|Culture of Manipur
In manipur, Each ethnic group has its own distinct culture and tradition deeply embedded in its dances, music, customary practices and pastimes. Theatre and society in Manipur are intimately linked, as in many parts of the world.
The official languages of the state are Manipuri(Meiteilon) and English.
Meiteilon the official language of Manipur, has a long history. Courses on Manipuri Language and Literature are offered as a subject up to M.A. level in both Central and State Universities. It is the main language of communication among all different tribes and people inhabiting Manipur.
The people of Manipur include Meitei, Naga, Kuki, Meitei Pangal and other colourful communities which have lived together in complete harmony for centuries. These are the people whose folklore, myths and legends, dances, indigenous games and martial arts, exotic handlooms and handicrafts are infested with the mystique of nature.
Manipuri cuisine is simple, organic and healthy. Dishes are typically spicy foods that use chili pepper rather than Garam masala.
The staple diet of Manipur consists of rice, leafy vegetables, and fish. Manipuris typically raise vegetables in a kitchen garden and rear fish in small ponds around their house. Eromba is a stew of boiled vegetables or potatoes with a lot of red chiles, tomatoes (optional) and dried fish salted to taste. It is garnished with chopped onions and coriander leaves. Singju is a salad prepared with finely chopped cabbage, onions, lotus stems, stinky beans, coriander leaves, and ginger. Boiled kidney beans are optional and the dish is seasoned with red chili flakes, salted to taste, with red roasted sesame powder and roasted chick peas powder.
A classical form of Manipuri dance based and inspired by the theme of Lord Krishna and his beloved Radha’s love story and the devotion of the Gopis (companions) toward Lord Krishna. This graceful and slow movement of the dance makes it one of the most acclaimed classical dances of India. The costume is elegant, as there are nicely embroidered clothes that give luster to the beauty of the art.
Pung or Manipuri Mridanga is the soul of Manipuri Sankritana music and Classical Manipuri Dance. It assumes an important ritual character, an indispensable part of all social and devotional ceremonies in Manipur,-the instrument itself becoming an object of veneration. Pung Cholom is performed as an invocatory number preceding the Sankirtana and Ras Lila. It is highly refined classical dance number characterised by the modulation of sound from soft whisper to a thunderous climax.
Fairs and Festivals
Manipur is a land of festivities. Merriments and mirth-making go on round the year. A year in Manipur represents a cycle of festivals. Hardly a month passes by without a festival which, to the Manipuris, is a symbol of their cultural, social and religious aspirations . It removes the monotony of life by providing physical diversions, mental recreation and emotional outlet, helps one to lead a more relaxed and fuller life.
Cheiraoba (New Year of Manipur): During the festival, people clean and decorate their houses and prepare special festive dishes which are first offered to various deities. Celebrated during the month of April, a part of the ritual entails villagers climbing the nearest hill tops in belief that it will enable them to rise to greater heights in their worldly life. The Pangals (Manipuri Muslims) also observe it.
Lai-Haraoba: Celebrated in hour of the sylvan deities known as Umang Lai, the festival represents the worship of traditional deities and ancestors. A number of dances by both men and women are performed before the ancient divinities. The Lai Haraoba of God-Thangjing, the ruling deity of Moirang, is the most famous one and attracts huge gatherings. It is held in the month of May.
Yaoshang(Dol Jatra): Celebrated for five days commencing from the full-moon day of Phalgun (February/March), Yaoshang is the premier festival of Manipur. The Thabal Chongba, a kind of Manipuri folk dance in which boys and girls hold hands and dance away their blues in festive tube-lit ambience is an inseparable part of the festival.
Ratha Jatra: One the greatest festivals of the Hindus of Manipur, the festival is celebrated for about 10 days in the month of Ingen (June/July). Lord Jaganath leaves his temple in a Rath locally known as Kang pulled by pilgrims who vie with one another for this honour.
Gang-Ngai (Festival of Kabui Nagas): Celebrated for five days in the month of Wakching (December/January) GANG-NGAI is an important festival of the Kabui Nagas.
Heikru Hidongba: Celebrated in the month of September, a festival of joy, with little religious significance along a 16 metre wide boat. Long narrow boats are used to accommodate a large number of rowers. Idol of Shri Vishnu is installed before the commencement of the race.
Ramjan ID: The Manipuri Muslims observed this festival in the very spirits of joy and festivities as in other Muslim world. During this month the Muslims practice self denial by taking a fast, abstaining from smoke and drink from pre-dawn till sunset. After the second day of shawwal, when the new moon is visible they break fast which is also popularly known as Id-Ul-Fitre. They offer prayers at the mosques, have delicious dishes, exchange greetings and call on the friends and relatives. Ramjan is the ninth month of the Hijri year.
Ningol Chakouba (The social festival of Manipuris): It is a remarkable social festival of the Meiteis. Married women of the family who were married to distant places come to the parental house along with her children and enjoy sumptuous feast. It is a form of family rejoinder to revive familial affection. The festival is also observed by the Pangals (Manipuri Muslims) to a certain extent now-a-days.
Kwak Jatra: Goddess Durga is propitiated with pomp and ceremony in this festival. It is celebrated in the month of October and represents the victory of righteousness over evil.
Christmas: The Christmas is the greatest festival of all the Christians of Manipur, observed for two days on December 24 and 25. Prayers, reading of Gospels, eating, singing of hymns, lectures on Christ, sports etc., form the major part of the festival. In some villages where the inhabitants are well-off, the celebration continues till January 1 on which the New Years day is also observed.
Since cane and bamboo are abundantly available basketry has been a popular occupation of the people of Manipur. Different shapes and sizes with different designs are manufactured for domestic and ritualistic.
Heijing Kharai, Phiruk & Lukmai are exclusively meant for ceremonies such as wedding, birth and death. For domestic purposes baskets like Likhai, Sangbai, Chengbon, Meruk, Morah etc. are made. Again, there are fishing equipments made of cane and bamboo. They are Longup, Tungbol etc. People of Maring tribe inhabiting the Chandel District are the main manufacturers of these types of basket. Other tribes and the Meeteis also contribute a lot to the production of baskets. Pottery culture is very old in Manipur. Most of the pots are handmade and are of different colours (red, dark red and black). Pottery flourishes in Andro, Sekmai, Chairen, Thongjao, Nungbi and parts of Senapati District. Chakpa women are good potters and they make different types of pots are made for ritualistic and ceremonial purposes.