predecessors did so. But this ‘˜deity’ does not find a mention in the pantheon of Meitei Lais (deities).

19. Gathered from M. Binod.

20. Manipur has the culture of ‘˜Club’. Every village has one or more registered clubs. They are multi-purpose, catering to cultural, social, educational, health, cleanliness, sports programs etc. They are also involved in inter-club competitions to encourage talented people to perform and come up for social recognition.

21. ‘˜Soisti Puja’ is usually performed in the evening by a Bamon or Brahmin. In the morning, a ceremony called Yupanthaba, also known as Lai ipanthaba, is held in order to ward off evil spirits. Yupanthaba was originally the libation of Yu (liquor) poured out to the spirits before drinking it; see Paratt, 1980, pp. 78’“87.

22. Such separation of male and female in the audience is a feature of all the public ceremonies such as Sankirtan singing, Laiharaoba festival, Rasa Lilas, Goura Lila, and even political meetings. But intermingling of both the sexes in the seating arrangement is allowed in ‘˜feasts’.


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* The paper is written by Ksh. Imokanta Singh.

* The article was originally published at www.manipurresearchforum.org.

* The article has been published with due permission from the Manipur Research Forum.

* You may visit www.manipurresearchforum.org for further readings.

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