Must Buy Art And Craft Items From Manipur
Manipur, meaning the ‘Land of Jewels’ is a significant constituent of the seven-sister states of the Indian Union and is renowned for its vibrant color, culture, natural; beauty and traditional forms of art and crafts. Manipur or the 'Switzerland of India', as described by Lord Irwin is a hub of artistic excellence and aesthetic appeal. The people of the state are creative not only by virtue of their thinking but also by their outlook. This state has carved a niche for itself when it comes to traditional forms of art and crafts. These are some of the must buy items if you are visiting this state. Not only are they unique but they last long and give you some beautiful memories along with memorabilia-
Bamboo crafts are extensively practiced in almost every Manipuri household. A huge variety of products are made out of bamboos which are used for a wide array of purposes. In Manipur, bamboo has always been an integral part of the rural life. Not a single day of a villager’s life goes by without the use of bamboo in different forms. Bamboo is found to be used in myriad ways to create a large variety of articles which are more or less used in the day-to-day lives of the natives of Manipur. Additionally, a number of decorative items too are made out of bamboos, which are of great demand in indigenous as well as foreign markets.
The beautiful baskets of Manipur have won the hearts of many and continue to do the same. These baskets made of dyed bamboo are used by the tribal people in Manipur. The most unique feature of Manipuri baskets is the use of bamboo fish straps crafted artistically to look like sculptures. For a Manipuri individual, the significance of bamboo is so much that bamboo is inextricably related to a person’s life making its way even through the demise of the individual. The use of bamboo knows no end when it comes to the natives of Manipur; it is used in rituals, in the daily lives of the people, and also for burning rubbish and so on.
Each and every house in Manipur that contains a granary makes use of the measuring baskets. These are used to measure grains and are leveled off at the surface by a bamboo tube. The rims of the measuring baskets are made as much firm as possible. Moreover, the outer surfaces of these baskets are lined with cow dung so that the basket can be handier. There can be different kinds of measuring baskets made in Manipur.
- Laitang basket has its diameter measuring 37 cm. It is 20.5 cm high.
- The Likhai basket which is 25.5-cm high has the diameter of its mouth measuring 46 cm.
- The Shangbai is a tightly-woven bamboo basket used to measure quantities of grain. The diameter of its mouth is 48.5 cm and the height is 25.5 cm.
- A tiny measuring basket known as Miruk is used by the people living in the valley to measure rice.
Filtering baskets are used by the Manipuri people living in the hills and the valleys to gather ash by burning the straw, pea plants and banana stems’ sun-dried external layers. This ash is eventually used to prepare Manipuri curries. Filtering helps in obtaining the alkaline substance present in the ash. Shek is a conical filtering basket with a circular mouth and a tapering end where extended flaps are found on the two sides of the mouth acting as hand-holding devices. The alkaline from the ash collected in the basket gets filtered through the tiny hole that is there at the tip of the tapering end. The diameter of Shek is 11 cm and height is 9 cm. The size the Shek used by the tribal people is bigger than the ones used by those living in the valley.
The tribal people of Manipur use conical baskets for carrying objects like firewood collected from forests, bamboo tubes filled with drinking water, tools used in field works during the sowing and the harvesting times, vegetables, grains and other essential items.
A bowl-shaped fishing basket termed as Long is used by the Manipuri women to catch fish in the shallow waters. Bamboo splits are used to weave the body of such baskets. The structure is more or less flat which is placed above a wooden block having an oval-shaped tip. The 60 cm-high wooden block has a diameter of 35 cm. The men of the valleys use fishing baskets called Long-oop for fishing in waist-deep waters. Again in the hilly areas, the basket used for fishing is termed as Kaajara. the typical conical baskets used to collect the fish bear an elongated neck and a mouth which is narrow. Inside the neck a bamboo appliance called Shou is fixed so that the fish caught and gathered is unable to slip out. A fishing basket can further be of a different variant. The people living in the areas around the Loktak Lake use Ngathok for containing caught fish. Again Cheplei Thop is a large basket used by the people of the island called Karang to contain the fish that they catch from the Loktak Lake.
Container baskets do not have any fixed size and are generally determined by the purpose for which these are to be used. These are usually square dome-shaped with legs. These baskets are used to keep cotton for making clothes that are sold in the markets, fruits, nuts, betel leaves which all are used in various ceremonies and also grains, vegetables and rice. Lukmai is the container basket used for marriage and other religious purposes. Chengchamuk is the container basket used for washing the finely winnowed rice meant for cooking. a container basket called Rashakok is used by some people which is woven in an open style and contains thin bamboo splits. Irang is a container basket used to pour steamed rice. The concave shaped Irang has a circular base and can have two forms of weave, namely surface weave and outer weave.
A bamboo umbrella, called Yenpak in Manipur can be of three types. These can either be worn on the head to fight heat and rain. The three types of Yenpak are named Yenkhrung, Salaitep and Yengoi. Yenkhrung is the umbrella meant to safeguard the upper portion of the body on an individual while he is working in the paddy fields so that he does not get wet or face the scorching heat of the sun. Salaitep is the umbrella that is used to stay away from rains and safeguards the booty and the goods while an individual carries a conical basket. The Large Yengoi umbrellas which are perched on bamboo poles are used to ward off the heat and the rain. The rims of all types of Yenpak are bound firmly for extra security.
Bamboo Headgears and Ornaments
Both bamboo and cane splits are compulsorily used to structure the fundamental forms of the Manipuri headgears and ornaments. Headgears which are woven with cane splits are made in such a way that these fit neatly while people wear them while dancing. Some tribal people of Manipur don flowers made of bamboo and decorate their ears.
Bamboo-made Effigies and Images
Diagonally patterned baskets are used by many tribal people of Manipur to represent as the effigies of fowl in rituals related to death which the people hailing from the hills observe in memory of their forefathers. Some other tribes are found to put up bamboo-made effigies resembling human skulls in their verandas.
During the Festivities of the Sylvan Deities, locally termed as Umanglai Haroaba, some baskets made of bamboo splits bearing brass masks are used to be worshipped as the images of deities. In order to give a complete look to the image, a cloth is draped around and below the mask.
Bamboo-made Musical Instruments
The tribal people of Manipur make use of bamboo in a wide variety of wind musical instruments. Played with the mouth, such instruments are of different types. Puleh is the name of a flute-like instrument which has 7 holes in it. It is used by the Lambang tribe. A similar kind of instrument called Toutri is used by the Maring tribe. Toutro is called Theibe by the Kom tribe. A peculiar musical instrument called Relru is used by the Lambang tribe which is a one meter-long bamboo tube bearing a projection attached with it in the middle which is used to blow and generate musical notes with the help of mouth.
Three to nine circular bamboo rings are used to decorate totems in the form of large poles which are draped with cloth cut into shapes of geometrical figures. These totems are termed as Shattra and are used in all kinds of sacred rituals and ceremonies including the rituals of shifting of temples, shifting of ponds and even death ceremonies and the occasion of first death anniversary.
Miscellaneous Items Made of Bamboo
In the villages of Manipur, bamboo bridges are constructed across small rivers and streams. Almost every home in the rural areas has bamboo gates and the fences are constructed with bamboo splits and bamboo poles. In some hilly areas, the tribes use bows and arrows made of bamboo but these are used strictly for ceremonial purposes these days. A pitchfork made of bamboo is often used for threshing paddy in order to separate grains from the plants. Some kinds of toys are also made of bamboo.
Considering the forest resources of Manipur, cane is a natural endowment. Hailing from the palm family, cane is widely used in making a huge number of products such as chairs, baskets, tables. Cane is obtained from the stems of climbing plants where a stem can be as long as 200 meters or even more! Cane grows in copious quantities on the banks of the Barak river of Manipur and the rivulets. Some other hills of Manipur have cane growing in relatively lesser quantities. Cane is widely used to make the rims of the bamboo baskets stronger. Moreover, many tribes of Manipur wear ornaments called Khudangyai or wristlet and Khubomyai or anklet made of cane and decorate their arms and legs respectively. Seats, tables and chairs made of cane are used profusely by the people of Manipur and also people outside the state in India and abroad.
A very popular craft form of Manipur is wood carving. The absence of proper transport and communication with the other parts of India, in earlier days the craftsmen of Manipur had to depend of wood for making various utility articles such a spoon, tray, drum and many such out of it. Hence, it can be rightly said that wood carving has emerged out of sheet necessity in Manipur and with times it has evolved to be one of the most famous crafts of the region.
Textile weaving which is considered to be the household industry of Manipur is extremely popular in the state. Loin looming weaving is strictly confined to the women population of Manipur. Before the Second World War, cotton yarn was the chief raw material used by the Manipuris since woolen yarn was unknown to them. The craft of textile weaving is locally called Laichamphi, meaning cotton cloth. These days, each and every house in Manipur has a loin loom or a fly-shuttle loom. But loin loom weaving caters to local requirements exclusively. Silk and coarse cotton cloth gets woven in the loom. The craft of textile weaving is carried out skillfully where imported cotton threads are dyed in colors like red, yellow, pink, green, orange and black and then the material is adorned with artistic designs and patterns. Color bands in a particular rhythm are maintained. Stripes and geometrical blocks occupy the lion’s share of the artistic designs. The blocks are further filled with designs of smaller components.
Dolls and Toys
Manipuri dolls and toys are made from a wide variety of materials such as cloth, wood, cotton clay and bamboo. The caricatures of various animals and birds are the main subjects of the toys and the dolls. Interestingly enough, the doll are made to wear the conventional Manipuri outfits which have a unique charm of its own. Manipuri characters such as Thoibi, Khamba, Radha-Krishna, various birds and animals are depicted while making the dolls.
One of the ancient traditions in terms of crafts prevailing in the hilly regions of Manipur has been stone carving. After the demise of a person, the practice has been to erect a memorial stoene of the deceased near the village. It is through these engraved stones that one could have knowledge about all the achievements and noble deeds of the deceased. In modern days, the art of stone carving has come a long way where the craftsmen are making items like grinders, candle stands, glasses, flower vases, plates and bowls out of stones.
Hand block printing is a favorite art and craft form in Manipur. In the earlier days, the warriors and village chiefs were gifted Khamen Chatpa or handblock-printed towel by the King of Manipur appreciating and honoring their leadership and courage. This is also used in religious ceremonies. In present times, block printing on pillow covers and bed sheets has become very common.
Kauna (water reed) Mat
Kauna is the name of a reed that usually grows in marshes and wetlands. Two types Kauna are available in Manipur which are used for making mats and cushion. This craft has a very high demand in Manipur and outside. Various other products made out of Kauna include chairs, coasters, bags, moorah or a particular style of seating arrangement.
Both the male as well as the female folks of Manipur remain engaged in the craft of hand-embroidery. This simple technique of mounting plain cloth with the help of needles is expanding fast and a huge variety of utility items are being manufactured. These include tablecloth, bed covers, television cover, handkerchief and many such. The portraits of the prominent figures from the history of Manipur are selected to be stitched and sewn with skilled finish. Apart from the legendary figures, animal motifs are also chosen to be used as the subjects for hand-embroidery. Out of some common embroidery designs, temple design and flag design tend to be very popular.
Manipur represents the crafts that date back to the distant past. Pottery, as a prominent form of art and craft is very closely related with the social, cultural and religious life prevailing in Manipur. It is mainly the women folk that can be credited for practicing the art of pottery making. In Manipur, pottery is used for domestic as well as ritualistic purposes on a regular basis. During childbirth, the placenta of the newborn is cut off and kept in a small earthen pot known as Chaphu. The symbolic significance of Chaphu is sanctity and purity. A large variety of pottery is used in fulfilling the domestic purposes of a Manipuri household. A type of pottery called chapu uyan pun is used to store rice; Ishaiphu is used to contain water; Chengpu is used to store starch; Hentak chaph is used to store minced fish mixture; Khum is typically a small pot which is used keep mixtures after taking out from big jars; Chini chaphu is a tiny earthen pot with a stalk which contains sugar and is especially made like a toy.