The Peoples of Valleys and Mountains are blessed with Nature’s abundance, as well as, the challenges that come from being remote, one-with the elements of Nature and its expressions of joy and fury. In India, the region of the North-East, with its Seven Sister States, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Tripura, Assam has an additional interesting element to it. The features, language, a few dozen dialects, as well as, the popular cuisine include rich Tribal and sometimes even cross- border cultural influences.
India’s diversity can be overwhelming even to Indians. I’ve had the privilege of a close association with Manipur courtesy Nongthombam Sujit, of Manipuri Meitei descent. Sujit is the Marketing head of CraftsBazaar and passionately promotes all North-Eastern Handicrafts and Tourism. He’s shared the texture of his roots in the few pictures below as the cultural significance of these.
Manipur has been largely agrarian. However, it is also the state with the highest number of Craftspersons and the most handicrafts of all the states of India’s North-east. Of these Manipuri weaving, Manipur Black Pottery and Kauna Grass Weaves, take the lead.
The prominent articles of traditional clothing that are a combination of weaving and embroidery include:
- Lamphie: A special shawl worn by warriors when they left for battle. This is embroidered for them by the women of the community. It functions as a uniform worn during battle or a “War Cloth”.
- Ningthouphee: A gift, the waist-coat, bestowed by the King to his warriors.
- Saijounba: An elaborately embroidered full-length Coat specially made for the select few in the King’s inner circle of Courtiers.
- Phirananba: Plumes on the Warrior’s turbans in the shapes of delicately embroidered flags.
- Namthang-khut-hut: Specifically limited to the women of the Royal clan, this design is used on the wrapper and is said to be from the head of Pakhangba.
- Khamenchatpa: These are special designs applied to lower-garments or Dhotis, for the more celebrated and distinguished people, as a symbol of honour.
- Phiranji: This traditional blood-red shawl-blanket is a token of respect and is presented to those deserving few who do their community proud.