Bisnupriya Manipuri Society
The Bishnupriya Manipuris are a group of people live mainly in parts of Assam, Manipur, Tripura and Bangladesh. They are believed to have occupied Manipur at a very early date and their headquarters were at a city called Bishnupur of Manipur. They speak a language of Indo-Aryan origin which is quite different from Bengali or Assamese. The most distinctive feature of the language is it replete with Tibetan-Burmese (Meitei) elements. The culture of the people is almost identical with that of the Meiteis, with the exception of a few folk practices which are prevalent among the Meiteis.
The religious customs and traditions of Bishnupriya Manipuris are unique. They are organized in such a manner that in temple institutions those reveal the real festivity and reflect the curious character of socio-religious life of the valley.
Fine Arts: During the reign of king Bhagya Chandra, towards the 18th century, Vaishnavism became very popular in Manipur. As a result Vaishnav Palakirtan with Mridanga and Kartalaa became the most prominent factor in Bishnupriya manipuri fine arts. Rasleela is the most important aspect of their culture. Here in Ras-dance the philosophy of the manipuris is the basis on which the philosophy of the Vaisnavism is the body and plot of the dances with the essence of the Bhagavata philosophy.
Festivals: To Bishnupriya Manipuris, festivals are the symbols of their cultural, social and religious aspirations which, besides removing the monotony of life by providing physical diversions, mental recreation and emotional outlet, help them lead a better and fuller life. Bishu, Rathyatra or Kang-Festival, Kartika festival, Maharas Purnima, Phaguwa or yaosang festival etc. are their major festivals.
Marriage: Marriage in society is based on the Hindu pattern and mostly Aryan and non-Aryan elements having certain traditional customs. Marriage is restricted within the sub-clans or gutros in BPM community.
Food: Rice, vegetable and fish are principle foodstuffs of both the Bishnupriyas and Meiteis. Meat and alcohol is strictly prohibited in the society. In religious and social feats even, fish is never used.
Dress and Ornaments: Traditional dress used by the men is called Pachhati - about five feet long cloth manufactured by themselves which worn round the waist. Women usually wear blouses with traditional Lahing/Fanek or Chakshabi (a coarse cloth with lengthwise stripes and embroidered on both sides lengthwise) with an Enaphi (Single or multicolor coarse cloth with laces on both ends) and an Angei or blouse.
Religion and observances: Mass propagation of Hindu customs and traditions in the society is the indicator of their reverence towards the Hindu deities and temples. In addition to the Hindu deities the Bishnupriyas have their own Gods, Deities, Rites and Rituals. The traditional ancestral god Apokpa and other lais like Pahangpa, Sanamahi, Soralel, Githaipung, Panthoibi, Wangbaren, Koubru etc. are worshipped along with the Hindu deities. Worship of the deities by the help of music and dance to ensure the community welfare is part of their belief.
- LT Mahendra Singha from Rajargoan (Assam) became the first Bishnupriya Manipuri to pursue Bachelor degree from Calcutta University and then completed B.Ed. He worked a lot through his pen for the enrollment of the caste in the Indian OBC. He was the founder of Nikhil Bishnupriya Manipuri Mahasabha (NBMM).
- LT Gokulananda Gitiswamy was the first innovative and highly sounded poet, ever born in Bishnupriya Manipuri caste. His poetry and dialogues became so popular that he was crowned with a title "Gitiswamy" added before his name.
- Dr. Kali Prasad Sinha, MA, Phd, D Lit, writer and linguistic, Assam
- Brajendra Kumar Singha, poet and writer, Assam
- Dr. Smriti Kumar Singha, Head of faculty, Tezpur University, Assam
- Justice Surandra Kumar Sinha, judge of the Appellate Division of Supreme Court of Bangladesh
- Ms. Manoshi Sinha, editor and writer, Tinsukia, Assam
References and notes
- Bishnupriya Manipuri language
- Manipuri: The Bishnupriyas and Meiteis of Manipur
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