Manipuri textile – Naoroibam Indramani


Contd. from 2nd September 2018

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. King Lamkyamba (1512 – 1523 A.D.) introduced a new white turban for the officers to wear when performing duties. King Mungyamba, who reigned from 1562 to 1597 A.D. first introduced the shirt made of wax cloth and also introduced the spinning of fine thread. So, from this period, the Meitei weavers had an experience in weaving of fine luxurious items of cloth. The reign of king Khagemba was a remarkable period in the history of Manipur. He reigned from 1597 to 1652 A.D. King Khagemba is one of the greatest kings in the history of Manipur. The reign of king Khagemba brought a turning point in the history of Manipur. There were marked tremendous developmental changes in all respects of socio-cultural life of the people. The king spread his might and power for political dominance to the east as far as the land of the Chinese Shans whom the Meiteis had known as `Khagi’. From this political achievement of conquest over the `Khagi’, he was renamed `Khagemba’ (one who won over the Khagi) from his previous name of `Poirei Ningthouhanba’.

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Cheitharol Kumbaba, the royal chronicle of Manipur records that king Khagemba introduced the wearing of turban by the noblemen when they attended the royal court. It may be remarked that though the use of shirt made of German velvet by both the men and the women of the aristocratic family might have prevailed in the Meitei society, probably since the time before Khagemba, it was during his time that such clothes were popular in use. Here, it may be mentioned that the elaborate system of arrangement of the position and status of the nobles in his court, the horizontal as well as vertical arrangement of the position of his nobles and the other public men as well, were expressed in terms of the different dresses and modes of wearing the dress. There is yet another historical record that king Khagemba introduced a new and fashionable style of turban called “Lengkhang Paklei” and he permitted chief nobles to wear this newly introduced kind of turban.

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Different scholars in the field of Manipuri textile believe that the other `Kokyet’ (turban) like `Salai Matek’, `Salai Mapum’ might have developed in the period of king Khagemba and other Kokyets such as ‘Laken Makhoi’, `Kokyet Kangdrum’ might have developed in the period following the reign of king Khagemba. The origin of the ‘Pala Kokyet Achouba’ can be traced back as late as the reign of king Charairongba, who converted into Hinduism in the 18 century A.D. This Pala Kokyet Achouba got its popularity during the period of king Narasingh who reigned from 1844-1850 A.D. Its gradual popularity took place during the reign of king Bhagyachandra (1750-1762 A.D.), and king Gambhir Singh (1825-1835 A.D.) But, king Sir Chandrakirti Singh modified its form to the present texture. The `Kokyet Phishang’ with `Lamthang Khut-hat Phijin’ in multi colour was introduced by king Narasingh (1844-1850 A.D.) and the Ajmeri style of Kokyet introduced by king Sir Churachand Singh (1891-1941 A.D.).

Thus the Manipuri textile has its stages of historical development of long past centuries in its different textures, patterns, colours and motifs to become its present form of highest degree in textile making by the skilled Meitei female weavers.

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Department of weaving :

The manuscript `Loishang Lingkhatpa’, the account of the establishment of various administrative departments during the reign of different kings in Manipur, gives a valuable information about the first establishment of the Thishaba Loishang’, the Department of weaving during the time of Meidingu Pakhangba. He was the first historical king of Manipur who reigned from 33 to 154 A.D. From that time the department had its responsibilities for the task of making royal clothes of various designs. `Charei Phishahanba’ was the head of this department. The manuscript Ningthouphi Shaba’ gives us the name of royal weavers that `Laikokshu Charei Phishahanba’ was the head of the department during the time king Khuiyoi Tompok. ‘Aka Phishahanba’ was the head of the department during the time of king Naophangba and `Roso Phishahanba’ was the head of the department of weaving during the time of Meidingu Loiyumba.

The text of the manusaipt `Loiyumba Silyen’ gives some names of royal weavers of the time of Meidingu Loiyumba such as Naotam Phishaba, Ngangdi Phishaba, Yangnu Phishaba, Heisu Naha Phishaba, etc.

The duties performed by the `Phishaba’ (weavers), according to the text, `Masil’ was the weaving of `Ningthouphi Phirel’ (special

to be contd.


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