The Manipuri of India
The Manipuri follow Hindu customs, which distinguishes them from the surrounding hill tribes. Their community developed as a result of the merging of at least seven communities through intermarriage and political dominance. This league of seven tribes consolidated a kingdom that withstood invaders for almost 2,000 years.
In 1824, the Manipur community requested aid from the British to help repel Burmese invaders. The British abolished slavery and built roads in the region before the administration was taken over by the Indian government. Manipuri became a state in 1972.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Brahman immigrants first introduced the Manipuri to Hinduism. (Brahmans make up the highest class of Hindu priests and scholars.) The immigrants adopted the Manipuri way of life and married local women. Today, the Manipuri consider themselves part of the upper caste, and are therefore severely prejudice against the surrounding lower caste tribes.
Ninety percent of the Manipuri live in rural areas. They are divided into seven clans, the members of which do not usually intermarry. Their houses are made of reed walls plastered with mud. They are built on wooden or bamboo poles and have thatch or tin roofs.
Most of the Manipuri are rice farmers. They also raise sugarcane, tobacco, mustard, fruits, and vegetables. Terracing is common in the hills, where farmers hoe the ground by hand. Teak and bamboo are the major forest products they harvest.
During World War II, the Manipuri were exposed to the world of competition and modern technology. Western education has also helped them break free of ignorance and superstitious beliefs.
Meithei, the Manipuri language, is the language of business and trade in this region. The Manipuri are known for their specially designed cloth that is produced on hand-looms. The cloth is now in demand throughout India. The women are also well known for their hand-loom weaving.
Many of the Manipuri have become horse breeders, supplying horses for polo, a national game in India. Hockey, boat races, theatrical performances, and dancing are other favorite pastimes. The Manipuri folk dance is a classical dance unlike any other Indian dance; hand movements are used decoratively with liquid-swaying movements. Both men and women perform together. The dances are dramas interpreted by a narrator and interspersed with choral singing. Themes are generally taken from episodes in the life of Krishna, the main Hindu god.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Along with the worship of Hindu gods, particularly Krishna, the Manipuri continue to worship their traditional deities and spirits. Legend says that the god of their sani-mahi religion came to earth in the form of a snake.
What Are Their Needs?
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
This profile may be copied and distributed without obtaining permission
as long as it is not altered, bound, published
or used for profit purposes.