Manipuri textile – Naoroibam Indramani

Contd. from 30 September 2018: Manipur has different festivals within a calendar year. The name of the festivals may be mentioned as Lai Haraoba, Hiyang Tannaba, Pam Kangjei, Kwak Tanba, Sanamahi Chenghongba, Pakhangba Chenghongba, Mera Haochongba, Mera Men Tongba, etc. In such festivals, various kinds of dresses were worn. In the festival of Lai Haraoba (the merrymaking festival of the Umanglai), the Maibis are wear the dresses of white colour, bracelets and armlets. Sarong is also worn around waist by the Maibis. The Salai Kokyet is also worn by the Maibis and Kokyet Achouba is worn by the Pena Khongba. In the festival of Hiyang Tannaba (traditional boat race), the Tengmai Leppa wears the Khamen Chatpa Pheijom, Resom Phurit, and Ningkham Samjin.

The noblemen in the court of Meitei kings had their particular dresses. Among the dresses of the Noblemen, Khamen Chatpa Pheijom was a special cloth. This cloth Khamen Chatpa Pheijom is a white silk cloth with purple pattern of scrolls stamped on it by means of wooden blocks. It may not be worn by persons of inferior rank, but princes may use it at their pleasure. It was presented as an item of reward by the king to the brave and deserving persons. The presentation of the reward was in such manner that only the permission to use the particular cloth, but not the actual cloth, was given. Without permission of the king this kind of cloth could not be used by anybody.

How old is this kind of cloth Khamen Chatpa cannot be said exactly. The Theitharol Kumbaba’, the royal chronicle is also silent on theintroduction of this kind of cloth, but the manuscript `Masil’ which was probably written during the time of king Bhagyachandra, writes about the duties of the `Khamen Chappa’. Hence, it is clear that, this kind of cloth according to T.C. Hodson, in his book ‘The Meitheis’, the Khamen Chatpa was introduced by the Chinese merchants who visited the state in the reign of Khagemba, circa A.D. 1630.

Another garment which was used by the Meitei noblemen was Ningkham. This is a triangular shaped garment drapped on the backside over the loin dress. It is a triangular white piece of cloth having two of its sides bordered with laces of artistic applique which is based on two types of design as the Khoi Ningkham and the Phantup Ningkham.

Ningthouphi Saichonba and Ningthouphi Saikakpa were the shirts for the noblemen. Ningthouphi Saichonba is full sleeved, and it reaches down to the knees or a little below. The Ningthouphi Saikakpa is half sleeved, and it reaches up to the Waist. The two shirts Ningthouphi Saichonba and Ningthouphi Saikakpa were decorated throughout with handy works of weaving, em-broidery and applique taking after thepatterns found on the dorsal side of the body of the serpent-god Pakhangba. The bottom of the Ningthouphi Saikakpa was decorated with rows of cut out triangular patterns in black or red colours in applique. Generally, the Pakhangba motif is designed with red, green, violet, deep chocolate, deep flame-red and black threads at suitable intervals when wearing the cloth. Tunics for the royalty and aristocrat, both half-sleeved and full-sleeved of velvet pieces, and in various colours such as deep green, red, black, violet, etc., were also popular.

The noblemen used another shirt called `Konkha Phurit’. It is sleeveless, and it reaches up to the waist. This kind of shirt was used as under-garment. The traditional male head dress may be classified into two types as headgear and turban (Kokyet). The headgear is further divided again into two forms like – Lollei and Samjin.

The Lollei headgear is made of cloth, and it appears like a crown with an upward conical projection at the top. To the front, it is decked with a few thin and fine-pointed sticks of serrated teeth, reminiscent of the form of the head of a prawn, set straight and slightly curled with the base on the cloth just above the forehead. The Samjin is prepared by twilling a long narrow, thin cloth gathered lengthwise on a round bamboo – frame from which a curved wooden structure rises in the front with a slightly leaning posture, and backed up by a support at the back of the round frame. The curved wooden stick take shape like a unicorn, and is hooked at the top. The curved wooden stick is also tightly wrapped with another fine laced cloth up to the top. The designs on the Samjin consist of patterns of Yensil Mayek, Khoi Mayek, Thambal Cheplei and Pheiroi. Th feathers of Ureksek (egret plume) or feathers of peacock are inserted upright to the top hook of projecting stick on the headgear.

The Meiteis had turban culture from the time of king Lamkyamba (1512-1523 AD.) This culture had gradual development in the later decades and the varieties of turban can be classified into the following – (1) Tolok, (2) Pakhang Tolok, (3) Tabun Kokyet Kangdrum, (4) Kokyet Pheiyet, (5) Paknoi Kokyet, (6) Salai Kokyet, (7) Pala Kokyet or Kokyet Phishang, (8) Kokyet Lairel Makhoi, (9) Ajmeri Kokyet, (10) Kokyet Chinbun Lakpa, etc.

The dresses of the Meitei women have unique features in both `Phanek’ (loin cloth) and The `Itmaphi’ (wrapper). The female loin cloth ‘Phanek’ typically measures 1.75 m. in length and 1.30 m. in breadth. The female children until puberty, or near it, wear the “Phanek” around the waist, it is called `Khoidom Setpa’. The married women wear the `Phanek’ folded around the body under the armpits and over the breast, and tucked in by the hand at the left side of the body, it is called Thidon Chingkhatpa’. The Pumngou Phanek is a type of female loin cloth which is found in different plain colours with or without border strips. The border strips are either in plain design, in distinct colours different from the colour of the cloth er in the popular design called `Moirangphi Chanba’.

The ‘Pumngou Phanek’ of complete white colour is used by Malbis (priestess) and the Pumngou Phanek of light pink colour are donned by the Maitei women on occasion of mortuary ceremonies and at the time of religious ceremonies. The Pumngou Phanek with plain border strips is used in the day-to-day life.

The most popular and most fancied type of Phanek is `Mayek Naibi’. This type of Phanek is made of cotton and silk, and the only patterns are stripes of various colours and widths running across the material, the groundwork being of different colours. The commoner patterns are red with green stripes, green and black, blue with black and white stripes, yellow and brown, dark blue with green and white stripes, etc. At the top and bottom of the garment is a broad margin, on which geometrical figures or patterns are sewn by hand with floss silk in various colours.

The decorating the borders of the `Mayek Naibi Phanek’ with embroidery works have reportedly been since the time of king Yanglou Keiphaba (969-984 A.D.). The main patterns of embroidery work on the borders of the `Mayek Naibi Phanek’ are two. The names of the patterns are `Khoijao’ (meaning a big hook or bee) and `Hija Mayek’. The pattern of “Khoi Akoibi” is of later development.

The `Khoijao Lonbi’ pattern in the `Mayek Naibi Phanek’ is a uniform series of semi circular figures in which the head is concentered inwardly. The figures are alternately arranged, the head faces upward in one unit, followed by downward facing in the next unit, and so on. Each of these units of figure is called a Khoi (hook or bee). Again, it is specified as the `Khoijao’ (big hook or bee) as it represents the magnified pattern of the hook or the bee. The pattern of `Hija Mayek’ embroidered on the border of the `Mayek Naibi Phanek’ was conceived from the pattern observed on the cross section of timber. This design was first introduced by a person called `Kondraba’ of the Hijam family of Luwang clan. Hence, its name was Mayek’ (pattern of Hijam). It was earlier the favourite pattern of embroidery work on the border of the `Mayek Naibi Phanek’ adopted by the women of this clan. Later on, the women of the Luwang clan came to use this pattern. Recently, its use was rather restricted. The royal ladies used it only in mourning. This `Mayek Naibi Phanek’ had originally a colour scheme of only two stripes in its body. Widows put on the `Mayek Naibi Phanek’ with the Ilija Mayek’ pattern at its border, for which this Phanek is also known as `Lukhra Phanek’ (Phanek of the widows).

`Khoi Akoibi Mapan Naibi’ is the pattern of recent development. This is the most popular design in `Mayek Naibi Phanek’. This pattern is a uniform series of circular frames,

to be contd.

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