Manipuri textile – Naoroibam Indramani

Contd. from 28 October 2018: The ‘Pang-Iyong’ (Throw shuttle loom) is a weaving implement made of wood has four wooden posts and this implement has its size measuring about 157.5 c.m. each in breadth and length. This loom is used by the Manipuri handloom weavers in a wide scale for weaving different kinds and designs of Manipuri handloom products. In early period, it was made of bamboo. Small wooden bars are fitted to connect the four wooden posts at about 7.5 c.m. from the floor. Again wooden bars are fitted to the four wooden posts at about 30 c.m. above the ground as done earlier at the lower level at the loom. The bars which are connected to the four wooden posts are known as Theirel’ in Manipuri language. The two Theirels’ on the length of loom, extend about 1.05 c.m. and on this extension rests a wooden plank to be used as seat by the weaver. On both sides of the loom on the left and right of two Pheirels’ are also fitted by connecting the wooden posts and on bars as straight bamboo which is known as `Naungkhok’ in Manipuri, is placed horizontally. Small ropes are tied with the ‘Singmit Machei’ by hanging down from the bamboo bar called `Naungkhok’ and the ropes tied with the `Singmit Machei’ are known as `Lakyen Thouri’. From the middle of the `Sunache ropes are again hanging down and `Khunets’ (Treadle) are tied to the end of the ropes. When the weaver weaves the clothes, she places her feet place on these `Khunets.’ While weaving, by the weaver presses her leg alternately on the Khunets and throw the Pangantem’ (Shuttle), then the `Shamjee (Reed) beats to weave. Thus the weaving process is going on to complete the cloth.

A warp beem is rested just below the middle of the two front wooden posts of the loom and the warp threads are tied around the warp beam. Just to the opposite of the warp beam, there is another beam which is known as cloth beam which rests horizontally on the side of the hind wooden posts. The completed part of the weaving cloth is wrapped around the cloth beam. There are two holes on the right or left sides of the warp beam and cloth beam and two bamboo sticks which are known as “Hanglakchei” are inserted through the holes of the ground for serving as brakes. The two “Hanglakchei” help to unwrap the wrapped threads and wrapped clothes from around the two wrap beam and cloth beam.

The Extra weft technique is a special feature of weaving the cloth used by the women weavers of Manipur since early period in making various designs in the silk clothes. The clothes which have extra weft design can be used for both sides of the cloth. The porcess of weaving clothes by using the extra weft technique is as follows:-

In this technique of weaving, extra coloured yarn is used as weft along with the normal weft yarn. When the weaving is started, the threads used for extra weft are then woven through the warp by hand or small shuttle. After this, the weft thread is pressed by the Samchet (Reed). In this way, designs with extra weft are created one after another.

There is another kind of extra weft technique in weaving the cloth by the Meitei weavers. In this case, the extra weft is passed across the ground and formed rows of loops on the reverse side of the cloth are formed. When the desired pattern is completed, the extra warp is cut off as in carpet weaving and pile clothes. Such extra well technique is used in making designs like Ningthouphi Wanphak and Ningthouphi Tajin etc.

The technique which is used in making Lamthang Khuthat is another one in which yellow silk thread is used for fine and white flimsy material. This kind of technique can be used only in the Pang Iyong (Frame loom). It cannot be woven on other looms.

In early period, the designs made by using extra weft technique were made by copying the designs from the finished clothes or by counting the number of strands in the weft. However, nowadays, the intended designs are drawn first on the warp before weaving. Extra well is then woven on the areas where designs are drawn on the warp.

The embroidery work is a special feature in the Manipuri textile. It is also an important craft among the people of Manipur since very early period. It is a supplement to the pattern making in weaving of different kinds of textile fabric. The weaving of cloth can produce only the simple cross pattern but cannot produce the rounded pattern on loom weaving. The needle-work embroidery makes the fabrics of Manipuri textile more decorative, more beautiful, more fancyful, more standard and makes help in uplifting the quality of the product. It can expose the skill and talent of the Manipuri women in the field of weaving craft. Traditionally, the work of embroidery is common experience to most of the Meitei women because, since past centuries, every Meitei woman of every house had woven clothes for their own use and for every household member and every women had enough experience of needle-work embroidery to the border of Phanek Mapan Naiba (a loin cloth of the women) which was used in different occasions of public gatherings and great festivities like marriage feast, pomp, splendour and merry making events etc. It is believed that the needle was used in Manipur by importing from Burma (Myanmar) and with the introduction of needle, the textile craft in Manipur made an aesthetic stride.

In the needle-work embroidery, the tools and materials required are very simple and few that in this craft only needle and cotton yarn or silk yarn of different colours are required. In the traditional needle-work embroidery, the artisans of Manipur used three distinct types. The first pattern is the rounded or the circular pattern which is used even to day at the border of the Phanek (skirt) of Meitei women. The second pattern is the natural objects like cock, horse, elephant, sun, moon, star etc. as seen in the design of the cloths like Shaphi Lamphi or Shami Lanmi which is used as shawl, The third pattern is known as the type of Sha Nga (animal and fish). In apperance, it is slightly stylised but its motifs are recognisable as natural forms.

Locally the applique work is known as `Leeba’ in Manipuri. It is a decorative work on cut out material by stitching it into the surface of another material. It is a developed embroidery in an attempt to give aesthetic excellence. The applique work technique gives a blending of the two fabrics and it is more prominent than the needle work embroidery. Meitei weavers used pale yellow on fine white fabric, while on white, dark blue on pale and so on in the applique work. The applique work is still found to be used in various clothes, The exact time of introducing this type of work can not be stated but, it is mentioned in the book `Loiyumba Silyen’, an account of the distribution of duties to different family titles of Meitei society during the period of king Loiyumba reigned during 1 1 th Century A.D. in Manipur.

A particular vendor known as “Phiribi Potpham” (Phi- Cloth, Ribi-Leebi-Persons engaged in applique work, Potpham – Vendor) was introduced by king Bhagyachandra (1759-1762 and 1763-1798 A.D.) for selling the products of applique work and this kind of vendor is still existing in the Khwairamband Keithel of Imphal to sell the special cloth items of applique work to be used as ritual dresses and to be worn by the nobles. This special type is applied mainly on the borders of Ningkham (waist band), Samjin (head gear) and Innaphi (wrapper) which were worn by the king, nobles and queen. The Manipuri style of applique work is different in comparing with the other Indian styles. The use of designs, colour schemes as well as technique of needle-work are also unique.

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