Manipuri textile – Naoroibam Indramani

Contd. from 26 August 2017

Free translation:

During the time of Meitengu Khuiyoi Tompok, his head weaver `Laikoksu’ began weaving the silk cloth called ‘Punting Wanphakphi’ by adopting the pattern of the skin of ‘Laken Hangkok’ (Chameleon) on Saturday of Mera month (sept.- Oct.). The cloth was woven without any error and completed in seven months. A weaver called `Khoriyan. Phishaba’ carefully measured the length of the cloth and cut off the just finished cloth by holding a `Khoirel-thang’ (a kind of small knife). Thus the weaving of the cloth was completed.

The manuscripts `Palchangba Laihui’ and `Pakhangba Phambal’ describe a remarkable information about the introduction of the leirum’, a kind of shawl, during Meidingu Khuiyoi Tompok and its popularization in the Meitei society. Originally, it was the cloth of Angom community. The name of this shawl was locally known as `Charei Paroithet, Mallou Koijayek’. The parents of Nongmoinu Ahongbi presented this kind of shawl to Nungbal Thayangba, a Meitei noble who prayed for the hands of Nongmoinu Ahongbi, the bride of Angom clan for Meidingu Khuiyoi Tompok as mark of respect and acceptance for marriage between the bride and bridegroom. This occasion of presenting the `Leirum’ cloth from bridal family in relation with the marriage of Nongmoinu Ahongbi of the Angom clan to Khuiyoi Tompok, the king of Kanglei had been given much cultural thrust then and till date in the marriage occasion in the Meitei society, the gifting of the `Leinun’ cloth is an unavoidable item of the bridal gifts.

The manuscript `Ningthouphi Saba’ further gives a valuable information about weaving of more developed royal, dress during the reign of king Naophangba who reigned from 428 to 518 A.D. According to this manuscript, two noblemen who held the post of `Imingloi Hanjaba’ and `Sinou Nongthonba’ found one day a slough of a python at `Shaya Shenba Yarekshang’, sleeping shed of royal servants. The two noblemen offered the slough to King Naophangba.

Considering the python as transformed by the divine king Nongda Lairen Pakhangba, the great great grand-father of the king Naophangba, he summoned `Ako’, the royal head weaver to weave a royal cloth by adopting the pattern of design on the slough of the python which was transformed by Nongda Lairen Pakhangba without any error of the pattern of design observed on the slough. The royal head weaver `Ako’ started weaving the royal cloth on Kabrang thread on 15th of Phairen (January-February) month and 12 months were covered in completing the weaving. Then, the royal cloth was kept iri the ishang Shanglangmer a royal dressing house.

Another landmark in the development history of Manipuri Textile, the introduction of new coronation dresses during the reign of king Naothingkhong who reigned from 663 to 763 A.D. The coronation costumes of king Naothingkhong which was known as Naothingkhong Phijet were a very elaborate set of royal costumes. From the account given by the manuscript Thamballon’, the coronation dress of king Naothingkhong were Thingang Pheijom’ (red dhoti), `Phimu Khawon’ (black wrapper), `Maimu Tomson’ (head gear), Theija Lengkhang’, `Khaochon Phurit’ (a shirt having knee length cut like an overcoat), `Yairong Phanek’ (female loin cloth),. `Sarong Lamthang’ (over garment), etc.

The historic landmark in the history of the art of dress of the Meitei women was the introduction of the emnbroidery works of `Kiwi’ (hook) pattern on the border of the female loin dress “Phanek Mayek Naibi” during the time of king Yanglou Keiphaba, who reigned from 969 to 984 A.D. It is the artistic decoration on the Meitei female dress with embroidery work. Before the introduction of this decoration of `Khoi’ on the border of Thanek Mayek Naibi’ with embroidery works before king Yanglou Keiphaba, this type of female cloth `Phanek Mayek Naibi’ was similar with that of the ‘Phanek’ which was traditionally worn by old tribes of Manipur like Anal, Chothe, Kabul, Hmar, Aimol, Chiru, Lamkang, etc., so far as the striped pattern on the body of the ‘Phanek’ (loin cloth) was concerned. Hence, the introduction of embroidery work of `Khoi’ on the border of the `Striped Phanek’ of Meitei women may be treated as one of the remarkable cultural events that marked the differentiation of the Meitei as a distinct cultural group from other hill tribes of Manipur.

The first pattern of embroidery works on the border of the `Phanek Mayek Naibi’ was the design of `Khoijao’ (big hook). Later, the pattern was developed in the design of ‘IthoiAkoibe, which was a very popular design among the Meitei women.

Another pattern of embroidery works on the border of the `Phanek Mayek Naibi’ is the ‘Hija Mayek’. It is believed that this pattern of design was also introduced first during the period of king Yanglou Keiphaba by `Kondraba’, a royal chief carpenter of a sub-clan of Luwang clan in the Meitei society. The interesting story of introducing this pattern of design was that -one day, Kondraba, the chief carpenter of Hijam lineage made a boat. When Kondraba made the boat by chopping a big timber with a tool called ‘Hangmei’, a scrap of wood leaped out with a peculiar pattern of prints. He was fascinated by that prints on the scrap of wood. He immediately went to the king and reported about the discovery of the prints. The king was impressed by the artistic beauty of the prints. Therefore the king instructed the royal weavers to embroider the pattern on the border of the ‘Phanek Mayek Naibi’. When the finished cloth was dedicated to the king, the queen requested the king to reserve the cloth only for her. And so the design was named ‘HO Mayek’ because of the design was discovered from making the boat. ‘Hija Mayek’ means-Hi=boat, ja=sha=shaba making and `Mayek’ means print. So, the ‘HO Mayek’ was the design adopted from the pattern of print discovered from making boat.

The manuscript `Ningthouphi Shaba’ gives another remarkable information about the weaving of royal cloth by introducing the special design of the `Urit Mahum’ (nest of a bird Urit, a small local bird) during the reign of king Loiyumba (1074 -1122 A.D.). During the time of this king, the new colours of thread like `Makong Meiri’ (flame red), `Amuba’ (black) were introduced to use the high and low reliefs of the nest on light yellow colour of Kabrang silk in the background.

The manuscript Ningthouphi Shaba’ further reports the weaving of royal cloth during the time of king Loiyumba by his royal head weaver `Roso’. The weaving of the cloth was started from 15th of the month of Thairen’ and it was completed in 360 days. The text in the manuscript for weaving royal cloth during king Loiyumba described the following :-

“Meidingu Hemdou Loiyumbada, Roso Phishabana, Charei Ningthouphibu, Langkhat Tei, Kabrang Langja Sungna, Loidam Phairentha, Makmei 15 Ni Panba Irai Numitta, Roso Phishabana, Shangding Phihou Tam, Angouba Khaga Tha, Ashangba Thakka Thong, Memanba Yaida Chan, Higok Koija Yek, Makong Chidai Khom, Amuba Muktamna, Shingkhan Chajum Thok, Urit Lolyambicha Yim Shana, Charei Ningthouphibu Numit Shingboom 360 Suna Charei Phi Sarababu, Shangding Phikhei Lomlabada, Madairem Khoiriyan Phishabana, Naowa Khoirenthangbu, Shamu Khutta Paina, Shangding Phikoi Len, Phiren Nasi Kakna, Charei Phiroirabada, Naikhu Shanglangmeida Inung Shoiba Pottharabaga, Charei Phithup Teina, Tabu Lukphunungda, Langjan Puri Tu, Shawa Chajum Namna ThamIchiye.”

Free translation:

At the time of king Hemdou Loiyamba’s reign, the royal head weaver `Roso’ wove a `Ningthouphr (royal cloth) with Kabrang thread. The cloth with the red colour below, green colour above, half green at the centre, blue colour as the design of the nest of Urit Lonyambicha (a small local bird), fire red colour around the border was woven on Friday, the 15th of Thairen’ (January-February). The cloth was finished in 360 days and `Khoiriyan Phishaba’ cut off the cloth with a knife. The cloth was then kept at rest for a whole night at `Naikhu Shanglangmei’ and then kept again the cloth within a `Tabu’ (covered basket) in a systematic way.

to be contd.






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