Workshop on Maibi Culture of Manipur
By Dr. Kailash Kumar Mishra
Venue: Manipur Dramatic Union Hall, Yaiskul, Imphal
Date: December 11, 2007
The Workshop on Maibi Culture of Manipur was organized by the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), New Delhi in collaboration with the Manipur Film Development Corporation Limited (MFDC), Imphal and the Leimarol Khorjeikol (LEIKOL), Imphal on December 11, 2007 at the Manipur Dramatic Union hall located at Yaiskul, Imphal. Six resource persons and six Maibis spoke during the one day program of interaction and deliberation. Around 69 participants took part in the workshop. The workshop was held with the objective of bringing together Maibis (shamans) from the different parts of the State to interact and deliberate on the present conditions and the future of the Maibi tradition in the State. There were demonstrations by Maibis on their art and tradition.
The inaugural session of the workshop was held in the morning with Bormani Maibi, Maibi Asuppi (Head Maibi) of the Sanakonung Maibi Loishang (the Maibi institution at the Royal Palace) attending the function as the Chief Guest. Smt. Maharajah Kumari Binodini Devi, president of LEIKOL presided over the opening function.
Addressing the gathering, Bormani Maibi said that the Maibis (shaman) of Manipur are women who had disassociated with the mundane world to devote themselves entirely to the service of the Gods. They are the symbol of the Manipuri culture and tradition, she said. When the Maibis are offering the ritual worships with a sincere and honest heart, it would usher in prosperity and well being for the people, she said. Therefore, the Maibis should perform their duties without malice and ill intent in their hearts.
Speaking at the opening function, Smt. M. K. Binodini Devi said that it is high time that we do both intensive and extensive studies on the Maibi culture which had been prevailing in the state since centuries. The historical events, and the socio-cultural and the religious aspects of the Manipuri life can be deciphered from the life activity of the Maibis since centuries.
Morning Session of the Workshop
On the conclusion of the inaugural session of the workshop, the first half of the working session of the workshop commenced with a paper presentation by Ng.Kerani, Pandit Achouba (Head Pandit) of the Sanakonung Pandit Loishang (scholars’ institution at the Royal Palace). Ng.Kerani spoke on ‘The Maibi institution in the context of the Royal Palace’. His paper featured the history of the Maibi institution beginning from the reign of the king, Meidingu Naothingkhong who reigned in 586 A.D. The main classification of the Maibi institution of that period were the Maiba Loishang, Pena Asheiba Loishang and the Maibi Loishang. He further elaborated that there are three categories of Maibis at the Maibi Loishang, namely, (i) Shanglen Maibi, (ii) Nongmai Maibi, and (iii) Phura Maibi. He also spoke at some length on the functions and the accepted rules to be observed by a Maibi in due course of the ritual performances and ritual worships.
The second paper of the morning session was presented by L.Ashokumar (Archivist, Manipur State Kala Akademi) who spoke on the ‘Origin and History of the Maibi Tradition’. In his paper, Ashokumar mentioned how the women took part in the processes of the creation of the Universe. The tradition of the Maibis had been prevailing since the beginning of mankind, he said. Nongthang Leima, Panthoibi, Khoimom Lairenbas were the pre-historical Maibis. Those women who attended in delivery cases were also known as Maibis. Men also took the role of Maibis by possessing occultism. However, in the earlier times, only women Maibis performed the ritual worships during the sacred Lai Haraoba ritualistic festival. The dance forms composed by Nongthang Leima – the first goddess Maibi – in human history were repossessed by the other goddesses. He also spoke on how the Maibis described the creation of man inside the mother’s womb and how the house was built by their performance text of Laibou jagoi (ritual dance). Maibis in the historical period had an important duty to exercise in their association with the kings of Manipur, where they performed ritual worships for the welfare of the king, the people and the land. The Maiba Loishang (institution of the Maiba – male shaman) was established during the reign of the king, Meidingu Khagemba who ruled in the 16th century A.D. At that time, ritual worships were performed by men. Later, the male Maibas came to be also known as Maibis. So long as the traditional pantheon exist, so will the culture of the Maibis, he concluded.
The third paper of the day was presented by Dr.N.Premchand (Director, EMMRC, Manipur University) who spoke on ‘Role of Maibis in Lai Haraoba and other Rituals’. In his paper, Dr. Premchand talked of how the Maibis possessed the supernatural powers in their communication with the divine beings to communicate to the mortals. During the Lai Haraoba ritualistic festival, the Maibis take the most important role; they dance and chant and the devotees follow them in ritual procession. The Maibis take a leading role in performing all ritual worships in the Meitei society. Apart of their religious duties, the Maibis took an authoritative role to advise the king on state affairs in the earlier times. Concluding his paper, Dr. Premchand commented that the system of matriarchal society was prevalent in the Meitei society.
Shri Aribam Syam Sharma, noted filmmaker, moderated the morning session.
In the afternoon Session, Dr. Ng. Ekashini presented a paper on ‘Life Habits of the Maibi’. In her presentation, Dr. Ekashini defined a Maibi as a woman who is directly conversant with the divine beings. The activities of the Meitei Maibi is somewhat similar to Shamanism of the Russian origin which is usually used by American ethnographers in reference to men or women who, through the acquisition of supernatural powers, are believed to be able to either cure or cause diseases. The Meiteis believed Maibis as persons who could treat sick persons or who could do damage to them with supernatural practices. Dr. Ekashini explained the process or circumstance in which an ordinary woman becomes a Maibi. She also explained the different categories and the roles of the Maibis. She described the details of dress of the Maibi, the dress code and the taboo on food to be observed strictly by a Maibi.
An interesting aspect of the day long workshop was the sharing of personal experiences and knowledge on the Maibi tradition by five senior Maibis, namely, Nungshirei Maibi, Mani Maibi, Mangi Maibi, Tamu Maibi, Dhoni Maibi and Thoibi Maibi. They spoke on how they became Maibis, and cautioned on safeguarding the ancient tradition of the Maibis. They spoke on the lack of discipline and the un-uniformity of ritual dance by the young Maibis of the present times. They advised that this should be checked so as to retain the values and originality of the Maibi tradition.
Interacting during the discussion session, Jandho Devi, K.Hemchandra, Sonamani, Sadananda, Robindro, Chaoreikanba and Dr. Shilaramanai from among the participants put up interesting queries on the Maibi tradition, desiring to know more about the Maibi life and practices. Replying to a query from the participants, the resource person Shri L.Ashokumar said that there are four types of the Lai Haraoba, namely, (i) Kanglei Haraoba, (ii) Morang Haraoba, (iii) Phaiyeng Haraoba, and (iv) Sekmai Haraoba. Though the system of performing rituals are not similar, the philosophical concept of the Lai Haraoba is the same, he said. Dr. Shilaramani observed that it would be worthwhile to have further deliberations on the question of patriarchy and matriarchy in the Meitei society, as regards to the Maibi tradition. The art of the Maibi dance and practice should be incorporated in the academic curricula, she said.
Prof. S. Sanatombi of Manipur University moderated the afternoon session. In her concluding remarks, Prof. Sanatombi said that the purpose of the workshop was to establish the relationship of the Maibis to Manipuri culture. She suggested that it would be right to have a control on the young Maibis who tend to step out of the way of the tradition, and that rules are obeyed in pursuance of tradition. It would not be wrong to make alteration in the dance form to suit to modern needs whereas the philosophy of the dances should not be lost, she said. It would be a right step to bring the study of the Maibi tradition within the academic curricula, she concluded.
- The resource persons and the participants of the workshop on Maibi culture of Manipur unanimously agreed upon to pursue with the Manipur Government and the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), New Delhi for initiating both short and long time measures for the rejuvenation and promotion of the Maibi tradition which is an important aspect of the Manipuri culture and tradition.
- It was agreed upon by the gathering to pursue with the Manipur Government and the IGNCA, New Delhi for organizing an annual festival of the Maibis where there would be academic sessions, interactions among Maibis, demonstrations, performances and documentation of the oral tradition on Maibi culture.
- It was agreed upon to pursue with the Manipur Government and the IGNCA, New Delhi to initiate welfare schemes for the Maibis, such as, to provide support to practicing Maibis; creation of fellowships/stipend to be awarded to senior Maibis/Gurus for specific period of time.
- It was recommended to pursue with the Manipur Government, the Manipur University authorities and other relevant institutions to induct the study of Maibi tradition in the educational curriculum so that the younger generation are
List of Resource
- A. Syam Sharma, Filmmaker, Thangmeiband, Imphal West
- Ng. Kerani, Pandit Loishang, Sanakonung
- Dr. N. Premchand, Yaiskul, Imphal West
- Dr. Ng. Ekashini
- L. Ashokumar, Manipur State Kala Akademi, Imphal West
- Prof. S. Sanatombi, Manipuri Deptt., Manipur University, Canchipur
List of Delegates
- Kshetrimayum Subadani, Leimarol Khorjeikol, Yaiskul, Imphal West
- Mangangsana, Keisamthong, Imphal West
- Boramani, Maibi Asuppi, Maibi Loishang, Sanakonung
- A. Kamala, Leimarol Khorjeikol, Yaiskul, Imphal West
- Elam Indira, Lalambung, Imphal West
- H. Guno, Keishampat Thokchom Leikai, Imphal West
- Prof. N. Tombi, Keishampat, Imphal West
- Dr. K. Shantibala Devi, Takhel Leikai, Imphal West
- Maya Nepram, Leimarol Khorjeikol, Yaiskul, Imphal West
- Y. Indira, Thoubal, Thoubal District
- Yengkhom Roma, Yaiskul, Imphal West
- H. Satyabati, Sagolband Meino Leirak, Imphal West
- Th. Dinesh Singh
- Kh. Dorendra, Kwakeithel, Imphal West
- N. Kunjamohon, Uripok, Imphal West
- Prof. Elangbam Dinamani, Singjamei, Imphal West
- Laishram Birendra, Yaiskul, Imphal West
- Laishram Samarendra, Yaiskul, Imphal West
- R. K. Jhalajit, Yaiskul, Imphal West
- Dr. Shelaramani, Thambalkhong, Imphal East
- Ch. Rita Devi, Keishamthong, Imphal West
- Ibosana Tentha, Thoubal District
- Thoidingjam Tombi, Khagempalli, Imphal West
- Dr. M. Priyobarta, Khongman, Imphal East
- K. Hemchandra, Sagolband, Imphal West
- A. K. Sharma, Thambalkhong, Imphal East
- Dr. S. Lanchenba, Sagolband, Imphal West
- M. Rajendra,Tentha, Thoubal District
- L. Dorendra Singh, Wangkhei, Imphal East
- T. Hemchandra, Secretary, Pandit Loishang, Sanakonung
- Prof. N. Khagendra, Khagempalli, Imphal West
- Dr. H. Nabachandra
- Sh. Brojeshwor, Takhel Leikai, Imphal West
- I. S. Kangjam, Naoremthong, Imphal West
- Ajitkumar Thiyam, Tera, Imphal West
- L. Joychandra, Longjam Leirak, Imphal West
- K. Kulladhaja, Tera, Imphal West
- B. Jayantakumar Sharma, Bamon Leikai, Imphal East
- Dr. Romesh Waikhom, Research Scholar
- Dr. L. Gojendra, Hodam Leirak, Imphal West
- Dr. H. Behari, Sagolband Meino Leirak, Imphal West
- Sairem Nilbir
- A.Chitreswar Sharma, Khongman, Imphal East
- Dr. Th. Ibohanbi, Manipur Sahitya Parishad, Imphal
- Dilip Mayengbam, All India Radio, Imphal
- R. K. Nabinchandra Singh, Guru, Selection grade, JNMDA
- L. Guneshor, Guru, JNMDA
- Ms. N. Meenakumari, Research Associate, FACE
- G. Krishnakanta Sharma
- R. K. Achoubisana, Pradhan Guru, JNMDA, Imphal
- Ms. P. Lilabati, Maibi
- Ms. Kh. Anandi, Maibi
- Ms. Y. Memchoubi, Maibi
- H. Sushilkumar, Pandit Loishang, Sanakonung
- S. Achou, Pena Loishang, Sanakonung
- N. Bishorjit, P.T.I. Representative
- M. Macha Chaoreikanba, Lecturer, Manipuri Dance Deptt., M.U.
- Ms. Nirupama, Student, JNMDA
- Ms. Y. Ibempishak
- Ms. H.Sumatibala, Leimarol Khorjeikol, Yaiskul, Imphal
- H. Mahesh, Laihui, Imphal
- L. Turist, Student, JNMDA
- Ms. E.Rojita, Student, JNMDA
- Ms. N. Phajabi, Student, JNMDA
- Ms. L.Radhika, Student, D. M. College of Arts, Imphal
- Ms. M.Priyarani, Student, JNMDA
- Maipaksana, Filmmaker
- Ms. L. Indira, Wangkhei, Imphal
- Ms. L. Randhoni, Wangkhei, Imphal
- M. Ibotombi, Filmmaker
- Shyamkishor, Maibi
- Kh. Chandrasekhar Singh, Pandit