THE MEITEIS

The Meiteis are a major ethnic group in Manipur (also known as Kangleipak). They are also present in the adjoining states of Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram and Tripura and also in the neighbouring countries of Bangladesh and Myanmar. The Meitei language, known as Meiteilon, belong to the Sino-Tibetan family of languages. They also have their own indigenous script known as Meetei Mayek.

The Kingdom of Kangleipak was founded by King Loiyumba in AD 1110. The kingdom was known to the Shans as Kase, and to the Burmese as Kathe/Cassey. The Kangla Palace/Fort was built in AD 1632 by King Khagemba. And it was in AD 1724 that the kingdom was christened as Manipur ("the Abode of Jewels"). The kingdom came under the British rule in AD 1891, and it was only in AD 1949 it became part of the Republic of India.

There are seven clans (locally known as salais) in the Meitei society: Ningthouja (Mangang), Angom, Khuman, Luwang, Moirang, Sarang Keishamthem and Kha-Nganba. The chief of the Ningthouja clan, Pakhangba, unified all the other clans in the 15th century and ushered his royal lineage.

The sport of polo originated at Kangleipak, where it is known as Sagol Kangjei. An account of the sport played between the friends of King Nongda Lairen Pakhangba (AD 33-154) was recorded in their royal chronicle Cheitharon Kumbaba.

Their premier festival is known as Yaoshang and is celebrated for 5 days in the month Lamda (February–March). Lai Haraoba is another festival celebrated in the month of May to appease the deities of Sanamahism, a traditional religion of the Meiteis.

MEITEI TRADITIONAL WEAR

Kokyet. A turban.

Pumyat. A white loose collarless shirt.

Khudei. A knee-length cloth, worn by wrapping round the waist.

Pheijom. A formal wear, slightly longer than a khudei, reaching upto the ankles.

Khamen Chatpa Pheijom. A pheijom printed with scales of Pakhangba (an ancient deity of Meetei tradition) worn around the waist by men of royalty and polo players. In ancient times, it was gifted by the kings to men of high repute like poets, narrators, brave warriors, etc.

Innaphi. A shawl, which is usually translucent.

Lison Furit. A traditionally crafted velvet blouse.

Phanek. A sarong-like hand-woven lower garment worn wrapped round the waist reaching upto the toes.